Saturday, August 20, 2022


Herriman Saturday: April 19 1910


April 19 1910 -- I don't have but the first paragraph of this local colour article, but the gist is that Mrs. Alpheus Reynolds felt the need to hose off her $150 parrot in the back yard -- a dirty parrot??? -- and the unhappy bird quite reasonably and predictably took off. However, after some unspecified time the bird returned to its owner, deciding to give Mrs. Reynolds a second chance

So who the heck is Tomosky Posner?


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Friday, August 19, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Snapshot Bill


Between Russ Westover's inglorious early days as a Bud Fisher copyist at the San Francisco Chronicle and his mature work as the creator of Tillie the Toiler, much of his output was for the the New York Herald. One of his Sunday features was Snapshot Bill, a strip about a camera bug. 

Cameras had become ubiquitous among the middle class with the debut of the Kodak Brownie camera in 1900, and the fiend who would go to crazy lengths to get a great photo had already become a comedy staple by 1914 when Snapshot Bill debuted on April 19*. Westover's bit of ingenuity was to put his hapless hero through the wringer in the quest for a photo, and then show the resulting bad photo as the punch line. The 'photos' were merely gray wash drawings, sometimes more or less convincing as photographic simulations. I can't help wondering if Westover would have had a real hit on his hands if he had connived to stage actual photographs as the climax of his strips; but that's just me Monday morning quarterbacking. 

Westover seemed to tire of the Bill character who in later years was sometimes incidental to his own strip; the strips became increasingly about his girlfriend's irascible papa, and even the photographic denouements were sometimes pointless or dispensed with altogether. Papa's appearance and schtick was almost identical to Pa Perkins of Polly and her Pals, showing that Westover had not yet tired of being a me-too cartoonist.

The strip was well enough received to have what in the 1910s would be considered a very long run. It ran for just short of four years, ending on March 10 1918*. You can read more Snapshot Bill samples over at Barnacle Press

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans.


* Source: All dates from Ken Barker's New York Herald index in StripScene #20.


Hello Allan-
It's an interesting miniifad for a few weeks at the Herald at that time that had a giant full page figure be part of the strip, at least I remember others, Pinheadus of "Great C├Žsar's Ghost", f'rinstance.
Westover might have stuck with the "much effort to get punk pic" theme, but it really is a limiting, one-note gag.Perhaps ditching it might make sense, but instead of say, making Bill into a newspaper photog story, he went after that blatant Polly & Her Pals clone.
I always wondered why he'd even want to do such an obvious phony like that. Maybe the Herald saw how hot Polly was, and decided they could have their own. But it's right up there with "Dem Boys" as among the most flagrant fake funnies.
Though named Snapshot Bill, it had Bill in it less and less as I recall. At it's termination, was the series just the fake Polly characters?
Bill was in it to the end; you can find a 1918 episode on the Barnacle Press site. But he still acted more like a walk on guest spot rather than the star of the show.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Big Top


Ed Wheelan's Minute Movies, begun in 1917, was very popular and helped pioneer the idea of continuity in comics. Pioneers can be left behind, though, and Wheelan's strip struggled in the 1930s. In 1936, in a bid to refresh the strip it was retitled and refocused several times, but to no avail. Finally in February 1937 Ed Wheelan and his long-time syndicate, the George Matthew Adams Service, parted ways. 

But Wheelan wasn't willing to throw in the towel quite yet. He had a new strip about a circus in his back pocket, titled Big Top, and before his pink slip from GMA had even cooled off he had a contract with the upstart Frank Jay Markey Syndicate. Markey had already signed Rube Goldberg, so Wheelan probably thought the syndicate, though new, had possibilities. 

It was not to be, though. Blame Markey or blame Wheelan, but the strip was like a perfect 10 dive -- no splash at all. I think Wheelan shoulders a lot of the blame -- the strip offered little of the tongue in cheek Wheelan magic, the circus-bound plotline offered up the same old tired ideas readers had seen before, and there was little feel of the exotic circus life that would have attracted readers. 

The Big Top daily debuted on March 29 1937, and sputtered out before the end of the year, ending on December 11 1937*. A Sunday was offered, but is so rare I have found it in only a single paper, the Philadelphia Record, where it ran May 9 to August 1 1937. This is apparently the entire Sunday run, since, according to Jeffrey Lindenblatt, it agrees exactly with the Sundays that were reprinted in Quality Comics' Feature Funnies comic book series.

Oddly enough, this misfire of a strip had a long afterlife, not just in comic books. Markey resold the short run to Western Newspaper Union, and they included it with their weekly blanket service from August 1938 until March 1943. This same fate, by the way, was awaiting Rube Goldberg's strip for Markey, Lala Palooza.

* San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection at Ohio State University


Hello Allan-
Question- How did the Philadelphia Bulletin ( id est THE EVENING BULLETIN) run the Sunday version on May 9 -1 August 1937? How could they when they didn't have a Sunday edition?
Crumb of newspaper history: The Bulletin had no sunday issues in it's first century, outside of extra specials like the day war was declared in 1939. But in 1947 the PHILADELPHIA RECORD was striked to death, and the Bulletin picked up their pieces, including a Sunday edition.

That would be for the very good reason that I apparently can't keep a simple fact in my head for the time it takes to move from my database to writing the blog post. It was the Record, not the Bulletin, embarrassing mistake fixed. Thanks for the close reading!
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Monday, August 15, 2022


1952, The Year Al Capp Took Over the Boob Tube

In the 1940s Al Capp started making the rounds of the radio talk shows, and he also became a popular guest on early TV. Intrigued by the new technology, in 1952 Capp created two new programs for the young medium. One was a puppet show featuring his character Fearless Fosdick, and the other was a 15-minute weekly show featuring Capp himself, simply titled The Al Capp Show.

In the latter show Capp offered his views, which while not quite as incendiary as they would later become, were already well capable of ruffling feathers. One of his lighter episodes, though, consisted of him explaining how to use terms like shlemiel and schnook. Hopefully in the episode he gave credit where due for these Yiddishisms, but in the TV Guide edition of October 10-16 1952 they offered a summary of the program in which the less lexically knowledgeable would be left believing that Capp came up with these terms himself. Thanks to Mark Johnson, here's the cover and article:

The Al Capp Show was 15 minutes long and ran at 12:15 PM on Saturdays, at least at the New York station where it originated. The program lasted about six months, with the first episode airing on July 12 and the last on December 27 1952. As far as I know there is no surviving video of any of the shows. However, this review gives a pretty good idea of what you would have seen; sounds like fun:


At least a few episodes of the Fearless Fosdick puppet show have survived, and here's the first episode of the series. While the story moves along at a deadly slow pace, and the sparse gags are hit and miss, you can't help but be impressed by the puppetry work:


Hi Allan,
Thanks for this unusual Al Capp post. I have never seen one of the Fearless Fosdick TV shows before. As you mentioned, the comedy takes second fiddle to the marionette manipulation. The puppets don't really resemble Al Capp's drawing style too closely, but they are well designed, for 1951 marionettes. Even MORE interesting is that Al Capp isn't even mentioned ONCE and doesn't get the copyright line, a Mr. Cowan receives it instead. I think Dennis Kitchen has the complete run of the Fosdick TV show. In one of the L'il Abner reprint books, there is a good run-down on the program, and many good stills are used as illustrations.
Mark Kausler
Great info on Al Capp. The Fearless Fosdick marionettes looked great, and I also have never seen one of these episodes before. My favorite character was Fosdick's assistant "Shmoozer" who looks like a Shmoo (with ears and arms), with his bowling pin shape and funky whiskers. Capp was credited once, at the beginning of the episode where it was stated that the characters were based on Al Capp's famous (though unnamed) comic strip. Bob Carlin
Hi Allan,
Al Capp drew a later version of this spilled soup scenario to illustrate colorful Yiddishisms. I remember seeing it, I believe in a newspaper, sometime between about 1956 to 1966. The drawing style was different, and I clearly remember that the characters included the patron whose foot the waiter tripped over and the guy who had to mop up the soup (the schmendrick, I believe). I've been looking for this drawing for years and would be deeply grateful for any help in tracking it down.
Dean Sluyter
Hi Dean --
I searched around a bit and found that Capp recycled the Yiddishisms bit in his 1961 newspaper column. But he used the same cartoon, though it ran much smaller. If you email me I can shoot you a JPG of the article and illo.
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Sunday, August 14, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from Rudolph Dirks (?)


This Hearst freebie card from the 1906 Li'l Arsonist series offers the viewer a riddle of astonishing complexity -- who indeed are the culprits?

Is it my imagination, or is this not Dirks? Usually the cards from this series are by the cartoonists who penned the strips themselves, but except for Hans and Fritz, this sure doesn't look like Dirks to me.


Hello Allan-
It is Dirks- or maybe a close tracing of Dirks, because this is a panel from an actual strip, I believe from 1905.
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