Saturday, August 27, 2022


Herriman Saturday: April 21 1910


April 21 1910 -- Interesting perspective from Herriman on this cartoon about the LA - Vernon ballgame, showing the action literally from behind the screen, even including a vignette of the pressbox. 

The game itself was notable in that LA just could not seem to beat the lowly Vernon Villagers in 1910, but finally gave them a sound drubbing, 7-2, yesterday. Unfortunately that only improved their record against Vernon to 2 wins out of 8 games, pretty sad stuff. That might have felt good, but LA continues (and would continue) to trail them in the standings this season.


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Friday, August 26, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: A Tale of the Jungle Imps


Okay, maybe this feature isn't the most obscure obscurity among serious newspaper comics fans, but a strip that ran in a single paper 120 years ago for less than a year? Rightly or wrongly, I'm taking ownership of it here as an Obscurity of the Day. (Besides, I have to show off that I have actual tearsheets from the series, about as rare as love letters addressed to Charlie Brown.)

A Tale of the Jungle Imps was Winsor McCay's first foray into newspaper comics, and his only series done for the Cincinnati Enquirer. His own extremely fertile imagination wasn't put to use but instead he was assigned the job of illustrating the poetry of one 'Felix Fiddle'. Fiddle in reality was George Randolph Chester, a writer with the paper who would later go on to a certain measure of fame as a writer of short stories and screenplays.

The plot of the series was that in each episode there is a fanciful explanation of how an animal came to exhibit one of its well-known features. The series didn't gain its running title until the third episode. Here are the titles of each episode:

How The Elephant Got His Trunk


How The Quillypig Got His Quills


How The Kangaroo Got His Big Hind Legs


How The Alligator Got His Big Mouth


How The Giraffe Got His Long Neck


How The Pelican Got His Pouch


Why The Polar Bear Left The Jungle


How The Bee Got His Sting


How The Lion Got His Roar


How The Turtle Got His Shell


How The Ostrich Got So Tall


How The Guinea Pig Lost His Tail


Why The Camel Got His Back Up


How The Snake Lost His Body


Why The Stork Brings The Babies


How The Rhinoceros Lost His Beauty


Why The Parrot Learned To Talk


How The Beaver Got His Flat Tail


Why The Goat Learned To Butt


Why The Owl Stays Out At Night


How The Tiger Got His Stripes


How The Mosquito Got His Bill


How The Lobster Got His Claws


Fourth Of July In The Jungle


How The Frog Became A Jumper


How The Peacock Got His Tail


How The Cinnamon Bear Turned Brown


How The Pig Got His Appetite


How The Swordfish Got His Sword


How The Buffalo Got Turned Around


How The Booby Bird Got Even


How The Hound Got So Thin


Why The Hyenas Laugh


Why The Mule Kicks


How The Eagle Got Bald


How The Rabbit Lost His Tail


Troubles Of Mister Whale


Why The Bat Hangs Upside Down


Why The Goose Hisses


Why The Hippopotamus Yawns


Halloween In The Jungle


How The Zebra Got His Stripes


How The Walrus Got His Tusks.


 Each story involved the 'Jungle Imps', a race of tiny primitive African sprites, who unfortunately are delineated with the giant lipped caricature common in that era. But they're basically just another group not unlike the Palmer Cox's Brownies, the Ting-Lings, the Teenie Weenies, etc. McCay evidently enjoyed the characters as he brought back one of their race as Impy for Little Nemo in Slumberland

The feature was a smash hit with Enquirer readers, if the paper's own gushing can be taken as fact, but the series abruptly ended when Winsor McCay inevitably got the call from New York City. A talent as huge as his wasn't going to hang around Cincinnati for long, and he left for the Big Apple to work at the New York Herald, where he would dream up his greatest comic strip creations. 

The Enquirer, left in the lurch, quickly changed gears and 'Felix Fiddle' debuted a new series, The Clown Folks, the next Sunday, with art by Apworth Adams. Adams was himself a very fine cartoonist. He didn't succumb to the siren call of New York City and offered up some fine series of his own for the Enquirer over the next half-decade. I would love to offer up a few of his series, but unfortanately I've never been able to lay my hands on any tearsheets of his work there. 

As far as I know, the complete series has never been reprinted, only a sample here and there. Is it because of the negative stereotypes, or is it just impossible to put together a complete run of tearsheets? I dunno.


Maybe just to have an idea, a photostat from the microfilm could be shown of some entries, if anyone has access to the Cinci' public library or Library of Congress.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2022


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bob Davis

Bob Davis was born Robert Bishop Davis on January 24, 1910, in Boston, Massachusetts, according to his transcribed birth certificate at His parents were Harry C. Davis and Ethel M. Sedgwick

Davis was three-months-old in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census which counted his parents, sister Dorothea, uncle Fred K. Sedgwick, and Beatrice Harmon, a lodger. They resided in Boston at 694 Huntington Avenue. Davis’ father, a Canadian, was a woodwork designer. 

On September 12, 1918, Davis’ father signed his World War I draft card. He was employed at the U.S. Navy Yard and his home address was 50 Turner Street in Brighton, Massachusetts. 

According to the 1920 census, the Davis family were Boston residents at 56 Gardner Street. Davis’ father was a superintendent at the Navy Yard. 

Boston city directories for 1929 and 1930 listed an artist named Robert Davis who resided at 406 Massachusetts Avenue. Davis’ art training is unknown. Davis has not yet been found in the 1930 census. His parents and sister remained in Boston.

Apparently Davis moved to New York City where he produced the strip Philo Vance for the Bell SyndicateAmerican Newspaper Comics (2012) said Davis drew, from 1931 to 1932, Philo Vance, a suave sleuth created by Willard Huntington Wright who used the pseudonym S.S. Van Dine. Davis signed the strip R.B.S. Davis which included the initial S for Sedgwick, his mother’s maiden name. (see Today in Comic Book History; scroll down to Turning Points by Maggie Thompson and look for “80 years ago November 28, 1941”) Davis produced at least three Philo Vance adaptations which were labeled E, F or G at the bottom of a panel. There were 24 strips in each adaptation. Story E was The Insurance Mystery. Story F was The Skull Mystery. Story G was The Transatlantic Mystery. From May 16 to of July 29, 1932, the Worcester Evening Gazette (Massachusetts) published all three stories, however, each story was missing at least one strip or more. The Transatlantic Mystery debuted in the State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), June 3, 1932. 

At some point Davis got married. 

The 1940 census said Davis and his wife, Ruth, were part of his parents’ household which included his sister, who was a display artist. They lived in Stow, Massachusetts at Lake Boone. Davis had four years of high school. He was a self-employed cartoonist. His wife was an undergraduate with two years of college. According to the census, in 1935 Davis and his wife were residents of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Davis signed his World War II draft card on October 16, 1940. His address was the Gleasondale Post Office in Stow. Later, it was crossed out and updated with 40 Benedict Avenue, Tarrytown, New York. Davis’ employer was Funnies Inc. in New York City. He was described as five feet ten inches, 155 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. 

Davis was mentioned in Ron Goulart’s Comic Book Culture: An Illustrated History (2000). 
Page 64 caption
Dick Cole was the creation of [Bill] Everett’s friend, and Funnies, Inc., colleague, Bob Davis. 

Page 105
Bob Davis’ Dick Cole was also aboard and was one of the few schoolboy heroes to be found in American comic books. Both a writer and an artist, Bob Davis had sold stories to the detective pulps* and in the early 1930s drawn a short-lived newspaper strip about suave detective Philo Vance. 
Blue Bolt #1, June 1940

Davis’ comic book credits are at the Grand Comics Database and Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999

Davis’ tragic death was reported in The Daily Argus (Mount Vernon, New York), November 29, 1941.

Tarrytown Man Killed in Crash On Saw Mill
Car Hits Guard Rail, Somersaults into River Near Ashford Avenue

Dobbs Ferry—Robert B. Davis, thirty-one, of 40 Benedict Avenue, Tarrytown, was killed last night when his car swerved from the Saw Mill River Parkway, struck a stone pillar and plunged into the Saw Mill River, landing upside down in the water. The accident occurred about 1,000 feet south of Ashford Avenue.

According to police, Mr. Davis was driving north on the parkway when his automobile veered to the left, struck a stone pillar and somersaulted into the creek. The pillar was part of a guard rail on a small bridge over the Saw Mill River. The car landed in the water on its roof, with only the wheels exposed.

Lacked Rescue Equipment

Passing motorists notified Parkway Police who in turn summoned the Ardsley Fire Department. Fire Chief Hans Roeser rushed to the scene with a squad of volunteer firemen but were unable to be of assistance owing to lack of rescue equipment. The Dobbs Ferry Fire Department Rescue Squad, in command of Chief William French, was summoned with full equipment of floodlights, first-aid equipment and rescue apparatus. Dobbs Ferry Firemen Lawrence Dawson, Edward Buckley, John Yozzo and former Fire Chief James Brooks plunged into the river, fully clothed, in an attempt to extricate the trapped man.

The vehicle was so badly damaged that the firemen were unable to get into the interior of the vehicle, even after smashing the windshield and side windows. A tow car was called and the car was pulled by tow-rope on its side. After tearing open a door Davis was removed from the car to the bank of the creek where artificial respiration was administered.

Termed Dead At Hospital

After 15 minutes’ effort at resuscitation, Davis was removed to Dobbs Ferry Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Ed ward Ceccolinl, resident-physician. Dr. Ceccolini notified County Medical Examiner Amos O. Squire.

Police report that Davis’ wristwatch stopped at 9:10 P. M. and that the body was in the river one-half hour. Police said they were unable to determine immediately if Davis was killed by the impact or was drowned.

More than 1,000 motorists and onlookers jammed the parkway near the scene, of the accident until Parkway police in command of Captain Frank McCabe cleared the roadway.

The New York Times, November 29, 1914, said “Mr. Davis, who was 31 years old, was employed by Funnies Inc., of New York City. He was married but had no children.”

In Fire and Water: Bill Everett, The Sub-Mariner, and the Birth of Marvel Comics (2010), Blake Bell said in the Endnotes:
… Everett gave Hydroman the secret identity “Bob Blake” ... It’s likely that Everett created Hydroman and used the first name of his best friend and colleague Bob Davis, the artist who followed up Everett’s work on the Chameleon in Target Comics and appeared in the same issues of Blue Bolt ... In the 1961 [Jerry] DeFuccio letter, Everett speaks of Davis thus: “Bob Davis was, indeed, one of my best friends. He met his death on his way home to Tarrytown, when he apparently went to sleep at the wheel of his car (a sedan, not a sports car) and plunged into a shallow pond off the Saw Mill River Parkway. As I recall it, he did not drown, but died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. What made his untimely death so poignant to us was the fact that it occurred after an afternoon and evening of frolic and fun with Carl, myself, and a couple of others from the Funnies gang. I remember that Bob kept calling his wife, Ruth, to tell her he’d be on his way shortly, and we finally persuaded him to leave about 7:00 p.m. That was the end.” 
Davis was listed in Deaths Registered in the Town of Stow, 1941. His age was 31 years, ten months and four days. The cause of death was asphyxiation by drowning at Dobbs Ferry, New York. Davis was laid to rest at Brookside Cemetery

• There was another Bob Davis whose full name was Robert Hobart Davis. A list of his detective stories is at The FictionMags Index. He was profiled at ERBzine, Volume 3365. 


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Monday, August 22, 2022


Toppers: Cicero


It's quite fun to wield such power over the funnies, even if it is only in my own noggin. Here's a case where I got to name a topper for Mutt and Jeff, since Bud Fisher and his minions never managed to get around to it. 

When toppers came in style, Mutt and Jeff dutifully added theirs, a one tier strip that almost always featured Mutt's kid, Cicero. So faced with having to document it, a name had to be chosen. I considered Mutt's Bald Progeny, Minor Gags in One Tier, and even, just for the heck of it,  Captain Thunderbolt's Mighty Rangers of Destiny. But y'know, with great power comes great responsibility and all that. So taking my cue from Mary Kondo, I chose a name that offers order and simplicity: Cicero. You're welcome. 

The untitled Cicero topper debuted on October 17 1926, while Ed Mack was likely the ghost on the strip. It ran for over seven years, until finally being replaced by an actual titled topper, Cicero's Cat, on December 3 1933. By that point Al Smith had been at the anonymous helm for something like two years.

As a late boomer kid I don't remember Mutt and Jeff in local funny pages, but I do remember a comic book. No Cicero, but Cicero's Cat had his own short adventures.

Tempted to make something of Cicero looking so much like Jeff, especially since Jeff often seemed to be in residence in the Mutt household. In the strips running at Comics Kingdom the domestic situation is pretty vague, with the boys sometimes sharing a bed, Mrs. Mutt's design changing, and Mutt occasionally acting like a bachelor on the make. The strip often crams two or three vaudeville gags into each weekday, with no interest in consistency.

Can't remember the last appearance of Cicero or his cat (Maybe they're in the future?).
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Sunday, August 21, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from Rose ONeill


Here's a Rose O'Neill Kewpie card, issued by the Gibson Art Company of Cincinnati. This one was postally used in 1919, the earliest postmark I've found for this series so far. Funny, I'd never before noticed that Kewpies have something more akin to hooves than feet.


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