Saturday, October 22, 2022
Herriman Saturday: April 30 1910
April 30 1910 -- Although Herriman is playing strictly to his audience, making mockery of Jack Johnson's black fans, a kernel of truth escapes. For them the upcoming Fight of the Century has become imbued with a sense of racial pride quite likely unique in the lives of these turn of the century members of the black race.
The event referred to is the boxing match at Naud Junction on the 28th; Jack Johnson made an appearance, giving an exhibition of sparring with a partner, to a hall full of swooning black fans and jeering white ones. Johnson was pressed to make a speech at the end of his exhibituion match, and responded diplomatically by saying that he was to fight "one of the greatest men in the world", James Jeffries.
The next day the Los Angeles Times headline was "Jack Johnson Fat As A Pig".
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, October 21, 2022
Under The Radar: Carmichael
This post is the inaugural episode of a new occasional series, Under The Radar*. The theme is to discuss newspaper comics that are not obscure, because they ran for many years in a relatively substantial number of papers, but were never celebrated or even noticeably popular with readers. These were not necessarily bad features, and evidently feature editors saw some value in them, but they never inspired reprint books during their time, never seemed to get much promotion, and rate hardly a mention in books about newspaper comics.
Carmichael is a pretty good example of this thesis. It ran for an impressive 28 years, and in its better years was claimed to have a very healthy 150+ newspaper clients. Yet other than the obligatory promos that a few papers ran when they initially bought the feature, I can find hardly a word about Carmichael or its creator, Dave Eastman.
Carmichael debuted as a daily-only feature on March 3 1958, and was sold by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate on the basis of its unusual tall one-column format. The feature was also unlike the run of the mill panels in that it always consisted of depressive one-liners from a middle-aged sad sack character; unusual for the time. The drawing was initially a little more cartoony than the samples you see above, with Carmichael's face more rounded and, dare I say, almost verging on cheery. But soon Eastman had perfected the look of his mouthpiece, giving Carmichael both the look and the one-liners of Rodney Dangerfield (who he was not copying -- this is before Dangerfield became well-known).
The promos for Carmichael say that Eastman was born in 1924 in Indiana, and moved to LA in 1948 after serving in World War II. He had extensive art training and his early cartooning endeavours were focused on selling magazine gags. Carmichael was his first syndicated newspaper feature.
Carmichael maintained a healthy client list through the 1960s and early 70s, but faltered thereafter. He lost his home paper, the LA Times, in 1976, and is seldom seen in the 1980s. It is tough to get an exact end date, because Carmichael, as designed, tended to be used as a filler panel. But I do have two papers that last ran new material in May 1986, and one of them, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, switched over to reruns after their last new panel ran on May 30. I think it reasonably safe to say that the series ended on May 31 1986.
Eastman would have been 62 when Carmichael was cancelled, but I have no idea if he went on to other things, retired or passed away. I can find not a word about him except in those early promos.
* I'm all ears if you can come up with a catchier title!
Labels: Under The Radar
Being of the earliest stage of appreciation, the pithy, uncomplicated few words offered by Carmichael helped me when I was learning to read.
I made another round of searching for name mentions in 1973 papers particularly, and I still come up with nothing. I do find a Betty Eastman very active in golfing in California, but she didn't slow down her tournament play at all around September-October, so I'm guessing I've got the wrong person.
By the way, that Carmichael book you mentioned -- I should have said something in the post, but it is insanely rare; a few copies at major libraries, but not one out in the wild that I can find.
A 1959 article says over 124 of his Carmichael cartoons appear in a collection of Peanuts then on sale. No idea to what that refers.
He started a second strip called "Today" in 1965 according to the Anderson Daily Bulletin.
I'm lucky to own one of the Carmichael originals.
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Lowell Talbott
How can I trust you; w and m Lowell Talbott © 1 c. Apr. 16, 1934; E unp. 85895; Arthur Lowell Talbott. 8175
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, October 17, 2022
Obscurities of the Day: A Trio From Martinsburg, West Virginia
Small weekly newspapers seldom run cartoon or comic strips produced in-house, but they're not such a tremendous rarity that I'd call it "Man Bites Dog" level news when I find one. But when I find THREE in the same paper, and all by the same creator, that's probably a once in a lifetime occurrence. And so I did in the Martinsburg (WV) News, a weekly that was published from 1934 to 1983.
In my occasional riffling through eBay newspaper listings, where I sniff around for smalltown papers that might have something odd or unusual lurking in them, I came upon a listing for two 1937 copies of the Martinsburg News. The listing photos showed, among other things, an interior page from one that included some sort of comic strip, though the resolution wasn't good enough to tell exactly what I was looking at. The price was cheap, though, so I sprang for them.
To my delight, when I received the papers I found that there wasn't just one comic strip, but also another comic strip and a panel feature in each paper! They were all by a fellow named Lowell Talbott who was on staff at the News. I know practically nothing about this fellow except that he was a surprisingly good cartoonist/illustrator, apparently had boundless energy, and he really, really loved West Virginia. (But Alex Jay, a better sleuth than me, will be weighing in on the 19th with an Ink-Slinger Profile).
Unfortunately, the Martinsburg News is not a digitized newspaper and the microfilm for the paper is only available from one library, so this could have been a very short story. But excited as I was about the find, I decided to contact that one library, the West Virginia and Regional History Center, on the off-chance that they would consent to checking their microfilm. To be honest, I didn't hold out much hope, as in the past when I've made library requests I've seldom come away with anything to show for it.
This time, though, I got lucky. Reference supervisor Jessica Eichlin agreed to have a graduate assistant spend some time on the trail, and before I knew it I had start and end dates for all three features, additional sample scans, and additional details about their runs. So with a big tip of the hat to the West Virginia and Regional History Center, let's get on to our now well-documented obscurities for today.
The first of Talbott's features in the Martinsburg News was called See For Yourself - In West Virginia. My samples of this feature (shown below) seemed to indicate it might just have been more of a straight illustration rather than a feature in which we'd be interested. However, additional samples sent to me by the library show that my two samples are not typical, that this was more often a panel with multiple cartoon vignettes, and not just showing beauty spots but also events from West Virginia history, like a Ripley's or Scott's Scrapbook sort of feature. It ran from November 27 1936 to November 19 1937.
Evidently not content with his one weekly feature, on January 29 1937 Talbott added two more. Here is the promo article announcing them:
The first was a strip telling the stories of famous pioneer West Virginians, titled West Virginia Hall of Fame. Talbott shared credit with someone named Fortney on this strip; presumably Fortney contributed to the writing. The strip was really well done, both the writing and drawing were top-notch. Its only fault was the obvious disinterest of the typesetter in transcribing the text properly! Impressively for the times, two of the biographies were of pioneer women, Betty Zane and Anne Bailey. This feature ended on August 20 1937.
And now, the highlight of the three, a two-tier action-adventure strip about a pair of West Virginia fire investigators. The strip was initially titled West Virginia Walton. Here is the first strip, January 29 1937 (from microfilm):
For some reason Talbott had trouble deciding who his primary character was going to be, and on April 23 he changed the title to Gary O'Neil in West Virginia (or Gary O'Neal or just O'Neal depending on the News' careless typesetter). By this time Talbott had also gained a writer, apparently, named Byers. Here is the first strip carrying the new title, from microfilm:
The firebug investigation continued, and here are the strips from my printed copies:
The strip ended on September 24 1937 with the capture of the firebug and the engagement of the lead with his girlfriend. The final strip, from microfilm:
I think Talbott might have been better off writing his own material for this strip, as I'm not too impressed by Byers' writing. Although Talbott did not leave much of a digital footprint, I did discover that he wrote a weekly column in the 1960s for the Beckley Post-Herald, and by then he had indeed developed into a very fine writer.
While this might seem to cover all the bases, I can't help but think that Lowell Talbott, that whirlwind of creative energy in 1936-37, didn't begin and end his newspaper cartooning career with these three short-lived features. If and when the Martinsburg News is digitized, or someone in West Virginia takes the time to make a more thorough investigation of the microfilm, I have the sneaking suspicion that we will find more Talbott material lurking out there ... and he's worth the hunt, don't you think?
If anyone reading this is in the Morgantown area, please consider taking a day at the West Virginia & Regional History Center to give the Martinsburg News a more thorough search. Who knows what else Mr. Talbott might have produced!
Sunday, October 16, 2022
Wish You Were Here, from Grace Drayton
This card from the Raphael Tuck Series Glad Easter / #1000 is unsigned, but if that's not Grace Drayton's work I'll eat my Easter bonnet. This series is undated but this postally used example went through the mails in 1913.
Labels: Wish You Were Here