Saturday, October 29, 2022
Herriman Saturday: April 30 1910
April 30 1910 -- They sure did take the census seriously in 1910.
A census-taker came to the Los Angeles residence of J.H. Todd, a man who seemed to be in his 60s. When asked his age, Mr. Todd replied that he was seven years old, due to the amazing properties of "The Elixir Of Life", a mineral water for which he is a salesman. He claimed that every time he partook of the water that his life would begin over again, and that he typically imbibed it every seven years -- he was about due for his next dose.
The census taker found no humor in this, and called a policeman to witness Mr. Todd's obvious false witness to a census-taker. The deputy, also a man of no humor, arrested Mr. Todd, who was obliged to pay bail to get out of jail.
You have to hand it to Mr. Todd for being a truly devoted fan of the product he sells. When called before the district court in October of that year, he stuck to his guns that he was seven years old. The judge fined him $100 (a quite substantial amount in 1910). Todd paid the fine on the spot.
But maybe Mr. Todd was the smart one -- how much "Elixir of Life" did he sell because of all the free publicity he was given?
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, October 28, 2022
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: A.C. Fera
The cartoons used in this volume were originally published in “The Los Angeles Express” excepting six drawings which appeared in “The Los Angeles Herald.”
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Toppers: Alexander Smart, Esq., Daffydoodles and The Elmer Game
Maurice Horn described Elmer as "genial", which is probably the highest praise it is ever likely to receive. It seems to be one of those strips that stayed in papers due to inertia. The strip was about a 10-year old kid who got into relatively genteel comic strip boy troubles and escapades every Sunday. Under its original creator, A.C. Fera, the strip had a modicum of life, oddly benefiting from the cartoonist's flat, scratchy style. But when Fera for some reason left the strip and it was handed over to Charles "Doc" Winner in 1926, it became so formulaic that you can accurately extrapolate the entire thirty years' worth of Winner Sundays based on any one example.
When all the Hearst Sundays gained toppers in 1926, Winner (who was still ghosting the page under Fera's name until late 1926) tried out a few candidates, but finally settled on Alexander Smart Esq., starting with the July 4 1926 page. The character was not an attorney, so I assume that Winner used the term "esquire" in the British sense of someone untitled but of social importance. The strip was just as formulaic as Elmer itself; Alexander tries to outsmart someone, or to attack some problem with his supposed high intelligence, and everything backfires.
When other Hearst Sundays started adding multiple toppers, Winner added Daffydoodles on July 31 1932 It was a feature in which Winner would illustrate puns and other funny turns of phrase. Originally a single panel, it eventually grew to most often have four single-panel gags. Shortly after the feature began Winner began to credit the ideas to reader submissions. Given that he never told readers how or where to send in their submissions, my guess is that Winner made up a lot of the gags and reader names, but I must confess a spot-check of one unusual name seen above, Dorothy Ann Starry, came up with an actual person.
Soon after Daffydoodles was added, a second topper began, called The Elmer Game. This large panel was, I think, the best thing about the Elmer page. Each week Winner would explain a simple game that kids could play with a minimum of equipment and setup. For kids looking for something to do on Sunday afternoon The Elmer Game must have been a real boon. It ran from January 1 1933 to June 9 1935, losing out to an expanded set of weekly Daffydoodles.
An interesting bit of trivia about Elmer and its toppers: while the main strip never merited a reprint book, and certainly Daffydoodles and Alexander Smart Esq. didn't either, The Elmer Game did. The book was titled Games Of Fun and was issued by K.K. Publications in 1934.
During World War II a lot of strips lost their toppers, or at least found fewer and fewer papers willing to give space to the typically second-rate material. Alexander Smart, Esq. and Daffydoodles seem to have succumbed to this trend. The latest I can find them running is on July 30 1944 in the Nebraska State Journal. But they could have been produced longer, and the papers that ran them became so few as to evade my radar. Anyone have any later dates?
Labels: Topper Features
Monday, October 24, 2022
Obscurity of the Day: Little Willie Gettit
Little Willie Gettit has one simple desire in life -- to procure a dime; said dime to be invested in candy and sweets. Willie's family feels that such investments are not worthwhile, yet somehow they always end up giving Willie the dime. Why? Because Willie has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. With his amazing sense of timing one can only imagine what heights Willie will one day reach as an adult.
When George McManus moved over to Hearst in 1912 he began experimenting with new ideas in his weekday strips. Of course, the one that made him one of the most famous cartoonists in the world was Bringing Up Father, but among his other weekday offerings was this one, Little Willie Gettit. With a repetitive gag it didn't have the legs for a long life, but McManus made it delightfully fun while it lasted, dropping it as soon as the gag started to get stale. It ran from September 25 1913 to January 17 1914*. Little Willie Gettit has the distinction of being McManus' last weekday strip before he put all his eggs in one basket and concentrated on Bringing Up Father on weekdays.
* Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt's New York American index.
This is a pretty delightful strip, all told, but yeah, I can't see this idea running for a long time.
In another morning Hearst paper, The Chicago Examiner, Willie appears as late as 11 April 1914.
If anyone could bear seeing more of Willie's one-note saga, look at this old stale blog post:
Aaaaah, sounds like a delightful research trip. Maybe a few moments extra to go looking for the perfect slice.
By the way, Nark, are you any relation to Mark? Maybe his evil twin spreading disinformation about poor ol' Little Willie Gettit?
Sunday, October 23, 2022
Wish You Were Here, from Albert Carmichael
Here's another Carmichael entry from the Samson Brothers 1910 "If" series, less picturesquely known as Series 262.
Labels: Wish You Were Here
This one always leaves me to marvel at how such a poor cartoonist could be so successful. This sleepy fellow pictured has a bed that looks like it could accommodate only midgets or babies, but it's working for him because he apparently has tiny legs. The unexplained smoke rings are a nice touch.