Saturday, February 04, 2023
Herriman Saturday: May 15 1910
May 15 1910 -- Another Fight of the Century strip, this one featuring Johnson as a huckster, showing off his prize possession.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, February 03, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Jungle Jingles
Clarence Rigby seemed to be trying to prove himself at the New York Herald, putting out some of his best work there in a short stint 1900-02. During this time he was also producing work for others, but I get the feeling he really wanted to secure his position at the Herald. It's too bad that his series for them, while very well drawn, didn't have much of a spark to make them long-term series.
Jungle Jingles, a series which consisted of a square of individual panels for each installment, featured impressionistically drawn animals and a bit of verse for each one. The concept had already been done to death, so despite the lovely drawings (that zebra in particular blows me away) it was doomed to a short run -- not to mention there aren't all that many iconic jungle animals to cover.
Jungle Jingles ran from July 21 to September 1 1901*.
* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index.
Wednesday, February 01, 2023
The Experiment of Ozark Ike's Whodunits
I love baseball, and my favorite baseball strip, hands down, is Ozark Ike. Ray Gotto's art completely blows my mind, and the stories are entertainingly ridiculous. I even forgive the hillbilly motif, which you just couldn't escape in the 1940s when everyone who could hold a brush was trying to steal even a small taste of the juggernaut that was Li'l Abner.
Ozark Ike began as a daily in 1945, and it found enough editors who appreciated it that a Sunday was added on July 27 1947. When the Sunday debuted, though, it didn't fold itself in on the daily stories, nor did it start a separate storyline of its own. Instead Gotto had the idea to make it a totally self-supporting feature in which his characters would act out a famous event in sports history, with a gag thrown in for good measure. The feature was titled Ozark Ike's Whodunits.
I quite like the idea since it sidesteps the whole knotty problem of setting up separate or blended contiuities with the dailies. And boy is that a major problem. If you run shared continuities, Sundays either become a boring recap of the week's events, or if they advance the plot, you force editors who bought your daily to either add the Sunday, or if they have no room for it, to drop the daily.
If you go with the separate continuity option, you can be less likely to sell a newspaper on both the Sunday and daily because readers can be confused by the multiple stories they are supposed to follow. Sure, if you're Steve Canyon you can get away with it, but if your strip is struggling to get newspaper sign-ups, adding a Sunday can be a sort of zero-sum game while leaving you with a lot more work.
So Ray Gotto and I both think his solution is genius, but evidently we are adding up this marketing equation and coming up with the wrong answer. Ozark Ike's Whodunits lasted only about six months, and on February 1 1948 the Sunday was retitled simply Ozark Ike and began running a separate continuity from the daily.
Did that work out for it? Well, Ozark Ike was never a huge success, but it did garner a pretty decent roster of clients, so hard to say. What do you think is the ideal way to handle a continuity strip on Sundays and dailies?
PS: If you don't know the answer to the sample Whodunit above, I'm not telling you. It's only one of the most famous events (if it really happened!) in baseball history. So either you're a baseball fan and you know it already, or you couldn't care less.
Root always maintained that Ruth never called his shot, because if Ruth had, he would have thrown the next pitch at his head.
Monday, January 30, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Pot-Shots
Ashleigh Brilliant, who in my opinion quite handily lives up to his family name, began coming up with witty and wise epigrams in the 1960s, and sold them on illustrated postcards. The postcards sold well, and Brilliant went on to put what eventually became known as his Pot-Shots on other products, and to publish book collections of the material. He also recognized that these would make for a fine daily newspaper feature. The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate agreed, and began syndicating them sometime in 1975. The partnership was dissolved around 1984, and by 1987 or perhaps earlier (they are really hard to track) Brilliant was self-syndicating Pot-Shots. Although Brilliant says on his website that the feature continues to be available, I haven't seen any papers running it in a long while.
An interesting aspect of Pot-Shots is that the cartoons/illustrations are drawn in many styles, everything from classic detailed illustrations to the simplest stick figures. Despite checking several of his books and reading considerable online material about him, I can't find a single word that mentions whether the illustrations are all clip art or if some are drawn by Brilliant, or by collaborators.
If many of these drawings are re-used art, as seems pretty certain given the wide variety of styles, this becomes more interesting. Brilliant is an ardent and ferocious defender of his copyrights, which courts have ruled can cover epigrams. (Which reminds me to say that all the Pot-Shot examples above are copyrighted by Ashley Brilliant, the Pot-Shots name is a registered trademark, and the examples shown above are used in the context of a review) So with Brilliant's presumed use of a huge amount of artwork by and presumably copyrighted by others, has he never violated the intellectual property laws of artists himself?
Brilliant decided to stop publishing new Pot-Shots postcards after he hit #10,000 (each postcard is numbered). That means that if a paper had started running the feature in 1975 they could have had a new Pot-Shot every day for over 32 years, and would have had to start offering recycled wisdom around 2007.
Also, GoComics and Comic Kingdom both carry vintage strips that are no longer being created, from venerable relics to comparatively recent items like Boondocks and Liberty Meadows. Are the parent syndicates offering those to clients, or are they only carried on the websites?
King Features' Comics Kingdom site has a number of vintage strips, but these are pretty much for subscribers to read there. If a publisher wanted to use them, an arrangement could certainly be made, but they aren't actively being offered to clients. There are a lot of top long-time features there, but only a few are still in production, like Beetle Bailey and the Phantom.
Sunday, January 29, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from Little Nemo
Here's another card from the Little Nemo series, copyrighted to the New York Herald and issued by Raphael Tuck as their series #6. The shame is that this series does not feature art by Winsor McCay, but by some lesser artist who apparently copied the scenes from various Little Nemo strips. I've only had one other of these cards on the blog so far, and D.D. Degg identified the original strip from which the scene was adapted. Can someone find this scene in a Little Nemo strip?
Labels: Wish You Were Here