Saturday, April 29, 2023
Herriman Saturday: May 25 1910
May 25 1910 -- The lowly Oakland Oaks, coming off of a miserable 1909 season, met the Vernon Villager nine, and gave the league leaders quite a drubbing, final score 6-1. Those Oaks, known for their speed, would climb out of the cellar and end the season in a very respectable second place, while Vernon would sink to 4th place.
Labels: Herriman's LA Examiner Cartoons
Friday, April 28, 2023
The Comics of Paramount News Feature Service: After The Honeymoon
Today we have a comparatively simple PNF Service strip to cover, no additional great mysteries to plumb here, After The Honeymoon by Geoff (aka Jeff) Hayes. This one is making fun of married life, mostly by portraying married men as oversexed lechers saddled with battleaxe wives. On the face of it, you might think Bringing Up Father clone, but in actuality it plays low rent and smarmy, a very different vibe.
What I do kind of like is the art, which totally embraces the flatness of newspaper -- no shading, checkerboards of stark blacks and whites, pancake flat characters, wild clothing designs with an art deco feel. If Hayes was a better artist, I'd compare After The Honeymoon to Polly and her Pals of the same era, but that would be going too far.
Based on our best sources, After The Honeymoon began on September 16 1927* and ended on July 19 1928**. But since this was one of their headliner strips, I'm guessing a perfect run would have started a bit earlier, perhaps in July 1927. As with the other headliner PNF strips, it had a long life in reprints.
* Source: Norfolk Jounral and Guide
** Source: Philadelphia Tribune
Thursday, April 27, 2023
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Louise Hirsch
The engagement of the two cartoonists, Miss Louise Hirsch (above) to Sam Iger, created quite a bit of interest in newspaper circles. Miss Hirsch is the creator of “Tessie Tish,” the clever comic adventures of a country girl, and Mr. Iger is the originator of that delightful “kid” strip, “The Gang,” both of which appear in the Brooklyn Sunday Star every week. Congrats!!!
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
The Comics of Paramount News Feature Service: Tessie Tish
Our next PNF Service strip is Tessie Tish, whose history has a few odd aspects, but thankfully it's not quite as mind-bending as The Gang (see yesterday's post). Here are some samples from the original series, which from our best information ran from October 9 1927* to July 19 1928**:
Louise Hirsch offers us a pretty dreary strip full of second-rate jokebook fodder, and featuring a woman whose main job seems to be to react to the gag by falling out of panel three. In order to leave readers doubly sorry for having read the material, Hirsch adds a painful pun in the oft-accompanying panel cartoon, Charlie Chirps.
Okay, so that all sounds pretty cut and dried, but let's discuss some elements of interest. First there's the matter of Louise Hirsch herself. At the time of the strip's appearance, Hirsch was engaged to none other than S.M. "Jerry" Iger, the creator of The Gang and probable runner of the syndicate. In addition to that fact, let's stir into the stew that Louise Hirsch has no other syndicated credits as a cartoonist, and that the art on Tessie Tish to my eyes looks exactly like Iger's work on The Gang. My vote is that Hirsch was simply credited on the strip so as to make the syndicate look like it had a bigger bullpen of creators. But judge for yourself, then read Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile of Hirsch tomorrow and tell me how you cast your vote.
Second is a bookkeeping error that needs to be corrected. When Jeffrey Lindenblatt sent me data on PNF I got the impression that Charlie Chirps was a separate feature, and indeed I suppose it could have run separately. But most papers treated it as an adjunct panel to Tessie Tish, and that seems right to me. So in my book, where you find a listing for Charlie Chirps, mark that out as a mistake.
Third, when Tessie Tish was remarketed in reprints, for some reason the title was changed to Tess of Tinkerville. Why? I dunno, but it was. Here are some more samples, now with the reprint era title:
* Source: Brooklyn Sunday Star
** Source: Philadelphia Tribune
I'm wondering if you'll ever do one on Bonnet-Brown. If anyone knows of that syndicate today, it's because they were the first to release "Alley Oop", but I'm curious about the other non-cavemen offerings the syndicate had to offer.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
The Comics of the Paramount News Feature Service: The Gang
The Gang was arguably PNF Service's headlining feature, the circumstantial evidence being that S.M. "Jerry" Iger, in those days going by 'Sam', is a good candidate for being the boss of the syndicate. His later business-minded nature speaks to it, and the fact that only his strip got any promotion is another point in his favour. Unfortunately we have not had any luck tracking it back to the (so far) known start of the syndicate in July 1927. The earliest we find it starting is on September 16 1927*, though I would bet that it began back in July if only we could find a source.
The Gang starred Micky (or Mickey), the kid with the high-cranium bowl cut, and his obligatory check the boxes pals, Stuffy the fat kid, Percy the rich kid and Snooky the black kid. It's just another entry in the kid gang genre, joining Reg'lar Fellers, Us Boys and many others. Nothing sets it apart, the art is ungainly, and the gags are strictly jokebook level. So we'll concentrate on the strip's shape-shifting traits, rather than any silly talk of it being an overlooked classic.
The initial run of the strip seems to have ended with most of the other original titles, on June 28 1928**, but even during that run the strip was known by other names. In black papers (or at least in the Norfolk Journal and Guide) the strip was known as The Harlem Gang. In another paper, whose name I've unfortunately lost, it was The Ridgewood Kids. In other papers it was known as Micky and his Gang, or, with the inconsistent spelling in the strip itself as a guide, Mickey and his Gang.
As with all of the PNF Service strips, The Gang immediate began circulation in what we assume are reprints. A few interesting tidbits can be gleaned from these, including the strip below, which indicates that there was some attempt at continuity in the original run ... the only problem with that is that I haven't seen any continuity strips in the original run, but then again I haven't seen a long original run in a few decades, and my memory isn't that great:
Or could there have been a further attempt for Iger to syndicate new material? Here is an example that offers a very interesting (and so far unique) bit of evidence:
This sample from a September 1929 newspaper has a new syndicate stamp on it, dated in the current year, to "Sam Iger and Herbert Enterprises". The strip also offers us a new foil for Micky, a little fellow named Pee Wee, who would a decade later star in his own Iger strip. "Herbert" is Herbert Photos, an apparently short-lived New York City based company that distributed interesting and unusual photographs to newspapers and magazines via their "flexo-plates". This company is also known to have tried to syndicate an illustrated column called Laughing Gas by Roy Fields, only one example of which is known.
This single strip ran in a handful of papers in September 1929, but not a single one of them printed any additional strips, so perhaps it was sent out as an unsuccessful promo.
Another interesting oddity we find is in early 1928, still during the first-run era, are these strips:
The paper that ran these (the Brooklyn Sunday Star) was a PNF customer from quite early on but then in February 1928 they began running a group of strips that are known PNF strips, but now using the syndicate stamp "Rialto N.F. Syndicate". Did PNF change names? I don't think so, because I have no record of them doing so in other venues. And while the other strips were generally just additional episodes of some known strips, here we have Mickey, which may or may not be intended as episodes of The Gang -- keeping in mind that PNF played fast and loose with titles. But we also have a different artist, Dick Kennedy, on these strips, and no real resemblance to Iger's strip. Jeffrey Lindenblatt found samples of Mickey running for a couple weeks in 1927, but there it was credited to "Ned". He felt that it was a separate unrelated series.
Alex Jay did an Ink-Slinger Profile of Dick Kennedy, who as far as we know did no other syndicated strips than these Mickey's above and just three known episodes of The Whole Dam Family, also for PNF.
* Source: Norfolk Journal and Guide
** Source: Philadelphia Tribune
Monday, April 24, 2023
The Comics of the Paramount News Feature Service: Introduction
I've been avoiding doing posts about the Paramount News Feature Service for years, hoping that eventually I would shake some fruit from the research tree and be able to offer you some good hard facts about the syndicate. That hasn't happened yet, but Alex Jay has produced a batch of Ink-Slinger Profiles about the syndicate's artists, so I'm going to try to chime in with what little I do know, and pad it out with some educated guesses. I have no original tearsheets of the syndicate's wares, so our show-and-tell is going to have to rely on material from digitized microfilm. Apologies in advance for the low quality.
So, what was the Paramount News Feature Service? Well, first of all, it had nothing to do with the Hollywood movie company. Second, it seldom actually went by that unwieldy name, but instead abbreviated it as "PNF Service". To save my fingers, I'll go with their shortened version from here on out. Third, as with so many failed syndicates, they were trying to sell their strips to that supposedly overlooked market, weekly newspapers. To repeat my standard refrain about weeklies, for most their sales were never about features; they were about readers wanting to know what others in their community were up to. Syndicates catering to weeklies quickly find out how loud and definite the responses of "No Thanks" are from weekly editors.
I can find no business information about PNF Service, and those who worked for it seem to have never bothered to mention it or their strips in later years, so we're pretty much out in the weeds as that goes. But we do know that S.M. "Jerry" Iger was one of those creators, and given his later business acumen, it wouldn't be a terrible guess that he was the ringleader of this ragtag syndicate. Another telltale that he was running the show? The only strip from the syndicate that got any promotion is his strip, The Gang:
The dates that this syndicate actually operated are also questionable. We've tracked some of their strips back as early as July 1927, others we can only track back to a few months later. Among our early adopter papers, the syndicate seems to have a big shake-up in June 1928, after which some replacement strips make a very short appearance. The early adopters then drop the syndicate.
But the PNF material keeps running for years after that -- I've seen their material printed as late as 1941. Is this all reprints? For the most part the answer is assuredly yes, but since the early adopter papers were found on microfilm years ago, we cannot easily do a strip-by-strip check to make sure that there was no more new material being created in mid- to late-1928. And whether or not they are reprints, who was selling them to these papers? Was PNF still out there beating the bushes for years afterward? Or did PNF sell off their stock to one (or more) of the reprint vendors, who sell the bleached bones of dead syndicates cheap to poverty row papers? My guess is that it is a combination of the two. Usually we can count on reprint vendors to remove syndicate stamps from the strips they resell, but in many cases we see PNF still credited on later runs. On the other hand, I've also seen papers that are clearly buying this material along with other grey-bearded old junk from those reprint vendors, and in those cases the syndicate stamps are indeed usually missing.
Perhaps the oddest feature of these reprint runs is that the titles of the features is as hard to pin down as a confirmed bachelor at a Sadie Hawkins dance. And we'll see examples of this in the coming days. It's a real mess, and I doubt that I have it fully unravelled.
Another thing we know, and it's perhaps the most interesting feature of the whole syndicate, is that they sold their material to both mainstream and black papers. That in itself isn't unheard of, but it's how PNF did their marketing that is, I think, close to unique: some or possibly all of their strips were available with white or black characters -- the newspaper could choose which they preferred! This bit of hocus-pocus was pulled off quite simply; the strips would be drawn with white characters, and then a proof would be created on which those characters would get their skin shaded with a basic crosshatch to indicate their new race, and maybe a few details would be changed to make the characters more believable as black. Make a new proof based on that, and voila, take your choice, newspaper customer.
Tomorrow: Sam Iger's Headlining Strip, The Gang
Sunday, April 23, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from Jimmy Swinnerton
Here's another Hearst newspaper freebie postcard, which came in blocks of four. As you can see, a favorite drinking game of the day was to down a bottle of tequila before cutting the cards apart. Oh, that wasn't a game? Huh, coulda sworn...
Here we have Jimmy Swinnerton's Little Jimmy, posing with a very important message for Leon, or Sean, or somebody.
Labels: Wish You Were Here