Saturday, May 20, 2023


Herriman Saturday: May 27 1910


May 27 1910 -- Here's a pretty pointless story about a new chief of police who got lost looking for the identification department in LA's apparently rather labyrinthine headquarters. Apparently in those days the headquarters building also housed the jail, and he eventually asked a prisoner for directions. That's the sum of the story, for all it's worth.


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Friday, May 19, 2023


Firsts and Lasts: Ernie Debuts


One of the best strips (in my humble opionion) to debut in the latter quarter of the 2000s was Ernie. Above find the first week of the strip, published the week of February 1 1988. The strip never got the sort of tremendous fan following it deserved, but it lasted for thirty years so it obviously kept readers happy in the places it did run. 

A strip about a bunch of losers and cads living in a dark world of stupidity, callousness, ennui and casual violence may not seem like a great launchpad for daily fun, but creator Bud Grace takes such naked glee in putting his characters through this hellish world that unless your disposition is so incurably sunny that you consider Hallmark Cards a harsh dose of reality, you're going to laugh along with him. 

If you missed out on Ernie (later renamed The Piranha Club) during its initial run, the good news is that Grace has recently self-published the entire run as a series of downright cheap books. Check them out here on Grace's website.


I recall that "Ernie" was downright popular overseas, especially in Scandinavian market, which likely helped keep the strip going for 30 years.

I personally loved the comic, having read it every day in Japan in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. I'm glad that Bud Grace has reprinted the entire run. The strip barely got any reprints during its original run, so better late than never.
FWIW, I loved it too.

Hello Allan-
On 6 September 1998, Grace showed his cartoon self being outwitted by Ernie's scheming Uncle Sid, and forced to hand over control of the strip, who changed the name in favour of his lodge, which is filled with other low life leeches and con men.
Not just one of the best strips of the last etc., as you say. I'd call it the last strip (probably ever) in the tradition of the golden age of comic strips, and with the artistic and comedic chops that go with it.

Thanks for the tip about the reprints!
I'm about four years into the reprints. The San Jose Mercury News had the strip when it debuted and eventually dropped it, for reasons unknown; I would later find it here and there on the net. Indeed, great stuff.
As an expression of the human condition, "urk urk urk" should rank with "Aughh!"
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Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Pete and Pinto, The Cowkids of O-Joy Ranch


Martin Branner should have been playing the ponies in 1919-20, because he sure seemed to have the golden touch. In 1919 he was contracted to produce a daily strip, Louie the Lawyer, for Bell Syndicate, and then in spring 1920 he sold a Sunday page, Pete and Pinto, to the New York Herald

Evidently not content to have two syndicates as customers, he then sold a pretty girl strip to the Chicago Tribune. That strip, of course, was Winnie Winkle, and Branner soon dropped these other two strips to concentrate all his efforts on that one, which would end up being his life's work and even outlast him. 

Pete and Pinto, The Cowkids of O-Joy Ranch, was a Katzenjammer Kids copycat with the minor twist that the action happens on a ranch out west. The gags are pretty much the standard fare, with the two rotten kids playing really nasty gags, mostly on the Chinese cook Ching. The art was the typical nice Branner crisp art -- perhaps a little bloodless and stilted (a little reminiscent of Charles Kahles) but very inviting on a large colourful Sunday page. 

Pete and Pinto debuted in the New York Herald on May 23 1920*, a mere four months before Winnie Winkle made her bow in the Chicago Tribune. Between the Herald and the Tribune, it was no secret which was the star onto which you'd want to hitch your wagon. The Herald was at this time owned by Frank Munsey, notorious for dropping comics as non-essential features when he wasn't killing newspapers entirely. Inevitably the Herald lost out and the last Pete and Pinto ran on December 5 1920*.

* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index in StripScene #20.


Hello Allan-
Could this series be part of what could be called a syndicate within a sydicate? It seem to me the very temporary merging of the NY Sun with the Herald which lasted less than a year, had several new strips to offer under the "Sun-Herald Corporation" name.
Another one I recall was "Percy and His Bride", an update on the Hall Room Boys, with Percy on his honeymoon, with Ferdie hanging around as friend of the family.
If I'm not mistaken, "Billy Bunk" by Inwood was another. They all came and went when the Sun took a Heraldechtomy at the end of 1920 or early in 1921.
Above by Mark Johnson.
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Monday, May 15, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Movie Fan


This fun little single-column panel about movies and moviegoing is so far believed to have had a very short run, but my information on it is far from complete. What I can tell you is that the panel was signed by Al Zere, and ran in the San Francisco Chronicle, the only newspaper I've so far found running it, from December 1 1924 to January 10 1925, just over a month. 

But my guess is that the run was longer. It was distributed by Philadelphia's Ledger Syndicate, and though I did not catch it running in their papers, it was listed as available in the very first Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directory, which came out in October 1924. That would seem to indicate that the run began before the Chronicle picked it up. In that E&P listing it is credited to John Bach, who has several other credits with the Ledger in this era. So did John Bach start the feature and it was taken over by Zere? Without finding earlier examples, I dunno. 

A weird thing about Movie Fan is that there was a strip that went by this same name back in 1921, also distributed by Ledger Syndicate, and also with a very short life. That strip was credited only to "Beeze" -- is that Bach and Zere working together under a cobined pseudonym? To play that old sad song once more, I dunno. 

If anyone finds a longer run of Movie Fan, please let me know!

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Sunday, May 14, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from J.R. Williams


This is card W522 from Series 1 of the Standley-May Out Our Way postcard series. Amazing that Williams allowed this misfire to be used as a postcard -- just look at the right front leg on that bear!


That was my first thought as well.
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