Saturday, May 27, 2023


Herriman Saturday: May 28 1910


May 28 1910 -- The local Democratic Party got together to choose candidates for county offices, and a few bits of minor drama played out -- candidates who didn't want to be, non-candidates who did want to be, you know the drill.


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Friday, May 26, 2023


Firsts and Lasts: Hawkshaw the Detective Debuts on Sunday


Gus Mager had quite the little cottage industry going with his 'monk' characters. He started drawing weekday strips for the New York Evening Journal starring human-monkey hybrids in 1904. At first they skewed toward apedom, but later the 'monks' became more and more human, until new readers would no doubt be wondering about the point of the title. No matter, because the strips were a real hoot, starring a cast of characters named for their dominant characteristic -- you had Tightwaddo the cheapskate, Coldfeeto the timid guy, Boneheado the dummy, Braggo the ... well you get the idea. 

In December 1910 a new pair of characters was added to the list, a brilliant detective named Sherlocko and his faithful companion, Dr. Watso. No internet points at all for being able to decode this not exactly sly take-off  on Mr. Conan Doyle's famed creations. This wasn't by any means the first appearance of a super-sleuth in newspaper comics, which is hardly surprising because Sherlock Holmes was all the rage in this era. What Mager brought to the party, oddly enough, was an obviously great respect and enthusiasm for Holmes. While there was plenty of funny stuff going on in the Sherlocko strips, the simian detective himself played things straight -- his preternatural ability to find and interpret clues was handled with surprising fidelity to the original.

The new character was a hit, and became a fixture of Mager's 'monk' strip. Things went along their merry way until early 1913, when Mager decided to leave the Hearst stable in favour of the rival Pulitzer organization. One of the carrots held out to Mager was that his star character would be given the red carpet treatment, moving to a full page Sunday strip. At Hearst, Mager had pretty much been frozen out of the prestigious Sunday paper, appearing with only a few fill-in strips back in the mid-1900s. 

The first Sherlocko the Monk Sunday appeared in Pulitzer's Funny Side Sunday section on February 23 1913, as seen above. But you'll notice one big difference -- our heroes are no longer Sherlocko and Watso; they are now Hawkshaw and the Colonel.Also note that the name changes were obviously made at the last minute -- the new names are shoehorned into the word balloons, obviously replacing the original ones.

In Bill Blackbeard's introduction to the Hyperion Press book Sherlocko the Monk 1910-1912 he posits that the Conan Doyle estate might have served Pulitzer with a cease and desist order just before the new Sunday feature debuted. I disagree -- it seems to me that if the Conan Doyle estate was going to object to the obvious copy of their characters they would not have waited over two years to do so. My guess, rather, is that in the legal tradition already established by Buster Brown, it was assumed (or ordered) that Mager could take his characters with him to a new syndicate, but the name was not allowed to go with it. The last minute nature of the change makes me think that a cease and desist letter was probably received from the Hearst organization just shy of press time, and therefore the awkward looking change.

Why 'Hawkshaw' though? Although anyone could be forgiven for thinking that Mager might have actually coined the term for a detective, he actually appropriated it from a detective in the 1863 stage play The Ticket-of-Leave Man. Apparently though the play was critically panned it was an audience favorite and was constantly revived during the Victorian era, and the name Hawkshaw became synonym with detectives. 

The newly minted Hawkshaw the Detective had a long run in the Pulitzer Sunday section, ending its first run in 1922. The strip was then revived in 1931 to become the topper to the Pulitzer strip The Captain and the Kids, which ironically enough, was also a feature stolen from Hearst and renamed due to legal wrangling.Thus it continued until 1947, making a tremendous nearly half-century run and Gus Mager's contribution to the history books. 


Hello Allan-
It would seem that Blackbeard information is not a reliable source. though the man had long runs of hundreds of newspapers, Especially, it seems, Hearst ones, he didn't really do the scholarship, his ability to research them consisted of often just making up the most interesting story. Emphasis on MAKING UP.
We had several heated go-rounds together when I called him on it.
In 1913, Conan Doyle was very much alive; Don't know if Pulitzer comics saw much play outside of the US, or comic strip satires were seen as having any possible threat to the Sherlock Holmes brand, such as it was. Doyle did almost no licensing, I believe he purposefuly resisted it.
Your speculation that the change was to avoid possible infringement of the Hearst version sounds right. perhaps Mager was happy to ditch the tired simian componant anyway.
Howdy, Alan,
I happened to find an earlier cartoon by Mager in the Jul/4/1905 Pensacola Journal (chronicling america id sn87062268) in which a character stated that he was "Hawkshaw the Detective." The cartoon was titled Ruffles the Monk, but of course Mager's titles varied widely at that time. I cannot tell whether this was a recurring character with a different identity. The phrase "I am Hawkshaw the Detective" seems to have been sort of a general catch phrase in that period, probably due to the play.
(Bob Harris)

A quite different looking Hawkshaw made regular appearances in Mager's Mufti the Monk strips of late 1907.
"Ruffles" is a play on Raffles, a popular fictional burglar of that era. ("Raffles The Amateur Cracksman"(1899) by E.W. Hornung)

On the off-chance that there's anyone who doesn't know this, I'll mention that Mager's practice of giving characters descriptive names ending in "o" inspired the Marx Brothers' stage names.
Jimmy Nervo of the English comedy team of Nervo and Knox, later to become part of The Crazy Gang, was also nicknamed after a running Mager "Monk" character.
Hello Allan-
There was another, rare entry to add- Mager did another iteration of this Human character called "Sherlocko", with "Watso" in tow. This was a daily that appeared in the Urbana (Ills.)Daily Courier from 13 October 1924 to 20(?) March 1925. The last seen is a Friday, with a mystery-solving payoff due tomorrow, a day when that issue didn't make it to be bound in.
The Courier picked up a lot of cheap boilerplate International stuff, but this looks like it was from another source, maybe self-syndicated. No ident ever appeared.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Chesty De Nut


Mark Johnson gets the big three cheers for discovering this obscurity, and for supplying the samples. Why is this one a big deal? Well, let's just say that if you had found early unknown work by Norman Rockwell, you'd be pretty excited. Now this strip isn't the work of Norman Rockwell, but it is from the pen of the science fiction magazine equivalent. The creator of this silly strip is none other than Frank R. Paul, dean of the sci-fi magazine cover artists. 

In 1915, when Chesty de Nut was in circulation, Paul was still just getting his feet wet in art. His first art gig was with the Jersey Journal starting in 1912, where he mostly worked uncredited but did have some editorial cartoons published under his signature.  By 1914 he was freelancing and one of his clients was Hugo Gernsback, who would eventually create the science fiction pulp genre. Gernsback's major weapon to attract customers were the mechanically and architecturally complex covers of Paul in all their splendidly bold, lurid and colourful glory. 

Chesty de Nut was distributed by National Cartoon Service, perhaps the epitome of an early hole-in-the-wall operation. They seemed to come onto the scene in 1915, and lasted probably until about 1918. Their idea was to sell comics in numbered batches, so that newspapers could use them when and how they liked. Their generally weak offerings must have been sold cheap because you rarely see them in anything but very minor papers. It certainly didn't help matters that National Cartoon Service sent out really bad quality plates which most of their clients didn't bother to improve. If you see a National Cartoon Service strip, it will usually be liver-spotted with those weird amoebas you get when plates aren't properly routered. Lucky for us, Mark Johnson found Chesty de Nut examples from a paper whose pressmen took a little pride in their product. 

As one of the early offerings of National Cartoon Service, the earliest I have found the large third-page strip appearing is in mid-1915, but a check of the copyright records indicates that the series was supposedly available starting on March 28. Those records also reveal that the numbering of the strip was to encompass #25-56, a total of 32 episodes. I haven't seen nearly that many, but I have encountered an example number #60, perhaps indicating that the copyright records aren't to be completely trusted, and one of the samples above may be #23, though the lettering is a bit hard to read.

Unlike many of the other National Cartoon Service offerings, which were passed along to even more hole-in-the-wall syndicators to be sold in reruns, I've not seen Chesty de Nut reappearing later. The latest examples I've found ran in 1917, while National Cartoon Service still seemed to be a going concern.


Lodges with crazy/dangerous initiations and degrees, fodder for comics, animated cartoons and films, were very much a real thing. The book "The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions" by cartoonist Julia Suits focuses on a company that provided the equipment, including several different devices for delivering electrical shocks and ancestors of the mechanical bull.
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Monday, May 22, 2023


Under The Radar: Good News Bad News


For most gag cartoonists who reach the peak of the mountain, selling regularly to The New Yorker, there is generally little interest in pursuing other venues. Henry Martin, though, who had over 600 cartoons published in The New Yorker between 1964 and 1999, perhaps facing down a big pile of very funny but rejected cartoons, decided he could add a daily cartoon for newspapers to his output. 

Scribners had just published a book collection of Martin's business cartoons, titled Good News Bad News, and that became the name and pitch for his daily cartoon, one that would be at home on  newspaper business pages. I doubt that Martin had to shop the concept around very long, and he soon signed a contract with the Chicago Tribune - New York News Syndicate. The book was published in 1977 and the panel cartoon made its newspaper debut on March 13 1978*.

The daily cartoon was never a huge seller, but then not terribly many newspapers have ever jumped on the business cartoon bandwagon. For the newspapers who did have the smarts to pick up Good News Bad News, they offered their business section readers consistently and genuinely funny gags with a distinctive New Yorker flavour. Perhaps some smartly wry Henry Martin cartoon even kept a few businessmen from jumping out the high-rise window on a bad business news day. 

Good New Bad News went out of business as Martin was beginning to retire from professional cartooning in general. It seems to have ended in February 1993**.

 * Source: Dave Strickler's LA Times index.

** Source: Hackensack Record, which did not run it every day

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Sunday, May 21, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Little Nemo


Here's another card from the Litte Nemo series from Raphael Tuck. Can you identfy the original scene from the Little Nemo comic strip?


I think this is entirely in the artist's imagination. As far as I can tell, this never appeared in a comic.
I kinda wondered, because I don't remember the kids ever doing any actual smooching in the strip. So our anonymous artist took it upon him/herself to come up with something original!

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