Saturday, June 10, 2023


Herriman Saturday: May 29 1910


May 29 1910 -- Herriman continues blasting away at Jack Johnson, but this cartoon is a complete misfire. An attempt at illustrating the superiority of white over black falls flat because it seems to me that black ducks would have no particular trouble navigating on a white sea.


It's a hen, not a duck (note beak.)
Ah, fair nuff. But ...
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Friday, June 09, 2023


Toppers (Large Economy Size Edition): Funny Films and Mickey Mouse Movies





In 1933 toppers started getting out of hand. Once competing newspapers had decided that advertising a huge number of features in their Sunday sections would attract customers, the pressure was on for the syndicates to go a little bonkers with toppers. That's when King Features asked their creators to go beyond the now-standard one topper and produce two or occasionally even more. In many cases these bonus toppers were panels, either activity panels or gags, because, after all, there's only so much real estate, right? (Little did they know just how much we would eventually manage to shoehorn onto a page!).

Either one of the strip creators, or more likely someone at King Features, came up with a one-size-fits-all solution for an activity panel. On August 13 1933 four of the King Features Sunday pages added a feature called Funny Films, an activity panel where you were to cut out two thin strips of pictures, then thread them through a second picture and, voila, a movie of your favorite comics character in action! Or rather, in fact, a series of stills that do not in any way translate into an illusion of motion. 

Some creators tried to make the lame idea into something at least slightly worthwhile -- of the above samples Thimble Theatre and Little Jimmy at least put some effort into making a meaningful series of 'cels'. But most are just characters turning their heads, or changing expressions or whatever, and even the most activity-starved kid probably didn't bother to go through the motions of cutting out and viewing these utterly pointless 'movies'.  

The initial four features to sign on were Felix, Pete the Tramp, Thimble Theatre and Tim Tyler's Luck. Little Jimmy got on the bandwagon late on October 8 and Just Kids brought up the rear on October 15. Although there were only these six 'official' Funny Films, the folks over at Disney were evidently expected to sign on as well. Instead they tried to create something a little better. Mickey Mouse Movies debuted on August 13 1933, along with the other four early adopters. This feature offered a much more realistic attempt at the illusion of movement, but the amount of work a kid had to do to achieve this feeble miracle was substantial:

King Features evidently hoped that Funny Films would really catch on, but for obvious reasons it did not. Creators started coming up with better replacements for the activity panel pretty quickly. The first to deep six the feature was Tim Tyler's Luck which ran Funny Films for a mere three weeks before reverting to paper dolls. Thimble Theatre dropped Funny Films after April 1 1934, switching over to Popeye's Cartoon Club. Pete the Tramp soon followed on May 13 1934, eliminating the second topper altogether. 

Just Kids gave the feature over a year before bailing on December 24 1934, and Felix dropped it after February 17 1935. Little Jimmy gave it another month, finally bailing after March 17 1935. Fittingly, the last feature to drop it was the one that tried to make it a better feature; Mickey Mouse Movies ended on March 24 1935.


Segar's use of the format was at least consistently funny. In the above example, I love how Popeye shifts his pipe into his ear to make way for Olive's kiss, not to mention the strained attempts at puckering and the completely incongruous smile at the end. Good stuff.
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Wednesday, June 07, 2023


Magazine Cover Comics: Hollywoodn't


As the King Features magazine covers more and more veered away from comics series, one of the last gasps was Hollywoodn't, with story by Jack Lait and art by Virginia Huget. Lait and Huget perform one of the best set-up acts you're going to see on the Hearst magazine covers, telling the story of a gorgeous farm gal, Glory, who is just too beautiful NOT to be in the movies. Despite her consistent refrain that she hates Hollywood, and that all she wants to do is marry a local boy and start making babies, her glamorous good looks seem to draw her as if magnetized to Tinseltown. 

As the story progresses the world is at her feet, and yet still all Glory wants is to tend her flock of chickens and make some country bumpkin a good wife. Finally, in the middle of making a movie she is asked out by the handsome leading man, who is nothing short of a prize wolf. Not caring one way or the other, she invites him to visit her on the farm, where he sneers at everything from her flock of chickens to her kinfolks. And then, out of the blue, in the final panel he asks her to marry him and she accepts. The end!

This strange series ran in only four installments, and the final one is obviously ending the story long before intended. What happened? Durned if I know.All I do know is that one of the strongest stories of the magazine cover genre was short-circuited; what a shame. 

Hollywoodn't ran from September 29 to October 20 1935.


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Monday, June 05, 2023


Obscurity of the Day, Revisited: Jon Jason

NOTE: Jon Jason was an Obscurity of the Day way back in 2012, and at that time I candidly admitted that my review was based on only the scattered strips I was able to find then, Now with a substantial run of the strip, I'd like to give it another whack.


 Take this quiz before you read the sample strips above. Which is the most unlikely cover profession for a globe-trotting government agent:

a) Plumber

b) CPA

c) Dog Catcher

d) Magazine Illustrator

If you picked (d), you not only picked a pretty fair answer but also the profession of Jon Jason, titular hero of today's Obscurity of the Day. Yes, Mr. Jason is a world-travelling magazine illustrator; the reason he's always visiting foreign countries is that he works as a cover artist for International Woman magazine, and of course he has to go to foreign countries to find the most beautiful women to pose for him. It actually makes some sort of twisted sense, if one ignores the fact that photography had been invented a hundred years earlier. And Jason is indeed really a magazine illustrator, he just has a little side gig as a government agent searching out Nazis hiding from justice after the war.

This was Elmer Wexler's second comic strip, but the first that he wrote. During the early days of World War II he was the original artist on Newspaper PM's  Vic Jordan, and he did a fine job on it until he went into the Marines. Coming back from the war, Newspaper PM offered him a new strip. Keen to take on the job as a solo project, Wexler took a writing course and with that under his belt, began Jon Jason on February 4 1946.  Unfortunately his lack of experience showed; his stories were labyrinthine, following too many characters and too many subplots. A really good writer might have managed to pull it off, but Wexler just didn't quite have the chops. But evidently Wexler put a lot of time into the writing, because the art, by comparison to his earlier work on Vic Jordan, looks very rushed. It gets the job done, but it isn't the pleasure to behold that we know he could produce. 

Jon Jason was available in syndication, but there were very few takers. Not only wasn't the strip itself quite up to snuff, but since Newspaper PM was a far left liberal paper, no papers with a right-leaning editorial stance would have considered it even if it was the next Terry and the Pirates. Wexler and Newspaper PM waved the white flag after one year, ending the strip on February 8 1947. Wexler ended the strip by welcoming its replacement to Newspaper PM, Elmo, in the final strip. Evidently by that time there were no syndicated clients, or perhaps Wexler produced a different farewell strip for them.


Ah, Wexler... in my imaginary book on the Johnstone and Cushing Agency he will play a big part. You mention a more compelte run. Have you got more of these? Are they from microfiche? The quality of the scans is outstanding.

I have tearsheets of March through November 1946 now, so 9 months of the approximately 12 months it ran.

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Sunday, June 04, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from F.M. Howarth


Here's yet another card in the Hearst Little Arsonist Series of 1906. This one is by F.M. Howarth and features his Lulu and Leander characters.


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