Saturday, August 05, 2023


Herriman One-Shots: January 19 1902


Howdy and welcome to Herriman Saturday now reborn as Herriman One-Shots. This will be a short series as I only have a handful of these handy for scanning, but they are an interesting look at how a young George Herriman broke into the ranks of the newspaper cartoonists. 

Here we have a one-shot gag that ran on the inside of the McClure Sunday funnies section for January 19 1902. The gag is simplistic and pretty much pre-ordained by the second panel. The art is typical for Herriman in this period, with everything very rubbery-looking. It's not really unpleasant, but it does look a little slapdash. 

Notice that Herriman will take any excuse to minimize the number of hard to draw human figures. In panel 2 our fellow in the wheelchair is even inexplicably gone. Okay, so the idea there is that this is an entirely different scene than panel one, and the kid is coming up with an invention while the wheelchair guy is off doing non-wheelchair stuff. I get that, but it is awkward. 

Where Herriman offers us a glimmer of his talent is in the word balloon in the final panel. Many cartoonists of the day would have thought that the slapstick was the end all and be all of the strip and left it at that. Pretty lame to us today, but this sort of stuff was all over comic sections in those days and had an  apparently appreciative audience. But where the average cartoonist of 1902 would have given us some lame dialogue in the last panel ("I'll whale the tar out of ye if I ever get better" or some such line that drops with all the grace of a cow patty) instead Herriman gives us a funny and picturesque turn of phrase "... kindly kick that brat in the neck good and hard." I mean, we're not talking Shakespeare or anything, but saying 'neck' instead of 'behind' puts a funnily implausible picture in your head. Result, at least a little guffaw. Okay, so your mileage may vary.


Nice touch how Herriman splits the action across two panels before the conclusion. May also have been inspired by his own bouts with rheumatism throughout his life.
The distant background in 4 and 6 looks quite Coconinoish. Even that fruit tree in 5: is it growing in a pot?
Brian -- I hate to admit I did not even recognize that split panel until you brought it up. Cool!

Whygh -- I don't think there's a pot (and I don't recall seeing one of those famed potted trees in his whole time at the Examiner), but I quite enjoy Herriman's backgrounds in the oughts. He usually has a quaint house or two set in rolling hills, a thin wisp of woodsmoke wafting up, a cloud or a few one-line birds aloft. Never important to the overall cartoon, just a nice little extra touch for those who pay attention to such things.

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Friday, August 04, 2023


Toppers: Four Aces


Tailspin Tommy indulged the fantasies of kids who wanted to be fliers, and after Lindbergh's flight that was the dream floating around the heads of a LOT of kids. Kids ate, breathed and slept flying. If you went into the average middle school classroom in the late 1920s and asked for the top speed of a Curtiss CR-3 or which plane won the Thompson Trophy last year, you'd get a sea of hands shooting up in response.

The original topper to Tailspin Tommy was a sober affair, a one-panel history lesson titled Progress of Flight. However, when writer Glenn Chaffin left the strip at the end of 1933, artist Hal Forrest took on those chores and he evidently had no interest in writing scholarly features. Progress of Flight flew off into the sunset, replaced by a new slambang aerial adventure strip titled Four Aces on January 7 1934*. 

For what was just a single tier strip, Four Aces took on a ludicrously ambitious story of four fliers, one from each of the major allied nations of World War I. Larry Gale, the American, Ronald Newton the Brit, Anthony Garbilla the Italian and Maurice Dupont, the Frenchman. The story of the comrades-in-arms plays out like molasses at the rate of one quasi-daily strip per week, but manages to shoehorn plenty of action into each strip, if the story itself makes little headway. Eventually only the American flier is seen regularly, with the others functioning as the occasional deus ex machinae to get him out of tight jams as needed. The strip ran until June 16 1935* (episode #106), to be replaced by an instructional feature How To Fly

A bizarre footnote to this first run of the topper is that on two occasions it was signed by a different name than Hal Forrest -- the name signed to it on April 8 1934 and January 27 1935 was Harry Paul. Who is Harry Paul, you ask? Well, we don't really have to look far, because Hal Forrest was otherwise known by the full name Harry Paul Forrest.  Okay, so it's weird that the creator of the strip would occasionally use a pseudonym for himself, but what's even weirder is that in this period the last panel of the strip often has an empty box in the final panel, evidently for an artist signature, and it is blanked out. My pet theory? I think that blanked out box was originally enclosing the signature of a ghost, and Forrest generally just blanked it out, but in a few cases substituted his own name, albeit not in its familiar form. Why? Gee, I dunno. Anyone have a theory?

Four Aces returned on March 22 1936* once the How To Fly instructional feature had run its course. This time the strip was allowed a little elbow room, appearing as a two-tier strip. The strip also looks  a lot better now that Reynold Brown was assisting Forrest. Strip numbering was restarted at #1.

In the revived strip the war is now over and our four heroes are running a flying circus, touring the American midwest showing off their aerial prowess to the rubes. Of course they rarely have time for that once they become involved in busting up aerial criminal rings, chasing foreign saboteurs, and other high-flying adventures. In 1940 the aces were in a South American jungle when they picked up two new characters, gorgeous gal Nadine and her jungle boy pal Pogodanda. Forrest seemed so taken with this pair that they eventually evicted the aces from their own strip. 

The revived strip ran until the Tailspin Tommy Sunday itself was cancelled as of March 15 1942**, right in mid-story.

* Source: Casper Tribune-Herald.

** Source: McAllen Daily Press, via Jeffrey Lindenblatt.


"Tailspin Tommy" became a serial in 1934. Not that familiar with the strip, but the serial is unique in how it's almost an attainable juvenile fantasy. Almost-adult Tommy lives with his parents, and his girlfriend works as a waitress (but is a licensed pilot). He gets a job at an air freight service. His employer is threatened by an unscrupulous rival, but the plot wanders a good deal to justify all manner of stock footage (a sojourn in Hollywood involves stunting for a WWI epic). By and large it's standard serial formula, but a few odd touches allow kids to identify in a way most young heroes and sidekicks didn't. VCI has a nice DVD edition.

A second serial, "Tailspin Tommy and the Great Air Mystery", is more by the numbers with Tommy officially grown up and good guys and bad guys constantly catching and escaping from each other.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Billy Brash The Boy Hero


In the oughts, before they ponied up for a proper colour comics section, the Sunday Minneapolis Journal had a kids' section with colour cover. That cover often featured comic strips, or at least comic drawings, produced by the Journal's art bullpenners. 

The best cartoonist at the Journal was Charles L. "Bart" Bartholomew, who produced their front page editorial cartoons. Despite his lofty position at the Journal, Bart seemed to relish producing some of the kid series (see The Shanghai Twins, for instance). But today's obscurity, Billy Brash the Boy Hero, is not among them -- it was produced by Fred Bartholomew, who had a style that somewhat resembled that of Charles, though of an order or two less polished. One might naturally assume they were related (I certainly did), but I just found an obit for Fred where it turns out he was originally from New York and mentions no blood relation to the Minnesota "Bart." Just a coincidence of em-bart-assing proportions? Thank goodness he was not yet another Bartholomew who signed his work "Bart"!

Fred only produced this one series for the Journal, but it was a long-running one, appearing there from December 12 1903 to November 12 1904. In each strip our title character tries to take on the persona of a hero from history or a daredevil of today, with predictably disastrous results. We have a few interesting examples of the strip above. First, did people really parachute out of balloons at the turn of the century? I never heard of it, but I suppose it's possible. Second, check out that middle example showing a grisly scene that evidently skated right past dozing editors.


Certainly, soldiers that were in observation balloons during World War I were provided with parachutes in case the balloons were shot down by marauding planes. Apparently, one Thomas Scott Baldwin was one of the first to do it, in 1887.
Hello Allan-
The "Bulls' eye gag at least hada logical, if painful point to it. There's a Popeye cartoon ("Robin Hoodwinked"(1948) where another arow vs. targets compitition arises, but Popeye's missile goes off course, hitting an (offscreen) bull. Olive Oyl sees the result, proclaiming he'd hit a "REAL Bullseye!" but we see that the bull somehow has only one black eye!.The gag didn't work, not as graphically as Bart's did, anyway.
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Tuesday, August 01, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Richard W. Thomas

Richard Webster Thomas was born on April 4, 1907, in Manhattan, New York City, according to his birth certificate. His parents were Richard Henry Thomas of Canada and Martha Richter of Germany. 

The 1910 United States Census recorded the Thomas family in Manhattan at 39 West 95th Street. Thomas’ father, a mechanical engineer, passed away in 1911. Thomas’ mother remarried to David G. Wylie on October 1, 1914. 

In the 1915 New York State Census, eight-year-old Thomas lived with his new family in Manhattan at 230 West 101st Street. He had three step-brothers and a step-sister.

According to the 1920 census, Thomas resided at his first home in Manhattan at 39 West 95th Street. The household included his parents, a half-sister, Martha, and two servants.

The Thomas family of four plus four servants were in Manhattan at 306 West 94th Street as enumerated in the 1925 New York state census. 

Thomas has not yet been found in the 1930 census. The Times-Union (Brooklyn, New York), March 14, 1933, said Thomas attended the Collegiate School and Rutgers University. 

At some point, Thomas moved to Brooklyn. 

On March 9, 1933, Thomas and Betty Stuart Peck obtained a Brooklyn marriage license number 3234. Their wedding was reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 14, 1933. In 1935, their marriage ended in divorce

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Thomas and artist Walter Galli created the series Stranger Than Fiction plus its topper, Big Little Things. The daily and Sunday series ran from April 1, 1935 to June 4, 1937. It was syndicated by the Watkins Syndicate. 

Brooklyn Eagle, 6/28/1936

The 1940 census counted Thomas and his mother in Manhattan at 163 East 81st Street. He was a newspaper reporter. 

Thomas passed away on June 24, 1940, in Manhattan. The cause was a heart attack. The Brooklyn Eagle reported his death and funeral.

June 25, 1940
Richard W. Thomas Dies; Ex-Reporter, Columnist
Richard Webster Thomas, former reporter and columnist of the Brooklyn Eagle and a candidate for Congress and the State Senate in the downtown area in 1932 and 1934, respectively, died of a heart attack yesterday in his home at 163 E. 81st St., Manhattan.

Born 33 years ago in Manhattan, Mr. Thomas was active in newspaper work in Brooklyn for about ten years, remaining “in harness” during the vigorous campaigns he waged to put political theories formed as a newsgatherer to active use in legislative chambers.

He was educated at the Collegiate School and Rutgers University and was employed by the Standard News Association and the old Brooklyn Standard Union before joining the Eagle staff and launching a busy career in all phases of reportorial endeavor.

A keen student of penology, his views on courtroom procedure were frequently aired in special articles written for the Eagle, and he later became intimately known to this newspaper's readers by conducting a column under the title “By the Way.”

‘Stranger Than Fiction’

In addition to his regular duties Mr. Thomas found time to delve deeply into the odd and interesting, a hobby that led to his collaboration for several years with Walter Galli of the Eagle art department in the syndicated feature “Stranger Than Fiction.”

A stickler for factual reporting, he insisted on substantiating to the last degree the unusual customs and events he unearthed, frequently passing up “real gems” because of inability to establish their proof beyond all quibble or doubt.

On entering the 1932 election campaign as the Republican opponent of Representative John J. Delaney, Mr. Thomas waged a forthright, hard-hitting fight based on a strong anti-Tammany stand and a denunciation of the 18th Amendment.

Although swamped in the landslide for Franklin D. Roosevelt, the then 25-year-old campaigner, the youngest in the country during that election, made an excellent showing in the Heights area, carrying ten election districts.

Before accepting the G.O.P. nomination for State Senator in 1934, to which was added the support of the Fusion, Liberal and Recovery parties, Mr. Thomas published the Brooklyner, a monthly magazine that flourished for about a year.

He was married on March 13, 1933, to Betty Stuart Peck of Brooklyn and Belle Terre, daughter of Mrs. Bayard Livingston Peck and a descendant of Philip Livingston, signer, of the Declaration of Independence. They were divorced on Oct. 8, 1935.

Formerly active in the Golf and Country Club of Belle Terre, Zeta Psi fraternity and the old Crescent Athletic Club, Mr. Thomas is survived by his mother, now the widow of the Rev. Dr. David G. Wylie, former president of the Lord’s Day Alliance, and a half-sister, Mrs. A. Thornton Baker. His father, Richard Henry Thomas, a engineer, died in 1911.
June 26, 1940
Richard W. Thomas Final Rites Today
Services Arranged In Manhattan Church

Funeral services for Richard Webster Thomas, former Brooklyn Eagle reporter and columnist, were held today in the Second Presbyterian Church, Central Park West and W. 96th St., Manhattan. Burial will be in Woodlawn Cemetery. 

Mr. Thomas died of a heart attack in his home, 163 E. 81st St., Manhattan, Monday. He was 33. Born in Manhattan, he was educated at the Collegiate School and Rutgers University. His newspaper career included service on the Standard News Association, the old Brooklyn Standard Union and the Brooklyn Eagle. He was best known as the conductor of the “By the Way” column and the syndicated feature “Stranger Than Fiction.”

Mr. Thomas was a candidate for Congress and the State Senate in 1932 and 1934 in the downtown area of Brooklyn. Surviving are his mother, Mrs. Martha Wylie, the widow of the Rev. Dr. David G. Wylie, and a sister, Mrs. A. Thornton Baker, the former Elizabeth Wylie.


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Monday, July 31, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Walter Galli

Walter Galli was born on January 4, 1913 in Turner's Fall, Massachusetts, according to his World War II draft card. Galli’s marriage license said his parents were Anthony Galli and Sophia Duzcak, both from Austria-Hungary. 

Galli has not yet been found in the 1920 and 1930 censuses.

According to Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999, his career began in the 1930s with his Stranger Than Fiction, which was published by the Centaur Comics Group. Galli also produced material for a handful of comic book publishers

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published the Stranger Than Fiction series, which was written by Richard W. Thomas. The series ran from April 1, 1935 to June 4, 1937, according to American Newspaper Comics (2012). That panel was followed by Galli’s But It’s True which ran from May 11, 1937 to July 4, 1940. 

Brooklyn Eagle 6/28/1936

In the 1940 census, Galli and his mother, Sophia, resided in Brooklyn at 217 Bainbridge Street. He was a commercial artist who had completed two years of high school. 

On October 16, 1940, Galli signed his World War II draft card. His home address was 325 East 16th Street in Manhattan. Apparently he had an office at 110 West 40th Street. His description was five feet eleven inches, 187 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. 

Commercial artist Galli enlisted in the Army on April 7, 1942. He was stationed in the Pacific Theater and saw combat at Guadalcanal.

Brooklyn Eagle 6/27/1943

After his discharge, Galli and Dorothy Roubicek obtained a Manhattan marriage license on February 26, 1944. They married two days later. (Roubicek left the editor position at All-American Comics according to Julius Schwartz in All-Star Companion, Volume 1 (2004)). Their marriage ended in divorce. Roubicek remarried and is best known as Dorothy Woolfolk

Galli was listed in the Manhattan city directories at 110 West 40th Street, for the years 1946, 1948 and 1949. In 1959 he was at 31 West 11th Street.

During the 1940s, Galli contributed to several pulp magazines including Wings, Detective Book Magazine, and Planet Stories. Galli produced illustrations, maps and charts for Scholastic publications. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, Galli illustrated several books including Mountains in the Sea: Japan’s Crowded Islands (1957), Skyscraper Island: How Ships Built New York (1957) and Light in the Dark Forest (1961). He also drew sports cartoons for the Brooklyn Eagle here and here

In 1955 Galli married Grace Mahon in Manhattan. 

In the early 1970s Galli drew the panel, Did You Know, which was about horse racing. It was sponsored by the New York Racing Association (NYRA). 

Times Record (Troy, New York) 12/12/1970

Niagara Falls Gazette, 8/1/1971

Galli passed away on April 25, 1974 in New York. He was laid to rest at the Long Island National Cemetery

(An earlier profile was posted in 2013.)


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Sunday, July 30, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Horace B. Martin

 Here is the only postcard I've come across by Horace B. "Harry" Martin, the creator of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Weatherbird and quite a few other early strips. The card is uncredited and undated. 

I must share the message on the back from a young correspondent to a 'friend':

Willie T --

Ans soon.

Halloo Pete you are so fat you can harly walk you can walk with your big punch. You will fall down punch your eye out.

The mean-spiritedness is beautifully offset by the admonishment to 'Answer soon'!


A bit more clever wordplay would be if he used "Paunch" instead of "Punch", but it's too late to do anything about it now.
Was this card put out by the Post-Dispatch, or Martin himself? I'm wondering because obviously this would primarily have only regional recognition.
There is no information on the card as to the maker. But Martin's bird characters were familiar beyond St. Louis as he also did work for Hearst and a little for Pulitzer, so he had some national exposure. -- Allan
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