Saturday, September 09, 2023
Herriman One-Shots: December 1 1901
In the early McClure Sunday comics sections it was fairly typical to include a half-page or more of single panel gag cartoons. Sometimes these were on a common theme, but in this case, from the section of December 1 1901, they are half miscellany, half Christmas gags.
Herriman gets off a pretty sly gag in the upper left corner, making you think a moment before getting the joke. Not a very nice gag for poor Tubbsy, but these were not the days when humour was strained through a very tight sieve of inoffensiveness.
Along with the Herriman entry we have an interesting array of cartoons by other creators. In the middle top tier a gag by Hy Mayer that is quite impenetrable today to 99% of us, me included prior to a Googling session. In 1901 when most families outside of big cities had a horse, a double-ring was commonly understood to be a somewhat cruel gag bit. This type of bit made it pretty darn uncomfortable for a horse who didn't follow orders; evidently horses that pulled streetcars were notable for being a bit unwilling, hence the joke.
At the upper right we have a cartoon by Frank Crane. In order to decode this one you need to know that New Orleans was pretty well known as a source of quality molasses.
The lower tier has two gags by that master silhouette cartoonist, Jack K. Bryans. The one on the left can leave a lump in your throat if you are paying enough attention -- these poor slum kids want to believe in Santa, but are used to finding out he bypassed them each Christmas. But hope springs eternal.
Labels: Herriman One-Shots
Friday, September 08, 2023
Toppers: Know Your Navy, Know Your Merchant Marine, Know Your Sports
Our headline above says "Topper" but today we've got a feature (or rather, three of 'em) that sort of bend the definition. To me a topper is generally a separate strip or panel included with a feature that, when discarded, helps to allow a paper to run the feature in various different formats. Know Your Navy/Merchant Marine/Sports doesn't fit that definition because I know of no format for Mickey Finn in which it has the function of being a 'drop panel' to assist in reformatting. With Mickey Finn, if you run the Nippie topper, you also get Know Your Navy/Merchant Marine/Sports, and if you drop Nippie, that extra panel goes away with it. In other words, that panel has no particular function except to make Nippie a five panel strip instead of six.
This sort of feature is certainly not unique to Mickey Finn -- Dick Tracy's Crimestopper's Texbook and Heathcliff's Kitty Korner come to mind. This type of feature probably deserves its own name, but what would that be? Lagniappe feature appeals to me, but I imagine that would send a lot of people scrambling for the dictionary.
Anyway, since I lump this stuff in with toppers in my book, and I know of no industry term for it, let's call it a topper and plow on.
Mickey Finn's main topper, Nippie - He's Often Wrong, ran with the Sunday strip from 1936 to 1946. For almost all of its life it was a three-panel single tier affair, but on November 14 1943* it was upgraded to two tiers and the Know Your Navy panel was added, offering weekly factoids about that division of the armed forces. Since this is during World War II, there's no mystery about its appeal. Why in particular Lank Leonard picked that service branch, however, is unknown. Perhaps he looked around at all the other strips that had military components and decided that the Navy could stand a little more of the spotlight.
At the conclusion of the war Leonard decided to change the focus. He renamed the panel Know Your Merchant Marine on September 9 1945** and began covering that somewhat obscure public/private naval service.
The Merchant Marine panels no doubt told readers much that they did not know, but Leonard tired of it quickly. On December 16** the panel was refocused again, this time under the title of Know Your Sports. Panels explaining sports rules offered little to fascinate readers and the feature was dropped entirely on April 21 1946***. Nippie reverted to a single-tier affair, but it too would be dropped just three months later. From then on the Sunday Mickey Finn offered no toppers.
* Source: Atlanta Constitution
** Source: New York Mirror
*** Source: St. Petersburg Times
Labels: Topper Features
Wednesday, September 06, 2023
Obscurities of the Day: Clown Alley and Longshots
Some newspaper features hope to become classics of the form, to be recalled with wistful nostalgia by nonagenarians and collected in sumptuous complete hardcover editions for collectors. Others are just -- quite literally -- created to take up space.
Such was the inspiration between this pair of features, Clown Alley and Longshots. Somehow Universal Press Syndicate got together with the Philadelphia Inquirer on a redesign of their Sunday comics section, and it was noticed that on a page with four quarter-page strips, which by the 1980s were actually a little shy of a true quarter-page tall, that a thin slack space was left. Universal Press saw this as a skinny opportunity and went to Bill Hinds to create content (how I hate that term) to fill it up. Hinds came up with Clown Alley and Longshots, both a page wide but each less than two inches tall. Each offered a weekly gag shoehorned into the odd space.
The Inquirer, rather than use their overly tall pages to run three quarters and one third-page comic feature, which would have incurred no additional cost to them, went along with this solution that put money into the pockets of Universal and Bill Hinds each week. That's what you get and that's what you deserve when you call in a consultant who has motives of their own.
Not that there's anything really wrong with Hinds' panels -- they do a pretty admirable job of gagging up this weird space. And Hinds was probably happy for the opportunity since one of his existing features, According to Guinness, had just cancelled its daily panel. But when Universal offered these new features to other newspapers there were few if any takers. After all, how many papers are going to buy Sunday comics features for the technical convenience of their compositors? It was a solution to an obscure technical problem, one that already had alternative free solutions due to the wide range of Sunday comics formats provided by the syndicates.
Longshots and Clown Alley both debuted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 21 1987 and ran there for over four years until July 28 1991, victims of the Inky's next section revamp.
As a kid I remember ads in the Sunday comics, sometimes but not always in comic form. Del Monte soda, for example, briefly had a parody superhero serial, Delbert Montague. Also remember strips like "Li'l Abner" being weirdly reconfigured to accommodate larger ads, which I now remember as tabloid page size dropped onto a broadsheet.
At some point Sunday comics ads faded away (although I recall writing sales materials for them at the Mercury News into the current century).
Monday, September 04, 2023
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Charles Biro
Medal WinnersThe winners of medals for last term’s advanced art classes have finally been selected.The Alexander medal, for five [sic] draftsmanship in elementary representation, will be awarded to Charles Biro. Charles is continuing his art in high school, and will probably take up art seriously after graduating. ...
Brooklyn Girl Betrothed to Queens Song WriterMr. and Mrs. Anton Biro, 147-02 Grand Central parkway, North Jamaica, announced the engagement of their eldest son, Mitchell [sic], to Miss Ceil Bayer [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A.A. Bayer of Brooklyn, at a formal dinner.Young Mr. Biro is a well-known song writer. Among the guests were Charles Biro, sketch artist for the Van Beuren Film Corporation of Manhattan, Mr. and Mrs. Lou Biro of Beechhurst, Miss Contia Biro of Brooklyn, Mr. and Mrs. Isadore Jacobwitz of Flushing-Hillcrest, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer Luther of Brooklyn and Al Koenency of Brooklyn.
Among the co-conspirators at the range with Mr. Melchior were cartoonists Ham Fisher of “Joe Palooka” fame and Charles Biro, who left the fate of Pee Wee, Scare Crow and the other “Little Wise Guys” in midair to don his starched chef’s cap and apron. The latter costume, gay with red and black inscriptions, was worn by members over their conservative business suits. It was designed by fellow member and assistant chef of the day, Russell Patterson, the illustrator….Bill of fare for the evening (selected by Mr. Biro):Anchovy twistsMint julepsPetite marmiteWild duckling with sauce smitaineWild riceWhole glazed cranberriesMixed saladFrench pancakesDemi tasse
Pat the pilot. Grade 6. Eleanor M. Johnson, editor-in-chief. Editorial board for the revised series, William E. Young & others. Illustrated by Charles Biro. (New Reading Skilltext series) Appl. author: Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc., employer for hire. © Charles E. Merrill Books, Inc., 12Jan61; A502070.
Pat, the Pilot. Editorial review board: Murray Anderson, Millard H. Black, Evelyn B. Taylor & George R. Turner. Illustrated by Charles Biro & Bill Mohler. Columbus, Ohio, C.E. Merrill Pub. Co. 88 p. (Merrill reading Skilltext series) Based on the original Reading Skilltext series. NM revisions. © Charles E. Merrill Pub. Co.; 4Sep70; A228925.Pat, the Pilot. Editorial review board: Murray Anderson, Millard H. Black, Evelyn B. Taylor & George R. Turner. Illustrated by Charles Biro & Bill Mohler. Teacher’s ed. Columbus, Ohio, C.E. Merrill Pub. Co. 88 p. (Merrill reading Skilltext series, grade 6) Based on the original Reading Skilltext series. NM revisions. © Charles E. Merrill Pub. Co.; 4Sep70; A228926.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Sunday, September 03, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from Rose O'Neill
Here's one of the many Kewpie cards penned by Rose O'Neill for the Gibson Art Company of Cincinnati. This one, a Valentine's card, bears the code number 67017. I don't know when these were issued, but this one was postally used in 1918. Maybe that code number is the giveaway -- 1917?
Labels: Wish You Were Here