Saturday, September 16, 2023


Herriman One-Shots: December 22 1901


Herriman gets a plum spot, the front page of the 1901 Christmas edition of the McClure comic section, and a full page to boot. Unfortunately I really don't think he did much to take advantage of it. The gag is pretty thin, and his drawing, though very energetic and wacky, is also pretty darn amateurish.  Eddie Eksergian's work comes to mind; I wonder if Herriman was an admirer of his?

Interesting that McClure, which had a few heavy-hitter artists on tap in this era, chose Herriman to supply this special holiday front page.


Are the "snakes" and the "fits" meant to suggest some hilarious delirium tremens?
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Friday, September 15, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Father's Day



Father's Day is one of the earliest newspaper strip entries (the first?) to feature divorced parents and their kids. While the strip was a flop, it seemed to open the floodgates of cartoonists taking a whack at the subject with their own features. Syndicates obviously felt it was a potentially lucrative niche because they have offered a goodly number of these strips over the years. The only problem is that none that I can think of had much success. Am I forgetting a succssful divorcee strip? 

You can certainly turn the sadness and pain of divorce involving kids into humour; after all, some definitions of comedy boil down to 'tragedy happening to someone else.'  But basing seven gags per week on this aspect of life seems to me like overkill. As a subplot to a strip with other gag-inducing aspects, sure, but Father's Day and its many followers seem to be a bit one-note.

But you have to give Father's Day some points for creativity. You might expect the first entry of the genre to offer a pretty vanilla version on the subject, but Father's Day has a decidedly odd take, offering us the rarity of a father who has custody of the kids. Odder still, dad is a struggling writer who is always broke, so he's living off the child support supplied by his ex-wife. This is all good comedy fodder, but at least to this reader just perusing a few weeks of this strip has me actively contemptuous of the strip's star for being such a pathetic drip loser.

Father's Day was created by the husband and wife team of Nancy and Mario Risso. Although unstated in the promos I've found, I'm assuming this wasn't the first time at the altar for them, otherwise, why pick this subject? Apparently Nancy was the artist, Mario the writer. Both are creditably done, with pretty good gags and breezy art emblematic of the era. As far as I know, this was the Risso's only foray into syndicated comics, but they also collaborated on a few books.

United Feature began distribution of the daily and Sunday strip on May 4 1981*, missing an obvious gimmick of having the strip start on Arbor Day. The strip did not sell well and came out of the gate with a modest client list. No doubt due to the repetitive subject matter, by the time the strip was retired on January 2 1983 finding a paper running it is like searching the mailbox for a child support check before the due date.

PS: If strip #2 has you scratching your noggin, here ya go ya young whippersnapper. Or ya forgetful old coot.


* Source: All dates from United Feature Syndicate internal records.


Gil by Norm Feuti is probably the closest I can think of but even that is a strip about a boy named Gil (a perpetual optimist) and the fact his parents are divorced provides a backdrop of humor against his optimism about life but the divorce isn't the central point of the strip.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jon L. Blummer

Jon L. Blummer was born Jacob Lupu Blumer on May 14, 1904, in Hartford, Connecticut. His Blumer surname was recorded in the 1910, 1920 and 1930 United States Censuses. He changed his name in the early 1930s. 

The 1910 census said Blummer was the oldest of three children born to Louis and Regina, both Romanian natives. The family resided in Hartford, Connecticut. 

In the 1920 census the family added two more members and continued to live in Hartford on Ann Street. 

On October 14, 1927, Blummer married Dorothy Tonge in the Bronx. 

According to the 1930 census, Blummer was a newspaper artist. He and his wife made their home in Queens, New York at 2178 35th Street. 

Blummer studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He was in the class of 1933 but apparently did not graduate. He was pictured with his junior classmates in the 1932 Prattonia yearbook. 

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Air Conquests was drawn by Blummer and written by Frank Hawks. The Hearst strip ran from September 8, 1935 to April 5, 1936. For King Features Syndicate, Blummer drew the Lone Ranger Sundays from February 5 to March 5, 1939, and The Sea Hound, with writer Fran Striker, from October 2, 1944 to June 29, 1946. Blummer’s Hop Harrigan ran from May 11 to December 31, 1942, and was distributed by the George Matthew Adams Service. 

Blummer’s comic book debut may have been the cowboy character, Bill Quirt the Rambling Ranny, in the pulp magazine, Western Action Novels. A two-page story segment appeared in the January 1937 issue

Blummer contributed to Air Progress: Air Trails Annual for 1938 and many issues of Flying Aces: August 1938, March 1939, April 1939, May 1939, June 1939, July 1939, August 1939, October 1939, November 1939, December 1939, January 1940, February 1940, March 1940, April 1940, May 1940, and June 1940

The 1940 census counted freelance artist Blummer, his wife and son, Jon, in Queens at 4526 49 Street. 

Blummer supplemented his income with comic book work during the 1940s and early 1950s. 

On February 15, 1942, Jon Lester Blummer signed his World War II draft card. His address was 110-01 201st, St. Albans, New York. He was described as five feet nine inches, 165 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. 

The Blummer family had grown to five with the addition of two daughters, Clara and Hannah, in the 1950 census. They lived at 425 North Gulf View in Clearwater, Florida. Blummer was a commercial artist. 

Blummer passed away in October 1955, in Teaneck, Bergen, New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Death Index at He was laid to rest at George Washington Memorial Park

Further Reading
Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists


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Monday, September 11, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: The Sea Hound


What do you get when you offer a comic strip that adapts a not particularly popular radio series? Go to the head of the class if you guessed: a not particularly popular comic strip. 

The Sea Hound debuted on radio in mid-1942. The 15-minute daily kid's program offered a sea-going story about a crew of heroes who sail around Central and South American waters foiling Nazi plots. If this sounds a little beside the point to the war that was going on, it really wasn't. The United States was terrified that Germany would develop these close neighbouring countries into allies. The government's answer to this threat was the Good Neighbor Policy, part of which was a charm offensive to show how much the people of the U.S. loved and valued their neighbours to the south. 

The Good Neighbor Policy was waged in various avenues, but the most visible to Americans was the media -- movies and radio shows that presented Central and South America in a positive light were encouraged and funded through government agencies. One small tendril of the Good Neighbor Policy was the radio show The Sea Hound. It didn't so much matter whether kids actually liked it or not, it was introduced on the radio at least somewhat as a propaganda tool. 

The Sea Hound is a ketch that seems only to ply the waters of the Caribbean and South Atlantic for the purpose of hunting Nazis. At the helm is Captain Silver, ably assisted by his Chinese friend (servant?) Ku Kai, displaced cowboy Tex, and their dog Fletcha (literally a sea hound). A toy tie-in extravaganza that never panned out had the Sea Hound carrying a plane called the Sky Hound, and a powerboat, the Spray Hound.

While the radio show might have been created for less than the pure-hearted reason of entertaining the kiddies, the few shows I've listened to seemed genuinely exciting and well-written, if a little cheesy production-wise. The writing quality probably has a lot to do with Fran Striker, better known as the creator of The Lone Ranger, who also wrote scripts for this series. Striker could churn out good material at a tremendous rate, and though The Sea Hound was not his bread-and-butter, his touch seems evident. It probably has a lot to do with his involvement that the show managed to outlast the war and the Good Naighbor Policy, not going into drydock until 1951. 

In addition to his radio shows, Fran Striker also wrote The Lone Ranger comic strip for King Features. It is probably this connection that explains why The Sea Hound, not an obvious candidate for adaptation into a comic strip, was attempted. Striker was not only a good writer, he also was a whiz at reusing material, so as far as he was concerned those radio shows were ripe for adaptation to print -- a payday for him with little effort involved. 

King Features probably should have known better, but they gave it the go-ahead. The daily-only strip debuted on October 2 1944* with art provided by "Jon". This was Jon L. Blummer, who had worked on The Lone Ranger strip for a short stint in 1939 in addition to credits on Hop Harrigan and several other short-lived features in the 1930s. Despite having a very attractive style Blummer's art career was primarily spent providing material to pulps and comic books. He just never lucked into being associated with the right newspaper strip property to make this his career. Why on this strip he preferred not to take a proper credit is unknown; he certainly did excellent work on it. 

The high quality of the strip notwithstanding, King Features had practically no luck selling it. With a daily comics page already filled to overflowing with Nazi saboteurs getting their comeuppance, yet another strip plying the same waters was of practically no interest. There was also that slightly off-putting smell of Good Neighbor Policy propaganda that may have rankled editors. 

The Sea Hound comic strip limped along on a clientele mostly of Hearst-owned papers until June 29 1946**, when Captain Storm and crew literally sailed off into the sunset.

* Source: Indianapolis News (and by the way, the samples above are the first weeks of the strip).

** Source: San Antonio Light, courtesy of Jeffrey Lindenblatt.


Dang it. Don't end on a cliff hanger
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Sunday, September 10, 2023


Wish You Were Here, from Gene Carr


Here's a 1907 Gene Carr postcard from the Rotograph Company; this one bears the inscrutable (not to mention almost faded to oblivion) number 241/6. 

One-o-cat (aka catball, one old cat, etc.) was a sort of simplified version of baseball. In fact, some claim that it is one of the precursors of that game, With just a pitcher, batter, catcher, and a fielder or two, it was simple enough to appeal to kids who played it just like you see -- on the street, with any old stick for a bat and whatever ball might be at hand. Or, in the case of Carr's game, a small loaf of French bread?!?!?


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