Saturday, October 07, 2023
Herriman One-Shots: March 9 1902
This is a half-page of gags from the McClure section of March 9 1902, and we have few creators signing their efforts in this case. Going clockwise from top left, though, I think that gag is probably by Ed Carey. The next one sports a partial signature that tells us it is by J.A. Lemon, for whom this is a very early McClure submission. Next we have what looks to me to be another Ed Carey effort, then of course Herriman, offering up what is to modern eyes quite an unsettling 'gag.' Next we have a scrawled signature and a style generic enough that I will not venture a guess. Last but not least, we have an unsigned A.D. Reed cartoon done in his very attractive pointillist style -- I wish he did more that way.
I think this will be the last of the Herriman one-shots for awhile as my
ready supply has been used up. There are more lurking in the archives
here, but digging them up is hit and miss because I did not generally
enter one-shots into my computer inventory until far into my collecting years. That was an
unfortunate blind spot for me for a long while. I do have a lot of other
one-shots scanned, and I think our Saturdays will now be given over for
awhile to interesting examples of one-shots from the early years of
newspaper comics. Back then there was a LOT of content that did not
feature running characters or titles, and some of it is quite wonderful
and not to be ignored. One-shots are also important in that they help in
tracking cartoonists, some of whom might spend years at a syndicate and
produce ONLY one-shots the entire time. That makes them totally
invisible if we track just series material.
Labels: Herriman One-Shots
Friday, October 06, 2023
Toppers: Bozo's Diary, This An' That and It Seems That
The Sunday Joe Jinks went through a few toppers before it finally settled on a golf strip, Divot Diggers, for most of the 1930s. In the 1929-1930 period the Sunday page sported two or three different toppers -- depending how you count them -- that ran more or less concurrently.
The first of the triad to debut was This an' That, a catchall title if there ever was one. The one-tier topper had no continuing characters and started on March 24 1929*. Creator Vic Forsythe apparently was unhappy with this topper running every week, and on May 19 he added a second strip, Bozo's Diary, in which diary entries from a little dog's perspective supply the gags. This was an absolute rip-off of The Diary of Snubs Our Dog, and it would not surprise me a bit if the gags were cribbed from that strip as well. At least he stole from the best...
This an' That last ran on March 2 1930, and was replaced on the 16th (after an intervening episode of Bozo's Diary) with It Seems That, an identically unthemed strip that perhaps should just be considered a title change for This an' That.
Bozo's Diary last ran on September 28 1930, perhaps dumped after Paul Carmack or some of his fans voiced their objection to the me-too strip. From then on It Seems That ran alone, but it too was dumped after the installment of January 4 1931.
* Source: All dates cited from Detroit Free Press or San Francisco Chronicle.
Labels: Topper Features
Wednesday, October 04, 2023
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ted Clark
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, October 02, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Downstown
Newspapers and syndicates could hardly believe the incredible success of Doonesbury, a badly drawn college strip that blossomed to become the voice of a generation in the 1970s. That sort of success inevitably leads to me-tooism, and one of the prime ways that syndicates sought to duplicate Doonesbury's success was by watching college newspapers and humour magazines for signs of the next Garry Trudeau. Many fine cartoonists were indeed found in those breeding grounds, but many were plucked too soon and thrust into the spotlight, unripe and unready for the pressure of the task. Others might have had the chops for national syndication but hadn't really settled on the idea that they wanted to make newspaper cartooning their careers. I think the latter's the case with Tim Downs. He obviously loved cartooning, but ultimately decided he had other fish to fry.
The Downstown saga begins in 1975 when Tim Downs was attending Indiana University. He created Downstown for the Indiana Daily Student newspaper, and it was soon syndicated to other college papers as well. The strip starred a group of college kids and focused not just on school life but also on their stumbling pursuits of relationships.
The strip did well, eventually running in a reported thirty college papers and was even picked up by a small mainstream paper, the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger. They ran the daily strip from July 31 1978 to May 5 1979, when Downs pulled it in order to focus on getting syndicated nationwide. Downs had good reason to expect his road to syndication would be an easy one. Not only did the strip appear in a significant number of college papers, but three reprint books of the strip had been published by Indiana University and had sold well. What's not for a syndicate to like?
A few things, in fact. Syndicates were not all that enthusiastic about the quality of the art and Downs needed to better define his characters and rework his college-based environment. Downs did get a development contract with Universal Press Syndicate (the distributor of Doonesbury) and he addressed all these issues. Here's a sample of the art in the strip's college years:
which is a world away from the look of the syndicated strip. As can be seen at the top of the post, the syndicated strip looks much more polished, and the characters -- for better or worse -- have been turned into Muppet-like folks. The college backdrop has been changed; the characters are now twenty-something roommates out of school and trying to embark on careers. The focus of the gags is still on relationships, but the characters now actually get into them, rather than mostly wishing for them. If there was any doubt over the intended audience, Universal sold the strip as one that "captures the humor and lifestyle of a new generation." They even included in their sales package a list of complimentary quotes, mentioning the twenty-some age of each speaker. One quote is from a 44-year old, who says "I don't get it," an obvious badge of young hipness that editors were supposed to appreciate. :"Another Doonesbury, eh? Sign me up!"
It didn't quite work out that way. Downstown debuted in some high-profile papers on March 24 1980, but the strip didn't inspire anything like the devotion that Doonesbury did with young readers. And while it is ridiculous to call Downstown a failure because it didn't live up to being a Doonesbury phenomenon, I get the feeling that newspaper editors were set up to fully expect that, and when it failed to materialize, out went Downstown.
My impression is that there were enough major papers continuing to take the strip to (barely) support it, but after almost six years of mainstream syndication Downs saw the writing on the wall. From a high of a reported fifty papers he was down to just fifteen at the beginning of 1986. His Christianity also got in the way; he was deeply involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and felt that his time was better put to use in advancing his religious ideals than writing and drawing a secular comic strip. Boredom with Downstown may have also played a role. As the strip ended Downs stated, "I finally had to ask myself if it was the kind of strip I wanted to be drawing ten years from now, and realized that it wasn't." Downstown ended on February 1 1986.
A reprint book of the strip appeared three years later, in 1989. Titled The Laylo Papers, it pairs Downstown strips with relationship and religious advice from Downs.
You listed all the reprint books the strip had, so it's only fair to mention that Tim Downs self-published the complete run of the syndicated strip in three volumes> you can find them on Amazon, although a warning that they're not cheap books - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BRSZ9ZV8?binding=paperback&ref=dbs_dp_rwt_sb_pc_tpbk
Sunday, October 01, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from A.T. "Crite" Crichton
Here's a postcard drawn by A.T. "Crite" Crichton, whose main claim to fame in Stripper's Guide land is his unusual and beautiful strip Little Growling Bird in Windego Land. This postcard scan was provided for our enjoyment by Mark Johnson, who has this to say about it:
It’s a fat joke, and he’s playing golf, both things President Taft was famous for, so it can only be Billy Possum, unnamed and unauthorized. The copyright line reads “Copyright by L. Gulick 1909”. The obverse is unused, but bears an unfamiliar trade mark bearing the motto “HSV LITHO CO.” and in the corner; “Series P” (I guess for Possum.)
Labels: Wish You Were Here