Saturday, November 04, 2023
One-Shot Wonders: Marriage Proposals by Archie Gunn, 1897
Archie Gunn made quite a name for himself in the 1890s and 1900s as a poster artist and prolific contributor to magazines and newspapers. He was known for specializing in pretty girls, and was sometimes mentioned in the company of Gibson, Harrison Fisher and others who I think quite frankly were well out of his league. But the public seemed to like his work, and Hearst's New York Journal considered him a fine catch in the mid-90s when they snagged him. Gunn designed quite a few advertising posters for the newspaper and appeared on the cover of the American Humorist semi-regularly.
Gunn's work is practically invisible in the history of newspaper cartooning because he showed no interest in creating series -- practically all his work is one-shots. Today we have an 1897 one-shot from the cover of the Journal's American Humorist colour section, offering an array of marriage proposals. This sort of subject was usually reserved for Valentine's Day issues, but for some reason this one jumped the gun and ran on January 31.
Labels: One-Shot Wonders
Friday, November 03, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Boys Will Be Boys
Harry Grant Dart was a fabulous cartoonist and he created an amazing though criminally little-known classic of newspaper comics with the 1908 series The Explorigator. Happily it has been reprinted in its entirety by Sunday Press in Forgotten Fantasy: Sunday Comics 1900-1915, along with many other delights. The book is pricey but well worth it for all the hidden treasures, beautifully and grandly reproduced, therein.
Dart did a few other newspaper series and though they aren't nearly as graphically exciting, they are well-drawn series in their own right. Here is one titled Boys WIll Be Boys that he did for the New York Herald. It ran from February 7 to May 9 1909*. In it we have a group of boys at a boarding school who consider it their solemn duty to make life hell for the teachers and other students.
* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index in StripScene #20.
Wednesday, November 01, 2023
Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: LaVerne Harding
In the 1910 United State Census, Harding and her parents resided in Kensett, Arkansas, at the Doniphan Lumber Camp on Red River. Her father was a bookkeeper for a mill company.
According to the 1920 census, Harding was the oldest of four children. The family of six lived at 1346 89th Street in Gardena, Los Angeles County, California. Her father was a cotton farmer.
Who’s Who in California said Harding graduated in 1924 from Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.
The Harding family was at the same address in the 1930 census. Harding’s father was a desk clerk at the county jail.
Who’s Who in California said Harding began work at “Walter Lantz Productions” in 1931. However, Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons said she started there in 1932, after attending the Chouinard Art Institute. Harding was an inker, then an in-betweener assisting other animators. In 1934 she was promoted to a full-fledged animator. Some of the characters Harding animated were Woody Woodpecker, Andy Panda, Wally Walrus, Oswald the Rabbit, and Chilly Willy. Later in her career, Harding worked with other animation studios including Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Warner Bros., and Filmation Associations.
According to Who’s Who in California, Harding drew Cynical Susie which began in 1930 in the Los Angeles Daily News. The Daily News, April 18, 1931, published the Cynical Susie panel below.
Sharp (Becky) and Harding (Verne) 2211
Cynical susie. © Jan. 30, 1932; K . 16050.
The Spring 1994 issue of Animation Journal revealed a contract that named a third person, O. Jean Brittan, who was involved in the ownership of Cynical Susie. It’s not known how or when Harding, Sharp and Brittan met and became partners in the Cynical Susie property.
Another student of outstanding ability specializing in animated art is Miss LaVerne Harding, of the Universal Studio, where she is employed on the Oswald feature. Miss Harding is co-author and artist in the “Cynical Susie Sez” comic distributed by the Los Angeles News. Miss Harding’s feature bids fair to hold an outstanding position among the newspaper comics, as the “Susie” fans protest vigorously if it is omitted from the paper a single issue. The Toronto Star Syndicate is handling the feature in Canada.
Harding passed away September 25, 1984, at her home in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. Her death was reported in the Los Angeles Times on the 29th.
Labels: Ink-Slinger Profiles
Monday, October 30, 2023
Toppers: Dream Land and The Quinn Quintuplets
While Ad Carter's Just Kids main topper was Nicodemus O'Malley for over twenty years, other ancillary toppers came and went more often. Let's talk about two of them today.
Dream Land offers a pretty simple concept -- what sort of dreams do the members of the Just Kids gang have? It was a simple idea but a fun one with a practically endless well of subjects to fill the space. The Dream Land panel ran from December 31 1933* to December 12 1937**, a very respectable four year run.
Dream Land ran with Just Kids in both full and tabloid formats, but our next topper, The Quinn Quintuplets, was used only in the tabloid format, and then only if the newspaper had a lot of unused vertical space. Most papers that ran tabloid sections had small ads or vignettes that ran along the page bottoms, and so there was often no room for The Quinn Quintuplets. It was also unusual in that other Hearst Sunday strips did not offer this sort of extra strip to run along the bottom of the main feature, so I think many newspapers didn't quite know what to make of it. These factors make this topper quite rarely seen. It's a bit of a mystery to me why Ad Carter even bothered with it.
The Quinn Quintuplets trades off the fame of the Dionne Quints, born in May 1934 to a poor French family in Ontario Canada. As the only surviving quintuplets up to that time, the kids became a worldwide sensation. Unfortunately the children were horribly mistreated as a result of their fame, but that wouldn't be generally known for many years. In 1935, with their fame in the ascendency, the whole world was in love with them and couldn't seem to get enough coverage of their young lives. Ad Carter was only one of many who traded off their fame in various ways.
The Quinn Quintuplets topper is rare enough that I do not have a definite start date. My earliest on hand, from the Chicago American, is the January 13 1935 episode. I suspect that the series did not start much before that. I do have a definite end date, though, which is June 9 1935. I know that because the next week the Chicago American ran Just Kids in an all-new tabloid format with no toppers at all. That new format would not last long, but by the time the other toppers were brought back The Quinn Quintuplets were just a memory, and perhaps that memory was confined to the readers of the Chicago American. Has anyone seen this topper running elsewhere?
* Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer.
** Source: Indianapolis Star.
Labels: Topper Features
Sunday, October 29, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from Panhandle Pete
Here's a first for the Wish You Were Here series. Although many novelty postcards were published on leather, this is the first I've seen that bears an image that we can definitely credit to a known newspaper cartoonist. Leather postcards were 'printed' via pyrography (a hot poker bearing a design, that is). This process does not easily lend itself to intricate detail, so your typical leather postcard usually has a pretty simple design. To appropriate George McManus' Panhandle Pete is an impressive bit of craft, not to mention a copyright violation. Due to that latter part, it is quite cheeky that the card is copyrighted, but 'circle-K' was smart enough not to identify themselves too definitively.
Thanks to Mark Johnson who supplied the scan from his collection.
For a good introduction to leather postcards, check out this essay.
Labels: Wish You Were Here