Saturday, December 16, 2023
One-Shot Wonders: Humors of Spring Fashions by William Glackens, 1898
I've never really warmed up to either of the Glackens brothers, Willam or Louis, as cartoonists. Their work seems rather stiff to me. But William made an important mark in fine art -- he was one of the founders of the highly influential Ashcan School of art; a school originated by a number of artists who kept their bread buttered as cartoonists. Good on ya, Will.
Here's a full pager by William Glackens that ran in the New York Sunday World on March 27 1898. Befitting springtime, Glackens pokes fun at the inevitable appearance of new fashions that bloom along with the flowers that time of the year.
Labels: One-Shot Wonders
Friday, December 15, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Senator Caucus
Politicians are such a deep and rich vein of comedy that it's surprising how relatively few of them have starred in their own features. They tend to be secondary characters, like Senator Belfry in Shoe, Senator Snort in Grin and Bear It and a whole parade of demagogues in strips like Pogo and Doonesbury. Maybe newspaper readers, faced with the horrors of the front page, aren't really happy for politicians to be the stars on the comics page, too.
Senator Caucus tried to buck that tradition by having a blowhard corrupt politician as the star of a daily panel, which debuted on October 6 1958* through the auspices of General Features. The strip was drawn by Pete Wyma and gags were supplied by George Levine. For both creators this was to be their first and last syndicated feature. Of Levine I know nothing, but Wyma was a prolific gag cartoonist, specializing in risque to outright adult material. He was also a prolific postcard cartoonist in the 60's. When the feature began Wyma adopted a very generic-looking cartooning approach, but during the 60s he developed a much lusher style that really sets him apart from the run of the mill.
Levine didn't last long as collaborator. He seems to have bowed out at the end of the first year, last being credited on October 17 1959. After that Wyma took a solo byline for the most part, but often shared credit in the panel itself with gag writers who went by "VTM" and "Mac Saveny".
Senator Caucus was undeniably well done but it never really caught on. Whether that is because of the aforementioned allergic reaction of newspaper readers, or because of the weak sales ability of General Features, I dunno. But since General Features didn't really have any blockbuster properties, they were happy to keep Senator Caucus going for a full decade even with his short list of client papers. The feature seems to have ended on November 2 1968**.
* Source: Washington Star
** Source:Paterson News.
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Selling It: Fly Your Flag, Comics Fans!
When Hearst purchased the ill-fated magazine one of the things they did was to create tie-in marketing with their newspapers. To market the Puck comic section, someone came up with the idea of a giveaway of 'flags' featuring some of the headliners from the comics line-up. I put flag in quotes because the actual item was just a flat sheet of muslin with no mounting hardware or eyelets. Kinda crummy even for ten cents in 1937. Arguably worse, though, is the design of the 'flag', which is nine comic panels seemingly taken almost completely at random from the strips, and just plopped down in a 3x3 grid. A flag with zero thought put into the design, in other words.
Not surprisingly, very few people sent in their dimes for this promotional dog and the flags are now exceedingly rare. Rare doesn't mean valuable, though, since even today few collectors would really want to display the ugly thing. Hake's couldn't even get their minimum bid of a C-note for an example. To see a larger image of the flag you can visit WorthPoint, which claims a sale on eBay -- but you have to be a member to find out what it went for. I suspect it was no king's ransom.
Update: In a rather amazing coincidence, while this post was sitting in the queue what should appear on eBay but one of these flags! It went for the princely sum of 36 bucks, shipping included.
Labels: Marketing Madness
Monday, December 11, 2023
Obscurity of the Day: Silly Milly
Silly Milly may be an obscurity to the vast majority of humanity, but to the mid-century readers of the New York Post this strip was a real star. Creator Stan MacGovern offered up some deliciously demented material -- he was sort of a Milt Gross minus the Yiddish accent.
The strip began on June 8 1938* as Extra Extra, an addition to the formerly staid New York Post that was in the process of trying to loosen itself up a bit. That spring in its step would be increased greatly in 1939 when the paper was sold to Dorothy Schiff, who transformed it into a liberal-leaning sensational tabloid.
The strip began as a wacky commentary on minor news stories, a theme that would remain popular throughout the run of the strip. But when MacGovern started using the recurring character Milly, a blowsy half-woman, half-doll who (as most of his characters) is missing her feet, she became the star of the show. MacGovern's use of minor newspaper headlines was no great innovation, but his downright deranged commentaries were what really set the strip apart from others of its genre, as did using himself as a thoroughly demented character in his own strip.
The strip was soon renamed Silly Milly, but various comics historians lay claim that the strip went through a period as "Swing On The News" (Maurice Horn), or "Swing With The News" (Don Markstein). Without having reviewed the Post microfilm for myself, I can only offer the samples you see above, some of which clearly show that the strip was sometimes titled Silly Milly Swings Out The News. I will of course post updates on this world-shaking point should anyone care to review the papers themselves.
In the game of musical titles, I'll add another -- in 1946-47 MacGovern produced an adjunct large format strip on Saturdays and titled it The Yuk-Yuk Department.
As wonderful as Silly Milly was, the New York Post had no success in syndicating it, though they tried to for years. I have yet to see it running in a paper other than the Post. And that probably prompted MacGovern to decide that enough was enough after a decade and a half. Silly Milly bade goodbye to her readers on November 2 1951**.
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* Source: Ken Barker in Menomonee Falls Gazette #141. Maurice Horn claims it began on January 8 1938. Neither date is a Monday, so I wonder...
** Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on New York Post. Maurice Horn claimed the strip ran until 1952.
Sunday, December 10, 2023
Wish You Were Here, from Skeezix Wallet
For the second week in a row, we prove that Wish You Were Here cannot be buttonholed as a mere purveyor of postcard peculiarities. Here's another envelope from the collection of Mark Johnson, this one a communication from the Lancaster Shoe Company, maker of the Skeezix line of children's shoes. I can find marketing for this line as early as 1923, a mere two years after the character was found on Walt Wallet's doorstep in Gasoline Alley. Although not as ubiquitous as Buster Brown Shoes, the juggernaut of comic strip-based footwear, the Skeezix line did just fine for itself, petering out sometime in the mid-1950s.
This envelope is dated 1932 and addressed to the Fred Rueping Leather Company of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a major tannery. They were presumably a supplier to the shoe company.
Labels: Wish You Were Here