Saturday, February 24, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: The Hickman Murder Trial by Willard Mullin, 1928


In the 1920s it wasn't too unusual in the more sensational papers to add graphic interest to news stories by covering them partially in comic strip form, like this example by a very young Willard Mullin. Mullin at this time would have been working for the Los Angeles Herald, a Hearst newspaper, but we see it here in syndicated form via the Denver Post. Mullin later became famous as a sports cartoonist, but this is before that became his specialty. 

The story being illustrated here is the William Edward Hickman kidnapping and murder trial. The 20-year old defendant kidnapped a 12-year old girl and murdered her in grisly fashion while attempting to extort money from her parents. Thankfully he was caught before he could make a habit of this activity. Based on his testimony he felt he was perfectly within his rights to perform such acts in his own self-interest, and seemingly would have continued his behavior in the future to finance himself.

Very Odd Postscript: As the rest of the world listened in horror to the details of this psycho's repugnant crime, he became a hero to a young nut named Ayn Rand. She greatly admired him for his unpitying selfishness, and wrote about her admiration extensively in her diary, terming him a "superman." Hickman would become an inspiration and basis for her inhumane philosophy.


I just got in a bound volume of internal, house magazines for Scripps-Howard covering this period. It was a period when the SH owned Rocky Mountain News was in a fierce battle with the Denver Post, so it's no wonder the Post went all Hearstian in this, with sex and violence.
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Friday, February 23, 2024


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Shorty Shope

(An earlier profile was posted in 2019.) 

Henry Irvin “Shorty” Shope was born on May 11, 1900, in Boulder, Montana, according to Shope’s birth certificate at His parents were Ira Daniel Shope and Emily Alvis Shope.

In the 1900 United States Census, month-old Shope was the youngest of three children. Their father was a stationery engineer. The family resided in Boulder. 

According to the 1910 census, Shope was the third of seven siblings. The family resided in township six of Jefferson County, Montana. Shope’s father was a farmer.

The Great Falls Tribune (Montana), November 23, 1977, said the family moved to Missoula, Montana when Shope’s father died.
It was there, in his formative years of 13 throughout 18, that he came under the influence of E.S. Paxson, painter of native Americans and the frontier West.

“He gave me my first lesson in anatomy and would correct and trim up my drawings, illustrated on the side of my paper and even let me watch him paint,” he later said….

His formal art education began in 1919, when he attended both Portland Art Academy and Reed College in Portland….
Shope graduated in 1932 from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. The Missoulian Sun, September 4, 1966, said Shope met artist Charles M. Russell and studied with Harvey Dunn in New York City.

Shope was mentioned in the Missoulian newspaper on September 5, 1913“Irvin Shope, 13 years old and a nephew of Mrs. W. W. Wickes, was operated upon for appendicitis yesterday morning at St. Patrick’s hospital.” In the May 27, 1914 issue, Shope was one of several speakers in the Roosevelt School’s declamation contest. Shope was listed as an honor student in the February 23, 1917 Missoulian. Shope was a guest at the Christmas party hosted at the Wickes home. 

Farmer Shope signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His address was 425 West 5th Street in Missoula. His description was short, medium build with blue eyes and light brown hair.

The 1920 census said Fargo, North Dakota was Shope’s home at 1043 Tenth Street North. The head of the household was his widow mother’s brother-in-law, Carl Greenwood. Shope was unemployed.

In the 1920s Shope was a correspondence student with the Federal School in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His art was printed in the school’s publication, The Federal Illustrator, Winter 1925–1926 and Fall 1926. 

In the department of Animal Drawings, Irvin Shope, with his “Stage Coach,” carried away the bacon, as the vulgar say. The picture is full of action. Shope is always good at that—so good that he sometimes, like that great original draughtsman of the moving horse, Frederic Remington, sacrifices drawing to movement. I have seen better things of his than this, yet it deserved a prize. The lad is, I think, very promising.
Shope was one of several artists who wrote about the late Charles Russell in The Federal Illustrator, Winter 1926–1927. 

Shope wrote about his painting in The Federal Illustrator, Summer 1927. 

The Poplar Standard (Montana), November 18, 1927, said 
Irvin Shope, of the State university, is exhibiting oil paints of Glacier national park and the Canadian rockies. He was formerly with the forest service.
Shope appeared in The Federal Illustrator, Summer 1928. 

Illustrator of Western Life Busy on Mural Paintings for Glacier Resort
Irvin Shope’s realism in picturing of Western life secured him a place among the prize winners with a pen line drawing nicely adapted to illustrative uses. 

Altho adept in drawing of horses and horsemen, Mr. Shope does not confine himself to drawing them.

“I have just pleased a young husband and was paid liberally for a portrait sketch of his pretty wife,” he writes in a recent letter which also reports good returns in a cover design for a catalogue, an illustration of a vicious broncho to advertise high power gas for a new Montana gas company; two pen drawings for decorative use in a new Spanish home in Los Angeles and another cover design for Triple-X.

The letter continues, “My old friend Justin and Company have asked me to do a painting to be used on a window card advertising their boots, giving me full sway as to subject.

“Then I have been doing some drawing to advertise a new lodge or dude camp just over the edge of Glacier park on beautiful St. Mary’s lake. I am going up there in June to paint a couple of large pictures for the lobby.

“Four years and some odd months of work under encouragement of the old Federal Schools has brought me thus far and now I suppose I can keep going alone but I still want a word from you now and again for a long time.

“I paid my last ten dollars in the first installment for the course and was Wass out of work too. The path between then and now has been rough but I’ll never regret the course I took nor cease to wonder what chance made me write to Federal Schools as I had no first hand information of you folks nor on one to ask who knew anything about you. I was lucky that’s all.”

The late Charles M. Russell gave Mr. Shope high commendation on early drawings in the course and assured him that he was on the right track studying with the Federal Schools.
The 1930 census listed Shope, his mother and three brothers in Missoula, Montana at 425 South Fifth Street West. Shope was a self-employed artist.

The Great Falls Tribune said Shope married Erva Vivian Love, on June 23, 1932 in Missoula. 

Shope received his University of Montana fine arts degree in 1933.

The 1934 Missoula city directory listed artist Shope at 517 Connell Avenue.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Shope drew Rusty Rawlins, Cowboy which was written by Glenn Chaffin. The McClure Syndicate strip began in late 1934 and ended in early 1936. The last three weeks were drawn by Tom Maloney.

Shope was mentioned in The Federal Illustrator, Spring 1935. 

The 1940 census recorded Shope, his wife and three daughters in Helena, Montana at 1337 9th Avenue. The advertising artist worked for the Montana Highway Department. The census said Shope had lived in Los Angeles, California in 1935.

During World War II Shope registered with the draft on February 16, 1942. The Helena resident was employed at the Montana Highway Department. 

1956 and 1964 Helena city directories said Shope’s occupation was artist whose address was 1337 9th Avenue.

The Missoulian Sun, September 4, 1966, said several paintings by Shope were to be exhibited at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Shope was a member of the Cowboy Artists of America, Inc. Shope had three dioramas at the Charles M. Russell Historical Society Museum in Helena. Shope “painted many portraits of Indians, mainly from the Blackfeet tribe in Browning who adopted him as a ‘blood-brother’ in 1937 and gave him the name ‘Wolf Bull.’”

The Independent Record Sun (Montana), August 24, 1969, said between 1950 and 1965 Shope painted murals for the Highway Department, Western Life Insurance Company, First National Bank, Helena Junior High, St. Paul Fire & Marine Building, and the Federal Building in Webster, South Dakota. He contributed a painting every year to the Shedd-Brown Calendar Company starting in 1956. 

Shope passed away November 22, 1977, in Burlington, Massachusetts. The Great Falls Tribune said Shope and his wife were visiting their daughter when he suffered a stroke. He was laid to rest at Boulder Cemetery

Further Reading and Viewing
Montana Historical Markers
How About the Roads?: Montana’s Highway Maps 1934–2004
Montana’s Historical Highway Markers; cover art by Irvin Shope
Meadowlark Gallery; signature
Montana Historical Society, Museum Collections Online
Map: Montana Highway Dept. Frontier & Pioneer Montana, 1937
University of Montana; Irvin “Shorty” Shope Oral History Collection
Surveys and Surveyors of the Public Domain, 1785–1975, Photograph from an oil painting by Montana artist Shorty Shope


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Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Mystery Strips: Misery Is...


I have a batch of 1983 United Feature weekly syndicate books, and I found in one issue two weeks worth of a panel cartoon called Misery Is... by Scrawls (Sam C. Rawls). My run of the books is by no means perfect, but I cannot find this feature anywhere but in the May 16 edition, and I have other weekly books from April, May and June, though not all of them. 

In the May 16th book there are two weeks worth of the feaure, slated for publication in papers of May 16-21 and May 23-28.

This is obviously a very short run feature, and I have no printed examples in my collection. I cannot find any mentions of it in E&P or in interviews/articles on Sam Rawls. I checked the online archives of the Atlanta Constitution, where Rawls was the editorial cartoonist at this time, and a spot check did not find them running the feature. 

So this one is a misery, er, I mean a mystery. If anyone has a printed example, or knows of a run of it somewhere, don't keep it to yourself. Let's get this one into the books as a feature that made it into papers. 

UPDATE 2/23/2024: Paul Di Filippo sends me this article from the Palm Beach Post, dated June 1 1983:

In which the feature is announced to be set to appear "from time to time" in the paper's entertainment section (the section was titled "Poster" for some reason). After this big section-heading article announcing the feature I looked through the next two weeks of the section and found Misery Is appearing exactly zero times.


My off the cuff observation is that this is a pretty sharp parody of the long-running "Love Is..." comic strip, and may not have been intended as anything more than satire.
Hello Allan-

There's a faintly piscatorial pong about this one. Note there's no dates applied to them, for starters. Also, even as far at single column nuggets of philosophical wisdom panels go, or even knock-offs of Charles Schultz's "Happiness is" device goes...this is really startlingly poor.
This is not clever, or insightful or humourous, it's as stupid as calling it "This bad:"....
Misery is an ingrown toenail. Misery is blackouts. Really, they are. So what? That's it? It's almost like you, the late twentieth century American newspaper reader, are supposed to see a small panel cartoon and your proscribed Pavlovian reaction is to, if not laugh or even smile at it, just take it unconsciously as a piece of comedy, intended to be funny, never stopping to analyse whether it has any point to it at all, instead of an existential statement of fact that goes nowhere.
So what is, "Misery Is?" My guess- This is something the syndicate saw potential for in the name, id est, the trade mark. So if it appears in the weekly book, and it becomes theirs. The "weeklies" are what are entered into copyright for everything inside. It matters not if they ever actually syndicated it or developed anything further with it, they own the name "Misery Is."
I was going to suggest a parody of Charles Schulz's "Happiness is a Warm Puppy" and its successors, but that dates back to the early 60s. There were parodies in MAD and Li'l Abner, and Johnny Carson actually published "Happiness is a Dry Martini". One could argue "Love is..." was inspired by the Peanuts books, which included "Love is Walking Hand in Hand".
Mark, I sense you aren't a big fan of this panel. I suspect that if we apply your 'Pavlovian comedy response' test to a LOT of strips they'd be in the same bubble of the Venn diagram with "Misery Is". Anyhow, I REALLY like your idea that UFS was just trying to establish copyright. Brilliant thought, and I'm 100% on board. Even if it weren't true it really SHOULD be. --Allan
That's one of the functions of the weekly book. For years we'd put into ours, (King Features Syndicate) old material that would go out of copyright if we didn't establish it was still in use, and up and coming minor efforts by new cartoonists that may or may not get into papers...editor's choice, you know, and they might come and go with no set rules.
Very interesting, Mark! That must not have been an industry-wide phenomenon, as I went through 80-some years of the NEA books at OSU and don't recall seeing any items of this sort.

Question, though ... I used to be able to buy the NEA and UFS syndicate books through St Marks Comics in NYC, and I've heard that the CTNYNS books were sold at the newsstand in the Daily News building. So did King bother with the ritual of making their books available for purchase somewhere, and if they did, where was it?

I don't know how the public could access the KFS "Weeklies", subscription, I presume, because lots of people did get them. If you were in the newspaper trade, they'd be a familiar sight in editor's offices, and they've even been known to be used by salesmen to spark interest in our offerings.
There were, possibly still are, two weeklies, at least by our syndicate. The one with all the comics, as tall as a proof sheet, about 14", and a second, at 8" x 10", was the one for all the columns, puzzles, specialty items and the retread old stuff and the new obscurities. These came under the collective appellation "The Weekly Service" package. At one time, it meant material we'd set aside, with different rates, for the hundreds of small town once a week papers, and probably expanded to foreign sales, too.
My guess is that maybe UFS has/had a second weekly as well, and that somehow, "Misery Is" might have been a feature in that book, only accidentally appearing in the regular strip book that you have.
That the Palm Beach Post ran a news story about it, yet didn't use any of them, shows that at least it reached a level where some publicity was generated. Note, though, this is not created by UFS, because it comes off as a terrible feature, promising rather than laughs, a few seconds of unpleasant associations, pain, fear, or actual MISERY.
Why do editors dislike controversy in the features they pick up for their paper? They don't want to offend their readers. In this little article, the writer seems to be spending all the gags in some initial sample pages of "Misery Is", and each one makes the panel seems even more repellant. It's like telling the world this will be a feature that will surely offend all readers and editors alike.

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Monday, February 19, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: The Roosevelt Bears



As a Stripper's Guide reader you no doubt already know that it was Washington Star editorial cartoonist Clifford Berryman who started the whole teddy bear craze. He commented cartoonically on T.R. refusing to shoot a bear cub while hunting, associating him forevermore with a cute little caricature of a bear cub . Why this event stuck in the minds of the public and turned into a multi-billion dollar toy business that continues today well over a century later I don't fully understand. But it did, and it's kinda neat that it all began with a member of the cartooning fraternity. But the connection between T.R., bears, and cartooning didn't end there. 

In 1905 successful author Seymour Eaton was looking to expand his range beyond mostly educational literature. Three years after the original incident it was obvious that the bear cub meme had serious legs to it. He resolved to write a children's adventure starring a couple of bears. And just in case you didn't get the relationship, he made it easy for you to connect the dots by naming his characters the Roosevelt Bears. 

Eaton found himself a fabulous illustrator named V. Floyd Campbell who was at the time producing incredibly detailed illustrations and editorial cartoons for the Philadelphia North American. Between the quite sprightly verses penned by Eaton, and the superb illustrations by Campbell, they probably knew they had a hit on their hands. It was decided that in order to give the soon to be published book a built-in audience that they would first sell the feature as a serial to newspapers. The first episode of The Roosevelt Bears appeared in papers on January 7 1906*. Eaton took the copyright for the feature, but called himself "Paul Piper" for authorship. This might be because he was somewhat well-known as an educator and author of serious texts -- he didn't want readers to come in with preconceptions. 

The feature sold very well, and became somewhat famous as supposedly the only comic strip ever run by the New York Times. This has never really been true on several levels. First, calling The Roosevelt Bears a comic strip is a bit of a stretch, and second, back in those days the Sunday Times was surprisingly open to cartooning, and not just editorially. They offered entertainment cartoons on a semi-regular basis in their Sunday editions; perhaps rarely anything that could be considered a series, but I would lay a considerable bet that we could find a few short series if we got real serious about an indexing project. 

What is an interesting tidbit about the Times is that it appears that they probably syndicated the Eaton page, though they took no credit for it. The Times in their obit for Campbell said that he drew the feature for the Times. We know about the legendary fact checking of their obits, so I think that's a pretty strong case. 

While The Roosevelt Bears were busily making themselves famous all across the country, tragedy struck the creative team. V. Floyd Campbell contracted tuberculosis and died in April 1906. His giant shoes were filled on The Roosevelt Bears by Richard Keith Culver starting with the installment of May 20**.  Culver, of whom I know little, did the seemingly impossible and managed to almost equal Campbell's work. What little he lacked by comparison to Campbell in quality of detailed linework he amply made up for with a fine sense of animation to his work. 

The Roosevelt Bears comic page ended on July 22 1906**, and was issued in book form in November. Both the newspaper feature and book were so well-received that Eaton immediately began work on the further adventures of Teddy-B and Teddy-G***. In total there would be four newspaper series (which we will continue to cover here as time and inventory allow), and at least a half-dozen books in the series.

For more about the interesting life of Seymour Eaton, I recommend this wonderful essay by Philip Jordan that offers up lots of details.

* Source: San Francisco Call.

** Source: Chicago Daily News.

***  According to Eaton's verse, the B and G designations in the character names stood for Black or Brown and Grey or Grizzly.


A curious coincidence! I found a copy of the first Roosevelt Bears book in a consignment shop last week. It reprints the newspaper pages (including the first two you posted), with many drawings enlarged into full-page color plates. Campbell, not surprisingly, does some very nice painting!
One comic strip that the New York Times definitely did publish is "Boox" by Mark Alan Stamaty. From what I can find online, it ran monthly in the NYT Book Review section from 2001 to 2003.
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Sunday, February 18, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Charles Dana Gibson


Hey, it's been a long time since we featured one of these Charles Dana Gibson cards from the Detroit Publishing Company. This one is #14045. Mr. Gibson's perspective on this illustration is suspect, I think. Our fair damsel sure seems like she's hovering about a foot too high for the shoreline. But maybe she mounded the sand under her bum.


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