Saturday, March 23, 2024


One Shot Wonders: Tragedy and Romance of a Venetian Serenade by Herriman, 1901


In the McClure comic section of December 15 1901, George Herriman offers us a bit of slapstick comedy imported all the way from Venice. He also serves to improve my vocabulary, sending me scurrying to the dictionary to find out that a 'caitiff' is a contemptible of cowardly person. Thanks George, I daresay I will find some use for such a juicy term.


Comments: Post a Comment

Friday, March 22, 2024


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Bill Freyse

Bill Freyse was born William Henry Freyse on June 12, 1898, in Detroit, Michigan, according to his World War I and II draft cards. His parents, both German immigrants, were William Henry Freyse (changed from August F. W. Freizse which was on an 1881 Michigan marriage record) and Maria Hillebrecht. 

The 1900 United States Census counted Freyse as the youngest of five siblings. The family resided in Detroit at 8 McArthur Street. His father was a paint salesman.

In the 1910 census, the Freyse family lived at 192 Theodore Street in Detroit. Freyse graduated from Central High School. 

Freyse’s father passed away on February 16, 1913. 

The 1918 Detroit city directory listed Freyse as an artist at 192 Theodore. 

On September 12, 1918, Freyse signed his World War I draft card. His address was unchanged. His employer was the Leslie-Judge Company which published Leslie’s Weekly and Judge magazines. Freyse was described as tall, slender, with blue eyes and light brown hair.

Freyse’s art training included Federal School courses. He was featured in advertisements and in Federal School publications.

Cartoons Magazine, August 1919

The Federal School News, 1925

The Federal Illustrator, Summer 1926

The 1920 census recorded Freyse and his mother in Detroit at 293 Webb Avenue. He was a newspaper cartoonist. 

Freyse’s mother passed away on April 17, 1929. 

According to the 1930 census, Freyse was a Detroit resident at 1141 Webb Avenue. He was the district representative of a theater chain. 

On July 23, 1930, Freyse and Evelyn H. Schwab were married at Highland Park, Michigan. Their daughter, Lynn, was born on March 24, 1937.

The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, 1933, New Series, Volume 28, Number 3 had this entry: 
Freyse (William Henry)* 5267
Movie mad Mazie. © 1 c. Aug. 5, 1933; G 12105. 
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Gene Ahern created the NEA series, Our Boarding House, which debuted on October 3, 1921 and ended on December 22, 1984. Ahern’s last strip was dated March 14, 1936. Wood Cowan did the series beginning on March 15, 1936 into 1936. Bela Zaboly took over in 1936 to 1938. Bill Freyse produced the Sunday in 1939 to April 13, 1969. The following artists were Jim Branagan then Les Carroll. The writers included Gene Ahern, Wood Cowan, Bill Braucher, Tom McCormick, Les Carroll, and Phil Pastoret.

The 1940 census said Freyse and his family lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio at 18717 Winslow Road. In 1935, he resided in Santa Monica, California. Freyse was a cartoonist who had two years of college and earned $5,000 in 1939.

On February 16, 1942, Freyse signed his World War II draft card in Tucson, Arizona where his mailing address was 1000 North Campbell Avenue. He had moved for his wife’s health. His residence address was 17130 Scottsdale, Boulevard, Shaker Heights, Ohio. Freyse’s description was six feet, 172 pounds with blue eyes and blonde hair.

Freyse’s 1950 home was in Tucson at 2803 Via Rolands. He was newspaper syndicate cartoonist. In 1951, his son, Stephen was born. 

Freyse was a member of the National Cartoonists Society.

The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 8, Part 1, Number 1, Books and Pamphlets, January-June 1954 had this entry: 
Freyse, Bill.
Unofficial hysterical facts about old Tucson. Distributed by Tucson News Agency. © William Henry Freyse; 4Jan54; A120622.
Freyse passed away on March 3, 1969, in Tucson. He was laid to rest at East Lawn Palms Cemetery and Mortuary. The Associated Press obituary said
William Freyse who drew the “Boarding House” cartoon panel for 30 years died Monday at a Tucson hospital following a month-long illness. He was 70.

Freyse moved to Tucson in the early 1940s because of his wife’s health. He moved from Cleveland Ohio where he had started drawing the cartoon panel. A native of Detroit Freyse joined the Newspaper Enterprise Association in 1939. 

He began the “Copper Penny” comic strip which later proved unsuccessful. Freyse took over the “Our Boarding” panel when former artist Bela Zaboly took over the “Popeye” strip in Sept. 1939. Freyse’s last daily “Our Boarding House” panel will appear Mar. 15. The Sunday panel will end April 20.

His daughter, Mrs. Lynn Borden of Los Angeles Calif., held the title of Miss Arizona in 1958 and later became an actress and fashion model. She played the wife in the television series “Hazel.” Freyse is survived by his widow, Evelyn, a daughter, Mrs. Lynn Borden, and a son, Stephen.
Freyse’s daughter passed away on March 3, 2015. His son lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Editor & Publisher, March 15, 1969, said 
Branagan continues ‘Our Boarding House’
“Our Boarding House” will be continued by artist James P. Branagan, who worked closely with the late William Freyse, who died just two weeks before he was to announce his retirement and turn the cartoon over to Branagan.

The dialogue of Major Hoople and other familiar characters of the Boarding House will continue to be written by Tom McCormack. The feature is distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association.

Further Reading
The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), Bill Freyse
The Encyclopedia of American Comics, Our Boarding House 
The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art 1895–2010 (2011)
Together, March 1957, Lynn Freyse
TV Guide, January 29, 1966, Lynn Borden


Comments: Post a Comment

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


Toppers: Joe Palooka's Boxing Course


In 1936 Joe Palooka's Sunday formatting took the topper away from the tabloid version, so that only the full broadsheet format still included it. Even then if a paper ran Joe Palooka on their front page, as was quite often the case with the popular feature, a large masthead would knock the topper out. So while most Palooka fans got to read the previous topper, Fisher's History of Boxing, fewer had the chance to learn how to box from the main strip's star in Joe Palooka's Boxing Course

Which wasn't a terrible loss, because it seemed like Fisher just transcribed a basic text on learning to box, and added a few illustrations of Joe going through the motions. Not too exciting. The course began on June 27 1936 and ran until May 1 1938, almost two full years of learning to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. 

Okay, so the topper's not too exciting, but the sample above is a very interesting one. In case you're not aware, the whole craze for hillbillies in comics, which began in earnest with Li'l Abner, actually had a precursor in Joe Palooka. Big Leviticus and his mammy and pappy starred in a sequence of Joe Palooka in late 1933, and after Li'l Abner became a huge hit Ham Fisher started a feud in which he claimed that Al Capp ripped off his creations. Here above we see an early (the earliest?) public shot fired in that long-running feud; check out the box in panel one of the main strip. 

Rather than recount the circumstances of the feud here, I suggest you go read R.C. Harvey's exhaustive discussion of it over at The Comics Journal. It's a long article, but I assure you the bizarre story of Al Capp vs. Ham Fisher is a juicy and fascinating read. 

For what it's worth -- very little -- my take on the feud is that it doesn't matter at all who came up with Big Leviticus. If he was such a great character, the equal of Abner, the syndicate would have made Fisher bring him back as a regular, or even given him his own strip. They didn't, and Fisher evidently saw no great future for him, either, until Capp showed the way. The simple fact is that Al Capp, for all his faults, was undeniably a cartooning genius. I have no doubt that he could have taken ANY idea and made a phenomenon out of it. Whether it was hillbillies, prankster kids, barnyard animals, or even grains of sand reciting Proust, Al Capp was destined to make great comic strips out of it. It's a shame that Fisher couldn't see that and wish the man well, rather than trying pathetically to cut him down.


Don't know where Fisher got the idea that his were the first hillbillies in comics, couldn't he recall, or for that matter, the whole wide world of strip readers, the adventures Billy DeBeck took his characters through, even years before Snuffy Smif, in the 1920s? There were probably others before that; Mountain folk seemed to become popular fiction and movie types going back to the 1890s, when the Hatfield-McCoy feud became popularly known.
The book "Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon" by Anthony Harkins traces the development of the hillbilly stereotype in popular culture, including comic strips. It's a fascinating book; Harkins argues that while there are poor whites in Appalachia, the "hillbilly" image (A lazy, alcoholic man with a long beard and broad-brimmed hat who spends all his time feuding with his neighbors) is largely the creation of the mass media, going back to the Sut Lovingood and Simon Sugg stories of the 19-th century. I loved it.
Interesting coincidence: Another Fisher, Bud, created the wildly popular Mutt and Jeff and went from famous millionaire playboy to, from what I've read, an alcoholic recluse.

Find myself reflecting on the idea of cartoonist as celebrity. We've had a few in this age of reduced print influence; was there an era where at least moderate fame attached to artists who weren't at Peanuts or Garfield level?
At least in America, as far back as the mid nineteenth century, pre-comic strip cartoonists Thomas Nast and Home Davenport would be considered celebrities.
Post a Comment

Monday, March 18, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Adventures of Aaron


Adventures of Aaron, in my opinion one of the most innovative, well-drawn and just downright funny newspaper features of the 1990s was, sadly, ignored by most in the newspaper world. 

In 1991, at the tender age of twenty-one Aaron Warner exhibited art and writing chops well beyond his tender years. He was already freelancing to the Kalamazoo Gazette when he created Adventures of Aaron, a zany absurdist take on autobiographical comics. He shopped the feature around to papers in his home state of Michigan, placing it at the Kalamazoo Gazette and a few additional papers. The new comic was well-received and after getting a few years worth of weekly installments under his belt, the series was picked up by Michigan-based comics publisher Chiasmus. Warner's high energy attitude toward his career got him into several more papers, culminating when he snagged the Detroit News as a client. He even found time to write and produce a stage musical version of the strip, create an interactive website, and produce a CD-ROM and other merchandise

With these successes it was time for Warner to approach syndicates, and it wasn't long before the strip was picked up by Tribune Media Services. Tribune had a pretty well-deserved rep for being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud syndicate, but they were trying to upgrade their image a bit in the 90s, and Adventures of Aaron must have seemed perfect for that. Oh, and of course it sure didn't hurt that Warner came to them with an impressive list of clients already on board. 

The syndicated Adventures of Aaron debuted on October 20 1995, and to their credit some of the more forward-thinking papers did sign on, though I understand that only about twenty papers total took the plunge. And what ensued was a low-pitched battle between the young set, who doted on it, and the grannies, who were mortally offended. Adventures of Aaron even won the "Most Hated" vote in a poll by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, beating out even Zippy, which normally walks away with that honour. 

In the boxing ring teens beat grannies almost every time, but those roles are definitely reversed in the newspaper world. Once those grannies start writing pettish letters to the editor the hammer is poised to strike. Adventures of Aaron managed to stay afloat, due I think in good part to tireless marketing and gladhanding by Warner, until August 3 1997. 

Quality may generally lose the wars, but it does occasional win a battle. Adventures of Aaron got a temporary reprieve from the graveyard of cancelled newspaper strips. The Detroit Free Press asked Warner to continue it just for them. Warner accepted and continued producing the strip for another two years, finally deciding to call it quits to pursue other projects with the installment of August 15 1999. 

If you're interested in reading more Adventures of Aaron, there have been a number of comic book reprints; all out of print but not terribly hard to source. The only problem with them is that it is hard to figure out what is reprinted in which comics. It would be great (hint, hint) if Warner would take all his almost decade-long run out of mothballs and publish a complete edition.


Comments: Post a Comment

Sunday, March 17, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Cobb Shinn


Most of Cobb Shinn's postcards don't specify a maker, but this one is from Taylor-Pratt's "Automobile  Series", #896. The card was postally used in 1913.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]