Saturday, April 13, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: Weekday Gag Array, 1904


An array of single panel gag cartoons was a familiar sight in 1900s papers, especially evening editions. Here's one such grouping from a 1904 edition of the New York Evening Journal, featuring four cartoons by William F. Marriner (first and third columns) and two by Harry B. Martin in the middle. 

A few explanatory notes:

* "Beautiful Snow" was a poem written in 1869 by John Whittaker Watson. It seems to be the only poem of his that really outlived him in the public consciousness. 

* I can find no evidence that there was a revolutionary named Bustaments in South America in 1904, but there are a few by the name Bustamente in decades long past by then. I imagine Martin is using it as a sort of generic Latino name.


Hello Allan-
At Hearst, we would syndicate even these one panel straight line/payoff type gags, mixed in with some weekday strips like "E.Z. Mark", fill a page or half page, all under the heading, "With The Twentieth Century Fun Makers" with slight variations like "Laughs With the Twentieth Century Humorists". I've seen these as a sunday feature in papers in Indianapolis and Baltimore in 1903-4. The "Bustamante' referred to might be Francisco Eugenio Bustamante, a radical politician and exiled opposition leader to presidente Palacio of Venezuela, overthrown in 1892.
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Friday, April 12, 2024


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ramona Fradon

Ramona Fradon was born Ramona Dom on October 2, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois, according to the Cook County, Illinois Birth Index at Her parents were Peter Domboorajian (not Dombrezian*) and Irma Haefeli who married on July 12, 1923 in Chicago. Articles and photographs of her paternal grandparents are at the Ann Arbor District Library

The 1930 United States Census counted Ramona, her parents and older brother, Jay, in Chicago at 431 Oakdale Avenue. Her father was an artist working in advertising.

In 1932 Ramona’s father moved to New York City. The New York Sun, October 5, 1932, said 
... E. R. Munn & Co., Inc., leased apartments in the Gilford, 140 East Forty-sixth street, to ... Peter Dom ...
The next year, the Doms moved to Larchmont, New York, where Ramona attended Murray Avenue School. The New York Evening Post, September 15, 1933, said
The Houghton Company leased for Clement J. Todd his house at 39 Valley Road, in the Larchmont Woods section of Larchmont, to Peter Dom.
The Larchmont Times, June 27, 1935, reported on the school’s assembly where third-grader Ramona received a track award. The Times, June 17, 1937, covered the honor assembly at Murray Avenue­ School. Fifth-grader Ramona was presented the Humane Society poster award. She was also elected to the National Honor Society. According to the Times, June 30, 1938, Ramona, in the sixth grade, made the honor roll. Track meet honors were awarded to her and teammates in the Junior girls relay. Again, the Humane Society first prize was given to Ramona for her poster.

In the 1940 census, Ramona’s mother was divorced. Ramona, her mother and brother were residents of Bronxville, New York at 1 Cedar Street. The whereabouts of her father is not known. 

Ramona graduated from Bronxville High School in 1944.

Ramona was interviewed by Jim Amash in Alter Ego #69, June 2007. She said
I didn’t take high school seriously, and by the time I graduated, I doubt if I could have gotten into a college. I started at Parsons School of Design in New York City. I went there for a year, but I found it to be superficial in terms of learning how to draw. We had life drawing once or twice a week, and the rest was all about technique and an overview of the different commercial fields. I felt I wasn’t learning anything that I needed to learn, so I switched to the New York Art Students League. I could never have been an interior decorator or a fashion artist anyway. I was drawn to the League because it was totally unstructured. You had to provide your own motivation. There were no tests, no grades, no diploma, no nothing. You just went there, and if you wanted to learn, you could learn, and that appealed to me. And we drew from a model every single day. …

… I studied Fine Art at the Art Students League and wasn’t very good at it. I had absolutely no ambition, but I found myself doing it anyway. And then I met Dana Fradon there [around 1946], who was an aspiring cartoonist. His goal was to get into The New Yorker, and he encouraged me to try cartooning, which I thought was a total fall into degradation. People are very snotty in art school, so it just seemed like the most degrading thing in the world. But I had a talent for it. We were broke when we got married, so Dana and a friend of ours encouraged me to make some comic book samples. I did and that’s how it started. …
On September 16, 1948, Ramona and Arthur D. Fradon obtained, in Manhattan, marriage license number 29830. They married on September 20. 

In the interview, Ramona answered a question about her father.
He … was a freelance lettering man. He designed among other things, the Elizabeth Arden, Camel, and Lord and Taylor logos—ones you still see around. And what else did he do? He designed type faces: the Dom Casual font, among others.
In Comic Book Creator #13, Fall 2016, Ramona said
My father was a commercial lettering man. He designed the Elizabeth Arden and Camel logos—some of the things that you still see around. I think Elizabeth Arden has a new one now, but they used my father’s version for years. He also lettered the Lord & Taylor logo ... lettering men like my father began to design fonts that were made into typefaces. So, instead of hiring a lettering man, they’d use these fonts, as they do today. My father designed the Dom Casual and other typefaces and everybody told him not to do it because it would put them all out of business. And it did.
According to the 1950 census, the cartoonist couple lived in Manhattan at 324 East 14th Street, third floor rear. 

The Daily Argus (Mount Vernon, New York), July 1, 1952, said
Mrs. Irma H. Dom, of 51 Parkway Road, Bronxville, died today in Lawrence Hospital after a short illness at the age of fifty-three.

Born in Chicago, daughter of Louise Tute Haefeli and the late John Haefeli, Mrs. Dom had resided in Bronxville for 14 years.

In addition to her mother, she leaves a son, Jay R. Dom of Bronxville and a daughter, Mrs. Ramona Fradon of New York City.
In her interview, Ramona said artist and letterer, George Ward, encouraged her to try comic books. Many of her credits are at the Grand Comics Database and Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999

Ramona’s father passed away on April 19, 1962 in Los Angeles. 

Newtown, Connecticut city directories, for 1963 and 1978, listed Ramona and her husband on Brushy Hill Road. Who’s Who in American Art (1976) said their mailing address was RFD 2 Brushy Hill Road, Newton, Connecticut 06470.

10/15/1980, courtesy of Heritage Auctions

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Dale Messick’s comic strip, Brenda Starr, debuted on June 30, 1940. Ramona drew the strip from October 6, 1980 to November 5, 1995. In her interview, Ramona explained how she got the assignment.
Yes, he [Gill Fox] called me up one day out of the blue and asked me if I wanted to draw it. He told me what they were offering, which was more than I was making in comics, but I didn’t tell him right away that I wanted to do it. I wanted to think about it, because I never liked Brenda Starr very much, and yet it seemed like an opportunity to me.

Friends of mine who did strips warned me prophetically, that I would be on a treadmill, and I’d never get off of it, and that it was a grind. But I decided I’d give it a try. By the way, Gill had been looking—they’d been beating the bushes, trying to find somebody for about a year, because they wanted a woman to do it, and they finally bumped into me ...
In 1986 Ramona’s husband divorced her in Newtown according to the Connecticut Divorce Index at Later they lived together in their daughter’s house. He died on October 3, 2019. Ramona’s brother died on October 4, 1997. 

Ramona passed away on February 24, 2024.

* The surname Domboorajian was found on passenger lists, census and death records at Ramona’s paternal grandfather was Rev. Mihran Domboorajian who was a bible worker in Persia. The misspelled surname, Dombrezian, appeared as early as 1990 in The LaserJet Font Book

Further Reading and Viewing
Alter Ego #69, June 2007
Comic Book Creator #13, Fall 2016
The Beat, The Greatness of Ramona Fradon and Pioneering comic artist Ramona Fradon passes away at 97
Bleeding Cool, Comic Book Creator Ramona Fradon Has Died, Aged 97
Comic Book Resources, Ramona Fradon, Iconic Comic Artist and Metamorpho Co-Creator, Passes Away at 97
The Comics Journal, Ramona Fradon, 1926–2024
Daily Cartoonist, Ramona Fradon – RIP
ICv2, RIP Ramona Fradon
Multiversity Comics, Ramona Fradon, Classic Aquaman Artist and Co-Creator of Metamorpho, Dead at 97
The New York Times, Ramona Fradon, Longtime Force in the World of Comic Books, Dies at 97
News from ME, Ramona Fradon, R.I.P. and Two Ramona Fradon Stories…
Sequential Tart, The Real Ramona
Heritage Auctions, Brenda Starr by Ramona Fradon


I met Ramona in Baltimore years back at a convention. She had a stack of "Brenda Starr" originals with her and let me browse through it. Had lots of fun stories!
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Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Magazine Cover Comics: Sally's So Sentimental


Sally's So Sentimental ran as the Newspaper Feature Service magazine cover series from March 22 to June 6 1931. The art is credited to Philip Loring, who I believe is in actuality Paul Robinson, and it is a lovely art deco gem. The story, on the other hand, is even more gossamer-thin than usual. In fact in this case there is really no continuing story at all, despite the "To Be Continued" tagline at the end of each installment. Each week Sally gets dressed up in her best duds, attends some event and bewitches the most attractive man in attendance. End of installment, reload and repeat next week.

This series does the almost unthinkable when in the final installment Sally stands by as her sister gets wed. Did Loring not read the magazine cover writer's manual? The heroine ALWAYS gets married in the final installment. Sheesh.

Oh, and why is the word 'sentimental' used in the title? I have no idea. Sally exhibits no particular sentimentality all through the series. I get the funny feeling that Loring/Robinson didn't quite have a grasp of the word's meaning, and the editors at NFS couldn't be bothered to educate him.


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Monday, April 08, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: The Vidiots


As we've discussed many times before, TV listing pages, with their acres of boring tables, were ripe targets for a cartoon series to brighten things up. By the 1980s, though, the TV-centric gag panels (they were almost all panels) were very much on the wane. Why that is I cannot figure, because this was the decade in which cable TV blossomed, making those listings take up far more room than in the old days of three networks and a local station or two. Apparently the equation that more boring type implies more need for brighteners does not actually compute, though. 

Into this bear market came Ken Bowser, who was at the time working on staff at the Orlando Sentinel-Star. He created The Vidiots for his paper, debuting there as a daily on August 13 1981*.  Bowser's work was familiar to Orlandoans and he was already well-known for his repulsive toad-like characters, now institutionalized in The Vidiots

Because the Sentinel-Star was owned by the Chicago Tribune, Bowser had a well-oiled pipeline for submitting to their syndicate. About a year and a half after the feature started as a local feature it was picked up for syndication, first appearing with a syndicate stamp on January 3 1983. 

The Vidiots never had more than a modest list of clients, and I think most of them were probably likewise Chicago Tribune owned papers. It was a pretty funny panel, but newspapers generally just didn't seem interested in TV page brighteners anymore. Bowser stuck with the feature for four years, finally giving it up on February 14 1987.

*Source: All dates from Orlando Sentinel-Star.


At some point the text columns gave way to charts, faintly similar to what you now see when scanning onscreen listings. Some TV-related editorial usually remained -- highlights, etc. -- but there was less flexibility and space. Can't put a date on it, so not sure whether little gag panels were already extinct.
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Sunday, April 07, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from R.F. Outcault


Outcault produced many of these calendar advertising postcards, some for specific advertisers, like this one, some more generic. 

The Rockford Watch Company was not a particularly major player in the pocket watch market, and the factory was shuttered just six years after this marketing campaign. Perhaps a victim of the newfangled wristwatches, I wonder? 

These cards seem to have been produced with the idea that Rockford dealers would do the posting, but then you would think they would not be preprinted with "Dealers Name and Address Here" on them, but rather just an open space for the dealer's stamp. Bad planning, that. 

Thanks to Mark Johnson, who provided the scans of this card.


Guessing it was meant for a pre-printed label; perhaps something a retailer would have on hand to add to the manufacturer's packaging. I occasionally come across old books that have a discreet sticker for the bookstore that sold it.
It's a rare salesman's sample, given to dealers of the Rockford watch, who'd use this and the other eleven months of designs, throughout the year. The dealer would pay for x number of each, with his name on them, and sent them out to potential customers. In other words, it's vintage junk mail.
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