Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Cole's Envelopes

Cole Johnson sent me mail packages of old comic strip material on a regular basis. If this weren't enough of a huge favor, he often added to that Christmas-morning style fun at the Holtz household by illustrated the envelopes.

Cole had an amazing ability to ape the comic strip art styles of the 1890s-1910s, and I often told him that he should get into the business of drawing up fake Rudolph Dirks Katzies strips -- he could have made a bundle! Cole's envelope cartoons often illustrate, with his trademark sardonic wit, the old time cartoon characters in decidedly untraditional ways. Some of those cartoons would need footnotes for the gags to be understandable outside our circle.

I saved every envelope he ever sent, but unfortunately the vast majority are buried in a storage facility right now (the Holtz household is in the throes of a move). Luckily I had a stack of Cole's correspondence still at the house because I haven't yet done all the necessary research associated with it. So here are some samples of Cole Johnson's wonderful sense of humor. The odd blank areas are where the post office defaced his cartoons with their labels and stamps.

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Monday, January 26, 2015


Tragic News -- Cole Johnson Dead

I have just heard from Mark Johnson that his brother, Cole Johnson, has died. I have no particulars, and I was notified via a blog post that seems to have later been deleted. Here is the text:

I am sad to disclose that everyone's friend and my dear brother Cole Johnson has passed away.

He was incredibly knowledgeable about strips and contributed many items to these pages. He was also warm and witty, himself a great cartoonist, who seemed to know most everything about American history and popular culture. I loved him, God bless his great soul. His loss is a tragic waste.

I knew that Cole had health problems, but I did not know they were life-threatening. I was on the phone gabbing away for an hour or two with my good friend just a week ago, and he seemed to be in great spirits. I can hardly believe that he is gone.

Even though I never had the privilege of meeting Cole face to face, I felt that we were kindred spirits, and that I could consider us to be good friends. Our long telephone gabfests will always be some of my happiest memories. Though Cole occasionally mentioned health problems to me, he was much too eager to talk about other things to bother taking time to talk about them. He would much rather talk about newspapers, comics, movies, cartoons -- all with the same giddy fascination that he knew we shared.

I loved listening to Cole talk. He talked in a leisurely drawl, and his words were always impeccably well-chosen. He loved to set the scene for his stories, telling all the details and establishing atmosphere. He seemed like he was weaving a story as he talked, and his stories were always fascinating, funny, and smart. I enjoyed baiting him -- just mention an obscure cartoonist or a tabloid newspaper title, and more often than not he would start in on one of his stories, mixing together history, storytelling and sardonic wit. Cole should have been a writer, and I should have pressed him harder to write for the blog. But he was so modest and self-effacing, and so amused at his own fascination with popular history, that I think he couldn't imagine people would be interested. But I think that a weaver of stories like Cole could have made just about anything interesting, even the minutiae that we discussed endlessly.

One of the most endearing things about Cole was that he realized, and reveled in, the idea that being a newspaper comics expert is mystifying pointless and utterly ridiculous to 99.9% of humanity. He never took himself seriously, a trap many experts fall into. Even as Cole and I would spend an hour discussing something esoteric like the origins of World Color Printing, we were always at the same time laughing at ourselves, and how bizarre we would sound to an outsider.

Cole was also one of the most open-hearted, giving people I've ever met. His incredible collections were freely open to anyone who had an interest. As far as I know, he never once asked anyone for a fee, even when supplying material for publications that were expected to turn a profit. His delight was in the possibility that the material he collected, and shared freely, might attract new people to be interested in these things. You reading this blog are constant beneficiaries of his philosophy, as I have reproduced hundreds, maybe thousands of scans he produced to be shared here, not to mention all the knowledge that accompanied them.

There is without a doubt no person on this earth who knew more about newspaper comics than Cole Johnson. It is a shame that most of us care so little about history that Cole's death does not get wide reporting as a tragic loss to humanity's collective memory. A vast repository of knowledge has been extinguished.

Personal to Mark Johnson: Mark, you have my heartfelt condolences. I would greatly appreciate if you can get in touch with me, as I have no way to contact you directly. I'd like to know where and when services will be held, and get access to obituaries, as I never knew nearly enough about my friend's life -- we were always too busy talking comics.

Dreadful news. My condolences to the Johnson family and to you as well, Allan. I only know him from your blog here and would see his scans and fascinating comments. Such a knowledgable guy! His is a big loss. So sad.
Very sorry to hear this. I had some brief communication with him on occasion - I wish I'd had more! Thank you for this written tribute.
Very sorry to hear this. I had some brief communication with him on occasion - I wish I'd had more! Thank you for this written tribute.
Very sad news. Thank you for taking the time to write such a nice tribute; his presence here will definitely be missed.
An extremely heartfelt reflection on the loss of a dear friend. He will be greatly missed. His contributions made a great site even greater.
My condolences, Allan. Mr. Johnson sure had some wonderful and eclectic taste judging by all of the fantastic scans of rare stuff he has contributed to this blog. I hope his collection finds a good home.
This is the same guy who did the Sugar Free Days comic, right?
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Saturday, January 24, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Sunday, September 13 1908 -- Within the last few weeks, Battling Nelson and Billy Papke have won or successfully defended their world boxing crowns. In this cartoon, Herriman appears to be celebrating, or at least observing, that the black boxers, as well as Stan Ketchel (Polish) and Abe Attell (Jewish) have been frozen out from the titles.


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Friday, January 23, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie, August 1 1937, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 
Follow the Connie story every Friday here on Stripper's Guide.


Am I the only one to notice Godwin seems to often pass up what seem excellent opportunities to depict dynamic action. In this sequence I would have thought depicting the using a pistol to blow out of the skylight and their escape would be the focus. No, that is relagated to a caption. What do we get instead? A static depiction of standing on deck looking happy -- that is what we get! The art is nice if a bit sketchy but expressions are not his strong suit. Often vague and unreadable. But my thanks to the late Cole Johnson for letting us see this treat!
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Thursday, January 22, 2015


News of Yore 1973: Cy Hungerford Profiled

Around Pittsburgh, Readers Like to 

see things Hungerford's Way

(Editor & Publisher, September 1 1973)

By Lenora Williamson

An interview with Cy Hungerford of Pittsburgh is a joy—but almost impossible to reduce to type. Because the interviewer's mind just sits there and smiles in recalling the experience.

The predicament is not unusual. Smiles and chuckles have been standard response from the newspaper reading public in Pittsburgh and environs to Cy Hungerford's daily editorial cartoons or his name for generations.

Count on a similar tribute from the cartoonist's peers. Around the editorial offices of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, faces light up at the mention of his name— a condition noticed even in the near-by offices of the Pittsburgh Press and at the penthouse bar of the Pittsburgh Press Club, where veterans ply a visitor with off-the-record Hungerford anecdotes.

The base of this local pride is wrapped up in the lifetime work and personality of the dean of the country's editorial cartoonists. He's been in print for at least 70 years, from teenager to man—but is cagy about the exact number of this summer's birthday.
Few newsmen last so long in the day-to-day deadline game—or are allowed to work so long past that dictatorial 65th anniversary by a doting management. Hungerford is sparkling testimony to the value of exceptions for any rule.

He Ran All  The Way

But then Cy doesn't fit the routine pattern. In keeping with his own style, he once ran all the way to the courthouse the day he heard he was in libel trouble because of a cartoon. He didn't wait for a subpoena. But at the time Cy was all of 13 years old. And in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The 20th century was not very old either.

In this 1973 summer, Cy pauses to look out his office window beyond the Gateway park and sees again that kid who had drawn a cartoon of a man pulling money out of a bank and choking widows and orphans. "I put his right name on it, too. It was libelous as the devil."

A kindly district attorney got the youngster out of the clutches of the grand jury. "I don't think Cyrus knew what he was doing." Still scared, Cy ran all the way home to breathlessly tell his mother, "They tried to put me in jail." Mrs. Hungerford, who was to save her only son's cartoons by the trunkful later, didn't panic. She just said, "If you want to continue to do cartoons for the Social Rebel, you do it."

And her son kept on. Cartooning is all he ever has wanted to do. While other boys raced out to play after school, Cy raced to the newspaper office "to practice." But he never forgot that early joust with libel. "Never labeled a banker by name after that—especially if he was choking widows and orphans."

By the day of high school  graduation, he had been a newspaper delivery boy and had drawn cartoons for the Parkersburg Sentinel and the Social Rebel, with time to organize a high school newspaper, The Quill, along the way.

His education on the morning paper route along the waterfront was liberal. The route was the "red light" section, and while Cy says he dreaded Saturday morning collection duties, he gleefully acts out the calls of the ladies, "Little boy, come in ... come sit on my lap ... heat the needle for me."

Fresh from Parkersburg graduation, Cy got a job at the Wheeling Register with an afternoon reporting beat including the old shoemaker and the fire station. "Most of my items were not publishable." Then he got his chalk plate cartoon done by midnight. At Parkersburg he had taught himself to engrave cartoons on chalk plates—drawing on paper, tracing, and blowing out the chalk dust as he chiseled down to steel. There could be no rubbing out—a mistake ruined the plate.

"Not bad work for a kid of 21 in chalk— got so good it would look like pencil," says Cy of some yellowed cartoon clips in a photo album he has carried down to the office in a brown paper bag.

Cy stayed four years in Wheeling, which time was not all work. He "fell in with the editor’s son, a holy terror ..." Bud Taney and Cy formed a partnership in the fun and games department including joint ownership of a canoe. Up to Wheeling, Cy had never had a drink and was now blessed with $20 a week. "I don't know if it was good for me or not— Dorothy says it wasn't," Cy muses.

Dorothy' is Cy's second wife, a pretty, white-haired grandmother, who brought five grandchildren into the Hungerford family circle. They were married in 1966, her first husband Arthur Goetz having died in 1965, and Cy's wife Alice having died in 1964.

Before their marriage, she was often introduced as C. H.'s friend. So now, in order to avoid attendant fuss over being Mrs. Cy Hungerford, she sometimes makes appointments as Mrs. C. H. Friend.

Quick of step and pixie-eyed, C. H. arrives at the office late mornings, Monday through Friday. He has an "awful habit of waking early" and is usually waiting at his apartment door for the paper delivery at 4:30 a.m. As a rule, he has a cartoon idea before he leaves for the office. Sometimes it's discarded for another.

"The idea that comes quick is the true one." A lot of good cartoon ideas seem to happen around 7 a.m."

"A funny life ... in a way hard and in a way easy ..." is this business of working with the clock. "Most cartoonists don't believe that I never worked with an editor and that the editor of the page didn't know what I was doing until he opened the paper ..." Later, Cy amends that with, "Well, there was one suggestion of 'why don't you ... ' but it didn't come off too well."

"It's not too hard to think up an idea," but Cy adds critically that he doesn't think the ideas are as good as they used to be. To which a colleague throws up his hands in protest upon hearing that repeated.

The cartoonist who has drawn every President since Teddy Roosevelt has the tool of a gentle, humorous slyness. But he's never savage. The iron stand for his drawing board he's used since 1915. It once belonged to the city editor of the Pittsburgh Sun. And the old wooden ink well—from which it is impossible to spill ink even by turning it upside down—is well taped together, an inheritance from cartoonist Sidney Smith, who went off to fame and fortune as creator of the Gumps.

Cy's love affair with Pittsburgh—and vice versa—had its beginning in 1912 when he got the cartooning job on the Sun. By then he had worked in chalk so long it was hard to do pen and ink, a fact which led him to bold brush strokes which characterize his work to this day.

His characterizations of officials and celebrities—local or otherwise—are  consistent. And the famous have always been writing for originals. John L. Lewis was "constantly writing," the only one to send a check with a letter. Presidents ask for originals—a peek at a desk drawer solidly lined with letters tucked in envelopes reveals "The White House" return address frequently. When General Patton was killed at Christmas time, Cy drew Santa Claus coming out the hospital door with a black arm band. Mrs. Patton not only wrote an expression of thanks but one day walked into the office to see the Cy. He was away at the time.

J. Edgar Hoover was a Hungerford cartoon fan and wrote him perhaps a dozen fan letters. During World War II Cy and a friend, George Sherman, got into the war poster business. Every week for 2 years, he painted a new one—they all stand up today as strikingly beautiful posters, painted with transparent water color stamps not available now. But Cy has a few tucked away. Their over-eager salesman was on the road boasting that Hoover and the FBI liked the posters (which they did) and one day the phone rang and a stern voice said, "Mr. Hungerford, the FBI is not in the poster business. You've got this salesman out in ..."

"If you can create a character: wonderful. People get to look for it." Pa Pitt is a long-established Hungerford character, useful in local affairs.

Newspaper  fellows  aren't  the  colorful characters they once were, says this authority on the subject, but then neither are there such colorful characters in public affairs. "Now, with the exception of Pete (Pittsburgh's Mayor Flaherty), no one creates a flurry around here."

Cy had a comic strip "Snoodles" in his repertoire from 1914 to 1928. He was doing it for nothing in the Pittsburgh Post—just because it was fun. George Matthew Adams Service of New York took the strip on, and Cy did 6 a week until he got tired of it.

The Fish and  the Cat

Of the Sun/Post shared city room, Cy says the two staffs despised each other. They stole scissors and typewriters from each other regularly.

The Sun's city editor had a bowl of goldfish on his desk, admiring them mightly. So, naturally the Post fellows brought in a cat. The rivalry got so bad that a screen had to be erected.

When a Pittsburgh newspaper merger took place in 1927, Hungerford joined the Post-Gazette and for many years his editorial cartoon was on page one. When publisher William Block told Cy he wanted to move the cartoon to the editorial page, Cy frankly said it was a mistake, but still "I got my start on the editorial page."

In 1937, Paul Block Jr. and Cy made a European tour stopping off for King George's coronation, and such is the Hungerford magic that he met a fellow sorting mail at the royal stables and eventually ended up going to the royal ball via the servant's entrance. In Rome, he came by a private audience with Pope Pius XII in 1947, and found himself talking with the Pope about his wire-haired terrier Jiggs, an ornery dog who bit everybody.

Cy is a man not given to having his picture taken, but he agreed to sit for a new photo for E & P. As Post-Gazette staff photographer Morris Berman neatly manages to get a whole roll shot, Cy is warming to the task with surrounding critics. Suddenly, as Berman says "That's it," Cy shoots across the floor in his chair, picks up the phone and cries, "Hello, Hollywood? No, I can't fly out today. I'm too busy. Maybe tomorrow."

That's Cy Hungerford—Indiana-born, over 80—who enjoys the Now but fondly holds in his memory the experiences of a newspaper lifetime spent enjoying and observing the foibles of his fellowmen, himself included.

The smiles and greetings that accompany his walks, he receives gracefully. Even getting through the lobby of the Hungerford's apartment house en route to the Press Club for dinner brings a gauntlet of smiles, good-evenings, and waves from a big circle of sitters. One woman, fairly bounces up and down with excitement: "I just got back from Florida—missed your cartoons." Cy bestows a smile and keeps walking with his wife and interviewer. At the door, the lady flings her accolade, "Best thing on the editorial page!"
"Don't know if I should use that one," says interviewer. "If you do," chuckles the cartoonist, "I'll mark it in red and put it on Bill Block's desk."


On rare occasions, I've found some of the yearly collections of cartoons that used to be published by the Post-Gazette. The five I have all date from the late 40s or early 50s.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Plaschke

Cartoons 12/1912

Paul Albert Plaschke was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 2, 1877 or 1878 or 1880. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded the birth year as 1877. The American Art Annual, Volume 14 (1917) said it was 1878. Plaschke’s World War II draft card had the year 1880, which is in the Encyclopedia of Louisville (2001). The Encyclopedia of Louisville said Plaschke’s family emigrated to the United States in 1884 and first settled in Hoboken, New Jersey. Plaschke married Ophelia Bennett in Louisville, Kentucky on September 15, 1899.

The 1900 census recorded Plaschke and his wife in Louisville at 1714 West Walnut Street. His occupation was newspaper artist. 

A 1900 Louisville city directory listed Plaschke as an artist for the Louisville Commercial newspaper. He boarded at 538 West Walnut. In the 1902 directory, Plaschke worked for the Louisville Commercial and Louisville News. His residence was 1722 West Walnut. Plaschke was found in two different city directories for 1903: an artist for the Evening Post in Louisville; and a cartoonist at 1837 East Elm in New Albany, Indiana. He was listed in the same two directories in 1909, the only difference being the New Albany street name which was Beharrell. 

The 1910 census recorded newspaper cartoonist Plaschke, his wife, two children and servant in New Albany. In 1910, Plaschke produced the strip, Sleepy Sid, for World Color Printing. According to American News Comics (2012), it ran from from April 3 to December 18.

Canton Repository 4/3/1910

Cartoons Magazine, December 1912, published the article “Plaschke’s Monkeys.”

The American Art Annual, Volume 14, 1917, had a listing for Plaschke.
Plaschke, Paul A., car[toonist]. Louisville “Times,” Louisville, Ky.P[ainter]., I[llustrator].—Born Berlin, Germany, Feb. 2, 1878. Pupil of Cooper Union and ASL [Art Students League] of N.Y. Member: Soc[iety of]. Ind[ependent]. A[rtists].; Louisville AL; Palette and Chisel C[lub]., Chicago. Work in Chicago Art Inst[itute].; St. Louis City Art Museum; John Herron Art Inst[titute]., Indianapolis, Ind.
The Encyclopedia of Louisville said: “at the Art Students League, Plaschke studied with George B. Luks…” and “…in 1898 he began working for the New York World…”

Adair County News (Columbia, KY) 4/17/1918

Adair County News (Columbia, KY) 4/24/1918

Literary Digest 4/12/1919

Plaschke remained in New Albany according to the 1920 and 1930 censuses which had his address as 326 Beharrell Avenue.

Plaschke’s home in 1940 was Chicago, Illinois, at 7617 Essex Avenue. He continued as a cartoonist, at Heart’s Herald Examiner, and earned over $8,000 in 1939. His highest level of education was the eighth grade.

Plaschke signed his World War II draft card on April 27, 1942. His home address was the same as the 1940 census recording. His employer was the Herald-American in the Hearst Building in Chicago. The description of Plaschke was five feet, four inches and 145 pounds, with brown eyes and hair.

The Encyclopedia of Louisville said Plaschke, who also had a lifelong career in fine arts, retired in 1949. His caricatures of many Chicago artists, including himself, are here.

Plaschke passed away February 12, 1954, in Louisville. Two days later the Chicago Tribune published an obituary. Plaschke was buried at Cave Hill Cemetery

—Alex Jay


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Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Sleepy Sid

By 1910, World Color Printing was evidently having trouble attracting cartoonists. They had taken to signing house names to some strips so that it didn't seem like the whole Sunday section was produced by just a couple guys. Once in awhile, though, WCP would manage to pick up a new cartoonist, like Plaschke here.

Plaschke (who usually signed his work Plas, as you can see above) looked like he could have been a good pick-up. His one and only strip for the syndicate, Sleepy Sid, had a pretty lame premise but the early art was appealing in a raw-boned way. Plaschke's early strips, represented by the top sample, are oddly colored but I find the two-dimensional tableau effect interesting -- I presume it was intentional.

Soon, though, as Plaschke got into his groove, the art was simplified (see sample #2). Plaschke is better able to portray physical action, but seemingly at the expense of any real discernible style.

Later still (sample #3) Plaschke is trying to inject a little style again, but succeeds in just making figures angular. The premise has been made more interesting, though, with the infectiousness of yawns now driving the gags. Still not a great premise, but at least more original.

Later in the series still (sample #4), Plaschke seems to be so unhappy with his cartooning that he quit signing the strip. He's still using the angular lines, but is rushing so much he doesn't even bother drawing a horizon line, much less a real background. The gag, which presupposes a rain shower so sudden and intense as to drench someone in the interval of a yawn, is pretty lame.

Plaschke has had enough. His Sleepy Sid series ran from April 3 to December 18 1910 in the World Color Printing section, and as far as I know, that's the only comic strip series to his name. Plaschke went on to a career in editorial cartooning. More about him tomorrow, with Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile.


What exactly happens in sample #1? It looks like the Count feels insulted by hearing Sid spelling his name. I don't get that.
RAUS is a German word meaning OUT -- usually used as a not very friendly command, as in GET OUT!

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Monday, January 19, 2015


Stripper's Guide Bookshelf: Popeye, London Style

Thimble Theatre presents Popeye: Volume 2 1989-1992
by Bobby London
ISBN 978-1631401299
IDW Publishing, hardcover, $39.99

I generally don't bother reviewing multiple books in a series. If I did I would have bored you with effusions about IDW's Little Orphan Annie series, what, nine times now? I can't subject you folks to that.

I have to make an exception, though, for volume two of the Bobby London Popeye reprint project. I'll make it quick, though. In fact I can sum it up thusly: BUY THIS BOOK!

Okay, you wanna know why. Well I already said in the review of volume 1 that London did the seemingly impossible, writing humorous continuities that ran in the ridiculous, utterly impossible space of two teeny-tiny panels per day. What's more, in volume 2 he gets even better at it. These are funny strips, topical, and of course (this is Bobby London after all) outrageous.

Of course, everyone who remembers the brouhaha over London's firing from the strip is dying to read the final continuity. Be assured that it is here in all its glory, including several weeks of the strip that never ran in any newspaper, as they were rejected by the syndicate. London had to know that there was just no way these could have run in newspapers. They'll only only run cartoons that are fit consumption for even the most chaste and prudish grandma. Was London trying to see just how far he could stretch the boundaries? I imagine so, because he has other continuities here that are pretty darn outrageous. I get the impression that no one at King Features ever bothered to vet London's material before it was shipped out to newspapers. Instead, they would wait until a newspaper editor squawked and then raise hell with the cartoonist. That doesn't seem fair at all, and I think the syndicate should have manned up and taken the blame rather than firing London. I mean, they sent the damn proofs out, and only when the offending strips were about to run did they tell newspapers not to run them and fired London. That's bad business.

Is it London's fault that King didn't draw a line for him? I mean, he was an Air Pirate for goodness sake! He deserves to be considered at least a little dangerous. They must have been reviewing his material, if only for proofreading -- why did no one catch this?

But hey, I don't know what actually went on -- just my guesses. Maybe King bent over backward to work with London. I tried to ask King Features editor Jay Kennedy about it many years ago, and you never saw someone clam up so hard. An ongoing lively correspondence came to a dead halt with that question. Never heard from him again.


Comic Book Resources did an interview with London where he answered your questions.

KFS did try very hard to work with Bobby London, he is a real prima donna. When he started putting in his leftist political opinions, He was asked to tone it down. He didn't. He wanted to be controversial. He had something important to say and despite warnings, pleadings, all tradition, sense and logic to the contrary, he saw the until now apolitical, family friendly Popeye comic strip as a fit platform ridicule priests and show his so-important support for abortion.
This was intolerable, and he knew it. So he was let go. Perhaps that's just what he was calculating, because though everyone knows Popeye, it's in very few papers,so to get the maximum coverage of this event, he ran directly to the liberal tabloid New York Daily News (which has never run Popeye)which ran it as a headline cover story "OYL CRISIS Popeye Aartist says he got canned over drawing". Which is true, but it's not like he wasn't told not to do this to the strip. The News characterized it as a debate over Olive's "right to choose", and in the news story Bobby blubbers "I wouldn't have done it if Roe vs. Wade weren't threatened."

Once again, this is about the Popeye comic strip.

The reason Kennedy would no longer wish to talk about it was that he felt sure, and he was right, I take it, that no matter what he or the comapny would say, London would be believed first. He paints himself as the brave litle guy fighting for truth aginst the powers of corporate chieftans. All London had was Popeye, but it was more important to him to show off his liberal bona fides than be a syndicated cartoonist, so he ruined it intentionally.
Wow, after that absurd rant I wish you had the decency to sign your name.

I look forward to reading the strips and deciding for myself how harmless or evil London's attempt at recapturing Segar's original voice.

The interview is interesting and you should read it. Yes, it is bias from London's POV but it is enlightening to what happened behind the scenes.

Why did King hire London? And how is London being the same London of his entire life his fault?

The comment London made was King wanted the strip to sell the TV series Popeye and Son is most likely true. I was born in 1954 and grew up hating boring Popeye and the King Features lineup. It wasn't until I discover Segar's original work that I realized how badly King had ruined the character.

In cases like London vs King no one side is wrong. In this case the two were just incompatible.
The Popeye & son cartoons had nothing whatsoever to do with the London comic strip, other than the titular lead. The productions of King Features Entertainment had no co-ordination with the syndication and licensing division.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Saturday, September 12 1908 -- Another cartoon on the "Solid Three", Herriman's cartoons continue blazing against this scandal.

County commissioners Patterson, Eldridge and Wilson, dubbed the "Solid Three", put together a bond issue for the county and sold it off, probably to favored friends, at a high interest rate. They did this without proper public meetings and without going through the normal channels to determine a fair interest rate. On discovering this breach of the public trust, Angelenos were, not too surprisingly, up in arms.


I am wondering if this is an homage to Tenniels famous cartoon "dropping the pilot"" from Punch in the 1890's. Or am I just seeing connections where there aren't any
Greig Daniels
Wow, great catch Greig. I was not familiar with that Tenniel cartoon. Apparently more famous in Germany than to us stateside.

For anyone interested here's the wiki page:

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Friday, January 16, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie, July 25 1937, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 
Follow the Connie story every Friday here on Stripper's Guide.


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Friday, January 09, 2015



In honor of the cartoonists whose lives were lost this week in France, 
Stripper's Guide take a week off to mourn.

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Thursday, January 08, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Don, Dot and Duckie

When Frank W. "Hop" Hopkins gave up on his imitation of Rube Goldberg's strip (Hop's Skips and Jumps, yesterday's obscurity), he wasn't about to throw in the towel. He got right back up on the horse with a new strip, titled Don, Dot and Duckie (some papers didn't even bother changing the masthead, so this strip is sometimes seen running under the previous title). But if Hop's Skips and Jumps was unoriginal and not all that funny, it looked like a classic next to this rather strange strip.
The adventures of three bickering siblings have such limp gags that I'm not sure they're really meant to be funny. To add extra merriment, Hop sometimes seems to be trying to get comedic mileage out of the characters' foreign (?) accents, but I'll be doggoned if I can figure out what they're supposed to be. Dutch, maybe? I have to admit, this strip just generally has me scratching my head. Either I'm missing something, or Hopkins was trying to see just how bad a feature he could get International Syndicate to send out to clients.

Well, at least Don, Dot and Duckie wasn't inflicted on the American public for long. The longest run I can find of the strip is from April 13 to May 29 1914 in the Edwardsville Intelligencer, which may be the only paper who hated their readers enough to run the entire series.

Thanks to Mark Johnson for the samples!


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Wednesday, January 07, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Hop's Skips and Jumps

Even though Frank W. "Hop" Hopkins was already churning out one successful daily comic strip (Scoop the Cub Reporter) for Baltimore-based International Syndicate  in 1914, his energy was not being sufficiently dispersed. With some trade publication fanfare, Hop added a second daily feature called Hop's Skips and Jumps to his workload.

Hop decided that in this feature he would imitate the highly successful Rube Goldberg. Goldberg's brilliantly inventive daily untitled strip was a huge success, and it's hard to argue with Hop's logic in hitching his wagon to that particular star. Hop's copycat strip manages to do an incredibly faithful job of duplicating Goldberg's art style (it's downright eerie in some strips), but the gags fall flat so often that anyone who was fooled by the art would quickly realize their mistake.

Hop's experiment in forgery was short-lived. Whether Hop called it quits because of his conscience, or the syndicate pulled the plug I dunno, but the feature was quite short-lived. The longest run I can find of it is from March 2 to April 11 1914 (Edwardsville Intelligencer).Tomorrow we'll see the strip he created to replace it.

Thanks to Mark Johnson for the samples!


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Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Watch American Experience "Ripley: Believe It or Not" Tonight !!

Your Stripper's Guide host has been interviewed for a PBS documentary about Robert Ripley, and the program airs tonight at 9 PM on most PBS stations. For all I know I may have ended up on the cutting room floor, but it promises to be an interesting show whether or not yours truly makes an appearance. Be sure to tune in!

To whet your Ripley appetite, here's an essay I wrote about the Believe It or Not man, which ended up not being used on the American Experience website. It's written for a general audience who might not know anything about Ripley, but I think I brought a perspective that you comics scholars might find interesting.

The Shocking Truth about Robert Ripley

As a cartooning historian, I could tell you some fascinating (to me) minutiae about the man that undoubtedly won’t appear in the documentary, but that would probably just make you click away to greener pastures. I really would like you to stick around for a moment, so I’m going to be rather daring. I’m going to tell you the unvarnished truth about Ripley.

Now I’m not trying to be shocking, or flippant, or disrespectful. Really I’m not. Before I make my statement, I would like to point out, with all modesty, that I am a fellow who has devoted a good portion of his life to studying newspaper cartoons. I’ve written a somewhat authoritative book on the subject, and have earned a name for myself in the small (okay, tiny) community of newspaper cartooning researchers. Therefore, I make the following statement none too lightly, and with some expertise to back me up.

Okay, here we go. The fact is, Robert Ripley was not much of a cartoonist. Yes, despite making millions off that art form, and becoming a household name, I’m telling you, as a cartoonist the guy was just barely adequate. In New York City in the 1910s, where Ripley planted his cartooning flag, there was no shortage of artistic talent. There were plenty of cartoonists who were more proficient in both drawing and writing than Ripley, though many of them pounded the pavement to no avail. The closest some of them ever got to a paying art gig was drawing flowers on dinner plates for a crockery company.

Now you needn’t take my word for it. You can look at the historical record. With all the chutzpah of youth, Ripley came to New York after a less than stellar start to his cartooning career in San Francisco. New York City was the place to be for a cartoonist – the home of the most important (and most numerous) newspapers in the country. There were no less than 15 mainstream daily papers being published there in the 1910s, all vying for the attention, and pennies, of the man on the street. Now you’ve undoubtedly heard about yellow journalism, and how newspapers competed for readership in those days by out-scandalizing each other. News stories were overplayed in the most shameless ways, all in order to attract curious readers.

While sensationalism was a big seller, cartoonists were almost as important. If you enjoyed Rube Goldberg, you bought the Evening Mail. If Mutt and Jeff tickled your funnybone, you bought The New York American. Every newspaper had its stars, though some shone brighter than others.

Ripley, to his credit, managed to get a cartooning gig in New York right off the bat. But it was at the Globe and Commercial Advertiser, a newspaper so low on the totem pole of popularity that it sold mostly because it was offered for a penny, cheaper than most other papers. The Globe tried to follow the example of the more prominent New York dailies, and succeeded only in looking like the pale imitation that it was. The Globe’s cartoonists were second-raters by necessity. If a cartoonist showed up in The Globe and developed a following, he would have been quickly whisked off with an offer of  better pay and greater exposure at a bigger paper. Cartoonists didn’t work for The Globe unless their services were not in great demand.

Ripley was low man on the totem pole even at The Globe. His beat was mainly sports cartoons, which was a specialty that was already on the wane. Sports cartooning was a big pull for newspapers only while the art and science of newspaper photography was still being developed. Once newspapers could regularly offer shots of boxers and baseball players in action, the handwriting was on the wall for the sports cartoonists. Although they still had a following, in the 1910s and beyond their space and audience was steadily eroded by the cheaper and easier expedience of photography.

Evidently, Ripley’s work at The Globe was not so exceptional as to make waves in New York City. Ripley toiled in relative obscurity at The Globe for over a decade, and then left only because the newspaper itself was merged into non-existence. He landed at the Evening Telegram, a paper that had a good reputation, but he never really got a foothold, and barely made it through a year there. By 1924, Ripley suffered a fate that would have had many cartoonists looking for a new career.  He was reduced to working for a second-rate newspaper syndicate for a cut of the minor earnings to be had from selling his wares to out of town papers.

So now you might be thinking that it must have been about then that Ripley came up with Believe It or Not, his life turned around, and he lived happily ever after. Oh, but not so. Not at all. Because Ripley was completely oblivious to having caught lightning in a bottle. He created Believe It or Not way back in 1918, long before his fortunes took some of their rockiest turns.

According to some versions of the story, on that fateful day in 1918, his editor had suggested to him the idea for a cartoon about freakish sports records. But let’s give Rip the benefit of the doubt and say it was his own eureka moment. We may as well, because although the idea was in his lap, he evidently hadn’t a clue what to do with it. I think it is appropriate that we now invoke that famous line – Believe It Or Not – for this amazing fact: after that first cartoon, the second installment of Believe It or Not did not see print for another ten months! And after that, often months would continue to go by without a new installment of the sensational cartoon.

I’m not going to give away any of the twists and turns that led to Believe It or Not becoming a multimedia sensation, and Ripley becoming arguably the richest newspaper cartoonist of his era. Suffice to say that Ripley, although he didn’t quite do everything in his power to keep it from happening, seemed unaware of the goldmine he was sitting on, and he had to be led by the nose into the promised land of money and stardom.

Now that I’ve made my case, you may well be thinking that I’m trying to run down this poor guy. Blah blah, not much of a cartoonist, yada yada success was the result of dumb luck, blah blah most anyone else in the same situation would have done as well or better than Ripley. Okay, I admit I did give the guy a pretty serious goosing.

But here’s the thing. What I didn’t mention is that Ripley had one quality that is quite rare and amazing, and it is that quality, in my opinion, that led to his fame and fortune. Now when I say what the quality is, most of you are going to roll your eyes, and say “Oh, please!” And if I hadn’t studied Ripley’s life and personality, I promise you, I’d be in the same pew.

Here it is: Ripley’s secret recipe for success was simply that he believed in himself. From the moment he woke up in the morning, until the moment he fell asleep at night, he knew that he was destined for big things. He knew that however dark it might seem, that the sun was just beyond the horizon waiting to shine its light on his face. He believed in himself to the core of his being, just like all those cheesy self-help gurus tell us we ought to.

Ripley had no great ability, no great work ethic, no dazzling intellect, and I have no doubt he was told that many, many times. New York is not a kind city, and the New York newspaper office of his era was no place for people who couldn’t handle criticism. Even outside the newspaper office, Ripley must have been a constant target of derision. He looked goofy, he dressed badly, and he had a speech impediment. Most of us would be hiding under a rock if we were in his shoes. But not Ripley. He took it all in stride, secure in the blissful knowledge that he was Special.

Ripley had no Tony Robbins tapes, no visits to the Maharishi. He seems to have had little or no spiritual life, his interest in religion being mostly a fascination for odd or bizarre rituals he could use in his cartoons.  No, it seems to have been something in his upbringing, something incredibly positive and self-affirming, that stuck so deep in his psyche that no amount of evidence to the contrary could shake the belief he had in himself. Ripley knew that he would end up one of life’s big winners, and he just sat back, enjoyed the ride and waited for the inevitable to happen – and it did.

You did an excellent job! Enjoyed the show. I was watching it with my wife and when you first popped on screen I told her "I know him! He sent me a package once!"
Alan congrats on making the cut! I recorded the show and watched later with my wife. I told her I knew you through Jim and she through that was pretty cool... which it is!
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Monday, January 05, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Binks

Although Frank W. "Hop" Hopkins was never any great shakes as a cartoonist, he and his work have always occupied some tiny out of the way tender spot in my heart. And here you thought it was made of purest flint (my heart that is, not Mr. Hopkins). We'll discuss three of Hop's series this week.

Although Alex Jay says Hop's career may have begun at the Chicago Daily News circa 1904, I'm afraid I did not come across any signed work of his in my pretty darn thorough indexing of that newspaper. Maybe at that time he was still just a junior bullpenner, churning out border decorations and spot illustrations. I first catch sight of Hop later at one of my favorite newspapers, the Denver Times. My oh my, the Times put the most vivid yellowness in their yellow journalism. If you ever have a chance to review the Denver papers of the 1900s, I promise you a ball.

The earliest I know of Hop being there is early 1908, but since my experience of that newspaper comes only from a very small smattering of bound volumes, he could well have started there quite a bit earlier and I would be none the wiser.

At 24 years old, Hop had all the energy of youth and his cartoons festooned that paper from cover to cover. By January 1908 when I first encounter him there, Hop already had a signature character, Mr. Binks, making constant appearances. He appeared in his own comic strip series on occasion (like Binks on the Job above), and also appeared on just about any other cartoon in which Hop wanted a commentator. The third cartoon above is a good example, and marks when Gilbert, the senior editorial cartoonist at the Times, jumped ship and went over to the  Rocky Mountain News in 1908. The energetic Hop, of course, happily added that role to his repertoire at the Times.

Some of the Binks comic series are: Binks on and Off the Job, Binks' Baby Alphabet, and Seeing Denver.

As best as I can tell, Hopkins left the Denver Times sometime in 1910, and that was the end of Mister Binks. But since I lose track of him until 1912, maybe he was in Denver a little longer. Does anyone have access to microfilm of the Denver Times!?!?

PS -- Be sure to watch the American Experience program "Ripley: Believe It or Not", airing at 9 PM on January 6 on most PBS stations. Check it out at their website


Sort of a Dreams of the Deviled Egg Fiend.

B'way...Who is Gilbert? Is he someone so well known in early comic strip lore or are you just citing the bottom comic.

More Snuggle Pups, sez I!
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Sunday, January 04, 2015


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics

PS -- Be sure to watch the American Experience program "Ripley: Believe It or Not", airing at 9 PM on January 6 on most PBS stations. Check it out at their website


I'm really going to miss Jim's Sunday Comic. It is part of my weekly ritual. Perhaps Alan, you could run encores?

Jim - I'm hoping the muse will strike you often!
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Saturday, January 03, 2015


Herriman Saturday

Friday, September 11 1908 -- A front page cartoon from Herriman, and in a vignette shows his previous cartoon about the "Solid Three".

County commissioners Patterson, Eldridge and Wilson, dubbed the "Solid Three", put together a bond issue for the county and sold it off, probably to favored friends, at a high interest rate. They did this without proper public meetings and without going through the normal channels to determine a fair interest rate. On discovering this breach of the public trust, Angelenos were, not too surprisingly, up in arms.

PS -- Be sure to watch the American Experience program "Ripley: Believe It or Not", airing at 9 PM on January 6 on most PBS stations. Check it out at their website


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Friday, January 02, 2015


Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie, July 18 1937, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 
Follow the Connie story every Friday here on Stripper's Guide.

PS -- Be sure to watch the American Experience program "Ripley: Believe It or Not", airing at 9 PM on January 6 on most PBS stations. Check it out at their website.


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Thursday, January 01, 2015


Mystery Strips: Whose Duck Izzit Anyway?

Happy new year's day folks! Welcome to 2015.

Today we have a mystery feature, sent in by comics sleuth Mark Johnson. He tracked down Chatter by Doc Duck in at least three newspapers, the Buffalo Courier, Mt. Vernon Argus and the Portsmouth (OH) Daily Times. The running dates he found for this daily panel are from November 10 1913 to December 20 1914.

Now I generally have a rule that if a feature isn't signed and no syndicate is credited, as is the case here, I figure that if the creators cared that little, why should I? But look at the art on this feature! Wow, it is delightful. It looks to me like it just might be the work of Walt Kuhn, who loved cartooning birds when he wasn't making hoity-toity modernist paintings. 

What do you think? Is it Walt Kuhn or someone else? And does anyone have any ideas on tracking down the syndicate that distributed this? Was it Life Publishing, perhaps, who earlier syndicated Kuhn's Funny Birds? Got any earlier or later running dates?

PS -- Be sure to watch the American Experience program "Ripley: Believe It or Not", airing at 9 PM on January 6 on most PBS stations. Check it out at their website



I think Kuhn is a good guess.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014


News of Yore 1977: So a Duck Walks into a Newspaper Office ...

 Comic Book Hero Debuts in Newspapers

by Lenora Williamson
Editor & Publisher, June 18 1977

"Howard The Duck" is the June entry into the newspaper comics arena as a daily and Sunday superduck. Howard is a star of Marvel Comic Group's heroes and is being presented in newspapers by the Register and Tribune Syndicate. In 15 months, he has become one of the hottest selling personalities in the Marvel group books.

The men behind Howard The Duck are Steve Gerber and Gene Colan. Gerber, whose work experience prior to joining Marvel Comics in 1972 included stints as a teacher, ad copywriter, car salesman, a radio announcer and a columnist for an underground newspaper, graduated from Saint Louis University in 1969 with a radio-television-film major. He says he was raised on Ralston, Twinkies, Warner Brothers' cartoons, and ", . . hamburgers, bagels, Toll House cookies, and Marvel Comics. If it's true that we are what we eat, my creation of Howard The Duck was not only logical, it was inevitable."

Gene Colan, the artist for Howard, attended Art Students League of New York, and two years with the Air Force found Colan in the Philippines where he drew for the Manila Times. Back in the U.S., he found a job with the Marvel Comics Group and has been intermittently associated with them for 20 years.

One description of Howard as a cigar-smoking, wise-quacking cartoon character says he's "so human that in times of crisis he's out to save his own tail feathers." And another is that the fearless, feathered fury indulges in sarcasm and social comments that are far from ducky.

The new comic strip's early subscribers include the New York Post, Detroit News, Washington Star, Chicago Daily News, Boston Herald-American, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Seattle Times, and Arizona Daily Star, for a cross country clientele.


Thanks for this vintage article. Coincidentally, I just finished updating the newspaper listings at my Howard the Duck site:
If anyone can provide further newspaper titles that carried the duck, please speak up. I figure there are about 50+ newspapers yet to be identified.
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