Wednesday, July 01, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: America's History in Cut-Outs



Gonna kill two holidays with one stone today! Today, of course, is Canada Day, and three days hence is the U.S.'s Independence Day. Luckily I have an obscurity that is applicable to both. Well, sorta.

America's History in Cut-Outs ran in one of the McClure pre-print Sunday comic sections from June 20 to September 26 1909. The first two episodes, above, apply to the whole continent, so I figure I'm good to go.

Now I'm no expert in paper dolls. But maybe if there is a cut-out aficionado lurking out there, you can tell me if this is a particularly awful use of the form. As best I can tell, the kiddies are supposed to cut out the figures, and then (here it gets real exciting) place them in the approved positions, as dictated by the provided black and white outline drawing, on the background illustration.

Wow. I hope those rugrats aren't prone to over-excitement, because this amount of fun could well give them a brain hemorrhage or something. Is it my imagination, or is this about as much fun as a holiday weekend homework assignment to write a ten-page essay titled "What Freedom Means To Me"?

Not surprisingly the artist, who is quite good, decided to be anonymous on this series. Good call, my friend. No point in telling the kiddies who exactly to curse for wasting a space of a proper comic strip in the Sunday paper.

Happy Canada Day and 4th of July!

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What other amusements did kids have back then besides marbles and throwing rocks at each other? I suspect this wasn't paper dolls, but diorama making
 
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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

 

Magazine Cover Comics: Social Problems


Here's another one of those great magazine cover series by Fish; we've covered quite a few of them, and there's more waiting in the wings. This one is titled Social Problems, and it ran from July 30 to August 27 1939. As always, delightful Art Deco drawings and wonderfully droll captions.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Hippy







Okay, so anyone like to take a wild guess about the date when Hippy was being offered to newspapers? No? Well, yeah, it is a tough one. After all, the iconic image of the dirty, stupid, stoned counterculturist has been in vogue many times. In the early part of the century they were Bohemians, then in the 1950s they were beatniks, in the 60s (the classique period) they were know as hippies, and in recent times they were the 99%ers or Occupiers.

Why is it that anyone concerned enough about the status quo to speak up about it is safely ignored by the establishment by simply branding them as having imperfect hygiene? I remember when Wall Street was occupied a few years ago, I got quite the dose of nostalgia when, seemingly within hours of the story breaking, every pundit in the media apparently read the same memo and started making fun of the Occupiers as being unbathed. It was like watching TV back in 1968, when every show thought it was comedy genius to dress someone up in a Flower Power shirt and sandals, and have them act as vacant-eyed and dim-brained as, oh, say, George W. Bush.

Oops. Sorry, thought for a moment this was my other blog, AllansPoliticalRanting.com. Okay, back on track.

As you actually probably did guess, George Gately's Hippy debuted sometime in 1967 (exact date unknown to me -- must've been the drugs, man). That was the Summer of Love year, of course. (You can see some pics of it here, in which even the barefoot hippies appear to be surprisingly hygienic.) Hippies were a national fascination, and Gately evidently decided that a comic dealing with a beautiful curvaceous flower child, along with hackneyed hippie gags that were already getting stale, might be a winner.

Gately was already syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-NY News Syndicate with his Hapless Harry strip, and they agreed to take Hippy on, as a daily-only panel. Hippy, however, did not sell well at all. My guess is that you had liberal editors who found the panel trite and stupid, and conservative editors who weren't about to turn their papers over to a feature about the hated hippies. Not sure which editors that leaves as the market for Hippy.

Even though Hippy didn't do at all well snagging clients, it was advertised in E&P until 1970, though I've never seen any actually printed that late. Luckily, Gately came up with a vastly more popular new comic in 1973 called Heathcliff.

Oh, one last thing. That bottom sample in which smoking bananas is mentioned stimulated some dim memories of people telling me that you could get high from smoking banana peels. The memories are unclear as we might well have been experimenting with other smoking options at the time. Anyway, I looked it up, and it turns out there was a rumor that banana skins could be smoked to get a buzz. Well, turns out it was just idle stoner talk. Here's the Straight Dope on smoking bananas.


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The Straight Dope traces the "smoking bananas" rumor to a Berkley Barb article 1967. I always heard that it was sparked by the line "Electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze" in Donovan's 1966 hit "Mellow Yellow" (although Donovan has since said that the reference was to a vibrator).--Doug
 
I also heard the Donovan reference, but as corroborating evidence after the rumor had caught on. "See, that's what Donovan was talking about back when he made 'Mellow Yellow.'"
 
I'm not sure it was the hippies that bothered the editors so much as the girl in scanty clothing in every panel. This seems like it was intended more for those naughty gag digests of the 60's than a newspaper strip.
 
Jeez, look at those flies circling very one of those filthy hippies!
Glad I was a freak, not a hippy.
As to that bottom panel: the reference to sniffing glue surprised me. I don't think it would pass muster on today's comics pages.
Also about that bottom panel: Look at that! Forty years ahead of its time - nose rings. Far-out, Man!
D.D.Degg
 
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Sunday, June 28, 2015

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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How many times did Jim fall victim to the "I forgot my wallet" ploy? Never by me, I'm proud to say.

best,

Craig Zablo
 
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

 

Herriman Saturday


Tuesday, Septmeber 29 1908 -- The Angels are finally returning to LA after another long road trip (right side of cartoon), and lightweights Danny Webster and Ad Wolgast are set to meet in the ring tonight at Jim Jeffries' Arena in LA. Wolgast will win, and had a long boxing career, but his is a very sad story of a punch-drunk fighter who ended up in and out of mental sanitariums.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

 

Sci-Friday starring Connie


Connie, November 27 1938, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 

Sorry, but the November 1938 strips are missing from the images Cole sent me, so we'll have to make do with black and white versions

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Carolyn Wells




Carolyn Wells was born in Rahway, New Jersey, on June 18, 1862, according to a 1919 passenger ship list at Ancestry.com, which has a family tree with the names of her parents: William Edmond Wells and Anna Potter Woodruff. Wells’ birth date was also on her headstone.

In her autobiography, The Rest of My Life (1937), Wells wrote:

When I was six and my little sister was three, an aunt came to see us, and she came right from the sickbed of another niece who had scarlet fever.

Doctors, nurses and relatives were not so careful of contagion then as now, and both my sister and myself fell ill of the dread disease.

The other niece recovered, but my sister died, and I was left with an ever-increasing deafness.
Wells said her deafness cost her a marriage proposal, invitations for overseas trips, gifts, plane rides and autograph requests.

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census recorded Wells, her younger brother, Walter, and parents in Rahway. Her father was a life insurance agent.

The 1880 census the Wells family of five resided on Elm Avenue in Rahway. Ida was the latest addition.

Wells’ first book was At the Sign of the Sphinx published by Stone and Kimball in 1896. The book was reissued in 1906. Her second and third books appeared in 1899: The Jingle Book followed by The Story of Betty.

Journalist Wells and her sister remained in the household of their parents in the 1900 census. Their address was 98 Elm Avenue.

Wells first venture in the comics page was the Animal Alphabet, which ran March 10 and 17, 1901, in the New York World. The art was by William F. Marriner.





A variation on Animal Alphabet was Animals from an Absurd Alphabet which appeared, incomplete, in the Los Angeles Herald on May 28 and June 11, 1905.

According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), Wells’ other series for newspapers were Dolly Drake and Bobby Blake in Storyland, after Margaret G. Hayes, with art by Grace Drayton; Adventures of Lovely Lilly with art by G. F. Kaber; Oh, Winnie! with art by Penrhyn Stanlaws; and Fluffy Ruffles with art by Wallace Morgan. Fluffy Ruffles was mentioned in a brief profile of Wells published by the Havre Herald (Montana), October 18, 1907.

For the children’s magazine St. Nicholas, Wells wrote the five-part Happychaps which was illustrated by Harrison Cady; January 1908; February 1908; March 1908; April 1908; and May 1908.

Wells was included in the article, “Men Who Make Laughter for the American Nation”, which was printed in the Washington Herald (Washington, DC), June 14, 1908.

Wells also wrote for the mystery genre through her detective, Fleming Stone. As far as I can tell, the first Fleming Stone story was “A Chain of Evidence”, published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, September 1907. A book of the same title came out in 1912. The first Fleming Stone novel, The Clue, was published in 1909, the same year it appeared in the April Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine. The Clue was serialized in newspapers. A list of Fleming Stone novels is here. Wells’ book, The Technique of the Mystery Story, was published in 1913.




In the 1910 census, Wells lived with her mother, a widow, in Rahway on Elm Avenue.

In a profile in The Evening Star (Washington, DC), March 25, 1914, Wells explained how she worked:

“I work only half of each day and only three days a week. The rest of the time I play. When I do work, it is by dictating to the stenographer just as fast as I can talk. As you know, that is pretty fast. I sit and dictate my verse or my story until I am breathless and until the girl at the machine is about exhausted.”
The Evening World (New York, New York), February 8, 1918 published news of Wells engagement.
Miss Carolyn Wells to Be Easter Bride of Hadwin Houghton

Miss Carolyn Wells, the writer, has let it be known that about Easter holidays, she is to marry Hadwin Houghton of No. 327 Central park West. The engagement has just been announced.

Miss Wells and Mr. Houghton are friends of many years standing. Mr. Houghton is a son of the late Bernard Houghton go Boston, who was identified with the publishing house of Houghton-Mifflin & Co.
Some details of the marriage appeared in the New York Tribune, April 2, 1918.

According to the New York Death Index, at Ancestry.com, Wells’ husband passed away August 26, 1919.

A photograph of Wells and excerpts from letters to her were printed in the New York Sun, June 1, 1919.

Thompson Feature Service advertised Carolyn Wells’ Today in History in Editor & Publisher, July 3, 1919. It’s not known if Today in History appeared in any newspapers.

In December 1919, she visited Bermuda. Her address on the passenger list was 1 West 67th Street.

The same address was recorded in the 1920 census. Wells’ occupation was writer in the book trade. On the same sheet, but at 15 West 67 Street, were Alphonse Mucha and his family, and Penrhyn Stanlaws. A 1925 Manhattan city directory listed her address as 1 West 67th Street.

Wells’ works featured artwork by two leading illustrators, Nell Brinkley and Russell Patterson. The Adventures of Prudence Prim (1925–1926), The Fortunes of Flossie (1926–1927), and Pretty Polly (1928–1929) were drawn by Brinkley. Patterson produced The New Adventures of Flossy Frills (1941), Flossy Frills (1939–1940), and Flossy Frills Helps Out (1942).

Artwork by Peter Newell, Percy Crosby and Charles Dana Gibson, and a note from Mark Twain to Wells, from The Rest of My Life, are shown below.



Among the people Wells knew were Theodore Roosevelt, Oliver Herford, Thomas Edison, George Ade, and Kate Douglass Wiggen Riggs. Wells bequeathed her Walt Whitman collection (nearly 500 items including rare editions) to the Library of Congress.

Wells passed away March 26, 1942, in New York City at the Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospital, according to the New York Times, March 27. She was buried next to her husband at the Rahway Cemetery.


Further Reading

Scannell’s New Jersey’s First Citizens (1917)
Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences (1995)
American Mystery and Detective Novels: A Reference Guide (1999)
100 American Crime Writers (2012)

—Alex Jay

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

 

Magazine Cover Comics: The Adventures of Prudence Prim


Perhaps one of the least affected of Nell Brinkley's magazine cover series, which tended toward a tone verging on high opera, is The Adventures of Prudence Prim. Accompanied by the delightful but slight versification of Carolyn Wells, Brinkley does what she does best, without the high drama trappings and pared down to the essentials --- pretty girls, lovingly drawn.

The Adventures of Prudence Prim ran on the covers of Hearst's American Weekly Sunday magazine sections from October 18 1925 to February 21 1926.

I did not break my mouse hand trying to restore this sample, as you can see all the Brinkley covers you'd could want, all lovingly and beautifully restored, in "The Brinkley Girls" by Trina Robbins. I urge you to pick up a copy.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: George Scarbo


Peter George Scarbo was born in Minnesota on August 10, 1898, according to his World War I draft card. He has not been found in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. In the 1905 Minnesota Decennial Census, he was the oldest of three sons born to Gustaf and Gertrude; his family name was spelled “Skarbo” which was the spelling for his grandfather and father in the 1895 Minnesota Decennial Census. His father was a Norwegian emigrant and a farmer.

In the 1910 census the family lived in Cass Lake, Minnesota; the village did not have street addresses. His father was a laborer who did odd jobs. Scarbo signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918; he spelled his surname with a “c” instead of a “k”. His occupation was laborer and described as medium height and build with blue eyes and brown hair.

In 1920 the Scarbos, with a “c”, remained in Cass Lake; the family had added a daughter. Scarbo and his father worked at a saw mill. Information on his art training has not been found. His father passed away in April 1929 according to the Minnesota, Death Index, 1908-2002 at Ancestry.com.


Brownsville Herald (Texas), Comic Zoo, 8/23/1936


Brownsville Herald (Texas), Comic Zoo
with Scrapbook Sketches, 2/28/1937


Comic Zoo with Scrapbook Sketches, 8/22/1937
original art courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Scarbo married Margaret when he was 27 years old, according to the 1930 census. The couple and his mother lived in Toledo, Ohio at 1232 1/2 Superior Street. He was a newspaper artist. In April 1933 he took over the art chores on The Clownies. Other strips he produced were Scrapbook Sketches, Animal Cracks, and Comic Zoo

At some point before 1935 he moved to Cleveland where he lived at 11906 Brighton, according to the 1940 census. The newspaper artist had four years of high school education.

Scarbo passed away on February 13, 1966 in Cleveland. His death was reported in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on February 15.
George Scarbo, 67, a cartoonist for the Newspaper Enterprise Association for 30 years, died Sunday on Lutheran Hospital after a long illness.
He came to Cleveland in 1931 from Toledo, where he had worked for the old Toledo News-Bee.
In 1934 he started a comic strip called "Tiny Mites," but soon returned to editorial cartoons.
Mr. Scarbo is survived by his wife, Margaret; two brothers, Herman and Arthur, and his mother, Gertrude, all of Cass Lake, Minn. The Scarbo home is at 11906 Brighton Avenue S.W.
Services will be at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 20300 Hilliard Boulevard, Rocky River, at 1:30 p.m. today.
His mother passed away April 1973 according to the Social Security Death Index. 

—Alex Jay

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George Scarbo is one of my favorite funny animal cartoonists. "The Comic Zoo" has such rich drawing in it, and beautiful inking. I'm not sure if he favored pen or brush. The little bear characters he did were certainly worthy rivals of Jimmy Swinnerton's pioneering bear cartoons. I wish there was a book collection of "The Comic Zoo". Thanks Allan and Alex Jay for throwing the spotlight over Scarbo's way.
 
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Monday, June 22, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Be Sure You're Right




The great cartooning gifts of George Scarbo were wasted for awhile on this panel cartoon titled, rather smugly, Be Sure You're Right. In the great race to imitate Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not in the 1930s, the NEA syndicate came up with a weakling one-two punch. Three times per week you got Scarbo's Be Sure You're Right, and on the other three weekdays you got William Ferguson's Mother Nature's Curio Shop. Thankfully, it wasn't long before Scarbo talked himself out of this job, and Ferguson's panel about nature's curiosites was renamed This Curious World and promoted to seven days per week.

Be Sure You're Right ran from December 2 1930 to May 8 1931.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

 

Herriman Saturday


Sunday, September 27 1908 -- Herriman comments on a pair of boxing stories today. First, Jim Barry is apparently considering a fight against Jack Johnson (it would never come off). Second, lightweights Danny Webster and Ad Wolgast are set to meet in the ring next week at Jim Jeffries' Arena in LA. Wolgast would win that night, and had a long boxing career, but his is a very sad story of a punch-drunk fighter who ended up in and out of mental sanitariums.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

 

Sci-Friday starring Connie


Connie, November 20 1938, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 

Sorry, but the November 1938 strips are missing from the images Cole sent me, so we'll have to make do with black and white versions

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

 

(Not Really) Obscurity of the Day: Citizen Kane


Here's a strip that had me perplexed for a long time. I have had the above tearsheet for years, and hadn't been able to find out anything about it. I did know a few things -- the 1979 Sunday strip titled Citizen Kane is:
Seems like an obvious obscurity, right? That's what I thought for years. That is, until I did some microfilm research on the Miami Herald. What should I find there but a Larry Wright strip titled Citizen Kane running as late as 1984. Hmm, says I, that seems like an awful long run for such an obscurity. So I expended some further research time, and finally came up with the real explanation. The rarely heard surname of the family in Wright Angles turns out to be ... Kane! So apparently the Miami Herald ran Wright Angles under the title Citizen Kane for some reason. Why? Well, that I still don't know. Maybe the Herald already had a column or other feature called Wright Angles?

Why do I tell you all this? I just discovered that although I correctly noted this alternate title for Wright Angles in its listing in my book, I failed to remove the bogus listing for Citizen Kane. So if you have a copy of the book (and if so, bless you!) get out your magic marker and put a big X through listing #1172. Then Kyu!

.... Rosebud ....

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I remember this strip in the Miami Herald. I read it and enjoyed it.
 
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Walter Wellman


Walter Jesse Wellman was born in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire on May 25, 1879, according to his World War II draft card. Descendants of Thomas Wellman of Lynn, Massachusetts (1918) said he was born in Dublin, New Hampshire, which is 8.8 miles / 14.1 kilometers northwest of Jaffrey.

In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Wellman was the second of two sons born to Frank Pierce, a painter, and Mary Jane. They lived in Jaffrey. Picture Postcards in the United States, 1893–1918 (1976) said Wellman graduated from high school in Winchendon, Massachusetts.

The 1900 census recorded Wellman in Boston, Massachusetts at 83 Montgomery Street. He was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The 1901 Technique, the school yearbook, printed a photograph of Wellman in the Glee Club.





The Architectural Annual 1902 had this entry for Wellman: 
Candidates for Degrees and Thesis Subjects
Candidates for the Degree of Bachelor of Science
Walter Jesse Wellman. A design for a railroad station
In 1902, Wellman graduated from MIT. He was named in the 38th Annual Catalogue 1902–1903.
Title of Thesis of Successful Candidates for Graduation, June 1902
Walter Jesse Wellman. A Non-Terminal Railroad Station.
Descendants of Thomas Wellman said Wellman married Matilda Richie in New York City on June 14, 1905. Census records show she was eight years older than Wellman.

Picture Postcards in the United States said Wellman’s “college calendar designs caught the eye of the editors of the Boston Globe, who commissioned him to do comics and picture puzzles.” After college, Wellman moved to New York City. American Newspaper Comics (2012) said he produced several comics for the New York World.

Wee Willie and the Little Big Hat Sisters
Ardent Archie
Misadventures of Archie
It’s Very Strange But It’s Also Very True
Little Tommy Rot and Miss Heartless Flirt
Women Have Such Funny Ways

The Rude Reverses of Reggie
’Tis Love That Makes the World Go ’Round

Mister Hothead—He’s Soon Over It
Splash! Splash! Splash!

For the Boston Herald, Wellman drew Oh, Where, Oh, Where, Has That Willie Boy Gone?, and IfLittle Tommy Tot and Miss Sweetness Yum-Yum was for the Boston Globe.

Wellman made comic postcards and applied for copyrights. The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Engravings, etc., New Series, Volume 1, Number 6, August 9, 1906, had two entries:

Wellman (Walter), New York, N.Y.
How she pulled his leg. (F 44107, July 23, 1906; 2 c. July 18, 1906.) 1099
Wellman (Walter), New York, N.Y.
Did this ever happen to you? (F 46068, Oct. 5, 1906; 2 c. oct. 5, 1906.) 7071
The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer, February 1, 1909, reported Wellman’s latest work.
Walter Wellman, the cartoonist postcard publisher, is making a ten-strike with his new series of Woman’s Rights postcards. The Suffragette is pictured in the most humorous way.
The original art to one of Wellman’s Suffragette postcards can be viewed at Heritage Auctions.

The MIT 1909 Register of Former Students had this address: “Wellman, Walter J., IV, ’02. Cartoonist-Publisher, 395 Broadway, New York, N.Y.”

Wellman and Matilda lived at 2125 Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan, New York City, as recorded in the 1910 census. He was a cartoonist and publisher. Several postcards by Wellman were entered in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 4, Works of Art, New Series, Volume 5, Numbers 40–43, October 1910.

Wellman (Walter), New York, N.Y. [25374–25382
Beauty isn’t all on the surface.—Girl’s a goose to fall in love with a quack doctor.—Here’s to the girl with the hobble skirt.—I haven’t got a million.—I like girls with white faces and green-backs.—I’m saving it all for you.—Just make a noise like a petticoat.—Love will find a way. © Sept. 28, 1910; K 14342–14349.
We didn’t do nothin’ but we won’t do it again. © July 8, 1910; 2 c. July 16, 1910; K 11950.
Wellman’s address appeared in the Bulletin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Register of Former Students, May 1915: “Wellman, Walter J(esse), ’01, IV, ’01. Cartoonist, 108 Fulton St., New York, N.Y.”

Wellman was a contributor to Motion Picture Magazine (November and December 1916) and Cartoons Magazine (July 1917).






Wellman’s article, “Humanizing the House Organ Via the Cartoon”, and cartoon, Raggles the Rover, was published in Postage, April 1918. He also advertised in Postage.

Wellman signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. The self-employed cartoonist resided in Montvale, New Jersey. His description was medium height, slender build, blue eyes and light hair color.

In the 1920 census Wellman’s name was misspelled as “Welming”. He and his wife lived on Fairview Avenue in Montvale. His occupation was magazine cartoonist. Picture Postcards in the United States said Wellman supplied art to Harper’s Bazar, Life, Judge, Puck, and Woman’s Home Companion. Wellman advertised in The Editor, April 25, 1920.

In 1930 the Wellmans remained in Montvale but lived on Hillcrest Avenue. He was a commercial artist. In 1938, Wellman’s puzzles appeared in More Fun Comics


Wellman’s address remained the same in the 1940 census. His occupation was cartoonist. Wellman said he was self-employed when he registered with the draft board on April 25, 1942. The card said he was five feet four-and-a-half inches and 127 pounds.

Metropostcard.com said Wellman passed away in 1949 but did not identify the source.



—Alex Jay

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Dippy Dope





It has been way too long since we've seen wacky Walter Wellman on the blog, so let's remedy that with Dippy Dope. This strip, which had no continuing characters except for the crazy cartoonist who drew it, is a treasure trove of wordplay and breaking of the fourth wall. Wellman was having so darn much fun writing this stuff that some of his strips hardly have any room left for the drawings. Well, in Wellman's case maybe that's not the worst fate.

Check out some of the great stuff going on here -- characters complaining about the cartoonist, one character smushing a word balloon into the others mouth, a character on the ceiling talking in an upside-down word balloon, and so on. You just don't see this sort of thing in the era of Dippy Dope, which ran from about 1911 to 1913, and was probably distributed by World Color Printing.

What a shame that Walter Wellman's work, which was ubiquitous way back then, is utterly forgotten and obscure today. Well, the good news is that Alex Jay has dug up the dirt on this nutball, and we'll learn which insane asylum he lived in tomorrow.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

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Allan,

Have you ever read Molly and the Bear? It's a terrific comic. You should post about it!

http://www.gocomics.com/mollyandthebear
 
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Monday, June 15, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Johnny on the Spot




Here's one of those strips about a guy who can't seem to hold a job. These were pretty common back in the 1900s, and this one generally runs true to form. There are only two things that make Johnny on the Spot sort of interesting. First, his jobs tend to be more unusual than in the typical strip of this kind. Whereas the typical jobs are waiter, clerk, salesman, etc., Johnny at least doesn't go for the mundane -- above we see him impersonating a doctor, operating a lake boat, and as a dog-catcher. What these strips lack in bust-a-gut humor they more than make up for in historical insight. I especially like that the doctor isn't particularly ridiculed for using electric therapy; the gag is purely based on Johnny not knowing how to properly regulate his quack medical device.

The second interesting thing about Johnny on the Spot are the creators. The originator of the series signed himself Kley. Now that immediately sets off alarm bells that it might be Heinrich Kley, the famed illustrator/painter/cartoonist, but wishful thinking aside, there is no way that our Kley is the same guy. Our Kley's cartooning is rather primitive, nothing like the works of the master (warning: link is NSFW).

Mr. Kley drew the strip from March 29 to June 7 1903, and was then replaced by Everrett Lowry, who rarely signed the strip for some reason. He might not have signed at first because he was working at the Chicago Chronicle, but that gig ended in short order, and he continued doing Johnny on the Spot mostly incognito until the end of the series, on March 6 1904.

Johnny on the Spot ran in the C.J. Hirt copyrighted version of the McClure Syndicate Sunday section, and was later reprinted in the McClure sections of 1906.

Thanks to the late Cole Johnson, who provided the scans.

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Hello Allan-
It would seem there's an inconsistant idea of just what a boy hero in a strip could do in Edwardian times, and still have the reader's affection. Somebody like Muggsy could be an all around jerk, but he was always pulling dirty tricks on people we could not sympathize with, like cops, grouchy shopkeepers, or bunco men. I've never seen where we'd be asked to like a dog catcher, seemingly a universal villian in kid's stories.

The NEWARK (NJ) ADVERTISER had, in 1906-7 reached a low point after seventy-four years in business, and in desperation for sales had become a lively, pictures-and-fudgepans Hearst-like paper, and even invested in the new exciting sales booster of comics- in their case, two ready-print sections a week, a WCP issue on Saturday and a McClure on Wednesday, like this one. It didn't help, and the Advertiser sunk below the waves in 1907, now totally forgotten.
They left behind some funnies for us to gorp at a century later, though.
 
Hi Allen -- I've always wondered-- what is considered to be the first "modern" comic strip post-WWI? Gasoline Alley? Bringing Up Father? Krazy Kat?
 
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Sunday, June 14, 2015

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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Jim,

You have made retirement look like the dream I hope it to be. Hard to believe when I met you I was a teenager and now I just signed my retirement papers (although I won't officially retire for 4 to 5 years).

Hope to get over to see you in the next month or so.

best,

Craig Zablo
 
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Saturday, June 13, 2015

 

Herriman Saturday


Saturday, September 26 1908 -- Herriman's final cartoon about the "Solid Three" bond-fixing scandal is fitting, as he warns that political corruption is not easily killed.

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Friday, June 12, 2015

 

Sci-Friday starring Connie


Connie, November 13 1938, courtesy of Cole Johnson. 

Sorry, but the November 1938 strips are missing from the images Cole sent me, so we'll have to make do with black and white versions

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Ted and Cleo Picture Story for Young Readers



When the Chicago Tribune inaugurated their new Sunday comics section in 1901, they seemed a little unsure about following the template created by the New York papers. Though they did have comic strips, they also liked panel cartoons and activity features like today's obscurity, Margaret Lee's Ted and Cleo's Picture Story for Young Readers.

These rebus stories (stories in which you must decode the drawings to supply the missing words) gave small kids a feeling of accomplishment at reading a story. Whether the stories were actually worth the effort is the issue, and in the case of Margaret Lee I think the kiddies were probably a little short-changed. But judge for yourself.

The feature's name changed often, but almost always did star Ted and Cleo. The feature also moved around in the paper, sometimes in the comics section, sometimes on a kiddie page, sometimes on a color magazine page. In fact my start date is a best guess, because the feature moved around so often, and sometimes into sections that weren't always microfilmed.

Despite all that shuffling around, the feature was tremendously long-lived for that era. It began on or slightly before December 15 1901, and ended on December 25 1904.

Thanks to our late friend Cole Johnson for the samples. 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Ruben Moreira


Amilcar Ruben Moreira aka Rubimor was born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico on July 27, 1922, according to a 1945 passenger list at Ancestry.com. Wikipedia said, “…Moreira moved with his mother to New York City when he was 4….” A record of their entry has not been found.

The 1930 U.S. Federal Census recorded Moreira in Manhattan, New York City, at 2–4 West 116 Street. His mother, Josefina, a stenographer at an export house, had remarried to Juan Gonzalez, who was a laborer on the I.R.T. Subway.

In the 1940 census, his mother had remarried, to Antony Cataldo, who was a mail order clerk. They lived at 914 Union Avenue in the Bronx, New York. Moreira’s name was misspelled as “Amilier Malira”. On July 26, 1945, he returned, with his mother and maternal grandmother, from Puerto Rico. Their address was 941 Simpson Street in the Bronx. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said he attended Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. According to Wikipedia, his career began in 1942 in the comic book industry. “…He took over the Tarzan sunday page from Burne Hogarth in [December 2,] 1945. He was the sole artist and writer of it until [August 3,] 1947, using the pen name Rubimor.” Heritage Auctions has a few of his 
original Tarzan pages. 


#824, 12/22/1946;
Russ Cochran’s Comic Art Auction #36

After Tarzan, he resumed his comic book work into the early 1960s. In the book, The Life and Art of Murphy Anderson (2003), Anderson said Moreira attended the Grand Central School of Art. His comic book credits are at the Grand Comics Database. Who’s Who of American Comic Books has an overview of his career.

When Moreira returned from a visit to Puerto Rico in December 1950, he gave his address as 213-18 110th Avenue, Queens, New York. He ghosted the strip Casey Ruggles for a brief period. It’s not clear when he moved to Puerto Rico permanently; Wikipeida said it was in 1958, while Comic Vine said it was in the early 1960s. The book, Puerto Rico—Arte E Identidad (1998) said Moreira participated in

The Workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, organized by Lorenzo Homar in 1957 at the behest of Doctor Ricardo Alegrfa, would assume the philosophy and ideals of CAP [Center of Puerto Rican Art] and DIVEDCO [Community Education Division], thus giving momentum to the processes of engraving and silkscreening, particularly in reference to the art of the poster, the island’s most significant form of graphic expression. Freedom of expression was to characterize the evolution of the Workshop, which at different moments brought together under its aegis prominent artists and apprentices such as Myrna Báez, José Alieea, Francisco Rodón, Rafael Rivera Rosa, Luis G. Cajiga, Rubén Moreira, Antonio Martorell, Rafael Tufiño, José Rosa, Luis Alonso and Jesus Cardona.
An undated Moreira poster is at Puerto Rico 1952–85 in Posters. The Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series, Volume 18, Part 1, Number 2, Books and Pamphlets July–December 1964, named him as a contributor to Heroes in Fact and Fable, which was produced by the Puerto Rico Department of Education.

Moreira passed away May 21, 1984, in Puerto Rico, according to the Social Security Death Index.

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Moreira also did the cover pencils and the art in Showcase No. 9 starring Lois Lane (1957). It's worth looking up -- he was a great artist!

 
One of my favorite artists! He did Alex Raymond-like pencils and Joe Kubert style inks :)
I discovered him on Roy Raymond at DC Comics and his covers for Jack Schiff's House of Mystery / Secrets and Tales of the Unexpected.
He somehow managed to do DC covers right through 1963, apparently via the postal service.
 
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Tuesday, June 09, 2015

 

Obscurity of the Day: Francie






Sherrie Shepherd's Francie, which was distributed by United Feature Syndicate for a whole decade from 1986-96, probably shouldn't qualify as an obscurity with a run that long. However, despite its longevity, it never seems to have made all that much of an impression on the nation's funny pages.

Such tends to be the fate of many strips that are demographically focused. While there's certainly nothing wrong with a strip about a single mother, in fact it seems like a great springboard to me, Francie's gags basically make that one fact the focus of the strip on nearly a daily basis. No doubt this was at the behest of the syndicate, who saw it as a selling point. The problem with strips focused so sharply is that readers who don't fit the demographic feel excluded. While I'm sure the single mothers in the audience liked Francie -- it was pleasantly drawn, the gags were well-delivered, and it rang true -- that particular demographic may not be populous enough to make for a hit strip. The rest of us were not given a way to get hooked. This might have been correctable if Francie and her kids had strong characterization. However, the single panel daily format is awfully limiting in that respect. Francie is the designated gag deliverer, and her two kids may as well be mutes for as often as we hear from them. Where is there room for us to warm up to these characters?

In fairness, I have to point out that I've not seen much of the Francie strip from later in its run. Perhaps these issues were dealt with, and that's why the strip ended up having a very creditable ten year run.

Francie ran from September 29 1986 to August 31 1996, as a daily and Sunday feature. Creator Sherrie Shepherd has since continued in the graphic arts and cartooning, including occasional appearances as editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Times.


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