Saturday, March 03, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Charmers
If you thought comics couldn't get any more saccharine sweet than Love Is, behold the ultimate sugar rush in Charmers. This feature should have been forced to carry a diabetic warning.
Produced by the Hallmark greeting card company, the artists and writers, probably anyone in the creative department that didn't look busy enough on any given day, were uncredited.
Field Syndicate distributed the feature as a Sunday strip and daily panel. The Sunday strip started on March 9 1975, the daily panel the next day. The daily never really did well and was discontinued on October 13 1979. On January 6 1980 the Sunday strip made an attempt to establish itself better as a continuing series to readers by introducing a recurring character. The Sunday was renamed Betsey Clark and from then on featured a cherubic little girl as the subject of the weekly jaunts into sugar-coated inanity.
Those with a strong enough constitution to stomach this material, primarily grandmas and pre-teen girls, went into mourning when the strip was cancelled with the June 28 1981 episode. The rest of us heaved a sigh of relief.
The captions seem more suited for motivational posters, but maybe that's just the luck of the draw.
Friday, March 02, 2007
News of Yore: Ed Dodd Profile
Mark Trail Artist Cites Value of Realism
By Jane McMaster (E&P, 2/4/50)
Two decades ago, Ed Dodd, who later created "Mark Trail," had a job at a place on Pearl Street, New York City, drawing calendars. But after putting in about three months at the confining work, his restlessness got the better of him. He quit and went on a fishing trip in Wyoming.
He has also at various times: worked with rangers in Glacier National Park; guided horseback packtrain trips through Yellowstone; gone on a bicycle camping trip in Norway; and studied the drawing of animals with Daniel Beard, animal painter and founder of the Boy Scouts.
In fact, he exemplifies the maxim regularly dispensed in creative writing courses: "Deal with what you know best." As a result, his outdoors strip rates high up the ladder in realism and authenticity.
"Mark Trail"(Post-Hall) will be four years old in April. In its short life it has won medals for distinguished service from Sigma Delta Chi, the Hunting and Fishing Club of America and the Wisconsin Humane Society; pulled 60,000 letters in a puppy-naming contest; and has been signed for a network radio show. (Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman introduced the initial program Jan. 30.)
Recognition has stemmed from the fact that "Mark Trail" not only entertains, it educates. The strip is, in a sense a war baby. "When troops were taught effectively by comic strips during the war, we became suddenly conscious of the fact that we had an educational medium on our hands," says Mr. Dodd.
Youngsters and old-timers too are regularly "taught" in the comic strip, which has conservation as an underlying theme. But every effort is made to weave any instructional data smoothly into the drama so the reader won't recognize the education as such.
Thus "Mark Trail" readers learn about the woodsman's fire-preventing habit of breaking stick matches after they've been used (the match has to be completely out to do that). In the comic strip, this conservation device turned up as part of a story plot: Mark was following a man — a woodsman — and broken match stems were the clues to his whereabouts.
"Break a gun before you pick it up" would never be said that way in the "Mark Trail" strip. Mark would simply break a gun in the course of story action. In another case, some gun-carrying advice was suggested: a character got shot in the leg when holding a gun the wrong way going over a fence. The conservation theme was dramatized when a salmon trying to get back to the home pool swam into polluted water that came from an old mill.
Mr. Dodd does extensive research before each continuity. (Ones on the trumpeter swan, and on the fur seal at Pribilof Islands at migration time, are coming up soon.) The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a branch of the Department of the Interior, cooperated particularly on these two continuities, sending numerous pictures and information about source material.
After the research is done,Mr. Dodd casts about for the dramatic story — the plot that will relate the animals and the human characters.
Drama in animal life, Mr. Dodd points out, is generally limited to: the struggle for food and shelter and for protection against man and nature; and breeding. (The field is further limited as breeding can get only cursory treatment in a newspaper strip.)
When faced with a knotty plot problem, Mr. Dodd daydreams sometime about the advantages of fantasy. But he doesn't give in. Animals in the strip do only what is true to nature. Background details are authentic. And the same degree of realism for the human characters is sought.
Trend Away from Fantasy
"I think the trend is away from the fantastic in comic strips," says Mr. Dodd. "A guy who reads a strip likes to think he could be in there doing what the hero is doing. And if Mark Trail does something too extraordinary, the reader loses his vicarious thrill."
Thus Mark avoids the spectacular, catches the average small fish. In one case Mr. Dodd used a real life incident (a tree-topping episode) in the strip. But he toned it down considerably. The thing that had actually happened sounded too implausible.
Strip fan mail is generally split 50/50 between adults and kids, and 50/50 between men and women. Those who write in for advice on drawing a strip get advised to "forget drawing and learn short story writing." "Sixty-five to 70% of a comic strip is story," says Mr. Dodd.
The Atlanta, Ga. artist, who has worked up to three assistants but still gets up at 5:30 a.m., practiced what he preaches. For two years before he started his strip, he studied story technique by correspondence.
Labels: News of Yore
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Tubby
Doc Winner had a very long career in newspaper comics, the bulk of it spent picking up the pieces on strips that had lost their original creators. Tubby, in fact, is his only known credit on a strip of his own. The strip was offered by United Feature Syndicate back in the days when they were a tiny outfit with just a few offerings. Later on, of course, United Features would take over all the Pulitzer and Metropolitan strips and become a major name in the syndication business.
Tubby ran from March 19 1923 to June 5 1926 according to my best information, and the stock of dailies was then sold to reprint syndicates, so you'll find the strip popping up later as well.
Winner's next job, starting just a few months later, was to take over Just Boy from A.C. Fera, and Winner pretty quickly turned that strip into a continuation of Tubby. Elmer, the main character of Just Boy, became all but indistinguishable from the title character of this strip.
I picked three particularly good ones for the post, most of the Tubby strips were strictly joke book material. As for showing lots of strips, read my comments on this post:
Did anyone with the last name of Harlan ever have any strips published?
email is *firstname.lastname@example.org*
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Great Skyroads/Speed Spaulding Mystery
By the mid-30s Skyroads had become a strip that appeared in a piddling number of papers. Yet for reasons unknown the John Dille Syndicate kept the faith with it. In hopes of creating reader loyalty among the kids the syndicate started a club called the Flying Legion which never really took off. In 1936 the syndicate tried the gambit of soliciting the strip under a different name, Speed McCloud, but that too failed to perk up newspaper editors and the new title was scrapped.
Until yesterday I had never seen a single printed example of Skyroads from later than 1935. Yet according to the Editor & Publisher syndicate directories the strip was available from the syndicate as late as 1942, and other comics historians have also cited that year for the end of the strip. Last night fellow researcher Jeffrey Lindenblatt called me with the exciting news that he had located a newspaper, the San Mateo (CA) Times, running the strip in the late 1930s. Eager to see more, the two of us were up late last night looking through the material on NewspaperArchive.com. What we found there, however, left us mighty confused.
Here's what we found. As expected, Russell Keaton stopped signing the strip in November 1939. This makes perfect sense as he started Flyin' Jenny for another syndicate in October. Also much as expected, after a few weeks uncredited, the signature Leon Gordon starts appearing on the strip. This is the pen name that Len Dworkins used, and we knew that he worked on the strip as an assistant starting in June 1938. Unexpectedly the printed credit running over the strip begins to read Zack Russell, a combination of the names of two artists who had already left the strip. We can only guess this is Dille trying to maintain creative continuity. Newspaper editors have a habit of dropping strips when the creators change, so perhaps the name Zack Keaton was put there to mollify editors with itchy trigger fingers.
On 1/8/40 things get odd. The title Skyroads is dropped in mid-story, the strip numbering restarts at #1 (with no story break, mind you) and the new title is The Flying Legion. Hey, that name sounds familiar. I check the E&P listings, and they advertise a strip titled The Flying Legion, by one William Winston, from 1940-42 -- a strip that I've never before been able to document. Okay, no big deal. So Skyroads changed its name to The Flying Legion. Everything makes sense, right? But the problem is that the E&P directories also advertise Skyroads in those same years. So do we have two strips, or just one strip masquerading under two names?
Now astute students of adventure strips might perk up at that 1/8/40 date. That also happens to be the earliest known date for the start of another Dille strip, Speed Spaulding. Speed Spaulding was a sci-fi strip based loosely (VERY loosely) on the novel When Worlds Collide. Speed Spaulding was a closed-end strip that ran for 384 daily episodes (there was also an ultra-rare Sunday strip). It has its own share of mysteries associated with it, because it was first advertised in E&P in 1938, yet there is no paper known to have started it before 1/8/40 (though several are known to have started it later, an important piece of information that we'll come back to). The combination of these two events happening on the same date seems too much for coincidence.
Now things get mega-weird. On 4/8/40 The Flying Legion strip has a very definite farewell strip (but it's supposed to continue two more years!), and in the final panel of the final strip we have one of the characters dreaming of a rocket ship. This is a complete non sequitur in the strip, there's no explanation at all for it. No, the explanation comes the following Monday when the Times starts running (drum roll please) Speed Spaulding!
So now we've got Skyroads/Flying Legion ending on 4/8/40. Yet I have correspondence from Len Dworkins stating that he worked on the strip until June 1940, and I have E&P directories claiming that it was then taken over by this William Winston person for another two years. And we have Speed Spaulding starting three months late, but that's not too big a surprise -- it's a closed end strip, you start it when you like.
So Jeffrey follows the Speed Spaulding strip to its conclusion. We've got our fingers crossed that when that strip ends the paper might just go back to running the Skyroads strip. No such luck, though. Speed Spaulding ends on July 5 1941 and is replaced by yet another Dille strip, Draftie.
Okay, that's all we learned from the San Mateo Times. It's a confusing mess, and only made worse by Dille's listings in the E&P directories. After a lot of head-scratching, though, I've come up with a halfway decent guess as to what was going on. Here's my proposed scenario. I think that Dille got the rights to When Worlds Collide back in 1938, and immediately started advertising a strip adaptation. He expected a torrent of orders, but he got more like a dribble. So he kept advertising it, trying to get enough papers on board to make the project pay. He also started marketing it to papers that were running the practically moribund Skyroads strip, perhaps asking them to trade up from that to Speed Spaulding. Skyroads was in bad shape, about to lose its talented artist, and the handwriting was on the wall that the strip was doomed. If Dille could sell these papers on Speed Spaulding he could let the strip die but could mitigate that loss with a new client for Speed Spaulding.
By the end of 1939 he had amassed a barely big enough list of papers that had pledged to buy Speed Spaulding, so he puts it in production. A start date of 1/8/40 is somehow decided on. A lot of the buyers are Skyroads clients -- he offers them three options. They can start Speed Spaulding on 1/8/40 and continue Skyroads, rechristened with a new name but continuing the storyline, start Speed Spauding on 1/8 while dropping Skyroads in mid-story (perhaps with a special wrap-up strip that we haven't seen), or continue running Skyroads until the current storyline wraps up on 4/8/40, and then start Speed Spaulding, also with a special wrap-up strip, the one shown with this post. For papers that didn't take Speed Spaulding, the Skyroads/Flying Legion strip continues on with a new story as if nothing untoward has happened. By renaming Skyroads on 1/8, he knows he's stacked the deck in his favor -- editors hate name changes even more than they do creator changes -- its a great excuse to cut the client list on Skyroads, which he is prepared to kill, and to boost the available slots for Speed Spaulding.
The only thing he didn't plan on was that he would still be left with a barely profitable client list for Skyroads, and yet, seemingly, he did. So the strip kept on running until 1942. And how he managed to not add clients to an aviation strip after World War II had started is beyond me, but perhaps that William Winston person who took it over was so bad that the remainder of the client list finally deep-sixed it.
This scenario, while perhaps a mite intricate, is the only way I can make sense of everything. But of course I have no proof that any of it is true. What would be an enormous help to prove or disprove all this conjecture is any additional information you might have, especially information about what happened in other papers running Skyroads, The Flying Legion and/or Speed Spaulding. Help!!!
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
News of Yore: Emidio Angelo Profile
By Joseph W. Dragonetti (E&P 2/18/50)
Philadelphia — Believing the comics were getting too serious, Emidio (Mike) Angelo, a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, launched a panel in 1945 about two pleasant maiden ladies who are generally looking for a man.
Emily and Mabel haven't found one. But they've succeeded in landing readers. And beginning March 6, the pair who have appeared three times a week in "Funny Angles," distributed by the Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate, will play six-a-week roles and snatch the billing.
The spinsters, depicted without harshness or "social significance," are protoypes of real people, Mr. Angelo told Editor & Publisher.
Soda Fountain Inspiration
When the cartoonist was struggling to make enough money to go to art school, he once worked at a drugstore soda fountain. Two maiden ladies had charge of the candy counter in the same store. "Years later," said Mr. Angelo, "their features and mannerisms remained in my subconscious mind. An artist still gets his best ideas that way. When I first created Emily and Mabel, I could not immediately identify them with the real women who worked in the store when I was a young man.
"But as I developed the panels, I began to realize those two kind souls were really my inspiration. I still stick to a very simple idea—two lovable spinsters who realized late in life that they missed something and are generally looking for a man."
Mr. Angelo's own success as a newspaper cartoonist did not come early. Son of an Italian immigrant, he worked his way through several art schools after a few months in the art department of the old Philadelphia North American in 1918.
His ambition was to become a painter. He won two Cresson scholarships for study in Europe in 1927 and 1928 from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He became interested in cartooning because he said he "had to eat," and painting commissions were slow. When checks for some of his drawings arrived from national publications, he decided to devote more time to that art. Still free-lancing, Mr. Angelo started to do some work for Philadelphia Ledger in 1930, but his real "discovery" as a newspaper cartoonist came with the Inquirer, under the direction of E. B. (Tommy) Thompson, assistant managing editor and feature editor.
During the dark days of war, Mr. Thompson asked Mr. Angelo to create a general panel which would "give people a laugh." Mr. Angelo had joined the Inquirer in 1938 and his work included the Uncle Dominick cartoon for John Cummings' column. Being by nature a man who laughs a lot himself and gets a kick out of bringing a smile to others, Mr. Angelo did not need much prodding from Mr. Thompson to launch his new feature. He started a general panel called, "Funny Angles." Occasionally, the two spinsters would appear, but they were so good, Mr. Thompson said, that it was decided to run Emily and Mabel three times a week.
Mr. Angelo received national recognition after Harry Baker, general manager of the Chicago Sun-Time Syndicate, saw some of his original drawings while visiting Mr. Thompson on some other business. The panel was syndicated.
Gag Man in Library
Mr. Angelo thinks up gags himself but also employs a gag man, Vincent Schiller, an employee of the Inquirer library. Mr. Schiller's regular job is to clip many newspapers and the situation is ideal for getting background for gags.
Mr. Angelo is proud of the fact that President Truman requested an original of one of his cartoons. It was done for "Funny Angles" right after Mr. Truman's widely-quoted S.O.B. speech. The drawing shows a mother washing her son's mouth with soap as the father comes home. The gag says: "Ever since you told him he might be President someday, he's been using that language."
"It's a wonderful country," said Mr. Angelo, "when you can poke good-natured fun at the President and he requests a copy of the drawing to hang in his office."
Mr. Angelo likes to watch people reading his panels in trolley cars and subways. He says that when they smile over Emily and Mabel he feels good. He maintains a studio in his suburban home as well as sharing an office at the Inquirer with Foreign Correspondent Ivan H. Peterman. Mr. Angelo is married and has two daughters, aged 10 and 5. Both, he says, have artistic ability.
Labels: News of Yore
Monday, February 26, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Pauline, Percy and Little Priscilla
Not much to recommend this strip by H.S. Osborn, but it is part of a minor mystery. The strip ran in the Philadelphia Press Sunday section from October 15 1905 to March 4 1906. However, the strip also ran in one of the various versions of the McClure Syndicate Sunday section, as did a number of other Philadelphia Press based strips, indicating that this newspaper seemed to have some sort of agreement with McClure. Or it could be the other way around. Or none of the above.
Weird thing about Pauline, Percy and Little Priscilla is that after it ended in the Press' Sunday section, it got demoted to running in black and white in occasional weekday editions of the Press. These were formatted in Sunday style but much reduced in size. It was these black and white strips that ran (in color and large size) in the McClure section. This continuation of the strip ended on 9/3/06 or later in the Press, and 8/19/06 in the McClure section.
Okay, we're not talking Al Capone's vault here, but it's the sort of crazy little anomaly that really eats at me because I can't imagine how I would ever solve the puzzle of what exactly was going on. In the words of a certain spinach-loving sailor, it's disgustipatin'.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Stripper's Guide Q & A
Q When did the first Dagwood sandwich appear in Blondie?
A Dunno. Anyone?
Q When did Daisy first appear in Blondie?
A Dunno. Anyone?
Q When did the Blondie Sunday page start?
A Ooh, one I can answer. Sunday started on 9/21/1930. Daily, by the way, almost certainly started on 9/15/30, not the oft-quoted 9/8/30.
Q I've read that Chic Young stopped drawing the strip for a year or so when his son passed away in 1937. Any idea of what time period that was ?
A Wasn't Jim Raymond handling all the art chores by then? Anyone?
Q When did the "Joe Palooka" daily and Sunday strips start?
A 4/21/1930 and 1/10/32 respectively.
Q Do you have any information on Vin (or Vincent) Sullivan doing cartoons or strips in the Brooklyn Eagle or other Brooklyn newspaper in the late 20's or early 30's ?
A Vin Sullivan did have a few things published in the Eagle, little strips on the kiddie page. He did a strip called Jibby Jones that ran VERY sporadically from 1927-29 for that amateur page.
Q Are Fred Harman's Bronc Peeler originals available?
A I do recall seeing a daily for sale once, so they do exist, but I imagine they'd be pretty pricey. A Sunday with the On The Range topper would, I imagine, be into 5 figures.
Labels: Q and A
Anybody got that strip?
From various histories I got Jim Raymond assisting Young by the mid 1930's (some have said that the 1935 topper Colonel Potterby is a Raymond creation). When Young returned from that year off he returned to the art duties of the daily strip, leaving the Sunday art to Raymond. Raymond assisted on the daily art until 1950, when Young retired his pencil and Raymond was responsible for all the art on the dailies since then.
I have never heard the exact time that Young took off in 1937, or if it started in 1936 or ran into 1938.
What day did Percy Crosby's "Skippy" began?
Oh, and BTW, I found the Blondie strip with that date. The Dagwood sandwich wasn't big as it is now known, though. In fact, it was about the size of a regular sandwich. Want to see it?