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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