Saturday, March 11, 2017

 

Herriman Saturday


January 8 1909 -- A Britisher unsuccessfully attempted to ingratiate himself with an L.A. judge by referring to him as "Your Lordship." The judge repeatedly warned the fellow to quit it, to no avail. In the end, he annoyed the judge enough that it may have swayed the case against him. The dispute was over rent of 634 West 35th Street, an address that, as far as I can tell, no longer exists but has since been taken over by an imposing stone warehouse building covering the entire block. The Brit's landlady was awarded $60 for back rent, $10.50 for repairs, $3.50 for utilities, and $2.50 for canned fruit (!) the tenant had eaten.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

 

Wish You Were Here, from an Anonymous Hack at the New York American


In a bizarre misuse of resources, Hearst's New York American gives out free embossed postcards featuring some of their headlining cartoonists. But does the company have the cartoonists themselves draw their characters, or repurpose a panel from one of their strips? Nope. In 1909, when Bud Fisher had just arrived in New York City to continue taking the comic strip world by storm, they instead had some anonymous hack draw Mutt and Jeff, and a pretty awful job it was, too.

I quite like the letter on the reverse, though:

Aunt Camelia --
I am sending you a magazine that tells the story of some of the moving pictures. You can tell some of the people in them, for although they may not be the same plays, some of the people were in the picture that you saw.  J.M.S.

It sounds to me like Aunt Camelia has just seen her first film, and she is intrigued. Interestingly, in these days before there really were true 'movie stars', she seems to have expressed an interest in knowing more about specific actors. A pioneer film fanatic!

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In the early days of film, audiences only gradually became interested in the performers themselves in the flashing shadows. In the beginning, the studio's identity came first, so if the anonymous actors were related to at all, it was with monickers like "The Edison players" "The Selig Kid" or "The Biograph Girl" (that was how Mary Pickford was originally known.) Long forgotten cinemactress Florence Lawrence was the first named star in 1908.
The Mutt & Jeff card was not one of the Hearst freebies, it was in fact a licenced item, the fee going to early marketing wizard Bud Fisher. The NY American/Star Co. imprint is some sort of legal obligation.
 
More on the M&J Cards:

http://comicskingdom.com/blog/2016/11/10/ask-the-archivist-post-cards-iii
 
Mark: the hack art doesn't make sense to me even more so if this was something Bud Fisher himself stood to profit from. Why would he not take 20 minutes to draw his characters (or even just repurpose some existing art), and guarantee better sales for the card?
 
Fisher would just licence to anyone who could pay for it, in this case a post card publisher. He was not one to insist on perfection, licensing hardly ever does, especially not a hundred years ago.
I was in licensing for a long time, and it operates thusly; A licensor can do new art for the licencee, or offer ready made "Style Guide" material, or can insist on final approval of what the licencee has created himself, but in the end, the licencee will choose for himself and the licencor just sits back and collects his fee.

The quality of the art can be bad, but if you look on the above mentioned blog site, you'll see some of the Hearst-created cards that were hacked out by some appalling incompetants that hardly made the product look good.

as for Fisher, you'll note that a lot of his licencing art as well as his strips were done by others. The often seen portraits of M&J that were used for the stage shows were apparently drawn by C.W. Kahles when he did a series of ads for "Mutt & Jeff In College" (1915), and one thing that Fisher was famous for was never touching a pen again when he made enough to hire his own hacks.
 
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Thursday, March 09, 2017

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Sefcik


Arthur Milton Sefcik was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on May 29, 1901, according to the Ohio Births and Christenings Index at Ancestry.com. His parents were James J. Sefcik and Anna Pirka. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census said James, a Bohemian emigrant, and Anna resided in Cleveland at 315 Humboldt.

In the 1910 census, Sefcik was the oldest of three siblings. Their father was a tailor. The family resided in Cleveland at 5225 Buettner Court.

According to the 1920 census, Sefcik was a moulder at a foundry. He lived with his parents at 16229 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. Sefcik’s mother passed away 18 days after the census enumeration.

Information about Sefcik’s art training has not been found. A listing in the 1923 Cleveland city directory said Sefcik’s address had not changed and he was an artist at the Landon School.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Ol’ Trusty was created by Charles D. Small  It started in November 1926. Succeeding Small was George “Swan” Swanson. Next was Sefcik who filled in during July 1927. Don Wootton was the artist when it ended. Sefcik was one of six artists on the weekly strip, Bugs, which started on March 12, 1924. The first four artists were Roy Grove, Irving Knickerbocker, Charles D. Small and George “Swan” Swanson. Sefcik drew Bugs in July 1927. Don Wootton was the last artist.


A city directory for 1926 recorded Sefick’s address as 4417 Douse Avenue and occupation as NEA Service artist.

The same address was in the 1930 census. Newspaper artist Sefcik lived with his father who was still working. Sefcik’s father passed away in September 1937. Sefcik’s address did not change in 1940. His occupation was artist. In the census industry column was written, “Fashion Artist, Sewing Projects”. Sefcik had completed two years of high school.

Sefcik passed away August 26, 1954. A death notice appeared in the Cleveland Press, August 28.

Sefcik, Arthur M., passed away suddenly Thursday, Aug. 26, brother of Helen R. Pickard and Roy of Silinas, Calif. Friends may call at A. Nosek & Sons, 3282 E. 55th St., where services will be held Monday, Aug. 30, at 2 p. m.
Sefcik was laid to rest at Woodland Cemetery.


—Alex Jay

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: Wide-Awake Willie



Gene Byrnes is best known for his phenomenally successful comic strip Reg'lar Fellers, a frenetic and fun kid gang strip which was loved by kids, and grown-up kids, from the 1910s to 1940s. The strip began as a panel adjunct to his main weekday feature, It's a Great Life if You Don't Weaken, in 1916. That strip was penned for the New York Evening Telegram. When Byrnes decided that it was time for Reg'lar Fellers to graduate to a daily strip in 1918 (on a date that try as I might I cannot pin down), he either didn't offer it to the Telegram, or they turned it down. This event, however it unfolded, eventually made Mr. Byrnes a relatively wealthy man, as he was able to retain his copyright to the strip, and to make his best deals with syndicates.

In 1918, the Telegram's parent paper, the New York Herald, asked Byrnes for a Sunday feature. Byrnes apparently was either so enamored of his new Reg'lar Fellers strip, or bereft of alternative ideas, so he made the Sunday strip about the main character of that strip, Jimmie Dugan, but changed his name to Willie. Wide-Awake Willie, basically an identical strip to Reg'lar Fellers, debuted on March 17.

Eventually Byrnes came to an arrangement with the Herald to distribute a Sunday version of the Reg'lar Fellers strip. Wide-Awake Willie was then uncermoniously given the heave-on as of November 28, and the Herald ran the Reg'lar Fellers Sunday strip starting the next week.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Dick Clarke


Richard Albert “Dick” Clarke was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 1879, according to his death certificate. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Clarke was the youngest of four children born to Ray, a plumber, and Edith. The family lived on Buffalo Street in Franklin. Detailed information regarding Clarke’s education and art training has not been found.

The Clarke family resided in Franklin, at 1024 Buffalo Street, according to the censuses from 1900 to 1920. In 1900, Clarke’s occupation was jeweler. Ten years later, Clarke was recorded as a newspaper cartoonist. Some time after the 1910 census, Clarke married Marie Guthrie. Their marriage ended in divorce.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Clarke drew Mr. Gadder in late 1915. Moving Picture Funnies was Clarke’s next series which began February 26, 1917 for the National Newspaper Service. Both comics were signed “Dick Clarke”. Moving Picture Funnies was copyrighted by the Samuel Gabriel Sons & Company of New York.

Clarke signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. He identified his employer as the National Newspaper Service, located at 516 Trust Building in Franklin.

In 1920, Clarke was a freelance crayon artist who had a six-year-old son, Richard G. In the 1930 census, Clarke was part of his brother’s household in Franklin at 1420 Buffalo Street.

Clarke passed away June 20, 1933, in Franklin. His death was reported by the following day in the 
Franklin News-Herald.
Richard A. Clarke, author, playwright and artist, has written his last one-act play, put the finishing touches on his last children’s story. Death figured in the last picture. News of the sudden passing of Franklin’s genial artist and dramatic authority came as a rude shock to scores of friends, few of whom knew he was even ill. Dick Clarke will be missed. He was a genial friend, a loyal believer in Franklin, and all that it possessed in the way of accomplishments. He was 53, but at heart and in action he was almost as young as his son, Richard, of whom a father was never prouder. He knew the hearts of little children, and wrote entertainingly for them. He was a successful and resourceful cartoonist; possessing a wide range of imagination, and had the ability to put into pen and ink sketches the thought and motive that make cartoons forceful.

Studying art in Baltimore and New York, he worked later for several humorous magazines, drew illustrations on assignment for Life and Judge, was identified with the art department of a Cleveland paper and then returned to Franklin. It was Dick Clarke who designed the covers for the Old Home Week literature of 1910; he drew cartoons for The Evening News on occasion. He was generous with advice and counsel to aspiring young artists. A student of the day's events and developments, he was also a philosopher. He read books that delved into the underlying currents of life. He read and talked intelligently.

At heart, throughout all his life, he was as a boy, and devoted to the artistic and outdoor side of life. Nature beckoned, he saw glories in the sunrise and sunset, he saw beauty in pastoral scenes. Rigorously he took up hiking, became a closer student of nature. This many-sided individual turned then to astronomy as a hobby. He tried to master a subject whose magnitude knows no limits to observation and charting.

As a coach of amateur dramatic offerings, he possessed unusual ability. He put into his work all the verve and force one would expect of a Broadway producer, and was not satisfied with half-way measures. His generosity matched his ability. The cheery outlook he had on life is not soon to be forgotten. To know Dick Clarke and know him well-was to have a friend possessed of many accomplishments and few faults. His loyalty to friends throughout the years was unswerving. He put these relationships far and beyond the reach of ordinary things. He played many roles well but that of enduring friendship was the crowning achievement of an unusual life.
Clarke was laid to rest at Franklin Cemetery


—Alex Jay

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Monday, March 06, 2017

 

Obscurity of the Day: Moving Picture Funnies





Based on the title Moving Picture Funnies, you may think you're in for a Minute Movies sort of strip, or a feature about Hollywood. Neither is the case though -- the title was actually meant in a very literal sense. Moving Picture Funnies offers readers the fun of cutting the panel cartoon out, making some folds (that's the moving part I suppose), and uncovering a new cartoon that serves as the answer to a gag posed in the original drawing. It was a great idea, if a little repetitive after years of daily appearances.

Moving Picture Funnies debuted on February 27 1917 and was distributed by John Dille's National Newspaper Service*. Although it never appeared in a lot of papers, it must have been popular enough, because it was officially offered until 1946, a run of three decades.

As far as I can tell, the panel was only ever signed "Clarke", which meant some sleuthing was in order to determine the artist's full name. I happened to know of a very short-lived NEA comic from 1915, Mr. Gadder, that had the same signature on it, and there a first name was offered -- Dick.  But in case I was wrong about the similar signature, and not having the vast resources of today's Interwebs at my disposal back when I was trying to track the information down, I relied on Editor & Publisher to be my second source.

E&P's annual syndicate directories, though, turned out to be more of a problem than a solution. The feature was unadvertised in the first three annual directories (1924-26) for some reason. In 1927 it finally made its first appearance and was credited to one F.W. Clarke. Okay, so that's that, right? Well, that's what I thought (and that's why my book lists the artist name as F.W. "Dick" Clarke). But I should have kept looking. In 1928 the credit was to "Robt. Clark" (note the lack of an 'E' on the last name). Then in 1929 the feature is missing again. In 1930, the feature is back and, believe it or not, it's credited to "Zack Mosely" (Zack's last name is properly spelled 'Mosley'). I don't know if that credit was a mistake or a joke, but I certainly find no artistic evidence of Mosley doing the feature, though he was associated with two other John Dille properties in this era (Skyroads and Buck Rogers), so the possibility, though dim, does exist.

In 1931, the feature is credited to R.D. Clark (again, no 'E'), and then in 1932 we switch to R.L. Clark (gimme an 'E', will ya!). This credit seemed to finally suit whoever was compiling the listings, because that name remained consistent through the rest of the run, through 1946.

So what exactly is the truth about Mr. Clarke? It took Alex Jay doing some digging, but we now have it on excellent evidence that the fellow's name was Richard A. 'Dick' Clarke. In other words, E&P did not print one correct credit in fifteen tries (not counting years it was missing entirely). Now I'll let Alex tell you more about this fellow tomorrow, but I must drop a spoiler today. In his research he discovered that Mr. Clarke passed away in 1933, meaning the feature was in reprints or ghosted for a minimum of thirteen years. Since I see no particular change in the style of the feature over its entire life, I'm guessing that Dille was selling reprints for a very long time. On the other hand, maybe the musical chair game of names indicates that the feature was sort of a family business, and there are other Clarkes involved in the series at different times. But I doubt it.

Anyway, let's get to something really important. In the samples above, if you do the requisite folding, what do you come up with? Well, you lucky people, I've done all the work for you. Here they are below, run here small in case you'd rather print the samples out yourself and have the fun of discovery. Click to enlarge.


* At the risk of making this post longer than the run of Moving Picture Funnies, I must make mention of a few things in regard to the syndication.

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The best guess would be that Dille used two different entities for legal or tax purposes. The Sixteenth Amendment that permitted federal income taxes was ratified in 1913, so using two different entities could have been used for tax planning. It is more likely, however, that it was more strictly legally motivated. If Dille had a partner with an ownership interest in some but not all of his features, for example, the copyrights could be registered in different names, while the Dille syndication business was administered jointly. Or he could have been trying to serve different markets. Do you know where these entities were incorporated (if they were indeed corporations)?

Frank
 
The company was headquartered in Chicago Illinois. I seem to recall that Dille also had a Michigan connection -- like his brother owned a paper there? Don't recall where I found that tidbit.

--Allan
 
& It WAS printed as a children's book -1918 by Saml Gabriel sons & Co., NY , and the signature say by Dick Clark.
I know because it's sitting in my lap.
I hope that helps.
:) Jean Pellerin
 
Hi Jean --
What is the title of the book? Is Clarke actually credited? I find nothing by Dick Clark (or Clarke) in 1918 in worldcat at all. Pretty curious to find a record of what must be quite a rare book.

Thanks, Allan
 
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