Dan Smith’s Fairyland Cover Series

By the scope rules of Stripper’s Guide, the series above does not quite qualify for inclusion in my index. However, by the scope rules of art appreciation, I must share these incredible illustrations with you.

Dan Smith, noted illustrator of 1890s-1920s, drew this series called Fairyland for the covers of Hearst’s American Weekly Sunday newspaper supplement in 1926. Although I do include many such series in the Stripper’s Guide listings, I generally limit them to ones that tell a story, typically through a series of drawn vignettes with captions. Fairyland is obviously a series with a common theme, but lacks the storytelling aspect of the series I do include in Stripper’s Guide. Dan Smith’s covers are meant to be appreciated primarily for the beauty of the drawing, not really for a story or gag.

And what beauties they are! These incredible images come from the collection of Cole Johnson, who actually has the original proof sheets to the covers — I am so jealous! The printed covers would have nowhere near the luminosity or sensitive coloring of these proof sheets, which are absolutely breathtaking. Thanks Cole!

Obscurity of the Day: Wings of Love

Here’s another of those strikingly well-drawn Sunday magazine cover series that proliferated in the 1920s and 30s; this one Wings of Love by consummate flapper artist Russell Patterson. As is typically the case with these series, it’s a slightly dopey love story, this time involving an airplane pilot. I probably don’t need to tell you that although the two seem doomed to be apart in these samples that in the end love does triumph.

Wings of Love ran from November 3 1929 to February 9 1930, and was syndicated by Hearst’s International Feature Syndicate arm.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the second sample above.

Obscurity of the Day: Merry Mary

Here’s a magazine cover feature that has managed to do a fine job of eluding me; the only sample I’ve seen is this one from the files of Cole Johnson. Art is by Virginia Huget, whose clean style I quite enjoy. You’ll find several other magazine cover features by her here. The verses are supplied by Berton Braley, a poet who, if his wiki bio is any judge, specialized in doing the rhymester biz for trade journals (!) as well as general-circulation magazines and newspapers.

Based on this lone example of Merry Mary, whose date is January 1 1928, we know only that the feature ran in 1927-28 — I’ll try to track down definite dates at the Library of Congress now that I know a paper that ran it.

Obscurity of the Day: Miss Aladdin

Here’s a magazine cover series that doesn’t quite fit the standard mold of the era. The lion’s share of these series were romances, whereas Miss Aladdin is a fairy tale fantasy somewhat  in the tradition of Little Nemo, albeit featuring the de rigeur pretty girl.

The series featured art by Virginia Huget, a semi-regular on these cover series (see, for instance, Double Dora and Babs in Society). I like Huget’s art, but frankly this series looks to have been a bit of a rush job for her. The series was written by J. Kenneth Jonez in his only known appearance in the funnies, or, for that matter, in any capacity anywhere. Mr. Jonez has the honor of being a mystery even to the all-seeing eye of Google.

This rare magazine cover series was syndicated under Hearst’s King Features brand and was running by at least March 1929 and ended sometime in May of that year. Can anyone supply exact start and end dates?

Obscurity of the Day: Awful Week-Ends

Anne Harriet Sefton, nee Anne Harriet Fish, went by just “Fish” on her cartoons and illustrations. She was British and much of her work was for magazines over on that side of the pond, but her breezy clean line style was popular enough that quite a bit of her work managed to cross the Atlantic.

One of her recurrent venues was the cover of Hearst’s American Weekly newspaper magazine section, for which she produced several series from 1930 to 1942. This series, Awful Week-Ends, ran from January 23 to March 13 1938. There was also a book by the same name published in 1938 — I don’t know if these covers are the same material or different, I would guess the same.

Obscurity of the Day: Cynthianna Blythe

The New York Herald occasionally ran magazine cover ‘comic strip’ series long before the other papers and syndicates seemed to catch on to the idea. In the Herald‘s case, though, their features are so high-falutin’ that the term comic strip seems at least a slight misnomer.

Cynthianna Blythe, the tale of a young beauty and the beaus who pursue her, ran on the back cover of the Herald‘s magazine section from at least October 1909 to February 1910 (probably longer at both ends, I haven’t found a paper on microfilm that has the complete series – anyone have correct running dates?).

The feature sports art by Wallace Morgan and verses by Harry Grant Dart. While I realize that Morgan was the more celebrated illustrator in his time, I sure wish they’d traded places — I just love Dart’s draftsmanship and page layouts.

Obscurity of the Day: Let’s Run Away

I know nothing about illustrator R.F. James except that the prolific penman (penwoman?) did at least three magazine cover series for Hearst in the early 1930s in addition to much other newspaper, magazine and book illustration work. Let’s Run Away is the earliest of those series I’ve found, running from October 4 to December 20 1931. This one was done for the Newspaper Feature Service arm of the Hearst organization.

Let’s Run Away is the story of a lovestruck pair who run off to Cuba to get married, told in a nigh-impenetrable Jazz Age idiom. As with most of the magazine cover series, the story is just a minor distraction from the pretty pictures. James worked here in a style very similar to Russell Patterson, his most noticeable departure from that model being the white doll-like faces of the women.This odd approach makes them look like cadavers to me, not at all the china doll imagery I assume James was going for. In this particular example (the only one I have on hand) the effect is accentuated by the colors being a bit off-register.

Obscurity of the Day: Double Dora

Virginia Huget seemed to prefer cultivating her writing talent, but for my money she was far too good a cartoonist/illustrator to ignore that part of her repertoire. Her deco-ish angular figures are stylishly stiff in the manner of the day yet undeniably lively, and her backgrounds are modern fairy tale vistas. The perfect sort of style for the flapper era.

Now you’ll have to take my word on that because this particular page isn’t all that exciting, but Double Dora is a magazine cover series I only just discovered and I had only a few samples to pick from. The Hearst magazine cover series just seem to keep multiplying on me. Every time I think I must have found them all some more come out of the woodwork.

This series, featuring a movie stuntwoman, was syndicated by Hearst’s King Features Syndicate division June through August 1929.

Magazine Cover Comics: The Fortunes of Flossie

Here’s a delightful continuing comic that appeared on the covers of Hearst’s American Weekly Sunday magazine section in 1927. The poetry (which for some reason was pretty well the standard storytelling device on magazine covers) is by the ubiquitous Carolyn Wells, and the art is by Nell Brinkley. Brinkley is really at the height of her powers here on this series; her sometimes overly fussy drawing style is restrained and she lets the color do the job it’s intended to do. I’m afraid that the scanning and reducing process has washed out the vivid and well-blended colors a bit – the central figure is truly breathtaking on the original.