Obscurity of the Day: Spence Easley

Here I go saying I hadn’t gotten around to scanning any Spence Easley strips, and what shows up in my mailbox hours later but some scans of the strip. Hmm … I like the way this works. Doggone it, I just can’t seem to find time to scan the first and last AP Sunday sections. Any takers?

So thanks to Alfredo Castelli who supplies today’s scans. I think he’s just buckin’ for an extra great goodie package!

Spence Easley by Jack Patton started life as Dolly Burns on May 21, 1928. It was a local feature of the Dallas Journal, a second-tier paper that was really committed to running homegrown cartoons. Patton had already been contributing strips and panels to the paper on a near-daily basis since 1922. His prior feature, correctly identified yesterday by an astute reader, was The Restless Age, a panel cartoon about the wild and wacky children of the Jazz Age. It was jettisoned in favor of the new strip, which plowed much the same ground but with continuing characters.

While Dolly remained the title character until 1933, the Spence Easley character was there pretty much from the start and shared center stage. The characters eventually grew up a bit, as you can tell from the samples shown. Spence and Dolly married, and the strip progressed from a Tillie and Mac mode into more of a Blondie and Dagwood dynamic.

Patton ended the local Spence Easley strip in the Dallas Journal in September or October 1935 (these months are unavailable on microfilm, as are many stretches of the Journal), but eventually started shopping it around to syndicates. United Feature Syndicate finally bit and Spence Easley was resurrected on the comic pages starting April 10, 1939. Unfortunately for Patton the strip did not catch on and ended sometime in 1940 (the last I can find – once again the Dallas Journal microfilm gaps stymie me – is April 1940). Since the strip was listed in the 1940 E&P Syndicate Directory it presumably made it through the summer as the directory was published in September that year.

Obscurity of the Day: The Family Car

As you can read in the comments on the post below, our contest was over in hardly any time at all. Comics scholar Alfredo Castelli made it look easy when he correctly identified all seven titles. The correct titles are:

Moon Mullins
Screen Oddities
The Bungle Family
Broncho Bill
Joe Palooka
Sky Roads (aka Skyroads)
Spence Easley

I figured if nothing else that Spence Easley would stump you guys for awhile, since it was a local strip at the time, appearing only in the Dallas Journal. Its creator, Jack Patton (forever famous in Texas for his Texas History Movies strip) abandoned the strip later in 1935, only to resurrect it in 1939-40 for the Register & Tribune Syndicate.

Okay, guys, think you’re so smart? Tell me the original name of the Spence Easley strip, and the panel cartoon series that Patton ended to start it.

I had fully intended to show you a sample of Spence Easley when the contest was over, but you caught me napping. Haven’t gotten around to scanning one in yet. Oh well. Instead we’ll look at some great samples of an intermittently excellent panel series called The Family Car.

Wally Falk’s Family Car ran from sometime in 1956 until sometime in 1961. I can’t supply exact dates because the Register & Tribune Syndicate didn’t even run the feature in their home papers. Sigh. Anyhow, Falk supplied the iconic 50s clean-line gag cartoon stylings to this panel, and those glorious tailfins abound. What also abounded, unfortunately, were ‘woman driver’ gags. Not just once in awhile, mind you, but practically every day. The samples here were some of the few I could find that weren’t full frontal slams at women drivers, and yet even in these there is an undertone of amusement at the ladies behind the wheel.

Now I realize that these were very different times, and that ‘woman driver’ gags were in their heyday. But might the feature have had a longer run if Falk had mixed up a bit more? I think so. The drawing is excellent (he had a real flair for caricaturing the 1950s American land yacht), but the incessant gags about the woman driver coming home with a crumpled fender and explaining it to hubby begin to pall on you after awhile.

By the way, when Falk wasn’t making fun of woman drivers in The Family Car, he had the thankless task of drawing endless headshots for The Country Parson, a gig he started in 1955 and gave up in 1962. He has no more syndicated credits after that point, and who could blame him for seeking alternative employment after drawing that many itty-bitty rev heads.

Are You a Comic Strip Expert? Contest Today!

Back to regular posts today, and we’re starting off with a fun one!

I found this advertisement in the September 21, 1935 issue of Editor & Publisher. The ad isn’t all that interesting, except that down at the bottom they list the winners of a popularity contest conducted by the Dallas Journal. Only Ella Cinders and Back Home Again are named, the others identified only by their initials. Seems to me, you’d want to let editors know the strips you beat out (“Hmm … Ella Cinders was twice as popular with readers as this strip I’m running in my paper. Maybe I should switch?”).

Anyhow, marketing strategy aside, naturally we wonder what the other features are. I’ve identified them all (not without using a bit of noggin juice, I promise you), so I’m making a contest out of it. First person to correctly identify all seven features will win one of my coveted goodie packages shipped to their door; goodies to include all sorts of rare and unusual comics related cool vintage stuff.

In case the image isn’t sharp enough, here are the titles:

M – – – M – – – – – –
S – – – – – O – – – – – – –
S – – – – – E – – – – –
T – – B – – – – – F – – – – –
B – – – – – – B – – –
J – – P – – – – – –
S – – R – – – –

I’ll even give you a few hints:

1. One of the features is a panel cartoon series, not a comic strip.

2. One of the features was local at the time, but later was nationally syndicated.

3. One of the feature titles shown here as two words was actually supposed to be a one word title, but many papers ran it with the title shown as two words.

Well, that’s it. Good luck to you. Contest remains open until someone comes up with all the right answers or in a month when I’ll give up on you guys and post the answers.

Roy Powers, Eagle Scout: Week Nine

Today we start a new story letter (L), though the story continues pretty much as before. If there was supposed to be a major story arc with those guys who stranded Roy, as you’ve seen it never really developed into more than a basic robbery. Obviously our writer planned a more complex (okey, less simplistic) story there with the long build-up, but for some reason they scrapped it. I see a lot of that sort of thing with Roy Powers, slapdash storylines with lots of hanging threads and anti-climaxes. Thank goodness for that lovely art.

Blogger crapped out after uploading four images today. The other two had to be loaded offsite. This is getting real old real fast…

Roy Powers, Eagle Scout: Week Six

The good news is that Blogger is accepting images again. Apropos of the comment made on yesterday’s post, I want to remind you folks that the images you see here are just thumbnails. In order to see large readable versions of these images you just have to click on them.

The bad news is that I discovered that there is a strip missing in my Roy Powers run (strip K-34), and worse, it is the payoff strip to a run-in with a rhino. I ‘ve taken the liberty of supplying a text description of what must undoubtedly have happened in that strip. If someone has a copy of the K-34 strip that they’d be willing to share, I’d love it if you could send me a scan.