I just put up a big collection of 1950s Sunday tearsheets on eBay, would be much obliged if those with an interest would check ’em out. Bid high, bid often! Here are the lots, 20 in all:
Heart of Juliet Jones – 48 tabs from 1956-59
David Crane by Winslow Mortimer – 11 tabs from 1958-59
Terry And The Pirates – 36 tabs from 1952-59 w/good reverses
Abbie an’ Slats – 81 tabs 1952-59
Walt Disney’s Scamp – 57 tabs 1956-59 (incl. 1st Sunday)
Steve Canyon – 100 tabs 1953-59
Dick Tracy – 98 tabs 1952-1959
Mandrake the Magician – 64 tabs 1955-59
Closer Than We Think by Radebaugh – 24 half-tabs 1958-59
The Captain and the Kids 48 tabs/halftabs 1953-59
Little Orphan Annie 72 tabs/halftabs 1953-1959
4 The Teenie-Weenies half-tabs w/paper dolls
Jane Arden 28 tabs w/paper dolls 1953-60
Popeye/Thimble Theatre 49 tabs 1952-58
Tarzan 61 2/3 tabs 1952-57
Superman 19 tabs 1952-59
Flash Gordon 58 tabs 1952-1957
Hopalong Cassidy 30 tabs 1952-1955
It’s Me Dilly -5 1958 tabs
Lone Ranger – 11 1952-55 tabs
Click here to see the list of items for sale on eBay.
I saved the best for last. Lohar is the story of a leopard, and it is as well-written and drawn as it is unusual. I can’t think of another strip that chronicled, in a serious manner, the life of a wild animal (surely I must be forgetting one?). Yet it seems like such a perfect subject for the comics page.
The story of Lohar, credited to Tom Brady, is so interesting that I had to take the time to read quite a bit of the continuity while I was indexing the Courier microfilm. It’s a luxury that I seldom allow myself in the rush to get as much indexing done as possible on my research trips. Lohar is a strip that I would love to see reprinted in its entirety – most likely an impossible dream since the source material is so rare, and even the microfilm record is far from complete.
Lohar started with the Smith-Mann comic section in 1950, and lasted until October 18, 1958, long after the color section folded. Later strips were copyrighted by Eric Jon Associates — I have no idea what that is.
Neil Knight of the Air was another new feature created for the Smith-Mann color section, this one a science fiction opus. Credited only to ‘Carl and Mac’, the feature outlasted the section. The last raygun was fired on October 22, 1955. Notice the Kirby swipe in panel three of our example – always steal from the best!
The strip usually ran full page, but here is abbreviated in order to run ads for Sal Hepatica and Ipana. Ads for national mainstream products were slowly filtering into the black papers in the 1950s. Whereas ten years earlier ads were mostly limited to products with a specific appeal to the black community, by the 50s there were now the occasional car, cigarette and beer ads before seen only in the white papers. Some advertisers used their regular ad campaigns, others, like the two seen here, did different versions specifically aimed at a black audience.
Most of the Smith-Mann Sunday section material was new, but one real old-timer to make the jump to color was Sunny Boy Sam, a strip that had been running in the Pittsburgh Courier since way back in 1928. It was created by Wilbert Holloway, and he was credited on the strip until 1969, an impressive run by any standard, though I get the feeling that some portions of the run might have been reruns. The long run continued under the pen of Clarence Washington until sometime in the 1970s, long after comic strips had become unfashionable in the black papers.
The last I know of is from 1976, but it may have run much longer – the film archive I was working from ended with that year.
Woody Woodenhead was yet another new creation for the Smith-Mann color section, and one of the few humorous strips to appear there. The star of the strip was named not in the Pinocchio vein but for the the kid not being the highest wattage bulb.
The strip was seldom if ever signed, but was credited in Editor & Publisher to Edo Anderson. The strip ran for the whole life of the color section, and then was downgraded with the rest of the strips to running in black and white. Woody’s last hurrah came on 8/4/56.
Our next page of the Pittsburgh Courier features Mark Hunt, another adventure strip. The strip’s continuity was told in the first person by our hero, and so the only credit it ever carried was to Mark Hunt himself. However, in the E&P syndicate directory credit was given to a Michael Tam, and comics historian Paul Leiffer tells me that the strip was actually don by Edd Ashe. Oh, what a tangled web we weave…
The strip did not start with the new section but shortly thereafter it was added, sometime in 1950. Mark Hunt outlived the color section, demoted to black and white, and ran until October 22, 1955.
Here on page four of the Pittsburgh Courier‘s comic section we find the delightfully drawn Chisholm Kid. The strip was by Carl Pfeufer. His credits include the Flash Gordon clone Don Dixon, done for the Brooklyn Eagle-based Watkins Syndicate, and Bantam Prince for the New York Herald-Tribune Syndicate (blogged here).
The Chisholm Kid was a new strip created for the Courier’s color section on August 19, 1950. As with many of the other strips, it outlasted the color section and was demoted to daily-style black and white format. The Kid rode into the sunset on August 11, 1956.
Here’s page three of our Pittsburgh Courier section featuring the adventures of Don Powers by Sam Milai. Milai was was one of the mainstays at the Courier; he did comics for them from 1937 through at least the early 1960s (his work appeared there until the early 70s but the later material was most likely reprints).
In this strip Milai shows himself to be a fan of George Wunder; many of the faces are drawn in Wunder’s distinctive style.
Don Powers is yet another strip that was created especially for the color section – it started with the first issue August 19, 1950 and ran through the end of the color section in 1954. The strip then continued on as a black and white daily style feature until November 1, 1958.
Jackie Ormes’ Torchy in Heartbeats hits on all cylinders as an interesting obscurity. Ran in a black newspaper, written and drawn by a woman, and the subject is romance. That’s like the unassisted triple play of rarity in newspaper comics. Torchy in Heartbeats started with the color section on August 19, 1950, and outlasted the color section by a while, ending September 18, 1954. The strip also had a paper doll topper called Torchy Togs, which here in our example was bumped in favor of an ad (the ad is pretty interesting, though).
Jackie Ormes created her Torchy character much earlier in a series titled Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem. This strip ran in the Pittsburgh Courier 5/1/37 – 4/30/38. Ormes’ longest-running series, though, was a humor panel titled Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger – that one ran in the Courier for over a decade starting in 1945.
The ad for Black and White Soap is a typical example of the preaching that went on in the black papers of the time. All through these papers — not just in ads — were constant reminders to use good manners, dress properly and generally behave in a manner that reflected well on the black community. Most papers took the philosophy that good manners were vital in the cure for the racism endemic to the U.S. This preaching went out of favor in the newspapers by the 60s, but was harped on constantly before that. Quite a few comic panels in the black papers had this as their subject matter, for instance As Others See Us and Folks We Can Get Along Without.
An interesting genre of newspaper comic strips are those that ran in the black papers; that is, newspapers intended to serve the African-American segment of the population.
Most larger cities have a black paper, or did at one time. Some of the biggies were the Chicago Defender, the Pittsburgh Courier, the Atlanta World, the Baltimore Afro-American and the New York Amsterdam News. All these papers dabbled to one degree or another in comic strips, and several of them even syndicated their comic strips to the smaller papers of other cities.
Unfortunately the history of black comic strips is necessarily sketchy. Most of the creators are long dead without having published memoirs or given interviews, and the microfilm records of the papers themselves are in a terrible state. I have done what I could by indexing the material in most of the major papers; but even my indexes are incomplete because microfilm versions of the papers are incomplete, mutilated, or just so badly photographed as to be indecipherable.
The comic strips of the Smith-Mann Syndicate, apparently run with or through the Pittsburgh Courier, have suffered because of the poor microfilm record. The Smith-Mann color comic section is the only such section ever to be attempted for black papers, and the microfilm of the Pittsburgh Courier (at least the version I’ve indexed), the only paper known to have run it, is missing the majority of these sections. The Smith-Mann color section was definitely offered in syndication, though, so perhaps lurking out there is another paper that ran it, and perhaps in that case it made it intact through the microfilming process. I hope so, but I think the chances are slim.
Over the next week or so I’m going to present all the comics from a rare copy of the section that I recently acquired (only the third I’ve found, though I’ve been searching them out for years). The date of this section is August 8, 1953. Our first strip, from the cover page of the section, is Guy Fortune by Edd Ashe. This strip ran from the inception of the section on August 19, 1950 through October 22, 1955. The color section ended in 1954, but the strip continued in black and white after that.