Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: The Comic Strip Jack Kirby


The Comic Strip Jack Kirby (ISBN 1-56685-028-2) is hot off the presses from Greg Theakston’s Pure ImaginationPublishing. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this volume for, oh, about ten years now, since Greg told me he intended to publish a full book of Kirby’s rare newspaper comic strips.

Theakston whet our appetites back in the late 80s with his Jack Kirby Treasury volume, and this book admittedly covers much the same ground. A lot of the editorial matter is repeated from there with some new stuff here and there. This is a disappointment for me, since I was hoping to learn more about Lincoln Features, the H.T. Elmo syndicate that employed Kirby in 1936-39. However, considering the paucity of information out there about the syndicate I can’t hold this against Theakston.

This volume reprints quite a bit of Lincoln Features material, most of it from syndicate proofs in Kirby’s own collection, so it looks great. The editorial cartoons, very few of which had been printed in the earlier book, are especially wonderful. I do have to take issue, however, with some of the material that Theakston represents as Kirby’s work. While I am admittedly no expert in identifying art styles, I’m convinced that some material, and keep in mind that it was all signed with pseudonyms, is not Kirby but in fact the work of Elmo and others in his stable. For example, some of the Your Health Comes First panels, and all of the Laughs From The Days News are, in my opinion, the work of other hands. No matter, really, though, since I for one am certainly in the market to see any of the rare Lincoln strips.

The other problem with the Lincoln material, at least from this researcher’s standpoint, is that being from proofs we don’t know if it ever actually ran in any newspapers, and Theakston doesn’t seem to have found any proof either, since the editorial matter is sometimes vague on that point. Of course we can enjoy such strips as Cyclone Burke and The Black Buccaneer no less for it.

In addition to the Lincoln Features material, we also get a run of Blue Beetle dailies from Fox Feature Syndicate. The book reprints the strip from the first, 1/8/40, through 3/9/40. The reproduction on some strips is excellent, others are pretty awful, and obviously from microfilm or really bad tearsheets. For some reason this run is followed with a reformatted run translated into French. Considering the awful scripting, reading the French version might be a good choice.

Finally we get what I gather is a complete reprinting of Kirby’s Lightnin’ and the Lone Rider strips. These most likely never made it into newspapers, though that was the initial intention, but ran in the Famous Funnies comic book. Kirby was definitely improving as a cartoonist by this time, and the art here is excellent. The material is well reproduced for the most part, but where Kirby applied tones it tends to turn into a muddy mess.

While the book is far from perfect, it is nevertheless an impressive collection of extremely rare material, and I can only hope that you’ll purchase a copy. Send a signal to publishers that there is a market for something other than the seemingly endless reycling of Caniff and Herriman strips!

Buck O’Rue, Part 1







Time to take a breather from the E&P material. I made a promise awhile back to some Paul Murry fans that I’d run a sequence of Buck O’Rue dailies. Frankly I think the writing on the strip is awful, so I could do without, but Murry’s art, if you are a fan, is certainly up to his usual standard.

This short sequence of 13 strips concerns “Oaf Monday”, a fine example of bad comic strip writing. Don’t confuse your readers by stating that your hero is struggling through a Monday when they’re reading the strips throughout the week. It jars the reader out of the story, and it’s not necessary – why not call it Oaf Day? Problem solved.

Worse yet, the preceding two weeks to this sequence have Buck off-stage the entire time (hiding from a lonely-hearts club). Not a good idea to hide your main character that long on a strip that’s just six months old.

Rest of the sequence to be posted tomorrow. Oh, and sorry about the image quality. The paper these are from did a pretty bad job of hacking the strip edges. They also failed to clean their presses regularly and some strips were impossible to clean up through the haze of ink smudges.

E&P 1939: United Cartoonist Pics


Here’s an ad that United Feature Syndicate ran in the E&P 1939 Syndicate Directory with pics of most of their cartoonists. This was on the back cover and has sustained some damage over the years as you can see. Note that poor Henry Formhals got the shaft on Joe Jinks – he wasn’t allowed to sign the strip until a couple years later, so no pic for you Hank!

E&P 1939: Robert Edgren Obituary


Robert Edgren, Cartoonist, Dies on Coast
Famed Sports Editor, 65. Started with Hearst Newspapers

Robert W. Edgren, 65, sports editor and cartoonist, whose work was syndicated by Bell Syndicate in the U. S. and by the syndicate’s Canadian representative, Dominion News Bureau, in Canada, died Sept. 9 at his home in Carmel, Calif., after a series of heart attacks.

Although best known in recent years for his syndicated column and cartoons, known as “Miracles of Sport,” he was at one time a political cartoonist, and was court-martialed by Spanish authorities for drawings he sent from Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

Began on S. F. Examiner
Mr. Edgren began his newspaper career in San Francisco in 1895, when he joined the staff of the Examiner, the original W. R. Hearst newspaper. From the Examiner he was transferred to the old Evening Journal in New York and appointed political cartoonist. During his Spanish adventures, his drawings, “Sketches from Death,” printed in the Journal and other Hearst papers, were chiefly war atrocities.

They were so extreme that Mr. Hearst wired the cartoonist: “Don’t exaggerate so much.” Angered, Mr. Edgren proceeded to collect 500 photographs to prove the accuracy of his work.

The pictures were subsequently displayed before Congress, and caused considerable excitement.

Was Independently Wealthy
He became associated with the old New York Evening World in 1904 as sports editor. In addition to a daily column and sports cartoon, he was executive editor in the sports section when that paper was the leading authority in the field of sports in America.

He returned to live in California after the World War, and built a home on the Monterey Peninsula. He was appointed to the California Boxing Commission by Governor Rolph, resigning in 1932 because of ill health.

Mr. Edgren was made independently wealthy by a kindness to a friend, to whom he loaned money before the World War to help his struggling leather goods business. When the war started, the cartoonist’s friend repaid the loan with stock that tremendously increased in value.

Surviving are his wife, a son, Robert Durant Edgren, and three sisters. Funeral services were held Sept. 13 at Del Monte, Calif.

The cartoonist’s son, who had been collaborating with him in recent years, will continue the feature, Bell Syndicate told E & P.

E&P 1939: Merrill Blosser Bio


NEA’s “Freckles” Enters 25th Year With Blosser

At eight o’clock Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, Merrill Blosser, NEA service creator-cartoonist of “Freckles and his Friends,” sat down to his drawing board and began working on his strip. He sketched until two that afternoon, covered his board and relaxed. It was his way of observing “Freckles” and himself entering their 25th year as a daily newspaper feature.

“Freckles” made his first appearance in strip form (he had appeared a few weeks earlier as a panel) on Sept. 20, 1915, and very few of the present-day readers would be able to recognize him. When he made his newspaper bow, “Freckles” was about six or seven years old. Now he is 17, a high school senior, and captain of the football team.

Blosser Is NEA “Old-Timer”
In point of service, Blosser is the “old-timer” among NEA Service comic artists, “Freckles” being the oldest NEA strip. Yet Blosser, in his middle forties, looks 10 years younger both in his appearance and outlook. Enthusiastic, he has the drive and love for fun of the high school youngsters he draws.

His chief hobby, he tells you, is “living.” He likes to take moving pictures, to go to football games, to mingle with kids, go for long automobile drives, which he and his wife do several times a week.

He closes up shop every day at about two in the afternoon, which leaves him the rest of the day for recreation.

Because he is able to do this, Blosser is the envy of virtually every other comic artist of his acquaintance, not one of whom has been able to master the deadline bugaboo the way he has.

Has Licked Deadline Bugaboo
In nearly a quarter of a century of drawing for daily publication, Blosser never has permitted himself to get behind. He tells you that he realized early in his career that he would never have any fun, or peace of mind, unless he licked the deadline problem at the start by staying religiously ahead of his schedules.

Consequently, he sets aside a certain period each day for drawing and planning and sticks to it as meticulously as though he were punching a time-clock in an office.

The NEA cartoonist was born in Nappanee, Ind., where he grew up in a small town community much like the Shadyside locale of “Freckles and His Friends.” For the last dozen years or so he and his wife have lived in Los Angeles.

Blosser’s daily strip now is used by more than 500 newspapers, while his Sunday page appears in 130, NEA says.

Note from Allan: actually Freckles and his Friends debuted on August 16, 1915.

E&P 1939: Martin Branner Bio


Branner Enters 20th Year With “Winnie”
by Stephen J Monchak, 8/5/39

Martin Branner believes that modern married couples who work have very little time to devote to marriage. Because this condition prevails in a great many of the country’s urban centers, he illustrates this phase of life in his comic strip “Winnie Winkle, the Breadwinner,” which is syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.

Instead of showing the irate wife bouncing a rolling pin off her husband’s head (a type of comic dealing with married folks years ago), Mike (as he is known to his friends), tells the financial status, budget troubles, in-law interference and the other travail that enters the lives of young married folks.

125 Papers Take His Strip

And newspaper readers like it. This month, as he looks back on 19 years of successful strip characterization, satisfying results appear on the black side of the ledger. One note reads: The strip appears in 125 newspapers in America and Europe, with a circulation of more than eight and a half million.

On the eve of entering his 20th year of continuous employment with the syndicate, Mike, drawing on some of his own experiences, is illustrating what can be called a cartoon biography of himself and Mrs. Branner. Now 51, the cartoonist ran away and got married to a professional dancer, Edith Fabbrini, when he was 18 and she was 15.
He spent his next 15 years playing stock, musical comedy and vaudeville on the Keith Orpheum and Pantages circuits, and some lesser ones. They hit the Palace Theater on New York’s Broadway the second week it opened and often after that. Their dancing act was called “Martin and Fabbrini.”

The work was hard and the earnings little. Two shows a day was rapidly changing to three and more and bookings became scarce during and after the war. Between jobs, Mike resumed his drawing, interrupted when he got married. Shortly after the Armistice, he got an offer from the Bell Syndicate to do a daily cartoon called “Louie the Lawyer.”

Capt. Patterson Named Strip

He accepted but earned so little that he went back to vaudeville, continuing with his comic, making deadlines in dressing rooms, hotel rooms and between train connections. When his contract ran out, he did a Sunday page called “Pete and Pinto” for the New York Sun and the old New York Herald. This comic ran 20 weeks and paved the way for his recognition by his present employers.

Shortly after the birth of the New York News in 1919, Captain Joseph M. Patterson, publisher, who closely supervises the syndicate’s comic strips, was shopping around for a working girl comic. Mike made the grade with his samples of an average stenographer.

Captain Patterson gave the strip its title, the same it bears today. The News publisher has taken a keen interest in the Branner strip and recently suggested that Winnie and her husband, Will Wright, become dancers. Their marriage has been a series of hard-luck stories.

Mike started his present continuity of the Wrights several weeks ago and currently has them on the eve of their big chance to break into the professional dancing field. But it won’t be easy going for the Wrights; it wasn’t easy going for the Branners.

The dancer-cartoonist hasn’t changed much through the years, his colleagues say, except for his greying hair and a slight bulge amidships. He still looks as if he could beat a pretty good toe tattoo on the boards. Devoted to his family, he spends his time away from the drawing board with Mrs. Branner and their two young sons, Bernard Donald, 16, and Robert Jay, 11. With them, his summers are passed boating and swimming in Connecticut.

E&P 1939: Burris Jenkins Bio


Noted Preacher-Editor’s Son Won Success in Cartooning
Burris Jenkins, Jr., Whose Father Edited K. C. Post, Noted for Sports Work, Sees Big Field for Pro and Con Editorial Cartoons

Burris Jenkins, Jr., of the New York Journal-American, who has an enviable reputation as a sports cartoonist and also does outstanding work on news assignments in his serious moments, is one of the few metropolitan newspaper artists who writes as cleverly as he draws.

Son of the one-time preacher-editor of the Kansas City Post who today is the Missouri metropolis’ “first citizen,” 42-year-old Burris Jenkins, Jr., inherited his father’s ability to drive home a point. Dr. Jenkins still is spellbinding the largest congregation in Kansas City every Sunday. In New York, every day except Sunday, his son uses pen and ink to send home to readers his unusual sports ideas with the impact of a baseball against a catcher’s mitt.

Literary Sentimentalist

A literary sentimentalist if ever there was one, Mr. Jenkins long ago left the beaten path of sports cartooning and many of his verses turned out with his daily cartoon sparkle with a spontaneity seldom displayed by writing artists.

His wide following among sports readers of the old New York World, where he broke into metropolitan journalism in 1921, and of the New York Journal and the Journal-American since 1931, has grown with a succession of rib-ticklers like one he did last May on the eve of the Kentucky Derby. Entitled “If Wishes Were Horses,” it was Jenkins’ parody of the current song hit, “Three Little Fishes,” illustrated cleverly with Chico, Challedon and Technician in piscatorial roles as the “Three Little Wishes” looking down from the opening bars of the song on the verse and an equine shark named Johnstown. Here’s how it ran:

Burp Burp Gittem Uppem Gettem Whoa!!
THREE LITTLE WISHES
(NOT by Saxie Dowell, to Whom We Apologize)
Down in a meadow where the grass grows blue
Stood three little WISHES (and a Big Wish too!)
“Run,” said the little Wishes, “Run if you can,”
And dey ran and dey ran and dey ran and dey ran.
One little Wish is for “Chico” (So?)
One is a “Challedon” fan (Well!)
One loves a horsie called Technician (Whew!)
So dey ran and dey ran and dey ran and dey ran.
“Stop!” said a little Wishie, “This is far enough
“You must lay it on the line or I’ll call your bluff!”
Then the three little Wishers went out on a spree
And dey dwank Mint Juleps till half past three.
One had Bourbon in his Julep (Bloop)
One had 40 year Rye (Gulp)
One had mountain dew corn (Burp)
And dey dwank and dey dwank without batting an eye.
“Whee!” yelled the little Wishes, “Here’s where I win!”
“We’ll dwink and we’ll dwink till my wish comes in!”
So they dwank and they dwank from dawn till dark
Till all of a sudden they met The SHARK!
Clop clop whatten what-tha hel-lum (Whoa)
Clop clop-gettum up and gettem (Go)
Clop clop-just try-em ketchum (Oh)
And dey ran and dey ran and dey ran and dey ran.
“Help!” cried the little Wishes, “Gee! he’s out for blood!
“He swept past us like the Johnstown flood!
“But we’ll keep on running just as fast as we can.”
So dey ran and dey ran and dey also ran.
Gulp gulp give-em up-em ketchem!
Gulp gulp justem gottem quittem!
Gulp gulp fillum up-em and drinkem!
So dey dwank and dey dwank until it didn’t
make any difference any more . . .

Writes as Spirit Moves Him

A “daily double” like that may wow the sports fans, but it’s a little too much to expect any newspaperman to do the trick every day. So his contract with the Journal-American – his fourth signed with the Hearst evening paper – requires Jenkins to do a twin trick at typewriter and drawing board only twice a week. In recent months, however, the artist has done fewer than two articles weekly. Instead of a story or verse he turns in an extra cartoon, under an arrangement with the newspaper. He writes as the spirit moves him, several times a month.

Because his batting average for timely topics is 1.000 and his cartoons with few exceptions pack the punch of a ring champion, it was surprising to hear that this outstanding sports cartoonist seldom attends sporting events. To him every baseball game is the same old story – something he’s seen before. He hasn’t seen many full baseball games in recent years, and even World Series games fail to interest him after the 7th inning.

Jenkins attends principally the championship fights and the most important races and football games, yet his cartoon always has the dramatic touch of a dyed-in-the-wool devotee of that particular sport.

His own sports cocktail consists of yachting and golf – and frequently he delays work on the next day’s cartoon while he pursues the elusive pill and an even more elusive 80 on a golf course near his home in Pelham, N. Y. He has broken 80 but several times in his life and it’s a sure bet his copy will arrive late at the Journal-American on the day he thinks he’s going to break 80 again.

Deadline a Daily Adventure

Making his deadline is a daily adventure for Jenkins and his secretary, Herbert Storlie. His cartoon is supposed to be at the Journal-American office at 9 each evening, but it seldom arrives earlier than 11 p.m. Sometimes it’s the wee small hours of the morning of publication that Storlie dashes into the Journal-American to catch a bit of engravers’ hell to be passed on to his boss.

Jenkins has an unusual temperament when it comes to his drawing board. Often he cannot get started until darkness descends on the Hudson River and casts its peculiar spell on the artist fighting his deadline in a thirteenth floor studio on Riverside Drive. His mind works best at night, and the late sunsets now often find him just beginning his next day’s cartoon after long pursuit of an idea through the afternoon.

Right now cartoonist Jenkins is trying to “reform” with respect to his unorthodox working hours, and has set 11 a.m. as the time for his arrival at the studio from his home at Pelham, Westchester county. He reports progress but the 9 p.m. deadline is still a daily bugaboo.

Occasionally Mr. Jenkins delves into serious topics. At such times he faces his ever-recurring dilemma- whether to hit heavy subjects daily or to continue skimming the cream off the sports subjects upon which his reputation has been built.

A night of indelible memory for newspapermen and parents, May 12, 1932, when the body of kidnapped Charles A. Lindbergh, Jr., was found, brought this cartoonist’s pen into swift action. After hearing the radio bulletin in his home, Jenkins poured a father’s hatred of the unknown murderer into a dramatic cartoon which he rushed to the Journal for publication the following day. It depicted Uncle Sam holding aloft Old Glory and the battered body of the Lindbergh child above the quotation:

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”

During the trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Mr. Jenkins did a notable series of cartoons on courtroom scenes. For here he was in his element – interpreting the drama of a significant news event into a news cartoon with a few pungent captions to give the busy reader the entire situation for the day at a glance. Last year, at the trial of Jimmy Hines, he also found an opportunity to do his unusual reporting in keynote sketches and captions.

Sees Big Field for News Cartoons

Mr. Jenkins believes there is a big field for news cartoons and for pro and con editorial cartoons-giving both sides of a question presented to the reader.

“I couldn’t say that cartooning in general needs a renaissance,” he said in answer to a question, “but I do think a fresher and more forthright presentation in cartooning would be more convincing to a public educated above the old-fashioned school of cartooning.”

Cartooning, he continued, is the “quickest way” of putting over an idea. “The visual reaction can hit you so much quicker than a column of type. A well thought out cartoon can tell the reader the story in a second. One that sticks out in my mind is one Rollin Kirby did after a submarine disaster some years back. It showed a diver tapping on the side of the lost submarine and was titled ‘Taps.’ One word and a picture, and you’ve got it all.”

By an “educated public,” the cartoonist explained, he means “a public, brought up on radio, that is greatly interested in and is familiar with politics.” People have a more thorough knowledge of what is going on about them, “so that if you throw the old type of cartoon at them with only one viewpoint presented, they just don’t believe it.

“The public’s got to believe again that a newspaper can have ideals and a heart. There are two sides to any argument and the side a newspaper has decided is right can be stressed along with a fair presentation of the other side in such a way as not to insult the public’s intelligence.

“Cartoonists should be on the level and not hold anything back from the public. Nowadays the readers often think there must be something in it for the paper or it would not be plugging a certain policy.”

Two Brothers Are Newspapermen

Burris, Jr., is one of three sons of Dr. Jenkins, who was the Kansas City Star’s war correspondent before he became editor and publisher of the Kansas City Post under the Bonfils and Tammens ownership. All three sons have become newspapermen. Burris’ younger brothers, Paul A., 40, and Logan, 28, are owner-publisher and city editor, respectively, of the El Centra (Cal.) Imperial Valley Post-Press. Paul worked on the Post and Star in Kansas City before he went to California three years ago. Logan started as a reporter on the Denver Post under Bonfils.

Dr. Jenkins was president of the University of Indianapolis when Burris, Jr., was born Oct. 8, 1897. The preacher took the editorship of the Kansas City Post shortly after the war to fight the enemies of the Wilsonian ideals of international relationships. He quit at the end of 1920 when Bonfils fired his son “over his head” for a pessimistic Christmas cartoon which the paper’s owner had described as “the last straw.”
Burris, Jr., didn’t know until 10 years later that he had been fired from his first newspaper job. The cartoonist, then on the road to success, was telling his father in New York that “every newspaperman should be fired from his first job because it does him good.” He was expressing regret that he had never been fired, when Dr. Jenkins let the cat out of the bag. As his son explains the incident, Dr. Jenkins was apparently dissatisfied because Bonfils and Tammens had not given him the free hand that was promised in the conduct of the Post. When the editor heard that Bonfils had told Dick Smith, managing editor, “This is the end! Don’t print another one of those cartoons,” Dr. Jenkins told the owner, “You can accept my resignation, too,” and then induced his son to make a trip abroad.
Got Job on N. Y. World
It was this trip to Europe and the Near East, long planned by young Jenkins, that finally landed him in metropolitan journalism. He had saved $900 from his pay on the Kansas City Post after his graduation from Harvard, and by traveling steerage most of the way he stretched the trip into eight months. He wrote an article, illustrated with his own cartoons, on the Jewish situation in Palestine, and this material was exactly what the New York World had been looking for, so he was hired to do a series.
The late Jack Tennant, managing editor, might have fired Jenkins when the last of the Palestine articles was written, but blustery Jack Rainey, then city editor, liked the newcomer and told him, “I’m going to make you or break you.” He gave Jenkins a job as police reporter. For a year Jenkins covered the West Side and eventually he began to illustrate his own feature stories. Late in 1922 he started doing sports cartoons, modeling his creations after those of the famous Bob Edgren. Gradually he developed his own distinctive style, in which he mixes sentiment with an interpretation of the sports subject covered, and his rise became rapid as sports readers welcomed his deviation from the unemotional cartoons of the old school of artists.
Within a few years his police reporter’s weekly stipend grew into $210, plus $25 for each column he wrote and illustrated-and there were usually two of these every week. His contract with the World had a year to run when the paper was acquired by Scripps-Howard.
Believing himself out of a job, Mr. Jenkins answered a call from E. D. Coblentz, of the New York American, to discuss terms, but landed instead in the office of William A. Curley, editor of the Evening Journal, when he got off at the wrong floor. A contract was signed with the Journal, instead of the American, but there followed a legalistic tug-of-war between the Journal and the World-Telegram over the cartoonist because of the unexpired contract with the old World. After three days Jenkins was released from the old contract and he has been with the Journal and Journal-American ever since.
Reunion in France
Two unusual incidents involving father and son are worth brief mention. While Dr. Jenkins was in France as war correspondent for the Kansas City Star writing stories on the numerous fatalities among aviators, his son was “somewhere in France” with the air service, completing his training before going to the front. Dr. Jenkins, fearing he might never see his son alive again, appealed to the night editor of the Paris edition of the New York Herald to publish a brief notice for his son to meet him for a final farewell. It brought them together.
Young Jenkins became so proficient in squadron flying that he remained behind the lines as an instructor for the duration of the war.

E&P 1939: Buck Haney Announced


Lardner, Powers To Do Comic Strip For Bell
by Stephen J. Monchak, 8/19/39

A new sports writer – artist team entered the syndicate field this week with announcement by Bell Syndicate that it has prepared for release Aug. 21 “Buck Hanson of the Badgers,” a daily cartoon strip depicting the adventures of a baseball player.

The writer-artist team is made up of John Lardner, North American Newspaper Alliance syndicated sports writer, and Grant Powers, veteran sports cartoonist.

They Know the Game
Friends for years but working together for the first time, both Lardner and Powers bring to their strip a first hand knowledge of the great American pastime gathered during years of covering the major league teams. Their character, who will cavort in the strip the year around, Lardner describes as “a southpaw pitcher with a southpaw brain but a right-handed heart.”

Lardner, 28, a newspaperman since he left Harvard in 1929, has established himself as a leading sport columnist in 10 years. He first went to work for the Paris Herald, European edition of the New York Herald Tribune, and got his early newspaper training under Stanley Walker, then Herald Tribune city editor, now editor of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger.

With an unusual style of sports reporting, Lardner has acquired a reputation as a humorist, following, it appears, in the footsteps of his father, the late Ring Lardner, famous American humorist. NANA has distributed young Lardner’s column, “From the Press Box,” since 1933. He also writes a weekly column, “Sport-Week,” for Newsweek magazine. Married, he is the father of one child.

Powers Now Free-Lancing
Starting out to be an architect, Cartoonist Powers’ career was sidetracked by the World War and he was assigned to mapping the war’s battlefields for the National Museum. During those days, he also was a regular contributor to Stars and Stripes.

He joined the staff of the New York Daily News in 1921, and remained there for 17 years, illustrating the sports columns of Paul Gallico and others and covering sports on assignment.

The Buck Hanson strip (then titled Buck Haney – Allan) appeared for a time in both the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune in 1937. Resigning last year from the News to free-lance, Powers does his work in his cottage at Auburn, Maine.

Bell this week also announced Sept. 18 as the release date for “Old Timer”, a daily panel drawn by Ed Wheelan, creator of the comic “Minute Movies” for King Features Syndicate, believed to be the first comic strip to introduce serious continuity and straight drawings.

Wheelan, veteran penman, after leaving behind the art editor’s post on the Cornell Widow, college monthly humor publication, drew cartooons for the old Brooklyn Standard-Union. He subsequently worked for the New York Journal, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Call, and the New York American. It was on the latter paper that his “Minute Movies” strip was created.

Note from Allan – has anyone seen “Old Timer”? I’ve never found a sample.

E&P 1939: T.E. Powers Obituary


T. E. Powers, 69, Retired Hearst Cartoonist, Dies
Favorite of Presidents, His Political Cartoons Were Nationally Known

Thomas E. Powers, 69, political and satirical cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers for nearly 40 years until his retirement in 1937, died Aug. 14 at his home in Long Beach, Long Island, N. Y., after a long illness. His wife, Mrs. Louise H. Powers, two brothers and a sister survive.

Mr. Powers’ political cartoons had a wide following and two elflike characters, “Joy” and “Gloom,” with which he enlivened his drawings-always signed “T. E. Powers”-became one of the trademarks of his work during a career which made him one of the country’s best known and most successful cartoonists.

Favorite of Presidents

A favorite cartoonist of the late President Theodore Roosevelt, his work attracted the attention of other Presidents, and the late Calvin Coolidge was so amused by one caricature of himself that he asked the cartoonist for the original. That letter, on White House stationery, was one of Mr. Powers’ most cherished mementos.

Mr. Powers first attracted the attention of Theodore Roosevelt when he pictured the President threatening tall, silk-hatted figures labeled “The Trusts” with the then famous “big stick.” His satirical thrusts at “grafting politicians” or others whose right to public office he challenged, however, usually were tempered with broad humor.

The veteran penman’s cartoon series, syndicated to Hearst papers in many states, included “Mrs. Trubble,” “Never Again,” “The Down-and-Out Club,” “Sam the Drummer,” “Married Life From the Inside” and “Charlie and George.”

The veteran cartoonist retired two years ago because of illness, though up until last September he turned out an occasional drawing at home. Since early this year he had been confined to bed or a wheel chair. On Saturday he took a turn for the worse. His butler found him dead early Monday.

Using a relatively simple line drawing technique, which looked easy to duplicate but was not, Mr. Powers had a gift for caricature. His pungent comment in pen and ink drawings on the fads and foibles of the day enlivened the editorial pages of Hearst newspapers from coast-to-coast. Possessor of a keen wit and a sage philosophy, he had the ability to transfer these qualities into a biting picture editorial with a few sure, quick strokes of the pen.

Mr. Powers was born in Milwaukee on July 4, 1870. He moved to Kansas City, where he was educated in public schools and got his start working for a lithographer at $2 a week. In 1906, after his cartoons had attracted nation-wide notice, he gave an Editor & Publisher interviewer the following account of his youth:

“I was born in Milwaukee . . . but before I was old enough to appreciate the product on which the ‘fame’ of that fair city rests, my ‘cruel’ parents dragged me away to Kansas City. I had to stay in the latter place until I could earn enough money to make a ‘get away.’

“I began to draw pictures at a very early age. One of my first efforts was a portrait of my teacher sketched on the schoolroom blackboard. I was too modest to sign the picture but the teacher discovered its author and I received my reward.

“When I was about 17 years of age I went to work for a lithographer who estimated that I was well worth $2 a week. I also received a goodly amount of advice on the subject of saving money. But, in spite of all he said, I squandered my money, with carelessness, recklessness, and negligence.

“My employer said that I would never be able to draw. I was offended and resigned. My first newspaper work was in Chicago on Victor Lawson’s Daily News. I brought in some sketches and submitted them to Lawson, who accepted them and offered me a permanent position.”

Mr. Powers later worked for the old Chicago Herald and in 1894 was offered a job in New York with the Evening World, after the late Arthur Brisbane had seen and liked his work. When Mr. Brisbane entered the Hearst service in 1896, Mr. Powers transferred with him to the old New York Evening Journal.

The characters “Joy” and “Gloom” which he used so often, cavorted in the corners of his cartoon. If optimism was in order, “Joy” chased “Gloom,” and vice versa. “Gloom” was a mournful imp with a black beard, and “Joy” wore an eternal grin.

Mr. Powers also drew “John Q. Taxpayer,” stripped down to a barrel.

For many years Mr. Powers had owned a farm near Norwalk, Conn., but since his illness became serious, he had not visited the place. He once wrote: “My favorite recreation is farming.”

Note from Allan: not mentioned in this obit is Powers’ distinction as the first American to draw a newspaper color comic strip.