More Fox Features Marketing

Here’s all the Fox Features advertising and editorial material that appeared in Editor & Publisher in the first quarter of 1940. No big surprises here except for the article claiming that Dick Briefer’s Rex Dexter was being offered as a daily strip. I’ve never found this running anywhere. Have you?

January 6, 1940

Fox Names Albright (E&P, 1/27/40)
Victor S. Fox, president, Fox Feature Syndicate, New York, announced this week the appointment of H. W. Albright, formerly mid-Western manager for Western Newspaper Union, as manager of the Western division of FFS, with offices in Kansas City, Mo.

Mr. Albright will handle the sale and production for the Fox process color comic page weekly and all other FFS features, Mr. Fox said. He also announced that Mr. Albright and himself have completed arrangements with Orville S. McPherson, publisher, Kansas City (Mo.) Journal, to print the process color comic section for the Western territory in Kansas City, thus furnishing faster service to newspapers.

February 3, 1940

New Daily Strip (E&P, 2/3/40)
Fox Feature Syndicate announced this week that one of its Sunday features, “Rex Dexter of Mars,” will be offered in daily strip form in five and six column sizes March 4. Author of the feature is Dick Briefer, who studied at the Art Students’ League, New York, and who is now an art teacher in the Thomas Jefferson high school, New York.

February 10, 1940

February 24, 1940

March 9, 1940

March 30, 1940

News of Yore: Strip Fusion

Here’s an interesting series of articles in which there is a debate about characters from one strip appearing in another. Tempest in a teapot? Oh, yeah, but interesting to see what a lather editors can get into over the smallest innovations.

EDIT: Art Lortie comes to the rescue and supplies the strips where Dixie and Joe Palooka do a crossover appearance. THANKS ART!!

Artist “Loans” Character
E&P, 1/6/40
There is a spirit of comradery among McNaught Syndicate artists as the following little incident we picked up at McNaught’s New York office this week illustrates. Striebel and McEvoy, who do “Dixie Dugan” for McNaught had gotten their star character into a tight fix by making her the manager of a handsome chap who doesn’t really want to be a boxer but through circumstances is considered one. And he doesn’t know anything about the manly art. The problem was to get him a teacher.

McEvoy hit upon the idea of getting the comic strip world champion, “Joe Palooka,” also drawn for McNaught by Ham Fisher, to teach Dixie’s boy friend. Fisher obliged and the “Dixie Dugan” strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka training Dixie’s friend. In collaborating, Striebel drew his characters and indicated the action and Fisher put Palooka through his paces with his own pen. McEvoy, as always, wrote the dialogue.

In the little exchange of pleasantries during the incident, Ham Fisher said in the strip that “Joe and Knobby (were) drawn especially for my pals,” while Striebel and McEvoy noted under their signatures in the last panel of the Jan. 6 strip: “Many thanks, Ham Fisher, for letting Joe help Dixie out of her predicament.” Incidentally, we can’t recall ever hearing of a stunt like this before. (Allan’s note: it happened a lot in the 00s and 10s, but became frowned on after that.)

Editors Split on Fusion of ‘Strips’
By Stephen J. Monchak
E&P, 2/17/40
Last month McNaught Syndicate created an entirely new situation in the field of comics when Ham Fisher “farmed out” his character, “Joe Palooka,” for three days to the continuity of “Dixie Dugan,” drawn by Striebel and McEvoy. The Dixie Dugan strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka (drawn in by Fisher) in a heroic role in the Striebel-McEvoy feature.

Was this unique action an interesting innovation or an unwarranted liberty on the part of the McNaught Syndicate which handles both strips, the February Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which organization showed keen interest in the transposition, asks?

The Pros and Cons
The Bulletin devotes a page to the views of its members and of that of Robert B. McNitt, McNaught editor, and because of the unusual nature of the symposium’s subject, this column quotes some of the editors’ comments. M. V. Atwood, associate editor, Gannett Newspapers, stated:

“Should Joe Palooka step out with Dixie Dugan? Search me! I didn’t think newspapers would stand for radio commercialization of comic strip characters, which newspapers had developed. But they did. Some even seemed to think that the radio presentation was good promotion.

“If Dixie Dugan is in one paper in a city and Joe Palooka in a competing paper in the same city, which one loses? Which one benefits? I am no Solomon, only an editor.”

Bingham Liked It
To Barry Bingham, publisher, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal and Times, McNaught’s experiment “appealed … as a pretty clever stunt.” He would not mind seeing it carried a little further in the world of comic strips, he said, adding:

“It is nice to imagine what would ‘happen to ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ for instance, if she were suddenly given the benefit of ‘Popeye’s’ protection. In other words, I think it is a good thing for the comic strips to deviate a little from the accustomed pattern.”

The Bulletin quoted H. R. Pinckard, Sunday editor, Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Advertiser, as follows: “You horrify me. Dixie Dugan and Joe Palooka doing the same strip! I hope you’re not teasing me! (What a lousy pun.)”

Young’s Reservation
Dwight Young, editor-in-chief, Dayton (0.) Journal-Herald, in part, commented:

“Figured purely on a selfish basis I have no objection to a character from one of the comics that we use occasionally stepping into the continuity of another comic that we use. You will note that I stipulate ‘comics that WE use.”

“I think fads like this should be discouraged. If one of my opposition’s comic characters should be introduced into one of the strips that we use I would kick and keep kicking until I got satisfaction – or I would cancel the strip.”

As the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel carries neither of the McNaught strips in question, the incident under consideration had no personal concern for Arthur K. Remmell, managing editor, but he feels that in this case and others, syndicates take too great liberties.

McNitt Comments
Rebelling against what he termed the “rankest kind of practices” indulged in by “too many syndicates,” Mr. Remmell told of his recent experience with a syndicate. A financial writer changed syndicates. Someone else wrote the column thereafter and although he cancelled the later column the syndicate insisted he pay for the service.

The syndicate favored the Fisher-Striebel-McEvoy collaboration, Mr. McNitt said, because it is McNaught’s policy to pioneer new experiments with newspaper features. He said he did not know whether Palooka and Dixie would appear again in the same strip and that, with one exception, “the reactions we have received have been favorable, several editors having welcomed the innovation as an opportunity to promote their features.”

Stripper’s Guide Q & A

Two good questions came in that I’d like to answer here. The first is from Charles Brubaker:

Allen, just a question. In your list of comic-strips, do you list comics that only run in alternative newsweeklies? Comics like “This Modern World,” “Tom the Dancing Bug,” and “Maakies.”?

Good question, and one I’ve wrestled with over the years. The quick answer is no. The Stripper’s Guide scope and methodology statement says that I am only indexing comic strips and panels that appear in mainstream daily to weekly newspapers, those seeking a general readership. Alternative papers usually fail that definition on two fronts.

First, many of them report very little news (choosing to focus more on entertainment, reviews, etc) and that, as far as I’m concerned, disqualifies them as newspapers.

Second, many alternative newspapers are designed to serve a very specific segment of the community – gay papers, environmentalist papers, religious papers, and so on. This one’s more of a slippery slope situation, because I do list features that run in black papers and the socialist newspaper Daily Worker. These particular papers, in my opinion, were truly newspapers, though, because they did seek to cover general news, though with a particular perspective in mind. Typically, though, your average alternative paper of today doesn’t try to report general news but only stories specific to the community they serve.

But when you come right down to it, my reasons for not listing ‘alternative’ strips is simply that to do so would enlarge the scope of my project to the point where it would be utterly ridiculous. All major cities, and plenty of smaller ones, have alternative newspapers of one sort or another, and many run not just familiar standards like Matt Groening and Ruben Bolling, but also lots of local talent, material cadged from the Internet, and so on. To try to index all this material would be a superhuman task, and of very questionable interest considering that a lot of what would be indexed is very clearly amateur and casual work.

All that being said, I do actually list a few of the most famous ‘alternative’ comic strips in the index. I make it clear in the accompanying notes that this is to be considered bonus material, and that they really don’t qualify. They are there in recognition of the fact that they are the most important of their genre.

Arnold Wagner writes:

I thought Stripper’s Guide Index subscriptions were long gone until I stumbled upon a page offering them, which raises the question, are you still offering subscriptions? Since you never mention the subscriptions on the blog I’ve been hesitant to mention them, which seems a shame since it remains one of the best sources in existence. Let me know the current status so I can quit worrying!

“One of” the best sources? Well, hmmph. I’ll just ignore that qualifier. Anywho … subscriptions haven’t been available for a long time, and I swear I’ve deleted that page off the website before, and it just seems to keep coming back like a bad penny.

The deal was supposed to be that once I got through letter “Z” in the subscriptions, I’d put some finishing touches on the index and then offer it to publishers. Well, those finishing touches turned out to be huge quantities of additional research – comic strip history is like an onion – you can just keep peeling layers off and finding more. Since the subscription phase of the project I’ve nearly doubled the number of features documented – today the magic number stands at 6527.

So the subscription phase followed quickly by the publishing stage turned out to be a pipe dream, and research continues on today. However, I’ve made a new year’s resolution that the Stripper’s Guide index will definitely, positively, absolutely be peddled to publishers this year. And if it turns out that the publishing world has no use for my baby then the index will be self-published, preferably as an online database. You have my promise, then, that the Stripper’s Guide Index will become generally available, in some form, before it’s time to pop the bubbly to welcome in 2008.

And to D.D. Degg, who wrote with some very interesting data on Van Tine Features … still looking over the source material you referenced, will respond when I get through it all.

Back Again…

I got back from my travels on December 25th, made the Christmas post below, had a lovely Christmas dinner with my family, and promptly got about the nastiest dose of food poisoning I’ve ever encountered. Three days later I am now finally mobile (barely) and continent. Yeah, I know, more information than you really wanted.

Anyway, no new post today, just wanted to apologize to all who have sent emails in the last week or so, or otherwise have outstanding business with me, that I haven’t been ignoring you by choice but by necessity. I’ll try to get back on track here in the next few days as my strength starts to return.

Obscurity of the Day: Ted’s Object Spelling Lesson

The premise of Ted’s Object Spelling Lesson is simplicity itself, and I promise that if you try to read more than a couple at a sitting you’ll find your eyes starting to get heavy, but I suppose in weekly doses it doesn’t pall. Every strip (or at least everyone I’ve read) conforms to the exact same rythm of presenting young master Ted trying to learn his spelling, and the two words (always two) come to objective life and pull some sort of prank on him. The story always unfolds exactly the same way, with word #1 introduced in panel 1, coming to life in panel 2, word #2 introduced in panel 4, and so on. The whole thing is so mechanical that I think a decent programmer could write the code to spit out an infinite number of scripts for the strip.

However, it was not a proto-Univac but Fred Nankivel who was the author of this comic strip that appeared in the Philadelphia North American from 8/23/1908 to 5/30/1909. Nankivel kicked around the comic strip biz for about a decade, and this was his longest running feature. He went on to New York in the teens and did a strip each for Hearst and Pulitzer, but he was much more successful in the children’s book illustration business, and is well-known in that genre.

Fred is often confused with Frank Nankivell, who is a different guy. I do recall reading somewhere that they were indeed related (brothers?) despite the different spelling of their surnames. Frank also dabbled in strips, but made his mark in newspaper and magazine illustration.

PS: This is my 400th blog post. Pardon me while I pat myself on the back. I hope I haven’t been as boring and predictable as ol’ Ted up above here. I’m going to be traveling for the next few days, so blog posts will go up if and when I get a chance. Be back for Christmas day for sure.

Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Art Out of Time

Dan Nadel’s book, Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries 1900-1969 (Abrams 2006, ISBN 0-8109-5838-4, $40.00) is a delightful romp through some of the more obscure nooks and crannies of comic strip and comic book history.
An apt title for the book would have been “Oddball Stuff I Really Like”, because that’s exactly what Nadel presents. Luckily the author has excellent taste, and most if not all of the material presented is well worth your perusal. While quite a few of the comic artists presented certainly don’t qualify as the unknowns claimed in the book title (Milt Gross, Dick Briefer and T.E. Powers, for example) , others presented are certainly well outside the bounds of the typical cartooning fan’s knowledgebase.

Nadel takes the smart route and has the pictures do the talking — there’s a short introduction in the front and a dozen or so pages of biographies in the rear. In between we get almost 300 pages of oddball and obscure comics, all blissfully unencumbered by any pseudo-scholarly appreciations, deconstructions, or psychoanalyzing. Ah, bliss!

I’ll refrain from presenting a laundry-list of the artists and titles presented because I think much of the joy of reading the book is in discovering the treasures as you work your way through it (I imagine provides a complete list for those of you who don’t like surprises). However, I do have to mention a few that merit special attention. Nine Slim Jim Sunday pages are included, and if you’ve never had the luck to meet up with this almost unknown classic you’re in for a treat. Unfortunately, Nadel prefers the versions drawn by Ray Ewer and Stanley Armstrong to the original by the great George Frink, but to each his own. Eleven Sunday pages of Charles Forbell’s Naughty Pete are printed, an obscure strip that is, in my opinion, one of the greatest achievements of comic strip art ever committed to the page. On the comic book side, Nadel prints an episode of Stardust The Super Wizard (Fantastic Comics, 1940) that is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever read.

The reproduction of the material is a mixed bag. With a few exceptions Nadel has chosen to simply photograph the pages of the newspapers and comic books and present them without any retouching or cleaning. While this makes for a wonderful feeling of closeness to the source material (you can practically smell that great old paper aroma), it seems to me that it may go too far when we find the occasional page with a darkened brittle fold line in the middle, a dirt smear, or an obtrusive address stamp marring the art. More unfortunate still is that without some help from a retoucher some of the newspaper strips are practically unreadable, at least to these 40 year old eyes. These strips were lettered with a particular reproduction size in mind, and when they are reduced the word balloons and captions just turn into a sea of alphabet soup. At least three presentations definitely fall into the category of practical illegibility – Dauntless Durham, The Explorigator and Hickory Hollow Folks, and several others are also a challenge to the peepers. That being said, keep in mind that to reproduce some of these strips at a nice size, or to do all the necessary retouching, would probably have put the price of the book through the roof. So ya gets what ya pays for.

But minor quibbles aside, this is a book that will bring joy to any cartooning fan. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll see things you’ve never seen before, and you’ll be left hoping for the day when Art Out of Time Part II will be published.

A purely personal commentary: Dan Nadel at one time came to me looking to purchase certain materials for this book. Being that he has impeccable taste, and a yen for extremely rare material, the pearls that he wanted came at great price, and he pretty quickly decided that it would be far more advantageous to him if he could just borrow the materials gratis. The first time he suggested this solution to his problem I politely but firmly declined, and his several subsequent requests were met with silence.

Nadel is not the first to come to me with requests for borrowing privileges, and he won’t be the last (he may qualify as one of the more persistent, though). Anyway, I’d just like to explain to any who have the same idea in mind that I do not under any circumstances lend anyone material free for publication. First of all, I paid good money for the items in my collection (my wife would likely change the characterization good to insane), and I hope someday to have the option of selling it, perhaps even at a profit. Having this material reproduced in book form necessarily lowers its resale potential, so by lending it I’m taking a financial hit. Anyone want to buy a run of Li’l Abner dailies? Yeah, I thought not.

Second, if you are using my material in order to produce a book, article or some other product that you hope to market for your profit, then why should I lend you something for free that you are, in the end, going to sell? You wouldn’t expect me to bind the book for free, right? So why should I loan the material that fills the book for free?

Finally, there’s the very real chance that loaned material might just disappear or be destroyed. I knew a collector, now deceased, who consented to loan his complete run of an extremely rare and valuable comic strip to another collector so that it could be made into book form. Today that run would be worth tens of thousands of dollars, and even then it was nothing to be sneezed at. The person who received the loan of those precious pages is well-known in our community, a name we all know, and one who would presumably not want to damage their reputation. However, this irreplaceable run was not returned, all requests were ignored, and no amends were ever made for its ‘loss’. I won’t let that happen to me.

Obscurity of the Day: Funny Fables

Ed Kuekes main claim to fame is the comic strip Alice In Wonderland, which ran in 1934, and then seems to have been sold in reprints at least through 1938. That classic but short-lived strip was syndicated by United Feature. Kuekes also is credited with a daily panel titled Do You Believe that was syndicated 1955-62 by Lafave Syndicate, but I’ve never found a sample of that feature. Anyone?

Other than those syndicated titles, Kuekes only other strips were ones that he did for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Here we have Funny Fables, a delightfully drawn Sunday strip that was shoehorned in to a quarter page space in the PD’s magazine section. It is known to have run in 1935, but I don’t have specific dates yet as I’m still indexing the PD material from this era.

Obscurity of the Day: Polly, the Cap’n’s Parrot

Here’s a really short run strip from the Sunday Philadelphia North American. Polly, the Cap’n’s Parrot ran from 3/29 to 5/24 in 1908. The cartoonist was George F. Payne, and he must not have thought much of this effort, because he only signed one or two of the strips — our sample here is one of those he neglected to sign. This is Payne’s only known comic strip credit. Kind of a shame that Payne didn’t stick with it; his artwork shows a lot of promise. The gag on the other hand was the sort of thing that already had cobwebs on it in 1908.

I wonder if George was related to Charlie Payne, who had many long-running comic strips in Philadelphia papers before hitting the bigtime in New York with S’Matter, Pop.

News of Yore: Sculpture Cartoons

Photo-Model Cartoons First Made in Baltimore (1/27/40)
Jack Lambert Believed to Be First To Practice New Art . . . Appeared in Evening Sun September, 1938
By Harry S. Sherwood (E&P, 1/27/40)

Baltimore, Jan. 22-A Baltimore sculptor’s fancy for modelling in clay, for his own amusement, scenes
from the life about him, has developed a new form of newspaper cartoon first used by the Baltimore Evening Sun in September, 1938, and now being used by other newspapers. Jack Lambert, pupil of Herman MacNiel, is the sculptor. While national magazines have occasionally used the method to produce cover designs and for illustration, Mr. Lambert is the first to apply it to cartoons, and it is believed that he was the first to use it in any form.

The new technique involves first the modeling of the figure, or figures, of the cartoon and then the photographing of the figures. Mr. Lambert first used it for a small Baltimore magazine about 12 years ago. In its present form, he says it represents a combining of the sculptor’s art with the photographers, the latter being very important.

Picture Has Depth
One of the marks which distinguish the new form is the depth the picture appears to have as contrasted with the flatness of the ordinary newspaper cartoon.

Asked to explain the origin of the form, Mr. Lambert told Editor & Publisher of it as follows:

“For years I have had the habit of modeling scenes suggested by newspaper reading. I did such things in idle moments for my own amusement, usually destroying the thing as soon as it was finished. I remember one of my first was a group representing a Negro youth under arrest and waiting with the policeman at a call box, with the figures of lookers-on about them.

“Another group represented a criminal getting the third degree; the criminal himself with two hard-boiled detectives bending over him.

“For a time I got some fun out of these groups without thinking of putting them to any special use. Of course caricature figures and busts are very old. The French had done some of this work and such figures are exhibited in the Modern Museum in New York.

Magazine Used First
“After awhile it occured to me that such things might be photographed. I did one which was reproduced in a photograph by a small, local magazine. It was a polo player skidding to a quick stop. It seemed to go well. I did another at the time of the repeal of Prohibition, for an advertisement. It represented a man broadcasting the news.

“Then I offered the idea for the newspaper photogravure. I failed to arouse the editors’ enthusiasm.

“Finally I submitted the idea to Philip M. Wagner, editor of the Evening Sun, for use in newspaper cartoons He liked it at once. He contributed much to the success of the first we printed and his advice has been very helpful since. The first figures I made to be used in a cartoon concerned the primary fight of United States Senator Millard E. Tydings in Maryland in 1938, when President Roosevelt threw his influence towards Tydings’ opponent, David J. Lewis. I tried repeatedly to get a group of several figures and finally threw all my designs away. At the end of the primary, when Tydings was successful, the Evening Sun printed a cartoon from my model showing Tydings saying ‘Bring on your purge.’ That was the first. Numbers have been printed since.

Photography Important
“Sculpting the figures is only a part of the cartoon. The photographing of the figures after they have been modelled is very important. If the light is not made to fall on the figures exactly as it should, you get a clouded effect lacking the sharpness that is desirable.

“Robert F. Kniesche, a staff photographer of the Evening Sun, has contributed much to this phase of the work. After the use of the cartoons started we at times adapted the modelling to photography, modelling the figures in such a way that they would take the light advantageously. We think we can improve this aspect of the cartoon in the future and are still experimenting with it.

“The figures are usually modelled so that the figure, or the group, is about 18 inches wide by 15 inches high Familiar modelling clay is used. At first we put the modelled work up against a black background. We found that inclined to make the picture as it finally appeared dark and obscure. Often we model the background in clay as a part of the figure or group to get a clearer effect. The figures are modelled only on the side presented to the camera, the back being flat and unfinished. We have found that usually we get our best effects from heavy relief.

Takes About 6 Hours
“It takes me about six hours to model a group when no likeness of an individual is involved, about two hours longer when a well known man, say Chamberlain, the British prime minister, is involved.

“Sometimes an idea occurs to me and I submit it to Mr. Wagner for his suggestions. Sometimes the idea is Mr. Wagner’s.”

Mr. Lambert has lived and worked in Baltimore for 20 years. He was born in New York and studied at the National Academy of Design and at the Society of Beaux Arts. He has exhibited his work at the National Academy of Design, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
His friends say he has an extraodin-ary gift for fixing in clay the figures that appear on the streets of every American city, reproducing them with striking fidelity to life.

[Allan’s note: actually Mr. Wagner is not the first to use sculpted three-dimensional ‘cartoons’ in newspapers. Helena Dayton-Smith, for one, was doing this same sort of material in the 1910s.]