Obscurity of the Day: Outline of Science

Educational strips used to occupy a pretty sizeable niche in the newspaper world. In fact, for the McClure Syndicate one of them, Highlights of History, may well have been their biggest seller in the 20s and 30s.

McClure didn’t have nearly as much success with this strip, Outline of Science. The numbered strip tried to tell the history of science in imitation of J. Carroll Mansfield’s Highlights of History. Max Hahn, who otherwise has no comic strip credits that I know of, supplied the text and pictures.

Hahn’s mistake with the strip was in not telling a story. His strips read like something out of a middle school textbook, a dry rundown of facts and figures without any drama to make the history come alive. Whereas Mansfield’s strip sought to entertain as well as educate, Hahn’s strip sounded like a series of lectures.

The highest numbered strip I’ve been able to find is #249 and I doubt that it ran much longer than that. Based on strip numbering in my samples I place the start of the strip at October 18 1926.

Miscellany Day

Gonna clear the decks of a number of items today. Read on…

Plea for Information
I’m trying to put together a sales package for my proposed Stripper’s Guide book. My proposal will include a small excerpt from the Stripper’s Guide listings. I was thinking of submitting either the ‘Q’ or ‘Z’ listings, but in reviewing them I find several slightly embarrassing missing pieces of data. Can anyone supply answers to any of these?

1. When did the Ze Gen’ral topper to Little Joe end? I have samples as late as 1961, but for all I know it might have lasted until the end of the main strip in 1972. Anyone have any from later than 1961? For that matter, does anyone know the specific end date for Little Joe itself?

2. Does anyone have definite running dates for Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century? Best I can come up with is sometime in 1998 through December 1999.

3. Yow, does anyone have a specific start date for the newspaper strip version of Zippy the Pinhead? I know it started sometime in 1985 in the San Francisco Examiner, perhaps a little earlier than its King Features syndication. This one is really annoying because I have all the Zippy books and can’t find the info.

4. Does anyone know a paper that ran the historical series Quaint Old New England? The reprint book tells me that it ran 1935-36 but I need to check it in a newspaper.

Hal Forrest First?

I found this one-shot comic strip in the Philadelphia Record of January 16, 1916. Wondering if it might be Forrest’s first pro cartooning work. Forrest did a few more one-shots in the Record over the next few weeks and then disappeared from their pages. Of course, Forrest went on to do Tailspin Tommy.

A Few Short Items from E&P, 1950

‘Henry’ Comic Strip Is Valued At $164,000

Madison, Wis. — Ruling on a question brought by the trustees of the estate of Carl T. Anderson, creator of the comic strip character “Henry,” Judge G. M. Krincke held that life tenants named in the estate will receive all the income accruing from the strip, along with present in­come not yet disbursed. His two sisters, who are the life tenants, will not be required to share the income with other heirs named in the will.

On the basis of the decision, the sisters of the late cartoonist would receive $28,780 which has already accrued from the strip and future profits. The decision said the comic strip was valued at $164,566 for taxation by the Wisconsin Department of Tax­ation.

Mr. Anderson, who was un­married, left the bulk of his es­tate now valued at approximate­ly $451,605, to his sisters and provided a $40,000 fund for the education of his nieces. Future heirs of the sisters will receive the rest of the comic strip in­come if there is any at that time, Judge Krincke ruled.

The persons who are now drawing the “Henry” strip are under contract.

Possible Suit Over ‘Tallulah’ Strip

If the name “Tallulah” is con­tinued as the title of a comic strip a suit will be brought by actress Tallulah Bankhead, her attorney told E&P this week.

Donald Seawell of the firm of Silver & Bernstein, New York, said a suit Miss Bankhead brought against Procter & Gam­ble relating to the use of the name “Tallulah” in Prell Sham­poo advertising, is pending trial next month. In the suit, Miss Bankhead contends the name “Tallulah” suggests “Tallulah Bankhead” to the public.

Mr. Seawell stated the same stand would be taken in the case of a comic strip. He said a letter of protest had been writ­ten to National Newspaper Service, Chicago, which launched the “Tallulah” strip last month; but that no papers have been filed so far.

President John F. Dille of NNS, contacted by E&P, said the new strip “has nothing to do with Tallulah Bankhead.” He declined further comment.

The gag-a-day strip is drawn by Ira Yarbrough, who signs his work, “Yar.”

Obscurity of the Day: Gene Autry

From an entertainment standpoint, the 1950s were the decade of the western. With a TV in every living room and broadcasters scrambling to fill airtime, the old ‘B’ western movies of the 1930s and 40s became a television staple. The public proved receptive to the genre so the networks also began to produce new television ‘oaters’ in massive quantities.

Newspaper comic strips, always a medium that embraces the latest fad, gave editors a vast array of new western comic strips to pick from, apparently under the assumption that what people watch on television they want on the comics page, too. The wisdom of the assumption was questionable, and most of the western comic strips had limited success.

Gene Autry, the singing cowboy, was first put into comic strip form in 1940 as Gene Autry Rides. That strip fell flat, but evidently Autry felt it was time for another try in the booming 1950s cowboy market. The new strip, titled simply Gene Autry, was syndicated through General Features starting on September 8 1952. Though a Bob Stevens was credited as writer I’m told that it was actually Phil Evans, with oversight by Albert Law Stoffel. The art was credited to Bert Laws, who, I am also told, is actually Pete Alvarado with an assist from Tom Cooke.

Whether the strip was any good I’ll leave up to fans of the genre (personally I’ve always found westerns to be real snoozers). Good or not, it was undeniably handicapped by having General Features marketing it. General Features was a small syndicate with no sales force, and with the plethora of other western strips of the 50s being sold by travelling salesmen for the big syndicates it didn’t stand much of a chance.

The early returns on the strip must have been half-way decent because a Sunday was added on April 26 1953. But that limited success was evidently short-lived because the strip ended on November 5 1955, a little over three years into the run. Between the lack of sales horsepower and the flooding of the western strip market it was a foregone conclusion that the singing cowboy would have to ride into the sunset.

News of Yore: US Newspaper Comics Bootlegged in UK

British to Ban Comics With Imported Papers

E&P 3/18/50

The British Board of Trade’s decision to ban the import of comic supplements of American and other foreign newspapers is expected to stop the bulk in­flux of U. S. Sunday papers having such supplements after March 31. The British ban, originally scheduled to take effect March 8, was later stayed until March 31.

John Block & Co., freight for­warders of bulk shipments of Sunday copies of the New York Daily News, the New York Daily Mirror and the Chicago Tribune, had orders to continue shipments that would arrive be­fore the March 31 deadline. But Block officials expected the business to cease after that date.

Mirror Comments
The Mirror observed editorially: “As nearly as we can tell, this new decree will keep out of Britain all but one or two American Sunday papers, which hardly, by themselves, offer a fully rounded picture of our American thought and life.”

Circulation Manager William Denhart of the Daily News in­dicated no plans were being made to ship the papers minus the comics.

Observers familiar with the British situation thought the British distributors who receive the American newspapers would not be eager to distrib­ute them minus comic supple­ments. The papers forwarded in bulk are at least five days old by the time they arrive. While circulation figures were not available, it was understood that one New York paper regu­larly ships as many as 7,000 Sunday copies. The Newark (N. J.) Star Ledger had been shipping about 3,000 copies of Sunday over­issues to Britain per week up until two months ago. This dis­posal of over-issues, which could not be counted on circu­lation, was discontinued be­cause it did not pay off, officials said.

$520,000 Worth
The British move, aimed pri­marily at U. S. supplements but covering other foreign countries as well, was designed primarily to save dollars and not to “clamp down on the world flow of news,” a Board official told E&P’s London cor­respondent. A survey made by the Board for the 12 months ending in June, 1949, showed that about $520,000 worth of newspapers with comic supplements was imported from the U. S., and that of this amount about $400,000 worth was imported in order that the comic supple­ments might be sold separately.

“It won’t mean a big loss for the U. S. newspapers, but it was a frightful waste for a country short of dollars,” the Board official said.

U. S. syndicate officials, not directly affected by the ban, were nevertheless aware of a British situation involving the “bootlegging of comics” that had grown up as a result of an earlier British ban on Ameri­can comic books. The ban on importation of American comic books was placed soon after the war start­ed, according to one syndicate official. The selling of comic supplements separately, and at prices higher than the whole newspaper would ordinarily sell for, has filled the comic books gap, it was pointed out.

Some syndicate salesmen be­lieve the ban on importation of American comic supplements may be a wedge for selling more American strips to Brit­ish newspapers.

Protested by ANPA
A columnist in the Evening Standard, London, remarked rather archly: “Our own recol­lections of the comics were not such as to make it seem likely that it could be the subject of an international smuggling traf­fic.” He said that “once inside the country these (American) newspapers were discarded, but the supplements retained and sold for vast sums.”

General manager Cranston Williams of the American News­paper Publishers Association has protested the British ban on importation of supplements to Secretary of State Dean Acheson. “At the present time when there is every effort to encourage the free flow of com­munications between nations it is difficult to reconcile the ac­tion taken by the British Board of Trade,” he wrote. “Granted that comics do not represent news, still they do depict phases of American life which would lead to a greater understanding between nations and peoples.”

The Daily News editorially suggested: “U. S. reprisals for this stab at a small bit of our foreign trade would be easy to take. We think they’d better be taken, too, lest the British Socialists be encouraged to ex­tend this dirty little boycott principle to other and larger items.”

Obscurity of the Day: Snooks and Snicks

The Philadelphia North American was the most receptive paper in the country to female cartoonists. Why that is I dunno, but here’s another distaff cartoonist by the name of Inez Tribit (nee Townsend).

Inez had two known series, a decade apart. The first was Gretchen Gratz for the Inquirer which lasted a year. Her second, Snooks and Snicks, was more successful, running from February 23 1913 until the North American’s homegrown comics section ended on July 4 1915. According to one online bio Tribit moved to California in the 1900s, but they also claim she did Gretchen Gratz for the Philadelphia Tribune, a paper that would have had little interest in strips about cherubic white children since it was published to serve the Philadelphia black community. Take with a grain of salt.

Snooks and Snicks were another in the endless procession of Katzie clones, their claim to originality being that they wore (for no obvious reason) clothes associated with the Dutch. The strips were done in rhyme which was slightly better than the typical doggerel usually found on the comics pages. Tribit’s art style was pleasant, done in a style often seen in children’s books of the day. Our sample today marks a minor change of focus for the series as the newly introduced Clarence went on to pretty much take over the strip.

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Welcome to a new Sunday feature of the Stripper’s Guide blog, a project by Jim Ivey called “My Other Life”. He produced these pages over the past year or so to include with his voluminous correspondence. They’re done in a wonderfully simple off-the-cuff minimalist style — practically boiling down a story into a series of icons.

Fledgling cartoonists take note at how few lines are necessary to get the ideas across – less is more! The great cartoonist Phil May was once castigated by an editor for using so few lines in his drawings – the editor felt he was being shortchanged. May’s response was that if he could use any fewer lines he would have to charge more.

Most of the pages tell anecdotes from Jim’s (non-professional) life, others are philosophical, but all are delightful, interesting and good reads. I asked Jim if I could share them with you folks on the blog, and he very graciously agreed after making a few minor edits and changes for general public consumption. I’ll be running this original series on Sundays until I run out of material. Most episodes are single pages, but this introductory episode is a special double pager. Enjoy!

News of Yore: Phil Love Profiled

[reprinted from Cartoons & Movies, 1925 – while Phil Love never made a splash as a cartoonist (not hard to see why), he did, among other things, become a very well-regarded features editor for the Washington Star, a regular and very entertaining columnist in Cartoonist Profiles, and even started a prototypical version of the NCS way back in the 1920s]

Phil Love, comic artist and “colyumnist,” has just been appointed art director for the Cartoon Advertising Service, 3003 Alameda Blvd,. Baltimore. He is the author of “Nothing in Particular,” which appears in Cartoons and Movies magazine each month.

Phil’s popularity is attested by the fact that when we inadvertently left out his name from his department in June, several readers wrote asking if he were sick or away on a vacation!

Philip H. Love is also a contributor to Collegiate Wit and Fraternity Fun, Ziffs, Whiz Bang, Follies, Paris, Flapper’s Experience, 10-Story Book and other publications, for which he draws or writes-or both.

Phil is modest, but some day we hope he will tell our readers in detail exactly how he “broke into print” as a writer and comic artist, with suggestions to beginners.

Following his career in brief: “My first cartoon work was done at Calvert Hall College, Baltimore, back in ’22 when I illustrated the year book; previous to that I had served as editor of the school paper for three years. I got the idea that I was a cartoonist and quit school before the end of the term – thus abandoning my ambition to become a lawyer.

“I got a job as staff artist with The Baltimore Times, now extinct. Later I went with a local commercial artist as an apprentice but soon decided that commercial art held no charms for me. I quit and went to Chicago as art editor and associate editor of The Flapper (later Experience, now Flapper’s Experience) to which I had been contributing for some time.

“Later I moved to Philadelphia where I maintained a studio and did free lance work, then went to New York with High Life. After that I returned to Baltimore and have been there ever since (about a year and a half). In Baltimore I have been engaged in the publishing business – Youth – and after selling out my interest continued to freelance, which I am still doing.

“My only art education was a correspondence course with the Landon School in 1919. Since then I have learned by experience and am still learning.

“I am now art director of the Cartoon Advertising Service, a concern making a specialty of direct appeal advertising cartoons and comics for advertising purposes. We have most of the larger local stores in Baltimore as clients and also furnish local druggists with a service – one special frame and two cartoons a month to boost sales.”

Stripper’s Guide Bookshelf: Killed Cartoons

Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression
Edited by David Wallis, 282 pages
W.W. Norton & Company 2007
ISBN 978-0-393-32924-7
$15.95 US

Killed Cartoons provides an impressively even-handed look at cartoons that have been spiked by newspaper, syndicate and magazine editors. Yes, many of these examples do show editors to be spineless jellyfish, but on the other hand there’s no shortage of cartoonists who, by practically any measure, go beyond the realm of good taste.

The book is organized into five chapters covering cartoons loosely based on their touchy subjects — religion, politics, race, business, and sex. Each chapter presents a series of cartoons and commentaries. The essay accompanying each cartoon tells the story behind it and how it came to be relegated to the circular file. Many of the cartoons were submitted by the artists themselves, and in those cases the accompanying essays feature particularly enlightening commentary from the trenches. Editor David Wallis thankfully doesn’t give the cartoonists free rein to wallow in self-pity, though, but takes the opportunity to elevate the discussion to show the big picture of how the publishing business works, what pressures are faced by editors and how cartoonists fit in the publishing business.

The chapter on sex is, as you might expect, particularly fun, featuring risque and scatological cartoons that failed to make it past editors. Who would have thought that Paul Conrad, for instance, would even bother to submit a cartoon showing a Republican elephant gleefully humping a Democrat donkey, or that Carol Lay would submit a comic strip about anal sex to the San Francisco Examiner. Political cartoonist Matt Davies, who bemoans American editors’ reluctance to run scatological cartoons (he says they are considered perfectly acceptable in European newspapers), submits the sample at left which was spiked by his editor.

It’s not hard to see why editors would reject some of these cartoons, but other ‘kills’ are indefensible. The book is replete with cartoons that were rejected because an editor just didn’t want to rock the boat. For instance, during the Catholic priest child molestation scandal of 2002 Kirk Anderson penned the cartoon below, an incredibly powerful piece. His cartoon comments on the Catholic church trying to sweep the allegations of priest child sex abuse under the rug, a story that bedeviled the church in 2002.

The cartoon is a masterpiece of art and hard-hitting commentary, yet Anderson’s editor at the St. Paul Pioneer-Press decided not to run it. According to Anderson the paper’s editor was at the time trying to curry favor with local Catholics by running some pro-Catholic church material to get back into their good graces. This cartoon was deemed a step back in the wrong direction and thus was relegated to file 13.

In essay after essay we meet editors who are unwilling to print cartoons that might stir up a bit of controversy. In some cases the editor’s reasoning is defensible. J.D. Crowe, for instance, worked for a conservative paper but regularly drew cartoons espousing liberal views. Inevitably some of his cartoons are going to get spiked. But when an editor agrees wholeheartedly with a cartoon’s message and yet won’t run it because it hits too hard or threatens to annoy some segment of the newspaper’s readership, that’s an abdication of the responsibilities of journalism. In an age where many regard newspapers as an antiquated news source on a par with the town crier, is this any time for editors to be publishing a cowardly, limp-wristed paper notable only in its strong stance against relevance?

One piece of wise counsel comes from cartoonist Bob Englehart. He believes that many editors kill cartoons not so much for lack of spine but simply because they’re lazy. His suggestion to editorial cartoonists is this: “When editors kill a cartoon it’s because they don’t feel they can defend it. Sometimes if I can give the editor the words to say to the [reader] that calls him on the phone or the politician … then he’ll let me go ahead and draw the cartoon.” A sad commentary on newspaper editors to be sure, but perhaps a useful suggestion for cartoonists.

News of Yore: L.D. Bradley Profiled

[Guy Lockwood in Art & Life, 1924]

It would be a hazardous undertaking for anyone to attempt to designate the best cartoonist in this country. One might easily have a personal choice, but here is a case where authorities differ and probably no two people with a right to make such a selection, if anyone has, would agree. One would select some artist for his ideas, regardless of draw­ing and technique; another would judge on the basis of good drawing; while a third would choose from the standpoint of composition; and a fourth would have a personal viewpoint differing from the others, making the correct choice, if there be such, purely a matter of in­dividual opinion.

It is a good deal like the selection of the best looking girl. Here, each judge, if he be a man, has his own standard of perfection, differing from other men’s standards enough to make the selection among a number of real beautiful wom­en largely a matter of chance rather than of any scientific accuracy obtainable in the grading of chickens of the feathered variety, where a certain number of points count for the comb, the hackle, wings, legs, etc.

And this calls to mind what Deacon Jones said about his wife. He was thankful that all men did not see things the same way, for if they did everyone would want his wife; to which Deacon Smith added, under his breath, “If they all saw things as I do no one would want her.”

While it might be hazardous to draw comparisons between live cartoonists, it is comparatively safe to mention dead ones without fear of hurting anyone’s feelings.

One cartoonist that the writer always admired was the late L. D. Bradley of the Chicago Daily News.

Bradley was one of these workmen who are not afraid to give both time and thought to their productions. Some cartoonists pride themselves upon the rapidity with which they can turn out their stunt. I know of one who showed up in his studio about ten o’oclock, dictated his letters to his private secre­tary, completed his daily cartoon stunt and had his hat on, ready to leave, about eleven. And, by the way, he is still holding down the job, which goes to show that some men do reach a point where they can do about as they darn please and get away with it. But we would not advise anyone to try the same stunt, for in most cases it wouldn’t work.

I have been told by those who worked along side Bradley in the News office that he often spent the entire day at his cartoon and was seldom satisfied with his own work. Everything was worked out in pencil with the greatest care be­fore ink was applied; and then frequent changes were made in the finished pen drawing before it was finally turned over to the engravers.

The Chicago Daily News published a series of war cartoons by Bradley, dur­ing the year 1914, that were a fine con­tribution to the cause of peace on earth, good will towards men. These were published before the U. S. was entangled in the world conflagation, during a per­iod when nearly every cartoonist in the country was getting out anti-war car­toons.

That cartoonists have some power in shaping public sentiment cannot be doubted, but the anti-war cartoons cer­tainly did not cut much ice in this coun­try; and cartoons that were published before the war and applauded would have resulted in the suppression of the paper that contained them, if printed same can be said with truth again. Just why this country was plunged into war after the U. S. went in, and probably imprisonment for the artist, if not bodily injury.

It is undoubtedly true that before the war a vast majority or the American people were opposed to war in every way; and it will not be long before there is another story, nor does the writer pro­pose to take space here to give his ver­sion of the matter, though he has opinions quite contrary to those usually propounded.

We are publishing in this issue without further comment a couple of Bradley’s anti-war cartoons, also a fine sample of his daily grind. [actually only the two accompanying here were in the issue – Allan]

Young cartooners might well study his work for strength of line, accuracy of drawing and good composition; though it might be mentioned in conclusion that some of his work was more or less stiff, due, we take it, to his painstaking draftsmanship.

Obscurity of the Day: Colorful Colorado

Awhile back I reported on an unknown feature that got a mention in E&P called Colorful Colorado. Soon after I was contacted by Van Truan, son of cartoonist Jolan Truan, with this information:

My father was a graduate of the Chicago Institute of Art in early 30s and did a correspondence course from Washington School of Cartooning in late 20s or 30s. He did commercial art for State Journal in Springfield, Ill and the moved to Pueblo and began working for the Star-Journal & Chieftain in 1935. During WWII, he did free-lance art in St. Petersburg for the Florida Electric Comp. and his own engraving company back in Pueblo. He was a fellow Kansasan and was friend of Walt Disney and his brother (they worked in the fields together). Walt asked him to work for him in California, but he didn’t want to like in California, (being a Kansas farm boy). Big mistake?

The “cartoons” were done by etching chalk plates (old newspaper style) I even have a few of them. I have a ton of his advertisement cartoons that he did from the mid-30s to late 70s when he passed.

I asked about the use of chalk plates, which went out of favor back in the 1890s, and also whether the feature ran uninterrupted:

I think the series ran of and on. I know he didn’t work for the Pueblo Chieftain during WWII, but not sure when he returned after the war.

My dad loved doing chalk plates and was considered one of the best in the country. The owner of the Pueblo paper was a tight wad, so chalk plates probably didn’t go out until the late 40s. The local library has copies of all the newspapers since 1872, so I can find dates for you. I know he was still doing illustrations for the “Colorful Colorado” weekly edition in 1968, but it may have ended some time in 69. My fathers most famous chalk plate was of Will Roger’s missing plane. It was done just after the wire announced his plane being missing. He did an immediate chalk plate showing the potential location of the plane crash and a portrait of Will. He had it published in the evening news. He completed it in approx. 30 minutes. The Pueblo Star-Journal (the evening Pueblo paper) scooped the Rocky Mountain News & Denver Post, they couldn’t believe anyone could get the notice out that night.

The 1978 paperback was completed just after he died, he was completing the
cover, but someone else finished his design. Also, not all planned work was completed, since Ralph had not real artist to work with and he missed his artist buddy.

I was able to find a copy of the 1941 reprint book, from which the samples here are scanned. The 1978 book, by the way, is not really reprints of the feature but pieces by the writer with occasional cartoons.

It amazes me that Truan actually liked to work with chalk plates — I never heard any cartoonist anywhere have anything but bad memories of them. Kinda neat to know that at least one cartoonist actually preferred them over more modern methods.