Sponsored Comics: Will Wynn


I guess maybe Bill Lignante was a pretty serious baseball fan after all. He, along with George Olesen, took over Ozark Ike in 1954 when the master, Ray Gotto, left seeking greener pastures. I always thought that the work of the clean-up crew of Lignante and Olesen was rather perfunctory on that formerly great strip. But when Lignante developed a feature for Family Comics what did he come up with but another baseball yarn, this one titled Will Wynn. I take that to mean that Lignante really loved the game. Or, in the spirit of glass half empty, does it mean that Lignante just used it as a way to recycle old art and plots from Ozark Ike?

This strip was the front page for the Family Comics section, so Maurer or whoever published it must have thought it would hook the kids. Since the section ran in early summer, and kids actually cared about baseball back in those good old days, perhaps he was right.

Sponsored Comics: Woody Forrest



Here’s a delightful Family Comics item called Woody Forrest from that oh-so-smooth pen of Henry Boltinoff. Boltinoff did a lot of filler strips in DC comic books, plus long runs of the syndicated panel Stoker the Broker and the strip Nubbin. However, he is probably best known as the cartoonist on Hocus-Focus, that visual puzzle where you have to spot the differences between two cartoons.

When you think about it, Boltinoff may have the most recognizable style of any cartoonist on the planet. How many cartoonists can boast that millions of people scrutinize every little detail of his work on a daily basis?

You know, I’ve always wondered. Does Boltinoff draw one cartoon for Hocus-Focus, then make the second by doing adjustments on a stat, or does he draw the two cartoons from scratch? I’ve always assumed it has to be the former, but with Boltinoff’s incredibly smooth and consistent style I bet he could do it the hard way.

Sponsored Comics: Willis Barton, MD



Well now here’s an interesting one. Willis Barton MD is, as far as I know, the only comic strip ever about a plastic surgeon. That’s almost as odd as my very favorite doctor strip, The Adventures of Peter Goldstream, Crusading Urologist.

The art on this strip by the pseudonymous Otto Graff is really intriguing. Obviously there’s a lot of Stan Drake/Alex Raymond influence. Am I crazy or is there some possibility that this is the work of a very young Neal Adams? I swear I’m seeing some of his signature flourishes in some panels. Adams would have been a tender 19 years old at the time, but hey, the guy had a major syndicated strip at age 22, so why not? What say you?

Sponsored Comics: Jest in Fun & Kippy

This was considered the throwaway page in the Family Comics section, it was sometimes dropped in favor of an extra ad for the grocery store. In addition to the strip Kippy that always ran along the top, it featured gag cartoons, mostly by second and lower tier gag cartoonists.

Looking through the run, I can read the following signatures: Frosty, T.H., Wenzel, Hoifseld, Wallace Ashby Jr., George Wolfe, Ford Button, Reg Hider, Serrano, Leung, Hank Martin, Bob Serbicki, Goldstein, Troop, Levinson, Hagglund, Taber, Jack Tippit and S. Harris. Although all the cartoons are signed, quite a few are illegible. Few of the cartoonists contributed more than a few cartoons during the run I have on hand.

The strip Kippy was by Bernard and Jordan Lansky, and it’s the only feature known definitely to have survived the Family Comics section. Lansky sold the strip to Field Enterprises and it ran for two years starting September 12 1960. After Field canceled it Lansky apparently shopped it around again, and Columbia Features Syndicate picked it up, now as a single panel cartoon, late in 1962. Kippy’s second chance was fleeting, though, as the panel was again canceled around March 1963.

Sponsored Comics: Johnny Stardust



Back to Sponsored Comics on this fine Monday morning, which finds me with a painful sunburn. I went to Tampa on Sunday to listen to Barack Obama make a campaign speech, and stood out in a broiling sun for hours. I tell you this, of course, to rub it in to those of you still shoveling snow up north.

Anywho, here we have Johnny Stardust, a very well-drawn adventure strip by Vernon Rieck. Rieck was obviously one of the many ‘toonists under the spell of Caniff, with a little Mel Graff and Alex Toth influence also evident. His only definite syndication credit was when he took over the Oh Diana strip in its last year of publication, but he was listed in E&P for a number of other strips, none of which I’ve been able to document. Most of these undocumented strips were syndicated by Velerie Productions, a company I know nothing about.

Sponsored Comics: Miss Chipps



Here’s Miss Chipps, a single-tier strip from Family Comics. This one was signed Memling and Beckerman. I’m assuming this is writer Carl Memling and cartoonist Howard Beckerman, but I’m certainly open to being told otherwise.

Carl Memling was a prolific children’s book author. He did a lot of tie-in storybooks to TV series and comic strips. My knowledge of Memling’s work is slight, but the adult-oriented nature of this strip would be a significant departure from his typical output.

Howard Beckerman is best known for his work in animation. He is best known for the celebrated Schoolhouse Rock series of education shorts for Saturday morning TV. The style here doesn’t match what he was doing in the 70s, but artists can certainly grow and change in the span of over a decade.

EDIT: No, no, no, no. Howard Beckerman himself sends me an email saying that he had nothing to do with Schoolhouse Rock. This is yet another case of one person making a mistake and it spreading all over the net like a cancer. My apologies for the misattribution. And if you’d like to know what Howard is really up to, as opposed to any fantasies I might concoct for him, visit his website.

Sponsored Comics: Blaze Braden


Here’s the first of the adventure strips from the Family Comics section, a western called Blaze Braden. This one was credited to Paul Morgan. I’m assuming that was a pseudonym. Interestingly enough, The Tab Hunter Show on TV featured Tab as a cartoonist named Paul Morgan in 1960.

The art on this strip seems to me a bit on the hacky side, looks like the work of a comic book artist. Perhaps one of you readers more into comic books can shed some light on an artist ID.

Blaze Braden is another strip that was advertised in E&P in 1960, so I guess my earlier estimate that most all the strips just gave up when the section folded was premature. Like Happy Days, it was advertised as being syndicated by Crown Features Syndicate. I’ve never found anything from Crown running in any newspaper.

[EDIT: Art Lortie finds someone on the web who owns the original of the first sample above, and they credit it to John Ushler. That sounds about right to me. It does resemble his other work. To see the original, click on this link]

Sponsored Comics: Happy Days 1969



For the introductory post on Sponsored Comics click here.

Happy Days 1969 was bylined to Norman Maurer. Maurer was, I believe, the man behind Sponsored Comics. His contribution to the section was a delightful fantasy of the future, a world right out of the Jetsons that Maurer apparently thought might just happen within the next decade.

The art on this strip is absolutely fantastic, and though I remain skeptical of art-spotting, my own included, I think this strip was probably ghosted by the great Al Wiseman. Wiseman was the master cartoonist who turned the Dennis The Menace comic books from what could have been just another forgettable comic strip spin-off into a work of enduring value.

Unlike most of the Sponsored comics which came and went with the section, Maurer in 1960 tried to syndicate this feature as a Sunday strip and daily panel. It was listed in E&P that year but I’ve never seen it appearing in any newspaper.

Sponsored Comics: Bless, the Mayor



Here’s our first Sponsored Comics strip. To catch up on our discussion of Sponsored Comics, see this post.

Bless, The Mayor, for reasons unknown, was the only Sponsored Comics strip that merited a full tabloid page. It sported hip 1950s-era art by Gill Fox. Fox was an excellent cartoonist who was also at this time producing a minor panel feature called Wilbert for General Features. It was doomed to be cancelled just a few months later in 1959. Gill was also producing occasional filler comic strips for the New York Daily News during this time, and as I understand it, also working for advertising firm Johnstone & Cushing. A busy guy, but not too busy to produce these really eye-catching pages for Sponsored.