Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies” Part 7

Just slightly more youthful than Foxy Grandpa, Percy and Ferdie made their debut in 1904 under the title The Hall-Room Boys. H.A. MacGill, who had shortly before caused a minor sensation in New York newspaper circles by producing the very first true sustained daily comic strip, followed up with this rather less interesting feature starring a pair of would-be gay rakes. Percy and Ferdie were always on the prowl for ladies and they usually tried to attract the fair sex by pretending to be well-off, a tactic that invariably blew up in their faces. The strip was reasonably funny, but suffered from a ridiculous surfeit of dialogue (a problem MacGill seemed finally to remedy in this incarnation).

Percy and Ferdie has much the same history as Foxy Grandpa as a matter of fact. MacGill jumped syndicates pretty often, usually taking the boys along with him. But they’d not appeared for half a decade before being revived one last time in The Funnies.

Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies” Part 6

Weekend’s over, time to return to The Funnies. Today we have Foxy Grandpa, Carl “Bunny” Schultze’s classic strip that first appeared in the New York Herald way, way back in 1900.

Foxy Grandpa was the Whack-a-Mole of comic strips. Schultze produced it for syndicate after syndicate, and every time a syndicate editor gave it the axe it would, sooner or later, pop up elsewhere. This, however, would be it’s last appearance in anything approaching a newspaper. Schultze lived until 1939, though, and supposedly worked for awhile in the fledgling comic book industry — I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Foxy Grandpa made its last stand in the funnybooks.

Herriman Saturday

On February 4 Herriman takes one more swipe at the city council, then takes a few well-deserved days off.

He returns with the railroads suddenly the biggest bee in his bonnet. His cartoons on th 7th, 8th and 9th all feature Harriman and the business practices that have finally brought him to the attention of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Unfortunately the cartoons of the 8th and 9th are apparently both done under deadline pressure, Herriman’s style degrading to flat caricatures and awkward staging.

On Sunday the 10th Herriman contributes two giant full page-width cartoons, one each for the sports and automobile sections of the paper.

Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies” Part 4

Here’s Sancho and the Don by Ralph Wolfe. It sometimes appeared in the section as a color page, in my issue it’s a half-tab black and white. Wolfe was a good cartoonist and storyteller — he had a knack for coming up with good strip ideas. Unfortunately he also had a knack for picking out bad companies to work for. In addition to this Dell project he also worked for the Graphic Syndicate and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s C-V Syndicate. I understand he finally managed to pick a winner when he went to Warner Brothers, working in their animation studio.

Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies” Part 3

Here’s a strip from one of the black and white pages of The Funnies, Sniffy by Glen Wood. Not much of a gag, but this Wood fellow had a pleasant style. Except I think there is no such person — looks suspiciously like VEP’s work to me.

Let’s talk a bit more about the newspaper question. The really odd thing about The Funnies is that most of its features were listed in the Editor & Publisher syndicate directory. If it was a standalone newsstand publication what were its features doing in there? And if the section ended in late 1930 why were many of the features advertised in E&P until 1934? And why were all those features listed as being syndicated by Eastern Color Printing, rather than Dell Publishing?

Inquiring minds wanna know!

Here’s my guess — after the initial run, which was tried both as a newsstand publication and was also eventually offered as a newspaper insert, Dell deep-sixed the publication, but had a lot of paid-for material on its hands. So they tried publishing some Cupples & Leon style books of Clancy The Cop and others, but those didn’t sell either. So they figured maybe they could make the experiment pay off by offering the strips as separate features to newspapers for their existing Sunday sections. They offered the strips through Eastern Color Printing, a company with which they did a number of joint ventures, and which was a major printer of Sunday funnies for newspapers. Only problem was no newspapers bought the darn features! Not surprising because Eastern was not in the business of marketing comic strips to newspaper editors, though one must imagine that they should have had quite a leg up on the competition. End of utterly baseless speculation.

EDIT 8/7/08: Chris Mosher writes to tell me that VEP lived on Glenwood Road in Flatbush, so that explains the pen name. You can find a bio of VEP by Mosher here.

Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies” Part 2

Hmm. The first post about The Funnies yesterday was greeted with the deafening roar of virtual cricket chirpings. No one has any information to share?

Well, anyway, here’s our first strip from The Funnies. Jimmy Jams was by VEP (Victor Pazimino), who did anchor duty at that publication. He provided every cover that I’ve seen, always featuring Jimmy in one of his eponymous jams. I suspect that Jimmy appeared in every issue and was featured on every cover.

As you can see, the sample above was treated rudely by some young rapscallion 75+ years ago.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that Jimmy Jams, prior to this incarnation, was a Central Press daily panel in the late 20s.

Dell Publishing’s “The Funnies”

Today we’re going to start on a series of posts about a very rare series. Dell Publishing, for reasons long lost to the mists of time, decided in 1930 to begin publishing a tabloid called The Funnies. The 16 page publication was on newsprint throughout, including the cover, and featured comics, stories and columns. All the material was original to the publication.

The series lasted for at least 36 issues. Based on the numbering cited in Robert Beerbohm’s platinum age comics section of the Overstreet Price Guide that places the first issue appearing on February 15 1930, and he has the last known issue, number 36, on October 18.

The big question, at least for me, is whether this series was intended as a newspaper insert or a standalone newsstand publication. There is evidence that goes both ways. Evidence that it was intended as a newspaper insert:

1) I corresponded with Beerbohm many years ago about the series — unfortunately the correspondence was long ago lost but my best recollection is that he claimed his samples at the time all came from the microfilm of a newspaper in Quebec Canada.

2) The comic strips from the publication were offered in the Editor & Publisher Syndicate Yearbook. More on this in a subsequent post.

3) Beerbohm’s samples (he made a batch of photocopies for me) had the cover price blanked out, which would be appropriate for an insert.

On the other hand, there is a definite possibility that it was a standalone newsstand publication:

1) Some samples of the tabloid, including mine, have prices printed on them.

2) It is cited as a newsstand publication by Beerbohm and others. I don’t know what the basis for that is other than the cover price.

My guess is that Dell was probably trying to market it both ways. But part of the reason I’m doing this series of posts is to try to gather more information from you comics scholars out there. Surely there is more known about this publication now than there was a decade or so ago when I talked to Robert Beerbohm about it. Has anyone else found samples, either accompanying newspapers or otherwise?

The rest of this series of posts will reproduce samples of the features from The Funnies from my lone sample — a find that I’ve been searching out for years now. Unfortunately my sample is missing 4 pages and there’s a cutout on the back cover. But beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m happy to have even this badly damaged copy.