News of Yore 1949: Lawrence Lariar Profiled

How Busy Can Man Get? Answers by Lariar

By Ogden J. Rochelle (E&P, 3/19/49)

A job description of Lawrence Lariar would be pattern for most of the tasks in the production of comic strips. Few, if any, continuity writers bring as much experience and training to their work as Lariar. “Bodyguard,” an adventure strip with a straight man, distributed by New York Herald Tribune Syndicate, is authored by Lariar with the sure touch of one who is both writer and illustrator.

Yet, the strip, which became a daily feature March 7 after running 10 months as a Sunday page, is drawn by John Spranger, 27-year-old war veteran, whom Lariar recruited from the comic books.

Draws, Writes, Teaches

Lariar had 15 years of cartooning and illustrating when in 1942 he began writing. He is now author of 16 published books, has a serial in the current Liberty magazine, and is working on another book, “Careers in Cartooning,” for Dodd-Mead & Co. He also is executive director of a professional school of cartooning in New York City.

“Bodyguard” has the plot of a mystery story, begins in India, is sprinkled with exotic and American beauties, and has a central character that’s different — a saucy, precocious, fat child with enough on the ball to run a kingdom and a child’s desire to play ball. It is a swift moving story, a vehicle giving scope to Lariar’s broad background.

Cartoon editor of Liberty for the past seven years, Lariar began the Thropp Family there, first comic strip to run as a continuity in a national magazine.

As a free-lance (1930-1938) Lariar did advertising and direct mail cartoons, comic strips and spot drawings and contributed political cartoons to the New York Journal-American.

In 1935, Brooklyn-born Lawrence Lariar married his agent, Susan Mayer of Brooklyn. They have two children. Lariar says his wife was one of the first cartoon agents in the magazine gag panel field, and was a gag creator on her own.

Three Young Adventurers

Lariar’s training began in the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. For the first six months he was on commercial illustration, then switched to cartooning. After graduation he started out with two buddies, Jack Arthur, now a school teacher in the New York system, and Adolph Schus, now a designer in fabric house.

The trio set up a cartoon agency in a flat in the 80’s in New York, sold vignettes to College Life, for which the editor wrote two-line captions. They also got in America’s Humor magazine, primarily because it couldn’t pay as much as Life or Judge, says Lariar. Arthur, the oldest of the three (he was 21) would contact various outlets and say he represented a dozen different artists, which Lariar, Arthur and Schus tried to prove. One of their “artists” was named Baron de Shebago, who drew a full page of zanies.

In 1927, Lariar went to Paris on a scholarship to the school of dynamic symmetry. He was accompanied by Arthur. Later, the third musketeer, Schus, joined them. They went into the same routine in Paris, and did a big business with British magazines and Fleetway House, then one of the big magazine publishing houses of the world. Much of their work was for The Looker-On, which folded but paid off — fortunately for the sake of their fares back home. They did work, too, for Boulevardier, a Paris publication operated by Erskine Gwynn, an American.

Come Home for Depression

The trio caromed back to New York in October, 1929, a few days after the boom had burst.

“To make a living, we did everything,” says Lariar. “We had a service for printers, drew cartoons for calendars, played messenger and did some of the first work for the slicks.”

The boys hit upon a deal that brought home the bacon when they did a series of cartoon postcards, designed to save Boy Scouts time in writing home to mother. They sold over a million of them in a direct-mail campaign.

Flushed with success, they then embarked on a venture that sank them. In Paris, Lariar had picked up a book reproducing the etchings of a Rembrandt exposition. The plates were excellent, and they had sold many of them to friends back home without any other effort than razoring them out of the book. Reproduction by a photographic process was expensive, and they moved in trade as slowly as coal buckets from a hardware merchant’s shelves in the summer time.

“I still see them in shops around town,” remarks Lariar sadly. “They’re very good, too.”

So the combine broke up, and Lariar rented offices on 45th Street where he turned to strip cartooning, drew some of the first comic books in 1933, and for Stuart Shaftell’s Young America created “Inspector Keene of Scotland Yard.”

He took the Walt Disney aptitude test in 1938 and went out to Hollywood briefly. Not liking the Disney factory approach, he soon returned to New York.

He emceed the CBS television show, “Draw Me Another,” in 1947, and created the “Happy Headlines” show.

He is editor of a juvenile book publishing company, director of sketch units for hospitalized servicemen, and was president of the American Society of Magazine Cartoonists (1943-1946).

Among his writings is a winner of the Dodd Mead $1,000 Red Badge Prize.

He claims he has several hours’ leisure time every day.

Go Away! To Yesterday’s Papers, That Is

I don’t normally do a post just to tell you to go check another site; seems a bit of a cop-out. But I can’t let the March 26 post on Yesterday’s Papers go by without directing you to it. John Adcock has unearthed a superb 1935 article about newspaper comics in something called New Outlook. The article, written by William E. Berchtold, is incredibly well-researched. That’s something you just never see from that era (about comics, that is).

Go and enjoy, and then we’ll get back to business as usual tomorrow.

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Jim Ivey’s new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey’s career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

Herriman Saturday

Friday, July 19 1907 — These two small cartoons were included with a story about city councilman Barney Healy. Seems that Barney has been shepherding some legislation to guarantee poll workers a wage of $5 per day. Apparently in Healy’s ward practically everyone of voting age is designated a poll worker, and Healy wants the city to pay them bribes on his behalf. Only problem is that when his pet legislation was put up to the vote at the last meeting, poor Barney was all tuckered out and fast asleep in his chair. Without his oratory to sway his fellow council members the matter was voted down.
Now Barney is angered at the council for not giving him a nudge when it was time to vote, and of course his constituents aren’t too happy since he’s been promising them this $5 boon for months. Barney has taken pen in hand to the mayor, expressing his outrage at the behavior of the council and asking him nicely to force the measure to be re-introduced.

Friday, July 19 1907 — Herriman pokes a little fun at oil magnate John D. Rockefeller for sharing with a reporter some of his golfing wisdom. To wit, (1) keep your eye on the ball, (2) don’t speak when others are taking their strokes, and (3) refrain from using coarse language on the links. It’s not hard to understand why John D. rarely talked to the press when they have no mercy over some offhand remarks about golf.

Sorry about the quality of this image. It was in awful condition and I have a full plate of other activities today that keep me from giving it the usual restoration work.

News of Yore: Short Items from 1949

‘Barnaby’ in Movies
(E&P, 3/26/49)

Plans for a movie based on “Barnaby,” the comic strip distributed by Bell Syndicate are under way according to Crockett Johnson, author of the strip. A release at Bell’s New York office says the picture rights have been transferred from RKO to an independent producer.

Johnson is working on the script in New York in collaboration with Lewis Amster, Hollywood screen writer.

RKO was reported to have paid a record $100,000 for the option on Barnaby. This could not be confirmed at RKO’s New York office.

[Allan’s note: I’ve found no evidence that a Barnaby movie was ever made, but there was a TV pilot in 1965.]

Comics Go Opera
(E&P, 1/1/49)

New in the comic strip world, at least as far as daily newspaper syndication is concerned, is All Star Feature Syndicate’s proposal to translate the great operas into strip sequences. The plan is to begin releases in January.

All Star also is a publisher of comic books, but its director, Bernard Baily, has syndicate strip-making experience. He was, himself, the artist for “Vic Jordan,” which appeared in PM about a year, and helped draw “Mr. X” for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. He also did “Phyllis” for Keystone Features.

All Star plans an optional arrangement. Newspapers may choose to run the strips, which adhere to the text of the original opera, or also can use an illustrated opera book tie-in. The books have previously been sold by All Star.

Art work for the books is done by staff cartoonists.

[Allan’s note: I haven’t been able to find either any examples of this newspaper strip, nor the book mentioned in the article. Can anyone help?

Update: Ken Quattro writes to tell me that he knows of no book version, per se, but that Baily self-published four comic book issues of Illustrated Stories of the Operas circa 1944. Thanks Ken!]

Inter-Faith News
(E&P, 2/12/49)

Organized 15 years ago by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the purpose of cultivating more space in newspapers on behalf of religious news, Religious News Service at first had to give away its material.

Now, Religious News Service is a thriving news-gathering syndicate for more than 600 member newspapers, magazines, and radio stations which pay up to $200 a month for its daily mail, wire, and photo services. The agency boasts 400 news correspondents, a substantial part of them overseas.

Popular features include “The Religious News Reporter,” a script for radio, and “The Week In Religion,” column. Since June 1945, when it began a photograph service it has acquired a library of more than 50,000 prints, built up by 200 correspondents.

It has also a cartoon question box, “Religious Remarkables,” a weekly column by Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, and a calendar of future religious events.

Obscurity of the Day: The Yarns of Captain Fibb

Here’s our fourth and final feature from the 1909 go-round of the Judge syndicate. The Yarns of Captain Fibb was a product from the fruitful pen of Charles W. Kahles, a guy who seemed to have a feature with every syndicate, big or small.

I’m told by Cole Johnson that the Kahles strip was contemporary material in Judge. Whereas the Nervy Nats were circa 1904, the Verbeck strips 1901-02, Captain Fibb was running in Judge in 1909.

The Yarns of Captain Fibb made it through the entire Public Ledger run, from May 2 to September 5 1909.

That does it for the 1909 Judge syndicate, and thanks once again to Cole Johnson for sharing this rare material with us. One final plea to you blog readers — if you know of any other newspaper that ran this material I’d really like to hear from you.

Obscurity of the Day: Stories Without Words

Today from the Judge syndicate (see the last two posts for more info) we have Gustave Verbeck’s Stories Without Words. Shown here is the first episode. The title of the strip took awhile to settle in. On the second week the title was Wild Animal Stories Without Words, then Animal Stories Without Words, then finally alternating between the listed title and A Story Without Words. As usual with Verbeck, his simple drawings belied some very inventive plots, like the one above.

The Verbeck effort was one of the ones that either Judge or the Public Ledger dropped when the ‘section’ was reduced to a single page. The run lasted from May 2 to August 1 1909.

Obscurity of the Day: Nervy Nat

Nervy Nat is our second feature in the 1909 Judge syndicate offering (see yesterdays post for more on this rare short-lived syndicate). The series concerns a rascally ne’er-do-well who specializes in breaking into high society. The series was a favorite of Judge magazine readers. The great illustrator James Montgomery Flagg was responsible for most of the Nervy Nat material, but not all of it. In the newspaper series of 1909 Arthur Lewis drew the majority of the strips, including the sample above.

Unlike Little Johnny and the Taffy Possums, discussed yesterday, Nervy Nat made it all the way to the end of the Philadelphia Public Ledger‘s run of the Judge offerings. Here’s a breakdown of the credits for the run:

5/2/09: James Montgomery Flagg
5/9/09: Arthur Lewis
5/16 – 5/23/09: Flagg
5/30 – 6/6/09: Lewis
6/13 – 7/4/09: Flagg
7/11 – 9/5/09: Lewis

Nervy Nat also starred in a second newspaper series later on, but that’s a subject for another post.

Once again, thanks to Cole Johnson for the info and the scan.

Obscurity of the Day: Little Johnny and the Taffy Possums

The humor magazine Judge made several attempts to syndicate reprints of their material to newspapers. This strip is from the rarest iteration of that unsuccessful plan, a 1909 effort that provided (apparently) two pages of material each week.

Little Johnny and the Taffy Possums was the headliner for the two pages, and is actually a second go-round for Little Johnny. In 1907 the Judge Syndicate began distributed the original version of the strip, then titled Little Johnny and the Teddy Bears, to a small number of newspapers. The series lasted about a year and a half, and was, as far as I know, their only offering in that period. After the end of that series, though, Judge tried to syndicate the aforementioned two page section with four strips.

In the Philadelphia Public Ledger, the only paper known to have run the 1909 Judge material, the section debuted on May 2 1909. John R. Bray, the artist on the previous Little Johnny series, continued with this new one. Unlike the previous series where the tooth-grindingly bad poetry was credited, this series allowed the writer to be blissfully anonymous. I’m told that the entire offering, including Bray’s strip, are reprints from Judge. No new material seems to have been produced for the newspaper syndication.

The Public Ledger ran the two pages of material until August 1, and then the Judge offering (or what the Ledger was willing to run of it) was cut back to a single page. Little Johnny didn’t make the cut and ended on that date.

A courtly tip of the hat to Cole Johnson who discovered this very rare material. When I indexed the Ledger in my haste I completely missed this short-lived experiment. Cole has not only provided me with an index of the material but has offered scans of each strip for our edification. We’ll continue with the three additional strips the rest of this week.

If anyone knows of any other paper that used the 1909 Judge material please let me know about it. Cole and I aren’t convinced that the Public Ledger printed the entire run of the syndicate, so we’d be thrilled to be able to cross-reference with other papers.

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Jim Ivey’s new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey’s career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.