Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Two books by Jim Ivey are available at Lulu.com or direct from the author:

Graphic Shorthand: Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. 128 pages, coil-bound. Lulu $19.95 plus shipping, direct $25 postpaid.

Cartoons I Liked,Jim Ivey’s career retrospective; he picks his own favorite cartoons from a 40-year editorial cartooning career. Lulu $11.95, direct $20 postpaid.

Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

When ordered direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

Obscurity of the Day: Gink and Dink

Gink and Dink may be an obscurity, but it’s certainly a far-roaming one. It was originally created by Charles A. Voight for the Boston Traveler when that paper got the urge to become a syndicate. Gink and Dink was one of the earlier features peddled by the Traveler‘s State Publishing Company. It debuted in the home paper on October 24 1908 and continued there until May 31 1910, presumably when it (finally) became obvious to Mr. Voight that the paper’s syndication attempt was a monumental flop despite offering some pretty neat features.

Voight then left for New York where he placed Gink and Dink at the New York Evening Globe. It began there on December 14 1910 but only lasted until December 31st. I guess Voight didn’t like working for the Globe.

A few months later it popped up at the New York Evening Mail. It started there on April 3 1911 and was soon also seen in other papers, presumably syndicated by Associated Newspapers. It ran in tandem with several other Voight efforts for a very respectable run through February 5 1914. Interestingly enough, the Boston Traveler, where it had originated, ran the feature in syndication.

Although this feature did end in 1914, some might say it was just put up on blocks for a major retooling. Just a few months later Voight returned with a feature called Petey Dink, featuring a little fellow reminiscent of the Dink character in the original series. This strip, though, had Petey acting as straight-man to an unending parade of gorgeous gals. Although still married, Petey’s wife who had played such a major part in the original series was rarely seen in this version. Most published histories, however, blur the two features into one.

A tip of the hat to Cole Johnson for the samples. Thanks Cole!

Obscurity of the Day: Encyclopedia Brown

Since we covered Can You Solve The Mystery? last week, it seems only fair that we also spend a day with its undeniable forebear, Encyclopedia Brown.

The Encyclopedia Brown book series began in 1963, written by Donald Sobol and illustrated by Leonard Shortall. The book series continues even today, though its heyday was in its first two decades when it was a favorite of kids who ordered the books at school through the Scholastic catalogues.

The comic strip series hit the market on December 3 1978 as a Sunday and daily strip distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. Sobol was given credit as the writer though the scuttlebutt is that Elliot Caplin actually wrote the scripts for this series. Frank Bolle was tapped to provide the art. Bolle was a strange choice given his slick illustration style, so different from Shortall’s folksy cartoon illustrations so associated with the book series.

The comic strip seemed mildly successful, but in the world of licensed characters that is seldom good enough. With the pie sliced thin for licensing fees apparently Encyclopedia Brown just wasn’t solving the mystery of making money in this venture. The series ended on September 20 1980, a bit shy of two years in syndication.

News of Yore 1929: A Miscellany of Short Items

Artist Signs with Western Syndicate
(E&P 10/19/29)
H.V. Heide, an artist formerly employed by the Vanderbilt newspapers in California, is a new member of the art department of the Seattle Star. He serves the Star and Western Features, a feature service organized by the Scripps-Canfield newspapers. Mr. Heide will divide the work with Sam Groff, formerly a police reporter for the Star, who is devoting his time largely to comic line work for the Star and Western Features.

Ripley Feature Expanded
(E&P 9/21/29)
A full black and white page of Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” feature will be released by King Features Syndicate October 20 for Sunday papers. This page supplements the regular daily feature.

Syndicate Bushmiller Color Page
(E&P 9/14/29)
A colored comic page by Ernie Bushmiller, comic artist for the New York Evening World, titled “Fritzi Ritz,” will make its appearance October 6. The page will be syndicated by the New York World Syndicate.

Hill Writes Talkie
(E&P 9/14/29)
Thomas Hill, formerly staff artist for the Cleveland News and Cleveland Plain Dealer and for seven years art director of the Central Press Syndicate, is the author of a talkie, “Black and White Clown,” a ‘behind the scenes’ story of the life of a newspaper artist. The play will go into production shortly.
[Anyone know if this was ever released?]

To Issue Comic in Colors
(E&P 8/3/29)
A new weekly color page of “Tailspin Tommy,” daily comic strip handled by Bell Syndicate, Inc., is being prepared for distribution starting October 6.

Strip Teasers: Bringing Up Father From Sea to Shining Sea

Bringing Up Father: From Sea to Shining Sea

IDW Publishing, 2009
Hardcover, 11″ x 10″, 277 pages, $50
ISBN 978-1600105081

What a wonderful treat to have two high quality reprint books of George McManus’ masterwork available after so many years with not a peep from Jiggs. First there was NBM’s reprinting of the first two years of the series, both historic and wildly entertaining, and now IDW enters the market with arguably some of the very best of the strip in its greatest era, the mid-30s to mid-40s.

Being a big fan of McManus I’m thrilled with both books, of course. Not only that but I had the privilege of working on both, a thrill in itself. For the IDW book I did the restorations on the majority of the dailies, a job which only increased my admiration for McManus’ superb clean-line style.

This whopping fat book reprints not only the famous cross-country sequence of the strip from late 1939 through mid-1940 but also the balance of 1939. While the tour sequence is justly famous, I’m glad editor Dean Mullaney chose also to reprint what might unjustly be called more mundane material from earlier in the year. 1939 is a great example of how humor strips operated back in the days when the adventure strip was king. Instead of strict gag-a-day material, Bringing Up Father and most humor strips weaved the gags into storylines. In 1939 we have the arrival of Jiggs’ grandson providing comedy fodder in a long story, plus great short sequences like Jiggs trying to rid himself of an always-snoozing brother of Maggie’s and a hilarious series with Jiggs waiting for Maggie to get off an interminable phone call. McManus had a gift for juxtaposing the reasonable and the surreal in these sequences that is magical to behold.

If the book were sold on infomercials this would be the point at which Ron Popeil would gleeful tell you “… but wait, there’s more!” Not only do you get a year and a half of Bringing Up Father dailies, but we’re throwing in all the Sundays from the same period! Of course the tour sequence just wouldn’t be complete without those glorious Sundays, a few of which you’ve undoubtedly encountered in survey-type books. The Sundays, restored here to their original brilliance, are a joy to behold. Zeke Zekley, McManus’ assistant and a master in his own right, claimed that one of the Sundays took them two weeks to produce and I don’t doubt it for a second. They are not to be missed.

Rounding out the book we have two intros, by Brian Walker and Bruce Canwell, which supply some interesting nuggets, a subject index by Randall Scott, and a sampling of 11 strips from the Bringing Up Father “Remember When” sequence of Jiggs’ and Maggie’s younger days in the Irish ghetto (a series which richly deserves reprinting, too).

My impression is that, despite reasonably strong sales, NBM has no immediate plans for a follow-up to their Bringing Up Father book, so if you’re a McManus fan then you really need to show the folks at IDW that you want more of this material. This McManus fan certainly encourages you to buy multiple copies!

Obscurity of the Day: Bunny Bright, He’s All-Right

E. Warde Blaisdell was a regular contributor to Harper’s and St. Nicholas magazines, and also occasionally to Life. His cartooning and children’s illustration credits all seem to be from the late 1890s to mid-1900s, so I don’t know if he switched careers or if there’s more to his cartooning output that I’m missing.

Anyhow, here’s his only known foray into newspaper comic strips, Bunny Bright, He’s All-Right. The star, who seems to have an acne problem that comes and goes, is pretty closely patterned on Br’er Rabbit. He cons other animals into doing things for him. Not much originality on display here.

The strip ran in the Boston Herald‘s comic section from May 6 to November 11 1906, more than enough time for the formula to wear awfully thin. Bunny Bright must have impressed someone, though, because a collection of some of the strips was published by T.Y. Crowell & Company under the rather generic title Animal Serials.

Tip of the hat to Cole Johnson for the scans. Thanks Cole!

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Two books by Jim Ivey are available at Lulu.com or direct from the author:

Graphic Shorthand: Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. 128 pages, coil-bound. Lulu $19.95 plus shipping, direct $25 postpaid.

Cartoons I Liked,Jim Ivey’s career retrospective; he picks his own favorite cartoons from a 40-year editorial cartooning career. Lulu $11.95, direct $20 postpaid.

Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

When ordered direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

Herriman Saturday

Wednesday, October 23 1907 — William Collier’s play “On The Quiet”, originally staged on Broadway in 1901, has made its way to LA where it plays to rave reviews (“two dollars worth of laughs for six bits”). Herriman sketches the leads, including a very young Charlie Ruggles. Ruggles went on to make over 100 movie and TV appearances, and it all started right here in li’l ole LA.

Thursday, October 24 1907 — It’s been a long while since Herriman contributed an editorial page cartoon to the Examiner, but now that baseball season is over he’ll start getting a few at bats, as it were. For his first return engagement to that page in months he treats us to a masterful portrait of a gentle-seeming yet malignant Uncle Sam. Sam is shielding the mischief-makers on Wall Street from the common folk, urging us all to go about our business and pay no mind to the gamblers who hold the keys to our economy. Thank goodness none of that goes on anymore…

I urge you to give that Sam figure an unhurried appraisal. A lesser cartoonist could have drawn that a hundred times in a hundred ways and not come up with something that so effectively gets the message across. Amazing work.

Obscurity of the Day: Can You Solve the Mystery?

In 1983-84 the Meadowbrook Creations book publishing company hit upon a successful series with Can You Solve the Mystery, aka Hawkeye Collins and Amy Adams. The young adult books contained short stories in which a pair of pre-teen sleuths solved crimes. Hawkeye was a quick-sketch artist whose drawings, reproduced in the books, contained all the necessary clues for the reader to solve the crimes. The books were all credited to one M. Masters who was more than likely actually Bruce Lansky, the head of the publishing company.

For reasons unknown the book series sputtered out after a dozen or so installments, but meanwhile the concept was transferred to a newspaper strip distributed by News America Syndicate. The concept seemed like a winner — each mystery played out in just a single week of dailies, and a separate mystery was presented in the Sunday pages. Editors certainly couldn’t resort to their usual refrain about stories being too long on this strip!

The pressure to produce two new mysteries a week seems to have been a little ambitious for the creators, though. Whereas in the books there was at least a little room for a storyline to develop and clues to be strategically placed, the newspaper strip was a real ‘wham-bam-thank you ma’am’ sort of affair. In the sample above, for instance, I really don’t see how anyone could be expected to solve the mystery themselves (or maybe I’m just not good gumshoe material).

The series began on August 5 1984 with two veterans at the helm — Jim Lawrence supplied the stories and Fran Matera the art. First to bail on the project was Lawrence, whose last daily was October 20 and last Sunday November 11. This was his last newspaper strip credit, after which apparently he went to work for the computer game company Infocom writing scenarios for text adventure games.

After Lawrence left Matera took solo credit for a short while — whether he supplied the stories or the writer just didn’t take credit I don’t know. Soon, though, a new writer came to the rescue, none other than the possibly hypothetical M. Masters, author of the books. He/she/they got credit on the dailies starting November 26 and the Sundays on December 16.

In May 1985 another shake-up occurred. Fran Matera disappeared and was replaced by Duane Barnhart. At the same time the M. Masters credit disappeared from the dailies. Until the end of the series on December 29 1985 Barnhart apparently produced the daily alone while Masters supplied the scripts for the Sunday only. Adding to the confusion are a smattering of Sundays (and probably dailies, too) which are uncredited and feature some seriously amateur art. Among those dates are May 26, June 23, October 6 and October 13. You don’t need Hawkeye Collins sketching clues to know that this creative musical chairs act spelled doom for the series. Can You Solve the Mystery ended on December 29 1985 with only a handful of clients gamely sticking with it until the end.