Obscurity of the Day: Kid Klub

After Wallace Goldsmith gave up doing his long-running Little Allright strip for the Boston Herald’s Sunday comic section he switched over to a panel cartoon titled Kid Klub. Kid Klub‘s large panoramas full of joke-filled vignettes recalls the even-then good old days of Outcault’s Yellow Kid and Swinnerton’s Little Tigers. 

Kid Klub began on January 26 1908 and ended when the Herald finally gave up on their homegrown Sunday section for the third and last time on August 9 1908. At least one paper, the Evansville Journal-News, ran the section until August 30 but they might have just been three weeks behind. 

A tip of the tam to Cole Johnson for the sample!

News of Yore 1930: Hearst Whale Swallows Guppy

Central Press Purchased by King; To Be Operated as Separate Unit
~ ~ ~
Staff and Features of Cleveland Organization to be Continued Intact — New York Plant Not Included In Purchase — Eichel Shifted to West as Editor 
(E&P 2/15/1930)

King Features Syndicate, Inc. has purchased Central Press Association and will start operating it as a unit of its organization March 1, it was announced this week by J.V. Connolly, president and general manager of the Hearst feature service. The price was not revealed. The purchase included all features and property controlled by the Cleveland organization with the exception of its New York mechanical plant. Mat making and distribution from New York will be handled through the Hearst production unit.

The Central Press staff will remain unchanged, Mr. Connolly told Editor & Publisher. Farris Flint will continue as business manager; Leslie Eichel will be transferred from New York to Cleveland as editor; and Russell Scott will retain the title of art director. All staff writers and artists will remain on the list and no features will be discontinued, according to Mr. Connolly. It is planned, instead, to add new names to the schedule. The present budget will be continued to all clients of Central Press, but none of them will be sent or transferred to Hearst newspapers, the general manager explained.

“We have purchased Central Press outright,” Mr. Connolly said, “because we believe we have the proper facilities to operate the organization successfully in conjunction with King Features. We are not disturbing Central Press in any way. The staff will remain the same and the features will continue unchanged.”

An advantage to Central of the new arrangement Mr. Connolly pointed out, lies in the fact that it will have the benefit of an allied picture service for its daily news photo page, through International News Photos operated in conjunction with King Features, whereas formerly it had no service of its own. It has not yet been decided whether the picture page will be changed to contain only International photos, Editor & Publisher was told.

J.D. Gortatowsky, business manager of King Features, in commenting on the transaction, made the following statement:

“Central Press now comes into possession of new resources for creating a most complete news mat service through its direct affiliation with International News Photos. It will also enjoy the benefits of a direct tie-up with all the King Features’ bureaus, reaching from coast to coast, and will command at all times pictures and news mats which will have the quickest transmission to member newspapers.

“New features will be added to strengthen the service and to make it an outstanding budget in newspaper history.”

V.V. McNitt, president of Central Press, told Editor & Publisher that, although several offers had been received from time to time, it was not until King Features came into the scene that any such proposition was seriously considered.

“In becoming linked to King Features we are thus maintaining every one of our deep obligations to our clients,” he declared.

“In retiring from Central Press, let me express my deep gratitude and sense of obligation to the newspaper editors and publishers who have been with me through thick and thin and have made our success possible.”

The Central Press schedule includes a regular news mat service and among other features, the following: “Diet and Health,” by Lulu Hunt Peters, Dr. Gary C. Myers’ psychology series; “Beauty” by Madame Rubinstein; Jess Cargill’s editorial cartoons.

The comics include “Etta Kett” by Paul Robinson; “Old Home Town” by Lee Stanley; “High Pressure Pete” by George Swanson; “Muggs McGinnis” by Wally Bishop; “Goofey Movies” by Fred Neher; “Big Sister” by Les Forgrave; “Sport Side-Lights” by Jack Sords; “Humorous Slants on Humanity” by Clifford McBride, and “Among Us Girls” by Paul Robinson.

The sports features include stories by William H. Ritt and contributions from Sords, Al Winfield and Norman E. Brown. The editorial page units include “The Way of the World,” daily editorials by Grove Patterson, editor of the Toledo Blade; “Who’s Who,” “Timely Views,” “The Grab Bag” and Wil Davey’s humorous “Hocus Pocus” column. A nuumber of other features are also included.

Central Press was founded 20 years ago and in August 1929 acquired control of Johnson Features and Editors’ Feature Service. At the start of 1929 it expanded with construction of a mechanical production plant in New York, and Mr. Eichel was elected president of a new company, Central Press Association of New York, Inc., formed to operate this unit.

Obscurity of the Day: Doc Sure Pop

From the 1920s through the 1970s there were quite a few features syndicated that were designed specifically to run in the classified ad section of the newspaper. The features ran the gamut from gag panels to (believe it or not) serious adventure strips. Few of these features were particularly successful in syndication, but some ran for many years. The purpose of these features was twofold — to lend some visual interest to those bleak columns of agate type, and to convince readers of the wisdom of buying and selling through the classifieds.

Doc Sure Pop, which was syndicated by Register & Tribune Syndicate, was an early and not particularly successful example of the genre. It is only known to have run in 1923. One of the problems with this feature was that the syndicate customized it for each subscribing paper. You can see that here in panel two where the client paper’s name has been lettered onto the desk. These features weren’t expensive and that custom lettering made sending out the weekly proofs a time-consuming chore.

The feature was produced by R.M. Williamson, who always signed the feature RMW. The sample above includes the rarely seen credit line which most papers (including the home paper!) usually omitted.

Thanks to Mark Johnson for the sample!

Obscurity of the Day: The Geteven Youngsters

To compound all the other problems I’m having to deal with these days, my computer has been acting up. The CD and DVD drives decided to jump ship, and then the keyboard and mouse stopped responding. The latter happened when I got a little over-ambitious when trying to fix the CD/DVD drivers through REGEDIT. Nothing like compounding hardware problems with your own ill-advised tinkering. I’m writing this on an alternate machine without all my accustomed materials arrayed about me that I use when making a post, so that’s why I’m jawing about my ever-so-fascinating problems rather than having an on topic discussion about today’s obscurity.

The Geteven Youngsters is by one of my favorite cartoonists of the era, Walter R. Bradford. He did this very short-lived strip for the Philadelphia North American from September 10 to October 1 1905, a grand total of four episodes. Of course it is just another spin on the Katzies, one of dozens if not over a hundred that found their way into the papers of the day.Not one of Brad’s better efforts, you’ll agree.

Obscurity of the Day: Francis the Talking Mule

Here we have a bumper crop of Francis the Talking Mule, the first three weeks of the strip straight from syndicate proofs, courtesy of that famed purveyor of goodies, Cole Johnson.

The phenomenon of Francis began in a series of  novels by David Stern. The books were first published in 1946, and a series of seven films began in 1950. The plot device seems almost as tasteless as the later Hogan’s Heroes — the first movie is set during World War II in Burma, and has Donald O’Connor escaping from the Japanese in the jungle aided by a bad-tempered talking mule. Making light of fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Burma may seem a bit bizarre now, but apparently returning vets were delighted to look on the lighter side of that bloody conflict.

The Francis movies were wildly popular and so the concept was translated into a daily comic strip that began on May 5 1952. The strip was distributed by United Feature Syndicate and drawn by Cliff Rogerson. Although David Stern got the official writing credit, Alberto Becattini tells me that the strip was actually written by Frank Thomas.

As popular as Francis was on the big screen (and later on TV as his doppelganger, Mr. Ed), newspaper editors seemed less than enthused about having him on their comics page. Reading these first three weeks of the strip I’m at a loss to explain why — the strip looks great, the gags are alright and the storyline looks to have a lot of comedic potential. Perhaps Francis just got lost in the glut of TV and movie tie-in features that were popping up all over at this time. Or maybe Cole found the fatal flaw when he pointed out to me that everybody in this strip is either spitting or sweating profusely. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but now it puts kind of a yucky spin on the whole production.

Francis got his discharge papers from the funnies page on November 28 1953, a year and a half after his debut. The movie franchise, on the other hand, lasted until 1956.

Here’s the partially animated movie trailer of the first film and a short scene from the first Francis movie.

Cast Your Vote!

I’m turning over the bully pulpit today to Kurtis Findlay, who is anxious to get your feedback. Take it away, Kurtis:

Did you know that animator Chuck Jones had a short-lived (less than a year) comic strip in the late 70s? Crawford  is a strip about two young boys who contemplate the world of being kids.

I am seeking a publisher that would share my vision of collecting the entire run of the strip in a hardcover format, like many of the reprint anthologies that have come out recently. I hope to include supplemental material such as sketches, unused strips and promotional material, should any of this turn up in my research.

In order to gain the publisher’s interest, I am attempting to gauge the interest of the general public. Would you be interested in a complete collection of Chuck Jones’ Crawford? Please leave a comment below!

Also, if any of you comic strip researchers have any material that I can use in my book, please send me an email at kurtis@coveringthemouse.com.

Allan back again. Please be sure to leave a comment if this sounds like a book you would be likely to buy. Needless to say, I think it a very worthwhile project. Chuck Jones is universally acknowledged as a master of animation, but few have been lucky enough to see his short-lived newspaper comic strip. This strip is so rare that most dedicated fans of Jones speak of it as a myth if they’ve even heard of it at all. I’m enthused at the possibility of a book that reprints the 6-month run of this legendary feature, and I know many comic strip fans would jump at the chance to see it for themselves. I can only imagine the even greater excitement among animation fans, for whom every tidbit of Chuck Jones’ work is precious — for them Crawford and Morgan must seem like a parchment from the Dead Sea scrolls.

Obscurity of the Day: Frappe the Snowman and his Papa

I like the title of this obscurity, Frappe the Snowman and his Papa. At first when I read some strips I wondered, “okay, so where’s the papa?” — and of course as the more nimble-minded of you figured out right away, the little boy is Frappe’s papa since he created him.

This delightful little gem of a strip ran in the C.J. Hirt-copyrighted version of the McClure Sunday section from December 4 1904 to April 9 1905. It is not unusual for McClure strips to be unsigned in this era, and this strip was never signed once by the cartoonist. I’m thinking maybe A.D. Reed?

I wondered if the concept of a snowman coming to life, Frosty-style, was already a common bit of imagery in 1904. Most likely a much earlier invention but I found nothing specific in a quick skate around the web. I did, however, find out that Frosty himself dates back only to 1950, introduced in a song recorded by Gene Autry. Also the earliest known image of a snowman goes all the way back to 1380 in a Book of Hours. And believe it or not, there’s an entire book devoted to the history of snowmen, titled, appropriately enough, History of the Snowman.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!