Obscurity of the Day: Pete

Here’s a Sunday feature, simply titled Pete, produced by Everrett Lowry for the top of the line version of the McClure Syndicate Sunday section. Pete the monkey, sort of a simian Katzenjammer Kid, plays pranks on his dull-witted keeper. The unassuming feature was rarely, if ever, given the outer wrap full color treatment.

I have the strip beginning on December 27 1903 based on the San Francisco Chronicle, oddly enough with two complete strips appearing in the same section, while Alfredo Castelli cites a start date of December 13. The strip last ran on June 25 1905.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

Cartoonist Mug Shots of 1911-12

Here are some wonderful newspaper promo ads featuring photos of some cartoonists rarely captured on film. The top ad appeared in the New York Tribune on November 13 1911. The second ran in the Salt Lake Telegram on February 22 1912.We have Charles Forbell, Harold MacGill, C.H. Wellington, Robert Carter, and even the really obscure D.C. Bartholomew who turns out to be a ‘Donald’.

Thanks to Alex Jay for sending these to the Stripper!

Obscurity of the Day: The Human Zoo

One of the most gifted editorial cartoonists of the past century, C.D. Batchelor flitted from paper to paper in the teens, worked at the New York Post in the 1920s, then from the 30s on was a fixture at the New York Daily News until his retirement and death in the 70s. His Pulitzer-winning 1937 editorial cartoon, a true masterpiece in my opinion, is impossible to forget once seen.

Batchelor’s editorial cartoons are very serious indeed, but he did have a (slightly) lighter side that was put on display in his first syndicated feature, The Human Zoo, and a second, Once Overs. The Human Zoo was syndicated by the Philadelphia-based Ledger Syndicate and ran from November 6 1922 until sometime in 1924, possibly August 2nd. In its earlier days the social commentary in these cartoons was complemented by Batchelor’s strikingly handsome artwork, but later in the series he simplified his style somewhat and the feature lost some of the ‘wow’ factor on display in these gorgeous samples.

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, November 24 1907 — It’s time for winter baseball in California, when (as Herriman so ably illustrates) many of the biggest stars from the Major Leagues back south head to sunny California to play the winter away for extra cash. In the inset vignette in the lower left we have pitcher Harry McIntire who, despite a fabulous arm, had a dismal winning percentage with the hapless Brooklyn Superbas. He’d get a chance to really shine when he went to the Cubs in 1910. Unfortunately I can’t figure out Herriman’s script on the other gent.

By the way, this is a minor milestone for the blog — post number 1500 today. Doesn’t the Stripper ever shut up?

Obscurity of the Day: Prince Errant

H.C. Greening had a vivid and original imagination that always make his features a special treat. No Katzie knockoffs for this cartoonist! Greening’s best-remembered strip is the delightful robot fantasy Percy -Brains He Has Nix, but he did lots of interesting series. This one, Prince Errant, is about a medieval boy prince who is dead set on rescuing princesses. Things rarely turn out in his favor, though, like in the top strip here where he’s consigned to a dungeon to be tortured by reading newspaper comics!

Prince Errant ran in the C.J. Hirt copyrighted version of the McClure Sunday section. The strip ran from February 11 to August 12 1906.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

News of Yore 1937: Troubles for Fox and Edson, Accolades for Caniff

 (all from E&P, 7/24/37)

Fox’s Taxes Questioned
From Washington comes word that the federal income taxes of cartoonist Fontaine Fox’s Reynard Corporation are in dispute before the United States Board of Tax Appeals. Involved are levies totalling $13,569.02. Whether the corporation is to be taxed on the amount representing the rental value of the house and studio owned by the corporation and furnished to Fox rent-free, is questioned. The second issue revolves about the deduction of $30,000 from the corporation taxes as Fox’s salary. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the District of Columbia holds that the sum should not be deducted in its entirety.

700 Letters Catch Cartoonist
Gus Edson, who has been carrying on the Andy Gump assignment, reported to his office at the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate and found a mail stack of more than 100 letters waiting for him, all containing reminders, in one form or another, that the two principals in the current chapter of the Gump strip, who are planning marriage, have been wed before.

When the artist contemplated marrying off Tom Carr and the Widow Zander, after the former had been released from prison, his staff reminded him that the couple had been married previously in the story of the strip some eight years ago and then had drifted apart when the Widow Zander’s husband, believed to he dead, had returned.

Edson’s firm conviction that no one would remember the previous situation was rocked when he was faced with the mail-bag full of reminders.

Harvard Admires Caniff

Eight undergraduates of Harvard showed their admiration for Milton Caniff’s artwork recently when they signed a solemn letter asking for an original drawing of Normandie, heroine of the “Terry and the Pirates” strip which Caniff creates for the Tribune-News Syndicate. The eight boys, plus a coxswain, made up the varsity crew, and when their request was answered, Normandie’s picture was tacked up at the helm of the shell, where each man glanced at it as he rowed. The Yale crew subsequently bowed to the eight Harvard undergraduates and Normandie. The winning crew admitted later that it had pulled victory out of the fire last year with a picture of Burma, another of Caniff’s characters.

Obscurity of the Day: Cuddles

Here’s an exciting group of scans that I was alerted to by The Arthur of the Comics Project. He saw and saved them from a post by John Adcock on the Platinum Age listserv back in 2004. The strip, Cuddles, was drawn by the wonderful Charles Forbell in 1929 for Kay Features.

Kay Features was a small start-up syndicate run by Moses Koenigsberg. Koenigsberg was for many years a big wheel in the Hearst organization, and their King Features syndication arm was one of his babies. In 1928, Koenigsberg, who was an egoist of the first order, was offered a medal by the government of France. Hearst was appalled that Koenigsberg, a newspaperman, would accept the laureates of a foreign government and told him that he could have the medal or his Hearst job, but not both. Moses, vain to a fault, opted for the medal.

In 1929 Koenigsberg was without a job but not without the desire to continue in the newspaper game. He hatched a plan to run his own chain of newspapers, and to hear him tell it, came close to succeeding. In King News, his self-serving autobiography, he claims that the chain would have included over 100 newspapers (or 50 or 35 depending on the page cited), the flagship of which was to be the Denver Post. The sharpies at the Post, though, were playing a shell game with him and though he doesn’t admit it they seem to have ruined him financially.

Kay Features, of which mention is conspicuously absent in King News, was probably set up as some sort of syndicate arm for this proposed newspaper chain. Koenigsberg took great delight in building new ventures like this, but since he was busy with much bigger fish to fry, the syndicate seems to have received little benefit of his golden touch. Their features were advertised in Editor & Publisher from 1930-33, and announced in 1929, but they are very rarely found running anywhere. Most remain stubbornly on my E&P Mystery Strip lists. Apparently in November 1929 the Kay Features line-up was having so much trouble interesting clients that Koenigsberg turned over sales and distribution of the features to Bell Syndicate. Naturally Bell, having Great Depression troubles of their own, did very little to try and sell anything on the Kay roster. Why sell a feature on which profit-sharing was due when you can sell from your own substantial list?

Cuddles began on March 4 1929 (at least in the San Francisco Chronicle) and the last example above, dated May 4, is the latest I’ve seen of the series. Yet it was advertised until 1933 along with much of the rest of Kay’s rarely seen output. It’s a shame, too, since Charles Forbell was one fine cartoonist (I just love panel 1 of the second strip above, for instance) and the subject matter, though obviously ripped off from Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, has great possibilities. To be fair, though, flapper comics by 1929 were already looking pretty dated since the era of the flapper was on the wane. I can imagine editors seeing the new strip and snorting, “Waddya trying to sell me here? Some strip that was drawn up in 1925?”

If anyone has a lead on any Kay Features strip, especially any appearing later than 1929, I’m anxious to hear from you.

Obscurity of the Day: Buddy Spilliken’s Diary

B. Cory Kilvert has the distinction of having created one of the most disturbing comic strips of all time, Dorothy and the Killies, but that not our subject for today. No, today we have a pretty mainstream entry from Mr. Kilvert, Buddy Spilliken’s Diary. Buddy is a Tom Sawyer simulacrum, and in each strip we get a week’s worth of his scrawled diary entries. It’s very well executed but not the most memorable strip. Apparently the Hearst organization  thought so little of it that they didn’t run it in the New York American‘s Sunday comics section, but only made it available to other papers as a replacement.

That makes tracking it a bit of a challenge, but between the comic sections of the Los Angeles Examiner and San Francisco Examiner I think we have the complete running dates as October 11 to November 29 1908. It could have started on October 4, though — the LA Examiner microfilm is missing that section.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!

Obscurity of the Day: Wireless Willie

Wireless Willie is a very early radio strip, appearing less than two years after the first commercial radio broadcast in the U.S. (KDKA of Pittsburgh in November 1920). This was in the days when radio bugs built and tuned their own sets and  would spend hours fiddling around to hear a faint signal from one of the very few commercial broadcasters.

Radio was immensely popular, though, and many newspapers began running weekly, or even daily, radio pages. In these early days those pages were filled with wiring schematics and technical jargon, so a comic strip was just the thing to lighten up the dense and dreary page. There were many of them, and we’ve featured several on the blog (Bugs, Radiobituaries, Today’s Hook-Up). 

Unlike those previously featured, Wireless Willie seems to have been a locally produced strip that ran only in the Washington Post. It ran there just four times, on April 25th and 28th and May 11th and 19th 1922. The cartoonist, C.F. Cagney, despite his crude but pleasant style and obvious comfort with the form, is otherwise unknown to me.

Thanks to Cole Johnson who supplied not only the scan for today’s post but also all the data about this feature.