Obscurity of the Day: Perky and Beanz

Cartoonist Russell Myers hit a huge home run in 1970 when he created Broom-Hilda, a very funny and rather surrealistic strip about a witch, a troll and a vulture. In the 80s, though, the strip seemed to sputter a bit, degrading from a mega-hit into a mere success. Myers reacted by offering a second strip through his syndicate, Tribune Media Services, called Perky and Beanz.

The new strip was much more down to earth than Broom-Hilda. It starred a precocious 8-year old girl who comes to live with her grandpa, Alphonse G. Beanz, a cantankerous retiree. Co-starring was a depressed dog, Yoyo and an assortment of neighborhood oddballs. The humor was of the tried-and-true clash of generations variety.

It was a pleasant enough strip, I suppose, but the problem I see is a mistake that seems to crop up on the comics pages over and over. Myers, who was pushing 50 when the strip was introduced, substitutes lame pop culture references for any real insight into the generation gap. In one week alone, for instance, there are gags about Motley Crue, the Garfield comic strip, Doctor Ruth and Calvin Klein jeans. There’s no actual wit involved, as if the references themselves are somehow intrinsically funny. They aren’t, and they smell of desperation. Yet the week of strips I’m referring to isn’t from well into the run on an off week for Myers, these are in the second week of the strip’s run!

The Myers name was enough to sell a few newspaper editors on the strip but not many. The Sunday and daily strip began on September 23 1985 and wore out its welcome in most papers pretty quickly. Myers’ home paper, the Chicago Tribune, in an unusual instance of showing solidarity with one of their creators, ran the strip for its full two year run, ending September 6 1987.

Obscurity of the Day: Interesting Georgia

Many newspapers have tried out the idea of a local ‘oddities’ cartoon, but Interesting Georgia, found by Cole Johnson in late 1943 Sunday issues of the Macon Telegraph, are in his assessment, “maybe the most feeble of them all.” I have to go along with Cole on this one.

The feature was drawn by someone going by the name Virginia A.C. (one wonders if it is Virginia Aycock, contributor of one item), who illustrated unfathomable mysteries such as a cache of pecans found in a birdhouse, with something less than top-flight penwork. But hey, there was a war on and Virginia undoubtedly felt this was a boost for the morale of Telegraph readers. Our brave boys overseas are pining for news of oddly shaped sweet potatoes and Virginia was dead set on providing them with important tuber updates.

The examples above, all from October-December 1943, are the only ones we know about at this time, but the feature could have, for all we know, run for years … but don’t bet your anthropomorphic taters on it.

Herriman Saturday

Sunday, December 1 1907 — Herriman once again gets national play in the Hearst magazine section. The editorial complains that the legal system is expertly efficient against common criminals, but thatĀ  government and big business openly get away with corruption, bribery and unfair practices with little threat from our legal system. The sentiment as true today as it was in 1907…

Unfortunately this page was badly printed and I was unable to do much restoration on some parts, specifically the wrist of the giant hand and the common criminal figure, both having been buried under a haze of stray ink.

Obscurity of the Day: Sallie Slick and her Surprising Aunt Amelia

I don’t know what direct evidence there might be that Jean Mohr was a female (as opposed to a Frenchman), but she’s long been accepted as such. If nothing else, her cartoons look like they’re drawn by a woman — a statement both factual, and I suppose, sexist. Women really seem to know how to draw attractive women, and Sallie certainly is quite the cutie.

Sallie Slick and her Surprising Aunt Amelia ran for one year in the Philadelphia North American, from May 4 1902 to April 26 1903. Mohr sort of takes the Foxy Grandpa concept of a surprisingly spry, wily oldster and sends it off on her own trajectory. The result is a delightful series, attractively drawn, with quite a few clever gags.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!

Obscurity of the Day: Dallas

Never once having watched the prime time soap opera Dallas, I can’t speak to how well the comic strip version reflected the turgid drama of the TV series. What I can say is that if the comic strip was a true reflection of the series then I’m really glad I never got hooked on it.

The late 1970s and early 80s were a short renaissance for story strips, most of which were for licensed properties — comic books, TV, movies, novels, even toy store racks were mined for newspaper strip properties. Dallas might seem like an odd choice for the comic strip treatment — it is all talking heads after all — but then Mary Worth and Judge Parker are much the same, and the TV series was a hit of monstrous proportions.

The LA Times-syndicated comic strip version of Dallas initially found a decent, if not spectacular, number of newspaper clients, but the subscriptions very quickly dwindled as the strip showed its colors. The art, especially, was all over the map. Though Ron Harris was the credited artist for the first year and a half, many ghosts and assistants were in evidence practically from the beginning, making the art look like a patchwork of different styles, few of them very good. The accurate representation of the stars’ faces, crucial to reader identification, was sorely lacking. There seemed to be very little interest in blending the art styles of the various contributors, even on a single Sunday strip a bad art-spotter like me can spot multiple hands at work.

The strip began on February 1 1981, debuting in the middle of the TV show’s third blockbuster season. The writing was by Jim Lawrence, who gamely stuck with the strip through the entire run, and art was credited to Ron Harris. According to Alberto Becattini, art helpers included Paul Chadwick (later of Concrete comic book fame), pencils in August and September 1981, Dennis Ellefson, Terry Robinson, Alan Munro and Bill Ziegler, art assists. Laurie Newell began assisting in 1982, getting a credit on one Sunday (7/25/82). Thomas Warkentin took over the art duties on the daily starting August 19 1982 but lasted only a month, until September 14. Padraic Shigetani took over the Sunday starting August 30, and added the daily after Warkentin’s short run. Shigetani stuck with the strip into 1983, or possibly 1984, and then someone named Deryl Skelton finished the strip’s run on November 24 1984.

By 1984 the fervor over the TV show had died down, and the strip’s musical chair art had long ago made its client base dwindle to almost nothing. There were very few clients left to mourn the passing of the Dallas comic strip.

If anyone can supply more accurate and complete artist datesĀ  for the latter years of the strip’s run, I’d be much obliged.

Herriman Saturday

In July Tommy Burns successfully defended his heavyweight title against Bill Squires, knocking him out in dramatic fashion in just one round. As 1907 comes to a close, Burns, who wanted to truly be a worldwide heavyweight champion, traveled to Europe in search of bouts with their champs. Jim ‘Gunner’ Moir of England was his first fight on the trip, and Herriman thinks very little for Burns’ chances.

Obscurity of the Day: Jennie and Jack, Also the Little Dog Jap

Margaret Hays usually worked as the writer for her partner Grace Drayton, but here’s a rare instance where she worked alone on a newspaper comic strip. Her artwork is sort of a hybrid of her sister (?) Mary Hays and partner Grace — notice the Campbell Kids style faces.

Jennie and Jack Also the Little Dog Jap ran in the Boston Herald Sunday comics section as a late entry in their third go-round of producing their own comics. The strip began on March 8 1908 and ended either on August 9 (end in the Boston Herald) or August 30 (end in some syndicated papers). As was usual with the Hays productions, the strips read more like storybooks than comic strips.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan!

Obscurity of the Day: Bibs ‘n’ Tucker

We’ve featured quite a few of these features that ran in the Sunday comics section of the New York Daily News on a space-available basis. This one, Bibs ‘n’ Tucker, was by Henri Arnold, the cartoonist best-known for his long-running Jumble puzzle feature.

The strip is about a toddler, Bibs, and his dog Tucker. Since the strip ran only on rare occasions the gags and characters are pretty generic, the only hook being that Bibs wears a bib that seems to have the same over-starching problem as Dilbert’s tie.

I’m only aware of the strip running on a few isolated occasions. It began sometime in 1955 and the last installment seems to have run on August 18 1957.

Anyone have a run of Daily News sections from the 1950s who can help out on confirming the start and end dates of these ROP features?