Obscurity of the Day: Deadshot Bill from Nurseryville

Here’s a 1913 offering from NEA syndicate, the blanket service that was a popular supplier of features to smaller papers (and still is I guess, though this year it became an unnamed division of United Media).¬† Deadshot Bill from Nurseryville offers little rhyming stories of a kid who likes to dress up and play cowboy. The sometimes eye-twitchingly bad rhymes are almost overshadowed (only almost) by the delightful art.

Fred Shaefer, a fixture at NEA whose name was variously spelt Schaefer and Shaeffer at times, has to accept the blame for the poetry. The excellent expressive art is by W. Aird MacDonald who did quite a few series for the syndicate in the first half of the teens. MacDonald did the art from the strip’s inception on February 18, then handed off the chores to A.D. Condo who took over as of June 24th. The series ended on December 8.

Obscurity of the Day: Animal Land

Animal strips, whether set in the zoo or the jungle, were a staple of early comics sections. Walter “Brad” Bradford, one of the funniest early newspaper cartoonists and incredibly prolific to boot, naturally took his swats at the genre.

Brad kicked off the newborn Chicago Tribune Sunday section on November 10 1901 with three different comic series, one of which was Animal Land. The series ran sporadically until January 4 1903, sometimes under the longer title of News from Animal Land.

When Brad packed it up at the Tribune and took a position at the Philadelphia North American in 1905, an early act was to revive the old series there as Animalland. However, by this time the “been there done that” talking animal strip just was too constricting for his wild comic sensibilities. The feature ran only from July 2 to August 27 1905.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the sample strip!

I’m Not Dead Yet!

Hello, fellow comic strip fiends. Your Stripper’s Guide host is back on the job as of today. I gave myself¬† a few weeks off there because proofreading work and personal dramas got the better of me. But now, at least in theory, I’m rested, relaxed and ready to start making daily posts again, at least until the next crisis comes along.

I’ll spare you details of the personal stuff, but I want you to know that the preparations on my book American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide, are coming along very well. The University of Michigan Press is doing a great job pulling it all together and the finish line is in sight. There’s even a page for the book on Amazon now, though it’s basically only a placeholder at the moment. Feel free to start submitting your rave reviews, though! Oh, you actually want to see the book first? Hmmph. Picky, picky, picky.

Well, I hate to make a post without a little eye candy, so here are some theatrical caricatures by Gluyas Williams. He did these in 1918. Although Gluyas was always noted for his economy of line, these are minimalist even by his standards.

PS: My abject apologies to email correspondents who haven’t received replies for awhile. Not only was I not making public posts, but much of my email went unanswered these past weeks.

Obscurity of the Day: Professor Prestochange

Here’s a real moldy oldie from the files of Cole Johnson, a New York World Sunday series that somehow managed to fly under the radar of Ken Barker’s index of that paper. Or perhaps not — since Barker indexed by artist, he just might never have seen one of these signed, as these two examples aren’t, and so it didn’t qualify for his index. Professor Prestochange, a magician strip which ran from July 22 to October 21 1900, is, Cole tells me, by a fellow who signed himself C. Howard. Beyond that I haven’t much to say other than the strip certainly is graphically fine and shows a pretty good grasp of comic strip conventions and timing for a fellow who has only this one credit to his name.