Comic strips and panels that tie-in to a newspaper’s classified ad section have been tried many times with varying success. A few ran for decades, but most sputtered. Want Ad Willy, from the sputterer camp, was apparently self-syndicated by creator G.J. Beaty. It seems to have begun in early 1942 and lasted into 1943, but no longer. Beaty’s ‘home paper’, the Bridgeport Post, ran it, and maybe helped with distribution, too.
French’s death notice from the Chicago Tribune, June 30 1955, contributed by Cole Johnson:
George W. French, 71, of 415 Fullerton Pkwy, cartoonist and commercial artist, died yesterday at his home. Surviving are his widow Mae, two daughters, Mrs. Dorothy Ford, and Mrs. Marjorie Ruud, three grandchildren, and a brother. The funeral will be held tomorrow in the chapel at 5501 N. Ashland Ave.
Cartoonist Dick Kulpa has been discussed on Stripper’s Guide a number of times; for his involvement with strips Ghost Story Club, Star Trek, Legend of Bruce Lee and Double Eagle and Company. Kulpa recently corresponded with me a little, talking about his newspaper strips and involvement with the Weekly World News tabloid paper. He has graciously allowed me to share his reminiscences with Stripper’s Guide readers.
Ghost Story Club was, surprisingly, considered to be one of Tribune Media Service’s more stable features during its 146 week run, as we held onto the papers that carried us, as compared to other new features. That being said, we’d continually get panned in surveys, primarily because the strip was written to an 8-year-old level, as compared to the more accepted 12-year-old level.
The actual prime directive behind the strip was to snag young readers through a “learn to read” setting, utilizing ghost stories to entice the kids. This was fine for youngsters, but because it shared a page with dozens of other strips written to standard levels, GSC came across at times as “lame” and so forth, to readers not in the “Learn to read” loop.
We never heard that we were two old guys trying to be hip. 8-year-olds aren’t that discerning. Marvel Comics was seen as “hip” in the 1960s, but was driven by guys my age. In GSC’s final year I often rewrote the Sunday recap, as the elementary writing format bugged me too.
There was also a code we had to follow: No Guts, No Gore, No Violence — and no Dead Kids. I subsequently tagged it with “No Story.” The “No Dead Kid” rule was occasionally ignored, especially when a strip featured a boy or girl ghost, obviously a dead kid!
However, TMS was not necessarily wrong. On one occasion, I managed to draw a half-assed monster showing brain entrails hanging out, and that week’s club membershp signups doubled over the previous week. However, a ‘little old lady’ complained to one of our major papers, and nearly cost us the client. (I used to query as to how many kids joined the club each week, and soon after that event, how many little old ladies croaked over GSC.
Nonetheless, Zullo came up with some rather humorous and ingenius endarounds, and with some tweaking, the strip could re-emerge as a viable property today, though not necessarily as a newspaper strip. To that end, it’s plenty irritating enough to start reading a strip, then to stop at “continued tomorrow.”
Artists Claude St. Aubin, Florida caricaturist Rob Smith, and a third whose name escapes me, each drew a week’s worth. (That was when health issues started surfacing.) I modified their work somewhat, which I’m sure pissed ’em off. But that was the Weekly World News way…artists there were regarded only as tools. When I helped launch GSC with Zullo, my then-stated goal was to present guest illustrators, since the series was originally intended to be anthological. That, and I knew I did not have the stamina to maintain artistic chores and handle my full time position at Weekly World News in the long haul, an entity hostile to my involvement with GSC during its entire run.
In one exception, however, I was able to secure permission from my then-editor Eddie Clontz (my nemesis), to “guest star” another major creation of mine, Weekly World News’ “BatBoy”, in GSC. That appeared as a special two week story. As the run date approached, Clontz tried to rescind permission, (which I had in writing). I purposely scheduled a vacation for the week BatBoy appeared, whereby Clontz took it to the then-owners in an attempt to fire me and was rebuffed. That’s kinda the story there. Art in each week’s strips reflected WWN stress levels at the time.
It should be noted: I drew Bruce Lee dailies and Sundays back in 1983 for 8 weeks, holding down two other jobs. When that ended, I said “never again without GOOD pay.”
Years later, when GSC started, My body subconsciously reacted to the expected stress — and I became painfully ill the very week production began, having to draw the first six months’ worth standing up or often, on one knee. But for two and a half years, I was literally the only active mainstream tabloid guy in America to simultaneously be published in mainstream major media, and BatBoy was the pinnacle of that. (I plotted the story, btw). Sadly, no one noticed.
I wanted to steer GSC into themes such as witchcraft, dragons and the like, which is why Jasmine was often dressed in dark clothing. I could not get the powers that be to go along. Sadly, Harry Potter picked up that slack. (Then, of couirse, we had never heard of him.)
When GSC ended, as a result of our loss of two major papers to another “kids read” feature, the dominoes fell. I wound up in the ER with a busted gall bladder and bleeding ulcer, within five months of the ending. That told me why I fell ill earlier and had to hire help. Within a year I was also divorced, an indirect result of my GSC days. By then I was wide open for the CRACKED MagazIne debacle which would occur soon after.
Currently, I plan on repackaging GSC, with some artistic and editorial tweaking. Having drawn 25,000-some kids in real life since 2005, I am primed for it.
Now you know, as Paul Harvey once said, “the rest of the story.”
To sum things up, after I graduated high school In 1971, my work suddenly morphed into an appearance of viability faster than my perception of it. Further, it appeared to reflect the work of two artists, one good, one not so good. I would not become aware of what “right brain” was until the mid 90s.
When I drew GSC during vacation time from Weekly World News, it elevated by about 25 percent.
Nonetheless, with no mentor to speak of, I learned to draw by sight, rather than by phonics. This past year I have worked to change this.
Some will say my stuff has a “hard edge,” and that’s because the great bulk of my work was done in hostile surroundings. My father threw out all the Double Eagle originals, business partners also dumped me over this same strip.
My capability was not in question. It was “if you get sick, we can’t do the work.”
When I drew Star Trek I had to find time after work, and between government council/committee meetings, which would occur two to three times a week at night, as I was a sitting councilman back then. In fact, I drew one week’s worth of Star Trek overnight. My big mistake there was in trying to get the hometown daily to carry it, something they steadfastly refused to do. That frustration certainly impacted my work, as it denied me a direct audience (of critics), something I needed and thrived on through my regular political cartoons at the local weekly newspaper.
GSC did appear in a local Florida daily, however. But input came from fan mail, which, regrettably, I had neither time nor energy to read. But I did get TMS to Fedex me a Chicago-style pizza once!
Of all my work, Bruce Lee was seen as the overall best. At that time I worked for the family-owned (and friendly) Testor Corporation.
In comparison to the 300-some Double Eagle 1975-76 strips, however, everything else was drawn at half the original sizes. I regret that. That was to save time, and I shaved an hour off each strip, as compared to the Double Eagle.
When I joined Weekly World News/Enquirer, the hostility continued, as established artists there were, well, “not nice.” I had doors slammed in my face, other things, etc…several years later they apologized, with an admission that they did not know where I “fit” in the system, since I was the only artist there with “editorial” responsibilities. Oddly enough, they also admitted they could not put a finger on as to why they were so nasty toward me. Go figure. I really am a nice guy. One does not get elected to small town government office three times in ten years, as a jerk.
The WWN editor, admittedly fearing a potential cartoon “cult hero” status for me, similar to what occurred with then-columnist Ed Anger, threw everything he had to break my art, including forcing me to write a “help wanted: illustrator” ad for the paper. Whereas I was hired to be that illustrator originally, he routed me to the “desk”, i.e. headline writing and page design. It was a classic “bait and switch.”
I eventually rose to art director, and designed the vast majority of “page 1’s,” the most important page of that circulation-driven paper.
But that’s why you never saw a Kulpa comic strip in Weekly World News. It’s not that I didn’t try.)
As a direct result of all that, I hesitatingly accepted the GSC assignment, as my “hoped for escape” from that terrible place. I suspect many of my “adult heads” appearing in GSC (looking oddly narrow from the side) were a subconscious result of my perception of “narrow-mindedness”– a mindset which I think permeates the newspaper biz.
Anatomically-speaking, I know better, and “narrow profiles” were never an issue in previous work. I am fixing those now.
WWN editor Ed Clontz died in 2004. I envision a guest appearance in a future GSC reincarnation, LOL. “The Boss From Hell!”
You can see GSC (these are holding pages) at http://www.ghoststoryclub.com.
Baby Peggy, as best as can be determined, was distributed free as a promotional comic strip for the child star of the same name. For a time I believed it to be a feature produced by the New York Evening Graphic, but further research shows that it ran in quite a few smaller papers, and in the sort of haphazard manner common with free promo material. One example of the strip has been found with a copyright on it, to some mysterious entity called S.N.A.F.S. I thought myself pretty darn Sherlockian for coming up with the solution that the copyright was a cloaked reference to Essanay Studios, an early movie company (SNAFS = Essanay Feature Syndicate) but Cole Johnson tells me that they had gone belly up a few years earlier and were not connected with Baby Peggy films. Oh well, I tried.
The earliest example of the strip I can find ran in February 1924 in the Bakersfield Californian, and the latest example ran in December 1925 in the San Mateo Times, obviously long past when the strip was supplied. Almost a dozen papers have been found that ran it, and not one of them ran it with any regularity, or for more than a half-dozen or so episodes — many seem to run only one or two strips.The strip was drawn by editorial cartoonist Charles Macauley, whose bio and only other comic strip series have been covered on the blog.
The 1924 Editor & Publisher directory does have a listing for the strip — it is advertised as a daily, distributed by Thompson Feature Service. Maybe it was a daily, but no paper yet found has run more than the free samples sent out by the syndicate.
I asked Cole Johnson, who is an expert on both comic strips and silent movies, and supplied these samples, to kick in with some info about the real Baby Peggy — he has this to say:
|Hansel and Gretel (Century/ UNIVERSAL 12-26-23) Buddy Williams, Baby Peggy Montgomery|
Baby Peggy Montgomery was, for a brief period, a famous child movie star. She was born on Oct. 26, 1918 to cowboy stunt man Jack Montgomery and his wife, Marion. Receiving word that producer Julius Stern was looking for a child co-star for his series of “Brownie the Wonder Dog” comedies, she was brought down to the studio. The two-year-old proved to take direction well and got the job. Julius and brother Abe Stern ran the Century Comedy studios, which was actually a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Universal Picture Co., and the Sterns, like most of the management at “Big U”, were relatives of founder Carl Laemmle. Conditions at Century were crude, and the working conditions harsh. They thought nothing of working the toddler eight hours a day, and in such situations as a burning set, riding on a moving car’s spare tire, and in the proximity of wild animals. A particularly vivid memory of hers is of seeing a poorly-trained elephant stomp a man to death.
Few of the Century comedies have survived, but the several I’ve seen are cheap, routine affairs mainly. One (non-Peggy) Brownie adventure has an actual baby alligator snapping and biting a crying baby boy! Then an actual fight between Brownie and the gator!
Baby Peggy was subject to an early media promotion blitz, with dolls, songs, planted publicity articles, newsreel segments, and this comic strip produced. She was presented as “mascot” for the 1924 Democratic convention, posing with Franklin Roosevelt.
Sol Lesser, owner of the lucrative Tarzan movie franchise, as well as one-time producer of Jackie Coogan movies, picked up Baby’s contract in 1923, and put her in feature films, including one, CAPTAIN JANUARY, later made into a Shirley Temple picture. Peggy’s shortsighted and greedy father got into a squabble with Lesser, and outside of some bit roles, she was essentially blackballed from the film industry. Her father further mishandled her career in vaudeville. The money made during her four years of stardom spent on foolish luxuries, by the 1930’s the family was surviving hand-to-mouth in extra parts. She did her last film work in 1938, when she got married and left Hollywood. Baby Peggy was but a dimly remembered novelty until the 1990’s, when she wrote a memoir of her brief moment of stardom so long ago titled What Ever Happened to Baby Peggy: The Autobiography of Hollywood’s Pioneer Child Star.
I just got back from a two week visit to Washington DC. Although I was there for other purposes this time ’round, I did manage to steal four days for research at the Library of Congress. I didn’t have any grand purpose in mind for my time there, no paper in particular that desperately needed indexing, so I just started hitting whatever happened to catch my fancy on the very long “To Be Researched” list.
Following is a quick summary of the research work that was accomplished:
* Decided to track down Dok Hager’s work at the Seattle Times. I had a note that he was there 1911-17. Turns out he was there longer, at least 1910 to 1923 and maybe longer. I ran out of time to find his ultimate start and end dates but did manage to get the running dates for Dippy Duck, his very long-running daily series. I didn’t get start or end dates for The Weather, aka The Umbrella Man, because it started before 1911 and lasted beyond 1923. I also picked up a few short-run series by Hager and another local cartoonist named Jenner. The most fun item I found was a weekly panel titled Hans Und Gretchen that started off seeming like a come-on for vacationers to come to Seattle, but eventually turned out to be an ad panel for a local brewery!
* Finally got around to tracking down the running dates for the Comicfix stuff (Speed Racer, Biografix, Molly the Model) that ran in the NY Post 2000-2001.
* Right before leaving for Washington I received a set of Sunday magazine inserts called Three To Get Ready — a kid’s magazine from 1981. The batch I got were all from volume 2 of the series. By sheer chance I stumbled upon a run of volume 1 in the Dayton Daily News. Nice catch if I do say so! Both volumes included a pair of continuing comic strip series.
* Took a gander through the NY Post for 1945-48 to see if mystery strip Punchy and Judy did indeed appear there (it did), and ended up with some good little bits and pieces from the late 40’s, including much better info on Illustrated Classics (the Classics Illustrated series for newspapers) than I had before.
* Looked at just one reel of the Detroit Free Press and saw to my amazement that Guindon was STILL running in 1992. No time to research that issue further.
* Checked Amsterdam News for a feature called Our Roots that supposedly ran there starting in 1997. Turned out that bit of info was baloney — no such thing.
* Did a quick check on the San Francisco Examiner for 1965 to see if Ping was still running. It wasn’t, but no time to work backwards to find it.
* The Cincinnati Enquirer, which I initially looked at just to get start and end dates for Seckatary Hawkins, turned into a minor treasure-trove of good info on oddball syndicated features. Got a lot of magazine cover feature dates, too, until they started to come up missing on the microfilm. Looks like the collectors got there before the microfilmers. By the way, the Seckatary Hawkins strip ran nowhere near the 1926-42 dates that have been quoted elsewhere…
* I hit the Long Island Newsday to get info on Cliff Rogerson’s features. Found that Rogerson’s recounting of his work there was pretty darn accurate –a minor miracle! It is rare to get good dates from creators, especially when they are recounting their work of long ago! I would hate to index Newsday in depth — that is one hefty tabloid paper.
* I checked the 1897 New York Herald on a tip from Cole Johnson. Sure enough, I found that the Pudding Brothers feature, previously documented in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1898, actually originated at the Herald in 1897. The Inquirer run was merely reprints of the series — still counts as very early syndication though. The Herald is a very strange paper. They had a lot of great cartoonists pass through (Gustave Verbeek and Gene Carr to name two in 1897), but they gave them so little to do. They didn’t have a real comics section until 1900, and before then it seems like they just couldn’t make up their minds. They’d sometimes devote a couple pages to ‘proto-funnies’ for months at a time, and then they just disappear for long stretches. I only came up with two other recurring features in the whole year, and one of those is more of a fairy tale kiddie feature. Oddly enough there was a lot more comic content at the start of 1897, it peters out during the year as they concentrated more and more on half-tone photos, of which they were justly proud. I think 1896 is probably worth indexing, but it will have to wait for my next trip. Oh, one other thing about the Herald. I noted use of the term “yellow journalism” in an October 1897 article — very early use of that term! Unfortunately it seems as if the term was even then not new, as the writer felt no need to explain its meaning or origin — leaving open the still contested question of whether the term derives from the Yellow Kid or not.
* While twiddling my thumbs waiting for film to be delivered I also looked at a reel of the Indianapolis News and found a mystery strip — Walk On was appearing there. No time to pursue start and end dates though. Some of my most interesting finds come from picking around in the microfilm return bin while I’m waiting for my next delivery.
* Another ‘waiting around’ find was the Washington Herald, which in 1915 was running a 4-page McClure section — a rarity that late. I did pursue that lead, which gave me some good McClure Sunday data until some rotten SOB started pilfering the comic sections around mid-1916. Rats!!
* Indexed the Boston Herald for 1915-17 to pick up some of those hard-to-find Newspaper Features strips. Got good dates now on Titmouse Twins and the Asthma Simpson Sunday.
* The Boston Globe yielded up running dates for local strips Yankee Almanack, Word Wizard and Electric Company in Boston. In the process found two hitherto unseen syndicated features, Full Disclosure and Stockworth.
Think that about does it for my Library of Congress trip this time. It seems that for every new bit of data I manage to pin down I only come up with more questions, most of which await future trips before they’ll be answered. Seems that no matter how many layers you peel off the newspaper comics onion, there’s still more beneath.