GAR was one of the most prolific cartoonists at the Chicago Daily News in the 1900s, and that is no small feat considering that he was contending with the prodigious likes of George Frink, Ted Brown and C.F. Batchelder. GAR’s favorite subjects were jungle animals; although his allotted spaces were tiny, he populated his tiny panels with vast menageries.
The problem for this indexer is that GAR’s jungle strips all sort of blend together, and since running titles were rarely used in the Chicago Daily News, picking out individual series is rather like trying to sort snowflakes. With GAR and his jungle animals I almost threw up my hands in despair. Several discrete jungle titles are indexed in my Stripper’s Guide listings, but the ones that often starred monkeys in 1902-03 are indexed under the title Jocko. Jocko was the most often named simian when the series ‘started’ (I use the term loosely, of course) on August 4 1902. This was also essentially GAR’s first jungle animal strip of any kind; before that date he did mostly single panel cartoons, which I made no attempt to index (there were upwards of a dozen per daily page, and identifiable series were exceedingly rare).
Although Jocko really did start off being the star of the show, GAR soon added many other animals to the mix, often referring to them under the nigh-anonymous names of Mr. Elephant, Mr. Lion, etc. Then later in 1902 GAR seems to forget that his monkey star was named Jocko and starts referring to him as Chatters more often (see samples above). By 1903 the thread of a continuing strip is lost — GAR is producing all sorts of jungle strips, sometimes with new continuing characters but usually with anonymous animals. So to say that the Jocko, or Chatters, strip ends on some specific date is to engage in folly. Let us say that it petered out as a discrete series in mid- or late-1903 and be content with that.
GAR has previously been misidentified on this blog as K.E. Garman, and yet earlier in my research I thought GAR was Gar Schmitt. Tomorrow Alex Jay will put the kibosh on all that by unveiling his true identity.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
The first comic strip to make the transition from the web to newspaper syndication, at least by a major syndicate, was Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet. The strip debuted on the web in 1996, back when it was still populated mostly by techies. The subject was a natural for that audience; Helen was a gorgeous computer geek babe.
The online version of the strip had a lot of tech-savvy jokes for the Jolt Cola crowd, but when Tribune Media Services picked up the strip for daily and Sunday newspaper syndication in 2000, creator Peter Zale had to dilute the formula. His tech gags were dumbed down to be more accessible to a general audience, and there was more Dilbert-y office humor added. None of the changes did anything to benefit the strip. Online devotees were put off, of course, and newspaper readers, I think, could sense that Zale was lobbing softballs and looking all over for direction.
To help make Helen stand out as a computer age comic, tone gradients and other Photoshop tricks were used to make the strip look techie. No amount of Photoshopping, though, could hide the fact that Zale was not an especially gifted cartoonist. His characters, including Helen herself, all looked suspiciously like doodles drawn on a memo pad during a long meeting. This is not an unforgivable sin in itself (again, see Dilbert), but you couldn’t always tell what Zale was trying to communicate in some of his drawings.
If Tribune was thinking that they wanted to be on the cutting edge by syndicating a web comic, they picked about the worst possible candidate. Helen‘s main strength was its geek appeal — newspaper syndication stripped that asset, leaving it like Henny Youngman without the one-liners or George Carlin without the expletives. So the first web comic to make the big leap to the daily paper didn’t make much of a splash at all. Zale says that at its peak Helen appeared in 60 papers, a number that seems almost respectable. But my guess is that as soon as newspaper editors realized that running Helen didn’t make their newspaper a must-read for twenty-somethings, they dropped it like an Apple Lisa.
The newspaper run of Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet was from June 5 2000 to December 25 2005. The online version began in 1996. Much, maybe all of the run, is still available on Peter Zale’s website.
Thursday, February 13 1908 — Herriman ends his Mr. Amos Pidjin strip today, logging in a total of five delightful episodes. Today in Sports, however, will continue; today’s installment recounts the wrestling matches of the previous night and looks forward to a spring visit from the Chicago White Sox.
What a shame that we lost Albert Bloch to fine art just as he was really getting the hang of comic-stripping. To see Bloch’s advancement as a cartoonist, check out 1901’s Constable Hayrick the Rustic Sleuth, an absolute abomination, then 1902’s Professor Wayupski, much better drawn but still a little iffy on the progression between panels, and then today’s obscurity from 1903, Terrible Ted the Boy Bandit.
Terrible Ted is the work of a confident cartoonist. He’s minimizing his speech balloons, his pacing is spot on and the gags are properly executed and very cute. Imagine what he would have been producing another two or three years down the road. Ah well, such was not to be. No, Albert dropped cartooning like a used Kleenex after spending three years at the St. Louis Star. He went off to seek stardom in fine art, and he got a good measure of it. Bloch became associated with Kandinsky (a self-important windbag who hoodwinked the art world into hailing him as a great painter … but I digress) and was one of his ‘Blue Rider’ group. Bloch produced some really striking modernist works that were exhibited at the much-discussed avant garde shows of the 1910s, and later became a respected art teacher. To see some of Bloch’s remarkable work check out the University of Kansas website.
Terrible Ted ran in the proto-World Color Printing section of the St. Louis Star and a handful of other papers from April 26 to August 2 1903. It was his last work with the paper.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!
I consider Ferd G. Long one of the newspaper cartooning undiscovered gems of the 1900s and 1910s. His cartoons were a constant feature of the New York Evening World for almost two decades, and yet today you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has even heard of him.
He was a naturally funny cartoonist; just the look of a Ferd Long strip has you smiling before you get to the reading. And his art was not only funny, but supremely confident and well thought out. Just look at the spotting of the blacks and the economy of line on the examples above — superb stuff.
Long’s only failing is that in trying to get his daily work done, which typically involved not only a strip but also spot illustrations, news illustrations and seemingly whatever else they threw at him, some of his strip work can be perfunctory, humor-wise. Good Night!, which ran in the Evening World from February 27 1911 to December 19 1912, is an example of that. In the early days of the strip there was a great slow burn effect, capped off with the seemingly unflappable protagonist finally losing his or her calm and screaming out “G-o-o-d N-i-g-h-t!” as the other characters scatter to the wind of the oral explosion. Ferd should have dumped the concept when it ran out of gas, but he kept on with more generic gags that didn’t really lead naturally to the final outburst (I nominate several of the samples above as illustrations of that).
Now being a Ferd Fanatic, I must point out that three of the four examples above are really unfair to his art. The newspaper that ran the one-tier strips reformatted them that way. And boy did they do a bad job of it. Just goes to prove that some newspaper folks have way too much time on their hands. Why take a two-tier strip, so well-designed for that layout by the artist, and cut it all up, apparently without even the benefit of a straight-edge? It even looks to me like the bottom sample might have lost a panel in the translation — the second panel doesn’t seem to make any sense. Who is he talking about?
Ferd Long is a mystery to me in that his work for the Evening World is drastically curtailed after 1917. In 1918 and 1919 he does a few short series, often fill-ins for other cartoonists, but by and large he is gone. And after mid-1919 he is never seen again. Frankly I expected to find an obituary, and I scanned the Evening World microfilm for months of 1919 looking for one. Considering the severity of the flu epidemic of 1917, my guess was that Long got caught up in that, made a few rallies when he was able to return to the paper for short stints, but then died in 1919. But no obit was found. So a good thing that we have Alex Jay on board, who will fill us in on Long’s bio tomorrow.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!