… and happy halloween from Sambo and his Funny Noises, October 27 1912, courtesy of Cole Johnson.
Tuesday, February 18 1908 — The Chicago White Sox are coming out to California to play a series of spring training games against the Angels and other teams in the Pacific Coast League.
Florida Digital Newspaper Library — an eclectic collection, but rather obscure search and browse capabilities make it of questionable utility
Glenn Foden, an editorial cartoonist whose work appeared in a chain of weekly papers in Maryland for many years, created Against the Grain for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate in 1996. The strip was about the residents of Millandsprocket, a town whose economy depends on logging and tourism. The lumber industry was very much in the news at the time, so the subject matter was opportune.
The strip made fun of environmentalists, dim-witted lumberjacks, crusty colorful locals and tourists. Given that Foden is a right-winger, the tree-hugging Phoebe Geebies endured some of the more pointed jabs while the lumberjack Wilson LeHack was portrayed as a well-meaning good ol’ boy dufus. The strip’s logo, showing a proudly beaming LeHack, chainsaw in hand, next to a gargantuan stump, showed where Foden’s sympathies lay, though the strip was rarely overtly political.
One of Foden’s recurring subjects was roadkill, which made for some rather nauseating gags. Other than that miscue, the strongest material was about tourists, a group about which those of all political strips could enjoy a chuckle.
The fortunes of Against the Grain seemed to rise and fall with the newsworthiness of the lumbering industry. The daily strip began on January 1 1996, added a Sunday on December 6 1998, and then was cancelled sometime in 2000 (anyone know the exact date?).
It’s unfortunately not infrequent that a new feature gets syndicated before the creator has really found his or her creative footing. Bumgardner is a good example of that. When it first came on the scene in 1984, the strip’s gags were clunky and the characters were defined a little too quirkily. By the time Jim Smith had ironed out the character kinks and gotten his gag-writing on track the strip was on the chopping block. These days syndicates have really begun to address that. No more do you get a syndicate contract as an unknown based on a couple weeks worth of sample strips — new creators are usually signed to long-term development contracts, where they produce their features on a daily schedule for the purpose of seeing where the feature goes, what works and doesn’t work, and to fine tune as necessary. Too bad this only came into vogue about eighty years later than it should have.
Most of the samples above are from the final year of the strip, when Smith was really hitting on all cylinders. I included so many because practically every one I looked at seemed to make the cut as chuckle-worthy.
The strip has a very simple premise — Wallace, Laverne, Leonard and dog Spike are a houseful of rather dopey suburbanites who deal with everyday life. Their familial relationships are prone to be obscure — sometimes Leonard is a grandson, sometimes a son. No matter; once Smith had hit his stride we didn’t need to know the background of their relationship to get the gags.
The strip is by Jim Smith, of whom I know nothing. There is a Spumco animator of the same name, but I can find no indication that they are the same guy. In fact I can find not a word of information or comment anywhere about either Smith or his creation. All I know is that it was syndicated by the LA Times and ran at least from June 3 1984 to June 23 1986. Some papers ran it as Baumgardner, apparently a little modest about that first syllable.
During World War II newspapers in areas where troops were stationed sometimes added local content by the soldiers. Naturally Honolulu was a nexus for this sort of feature. We’ve already covered one such feature, The Seabees, and here’s another, Charlie Bunkhound. The strip ran on Saturdays and seems to have replaced Sad Sack, which had earlier occupied the same spot in the paper.
Charlie Bunkhound, which I gather was consistently pantomime, was credited to Bernard Gobler and Keith Clement, who I’m assuming were stationed at Pearl Harbor. I don’t know who was the writer and who the cartoonist. Cole Johnson, who furnished the samples and all the info, tells me that the feature ran at least January through April 1945, but may have lasted longer.