Saturday, February 15, 2014

 

Herriman Saturday


Friday, May 29 1908 -- Decoration Day is observed by Herriman in this touching cartoon that references the literal decoration of graves, the activity for which the holiday was named.

Decoration Day is the original name of Memorial Day, and used to be observed on May 30 each year, rather than the last Monday of May.

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Alan, Not to change the subject of this fine information. I would like to get your assistance on research that I am doing on the relationship of Lincoln Features, H.T. Elmo, Jack Kirby and the positive identification of cartoons he did at that time. I have been able to identify two cartoons created during this time by Kirby that are not listed anywhere during my research. We all know with certainty that Jack Kirby created Socko the Seadog under the pseudonym of Teddy (correct?). I have discovered that "SOMEDAY" and "CHUCKLE CORNER"
were signed Teddy, Ted, and H.T.Elmo which are identified as psuedonym for Jack Kirby. I have many antique cartoon printing plates of these cartoons. In addition I have other plates believed to be part of the Lincoln Features, such as Sally Snickers, Rhyming Romeos, Useless Eustace, and It's Amazing. Although I believe most of these were created by Jack Kirby it is difficult, as you commented in the past, to find records on Lincoln Features. I can send you images of any of these cartoons that I listed which may aid in your wide expansion of knowledge and information on the Lincoln Features and H.T.Elmo. Please provide me with an email that I can send images too if we can exchange background on the above. Mine is jgetsart@aol.com
I appreciate your time regarding this research. Thanks, Joe
 
I also just acquired a book published by H.T. Elmo in 1949 called "Its Amazing" which depicts 400 images of the cartoon drawing announcing amazing things throughout the world. This book also gives credit to Phil Berube as an artist. I understand Berube was involved with pencilling and inking many Superman comics. I have several hundred original plates of "It's Amazing" and believe Jack Kirby was involved in creating many of these. FYI
 
Berube's work did appear in several of National's titles. Probably Superman, Action and Adventure among others. As I remember he didn't draw comics per se but rather drew the headers that illustrated the text stories they were legally required to add.
 
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Friday, February 14, 2014

 

Sci-Friday starring Connie

Connie, August 30 1936, courtesy of Richard Cohen. Follow the Connie story every Friday here on Stripper's Guide.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Jack Abbott


Jacob Bates “Jack” Abbott was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on November 11, 1895, according to his World War II draft card and the Vermont Death Record at Ancestry.com. In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, he was the only child of Edward and Mabel. They lived in Brookline at 29 Marion Street. His father was a real estate agent.

He has not been found in the 1910 census. A yearbook at Ancestry.com identified his high school. He attended St. George's High School in Middletown, Rhode Island. He was in the class of 1913 and contributed to the June 1912 yearbook, The Lance, as an art editor. He was a member of the Dragon Board, 1911–1912 (see photo); an errand boy for the Dramatic Association; and won a prize in drawing. He signed his World War I draft card in 1917. His occupation was security salesman (bonds). His description was medium height and build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. According to a Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Card at Ancesrty.com, he served in the army from August 15, 1917 to January 18, 1919. He was a second lieutenant in the 28th Division, Company D, 112th Infantry Regiment. He fought on the Western Front.

In 1920, he and his wife, Eleanor, lived with her parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 1015 Oak Lane Avenue. He was unemployed. In 1929 he moved his family to California where he sold the strip, The Gay Stone Age, to Hearst.

In the 1930 census, he was recorded in Pasadena, California at 2377 Mar Vista Avenue. He was a cartoonist with two children.


The Catalogue of Copyright Entries, Part 1, Group 2, Pamphlets, Leaflets, etc., 1933, New Series, Volume 30, Number 7 had this entry: “Grey (Zane) Desert gold, by Zane Grey [John J. Welch]. Illus. by Jack Abbott. © June 26, 1933; AA 124331; Register & tribune co. 20156”

Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania, on Contention Lane, was his home in the 1940 census. He was an advertising illustrator. According to the census he resided in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1935. His World War II draft card was signed on April 12, 1942. He lived in Dublin, New Hampshire, where he was self-employed. The Daily News (Huntingdon, Pennsylvania), August 24, 1944, reported his appointment.
Game Commission Hires Illustrator
Harrisburg, Aug. 24.—Jacob Bates Abbott, Haverford, nationally known wildlife illustrator and naturalist, was appointed today by the State Game Commission to assist in promoting its education program which will be intensified for the first time since its inception 10 years ago.
Abbott, a Harvard graduate and World War I veteran, will be paid on a per diem basis comparable to the amount the commission expends annually for art work.
The commission is planning to expand its program after the war to better acquaint hunters and the general public on wildlife conditions, hunting and trapping regulations, an agency spokesman said.
Abbott will begin work in the near future on a series of painting[s] of all Pennsylvania game birds and animals which will be used in game and wildlife publications.
Abbott passed away July 14, 1950, in Brattleboro, Vermont, according to the Associated Press report. Pennsylvania Game News, in an issue from Volume 21, 1950, gave an account of his life in this excerpt:
Jacob Bates Abbott, Haverford, for years a Commission staff artist, died from a heart attack on July 14 while he was vacationing in New Hampshire. He was 54. One of America's foremost wildlife artists, Mr. Abbott was a regular contributor of both illustrations and articles on natural history to this magazine. His colorful portraits of wild birds and animals in their native habitat were featured on Game News front covers from 1941 to 1949.
A native of Brookline, Massachusetts, Abbott attended Harvard College but left at the end of his junior year in 1917 to enlist in the Army. He served in France during World War I as a machine gun officer with the 28th Division and was gassed at Chateau Thierry. Following his discharge he became a bond salesman, doing book jackets and illustrations on the side.
In 1929 he moved his family to California and that year sold a comic strip called “The Gay Stone Age” to William Randolph Hearst. He later contracted to present Zane Grey’s books in comic strip form. In 1934 he became a free-lance artist and concentrated entirely on wildlife illustrations. He sold his first cover painting to the Saturday Evening Post in 1935 and during the past 10 years he has illustrated about 35 books including the “Encyclopedia of American Birds” and “Animal Babies”. One of his paintings was requested by the Library of Congress for its collection of outstanding wildlife illustrations….
 —Alex Jay

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

 

Obscurity of the Day: The Zane Grey Comic Strip










I confess to not being much interested in the western fiction genre, so I've never read a Zane Grey novel. But if the Zane Grey Comic Strip is anywhere close to a fair representation of how the famed novelist wrote, his popularity is a mystery to me. Rarely have I read more stilted prose than that found in the typeset captions of this comic strip. And since Mr. Grey's name is proudly emblazoned on each strip I have to assume he was happy with this representation of his work.

Anyhow, my two cents aside, let's discuss the strip. By the 1930s Zane Grey was a household name, having written immensely popular western novels since the early 1910s. However, the readership for his novels took a dive during the Great Depression, when his readers were more concerned with paying for their next meal than reading Grey's next oater. Likely it was this falling income stream that spurred Grey's interest in the extra money he could make licensing his novels to the Register and Tribune Syndicate for adaptation in the form of comic strips.

Though credited to Zane Grey, the adaptations were probably the work of John J. Welch, but he should be excused for the woodenness, having to follow Grey's lead. The art, which was delightfully rough-hewn, perfect for the subject matter, was by Jack Abbott (more about him tomorrow in an Alex Jay Ink-Slinger Profile).

On January 25 1932, after an unusually expansive marketing effort by the Des Moines-based Register and Tribune Syndicate, the strip debuted in a creditable number of newspapers nationwide. The first novel to be adapted, Riders of the Purple Sage, was also Grey's most popular.

But things went downhill from there. My guess is that newspaper readers generally fell into two groups -- those who enjoyed Grey's work and had already read the novels, and those who didn't particularly care for his work. My thinking is that a rather small pie slice of the newspaper-reading population fit into the category that were fans of this sort of story and had not already read the Zane Grey tales. That meant that the strip, which would have seemed an obvious winner with such a high-profile name attached, may not have had the expected appeal.


The series managed to make it through adaptations of seven novels, though the client list of newspapers dropped precipitously starting by the third and fourth stories. Finding a paper that ran the series all the way to the end is one tough hunt (the Toronto Star was one of the few papers to stick with it to the bitter end).
In an attempt to buoy up interest, the adaptations got shorter but that seemed to do nothing to reverse the strip's fortunes.


Story TitleLetter# of StripsOfficial Start Date
Riders of the Purple SageA1201/25/32
Forlorn RiverB1146/13/32
NevadaC12010/24/32
Desert GoldD1143/13/33
The U.P. TrailE667/24/33
Fighting CaravansF6010/9/33
Robbers’ RoostG4212/18/33

Each story had a letter designator, and oddly enough, when the series ended the letter designator actually continued. Presumably for some arcane marketing reason, the Zane Grey strip numbering, along with the numbering of another strip, Flying to Fame, was continued on a new strip titled Bullet Benton. While Bullet Benton was a western, it has nothing to do with the Zane Grey oeuvre.

Thanks very much to Cole Johnson, who provided the sample strips.


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Allan-
Your favorable opinion about Abbott's artwork matches my own. In Comics of the American West, Maurice Horn's assessment was that Abbott was "undistinguished" as an artist.



Attribution of the comic adaptation of Grey's novels to John J. Welch is certainly correct for the last four novels, which used the common comic format of dialogue balloons. The "Picture Strip" format used in the first three titles was also used by the Tarzan strips of Edgar Rice Burrough's, which had been running in newspapers for a few years before the Zane Grey strips appeared. I'm still seeking positive identification of the writer for the first three titles of the Zane Grey strip. I'm almost positive that it was not Welch.


The probable explanation for the strip's letter identifications (A through G) being continued in sequence to "Bullet Benton" and "Flying to Fame" was John J. Welch being a writer for these strips.


Zane Grey very likely had little to do with the writing of the strip. In 1935, when Grey needed money and Slesinger talked him into "King of the Royal Mounted" for King Features, Grey wrote only the initial story. Afterwards, he supplied only rough story outlines for the writers of daily continuity to complete.


A couple of questions for you:

(1) You have tabulated an "official start date" for the strips, e.g. 25 Jan 1932 for Riders of the Purple Sage. The Topeka, Kansas, newspaper that ran the strip started it on 18 April 1932. Was asynchronous publication typical of nationally strips in the 1930s?

(2) Could you comment on the probable nature of the collaboration between artist and writer in producing picture strips like the sample you show for "Nevada". Would frequent communication have been required? Or could the writer have simply broken the text into small chunks that he thought could be illustrated, and then given them to the artist? Any insight would be appreciated.



Thank you.



--Bob Keen
 
Hi Bob --
Good questions!

Regarding an "official starting date", I'm really glad you asked that. I should have explained more in the post, but I felt like I was starting to get a mite long-winded.

The beauty (business-wise) of a strip that is numbered instead of dated is of course that newspapers can start the series at any time they wish. They aren't locked in at all -- in fact they can buy the material and let it sit on the shelf if they want to until it is needed. Of course, on a dated strip the dates can be removed from the strips before they're printed, but the extra work associated with that makes it (thankfully) not all that common.

The Zane Grey series did indeed start at various different times in different papers, taking advantage of the lack of dates. Therefore my "official" start date is, I suppose, anything but that since the syndicate made special allowance to make it easy for papers to run it late. I call it official for no better reason than that is the starting date at the Toronto Star. The Star is the only paper I know of that ran the entire series, in sequence, without breaks, and no later than any other paper I've discovered. The Star was obviously very hepped up about the strip, and that leads me to assume that they got it into the paper as soon as it became available from the syndicate.

As regards question 2, a typical comic strip script produced in a writer/artist collaboration contains the written dialogue and captions and directions for how the artist should illustrate it. Depending on the way the duo like to work, the writer may describe the panel art in very vague terms, or hamstring the artist by describing how each rivet on a pair of jeans should look.

In the comic strip world, it is not uncommon for writers to actually draw rough sketches of how they see the action in each panel. Of course if the writer is reasonable, the artist is given plenty of latitude to take or ignore the directions as more suggestion than orders.

Now a couple questions for you. First, how does the prose in the comic strips relate to Zane Grey's originals? In other words, is much of the text taken directly from the novels, or is it substantially rewritten? Second, why do you believe that Welch was not the writer on the first three titles, and why do you think he did adapt the rest?

Best, Allan
 
Allan-
Thanks for a kind and responsive reply. I'll attempt in turn to address your questions.

How does the prose in the comic strips relate to Zane Grey's originals? In other words, is much of the text taken directly from the novels, or is it substantially rewritten?

In the picture-strip format of the first three adaptations, the length of the novel was buy at least 80%. The text that remained used much of Grey's wording. Grey is on record as deploring the condensation because he thought it mangled his stories; however, he needed the money then.

Second, why do you believe that Welch was not the writer on the first three titles, and why do you think he did adapt the rest?

John J. Welch is listed in the Library of Congress records of copyright, submitted by the Des Moines register & tribune co. as being the writer/adaptor for the last four novels, with Jack Abbott as the illustrator. Too, at the same time in 1933 that Welch was converting the novel to the usual comic format, he was also doing the same for P. C. Wren's Beau Geste, illustrated by B. W. Depew. Welch inserted his own characters Slim and Tubby into the latter adaptation.

The first three novels, in picture-strip format, were submitted for copyright with only Zane Grey indicated as creator. Some Zane Grey scholars think that daily continuity for the first three titles was written by Grey's son Romer. Zane Grey kept himself distanced from the strip as he mostly did for the "King of the Royal Mounted" strip that followed.

It seems that the Des Moines Register and Tribune Syndicate had a certain fluidity about its staff, and shuffled its artists among strips. Even Welch's character Tubby, a flying cowboy in strips written by Welch, was switched to being a newspaper reporter working alongside Monte Barrett's Jane Arden.

Thank you.
--Bob Keen
 
Hi Bob --
Thanks for the insight regarding the writers. Very interesting that Welch actually received copyright credit!

I assume the missing word in your first response is that the novels were CONDENSED by 80%?

Best, Allan
 
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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

 

Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: Camillus Kessler


Camillus Kessler was born in Ottawa, Kansas, on March 3, 1883, according to his World War I and II draft cards. In the 1895 Kansas State Census, he was the youngest of two children born to John and Minnie. Their home was in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Herald (Kansas), January 15, 1987, reported the Franklin County Historical Society event devoted to Kessler.

One local boy who “made good,” did so as a nationally syndicated cartoonist, but has been almost completely forgotten by Ottawans and the public at-large….
Kessler grew up in Ottawa in the 1880s and ’90s and attended the public schools here. His father, John B. Kessler, and a partner had purchased the Queen City Herald newspaper here in 1883, about the time of Camillus’ birth….
The family originally lived on Poplar Street, but later resided at 132 and 217 S. Cedar. They apparently moved away from Ottawa about 1900...
Details of Camillus Kessler’s cartooning career are even more obscure. His talents presented themselves at an early age, however, for when he was still in his teens he drew a series of excellent caricatures of prominent local businessmen….
The 1900 U.S. Federal Census recorded Kessler, his parents and sister in Muskogee, Creek Nation, Indian Territory, on Third Street. They resided in what would become Oklahoma state in 1907. His father was the proprietor of a printing office. The Evening Tribune (San Diego, CA), October 26, 1933 carried L.L. Stevenson’s column, “Lights of New York”, who said:
Camillus Kessler was telling me about the old days down in Oklahoma when his father ran the daily newspaper and he delivered it on ponyback. In those days, newspapers being hand set, there was always a demand for printers. So the elder Kessler would telegraph up and down the Katy railroad to have tramp printers headed this way. Most of them would work a week and get drunk on pay day. Muskogee didn’t have much of a caboose. But it was strong enough to hold the tramp printers. So every Monday morning, Editor Kessler would go to the coop and pay the fine of $2, so he could get out his paper, the fine, of course, being deducted from the next week’s wages.
How long they stayed in Muskogee is not known.

The St. Louis Republic (Missouri), August 21, 1904, said Kessler and other newspapermen were on a committee, 
for a competition sponsored by a local music store, to award pianos to girls. The paper said of Kessler: “…whose cartoons and drawings in The Republic have won for him more than a local reputation….” The Muskogee Times-Democrat (Indian Territory), October 6, 1905, noted Kessler’s whereabouts: “Camillus Kessler, the cartoonist, formerly of this city, is now at Parsons, Kansas, running a series of cartoons in a paper there.”

Gould’s 1908 Directory, St Louis, Missouri, listed Kessler at 4273 St. Louis Avenue and his occupation as artist with the Republic. The 1910 directory said he was a St. Louis Star cartoonist and resided at 4254 St. Louis Avenue. The same address was recorded in the 1910 census which said he was married to Edith.

The St. Louis Lumberman, January 15, 1910, published three drawings by Kessler, including one of his father (middle column).




A full-page feature, “Back of the Footlights by C. Kessler”, appeared in Cartoons Magazine, March 1913.


At some point, Kessler moved to New York City. According to American Newspaper Comics (2012), His cartoons appeared in the New York Press from January to June 1914. 


The 1915 New York State Census listed cartoonist Kessler and Edith in Manhattan at 839–841 West 179th Street. The same address appeared on his World War I draft card. The description of him was medium height and build with gray eyes and brown hair. The self-employed newspaper artist signed his draft card on September 11, 1918.

Regarding Prohibition, Kessler wrote a letter to Leslie’s Weekly which was reprinted in The Mixer & Server, February 15, 1916.

In the 1920 census, the couple lived at 76 West 103 Street in Manhattan. Kessler’s work took him various events such as the fifth annual banquet of the Silk Travelers’ Association at the Hotel Astor. The American Silk Journal, March 1920, described what he did: 

Cartoonist C. Kessler, who made most of the cartoons in the souvenir program, sat at a small table in the center of the room, and as he drew cartoons they were projected on a screen suspended from the upper balcony. These cartoons were of persons present in the audience and created considerable laughter.
Kessler went unnamed in the Garment Manufacturers’ Index, March 1920, article about the same event: “…A feature of the entertainment was the presence of a shadow cartoonist who amused the company with sketches of the leading men in the association.”

Kessler illustrated two full-page articles by Arthur James Pegler which were published in the New York Tribune, August 7, 1921 and October 23, 1921. One of his At the Bottom of the Ladder cartoons, for the New York Globe, was reprinted in Publishers Weekly, September 16, 1922. A 1926 issue of The Bookman noted the upcoming release of the book, At the Bottom of the Ladder, and offered an explanation on how the series started.

“At the Bottom of the Ladder”, a series of Kessler cartoons, was recently syndicated and is to be published now in book form. The origin of the series seems to have been as follows:
Judge Elbert H. Gary, in a letter dated October 18 , 1922, addressed to Henry J. Wright, then chief editor of the New York “Globe”, says:
“My friends have seen with interest and amusement the cartoon by Kessler exhibited in a recent issue of the ‘Globe’ entitled ‘At the Bottom of the Ladder’…He probably did not know that the cartoon accurately represents my early experiences on my father's farm. On two different occasions my carelessness, and perhaps unreasonable haste, resulted in injuries — not serious but quite disagreeable. At one time the ax slipped and struck my foot, resulting in a scar which I have carried to the present day. At another time a stick flew and, instead of striking a cow, struck me across the bridge of the nose and left a mark which lasted several days, although the wound healed without leaving a permanent scar. I am wondering if I could purchase the original drawing.”
The cartoon in question shows young Gary busily engaged with an ax, making wood fly, as well as several farm animal, while a too inquisitive cow has been caught squarely between the eyes by a flying billet.
Another Kessler series, In for Life, for the New York World, had a short run from March 5 to 31, 1928. 25 Years Ago Today would be his longest-running series, from 1929 to 1949.

The 1930 census found newspaper cartoonist Kessler in Palisades Park, New Jersey at 206 Harnet Avenue, where his home was valued at $10,000. In this decade, Kessler produced the weekly panel, Making the Grade (1930 to 1932), and the daily panel, Home Town Echoes (1939 to 1950) which had alternate titles such as On the Home Front, Seems Like Yesterday, and True to Nature. The Ottawa Herald said: “Kessler’s nationally syndicated “Seems Like Yesterday,” and “Home Town Echoes” cartoons were often based on his early days in Ottawa.” Kessler’s cartooning career was discussed in this earlier post.

After a few years, Kessler moved to 417 Tenafly Road in Englewood, New Jersey, as recorded in the 1940 census. His highest level of education was four years of college. In 1939 he worked 46 weeks and earned $2,974.

Kessler signed his World War II draft card April 26, 1942. His address was 45 Hillside Avenue, Cresskill, New Jersey, and his employer was the Bell Syndicate. He was five feet eleven inches, 160 pounds, with gray eyes and black hair.

Kessler passed away October 12, 1950, in Oak Hill, Missouri, according to his death certificate. He was buried in the family plot at Hill Cemetery, Bourbon, Missouri. 


—Alex Jay

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Monday, February 10, 2014

 

Obscurity of the Day: 25 Years Ago Today




I wrote an overview of Camillus Kessler's career way back in 2006, and I haven't learned much more about him in the meantime. However, when I decided to do a post about his feature 25 Years Ago Today I sniffed around again and found this short item that adds to the knowledgebase. I'm delighted to find he was a fellow Canuck, hailing from Ottawa .... oops, no, Alex Jay tells me my reading comprehension is devolving even faster than my memory -- he's from Ottawa Kansas. Hmmm ... how dare those Kansans piggy-back on the goodwill of our fair capital city.

Kessler's 25 Years Ago Today, which ran for an astounding (to me at least) two decades, was a daily panel distributed by Bell Syndicate. The idea of the panel is that all the items pictured happened on this exact date, a quarter century earlier. Okay, he did fudge that a bit, but I can imagine Kessler having a run of newspaper bound volumes, and his research every day consisted of merely reading the next issue. Fun work if you can get it, at least it seems so to this archivist.

25 Years Ago Today debuted on September 9 1929, and was last solicited by Bell in 1949. A book of the cartoons was published in 1931 by Coward-McCann.

If only Kessler could have kept the feature in production for another five years, Bell could have resold it from the start of the series as 50 Years Ago Today, and then as 75 Years Ago Today, and so on and so on. Boy did they miss out on an opportunity!

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Sunday, February 09, 2014

 

Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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Jim - I'm sorry to hear that you're leaving paradise. It sounded perfect for you... or anyone really. On the upside, I can visit you in Orlando. Well, hopefully that is an upside for you!
 
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