Monday, April 28, 2008

More Walker

After returning from his stint in the army in the late forties, Mort Walker, like many soldiers went to college on the G.I. Bill. He attended a university in Missouri, where he quickly joined the university paper as the main illustrator, doing covers, cartoons and who knows what. From that he started a career as a magazine cartoonist. One of his first clients was a big one, The Saturday Evening post. Another of his early clients is less well known now. Varsity was a magazine from Parents Enterprises, the people who succesfully put out Parents magazine. It was aimed at the huge college crowd and tried to make use of the popularity of all the different colege magazines. Almost every college had one and most of them featured work by a lot of would be humorists and cartoonist, many of which later went on to a professional career. Varsity aimed at the some audience by featuring articles on sports and clothing and other stuff the young college students would like, as well as the best of the nation's coledge magazine cartoons. The magazine was partially run by Al Capp's brother Elliot Caplin, who later went on to become one of the dricing forces behind the great soap opera strips of the fifties and sixties. Caplin also ran the comics company Toby Press, but I am not quite sure if there was a connection between that company and Parent's Magazine.

Anyway, Caplin brought his love of comcis and cartoons to Varsity Magazine. He hired his friend Harvey Kurtzman to do short features, many of which foreshadowed the sort of humor Al Feldstein would stress when he took over Mad magazine from Kurtzman. He also picked up as much of Mort Walker's work as he could, even letting him do a cover.

Over the next few weeks I will show all of the Mort Walker Varsity material I have, which is probably everything. I still miss some of the earlier issues, but I don't think Mort Walker was in any of those. He started out reselling his Missouru University cartoons, but he ended up doing special features for them, most of which starred a student character quite imilar to his Spider character, Spider himself was saved for the Saturday Evening Post and would get his own newspaper strip - transforming into Beetle bailey, when Spider was recruted to go into the army six months into the strips run.

I will start here with the cartoons featuring the student character and do the seperate cartoons later. I also have early cartoons by Mort Walker from Saterday Evening Post, COllier's and True, three of the big magazines of those days.

The opening illustration is an early fan drawing of Beetle Bailey I pulled from some auction somewhere.



Karswell said...

Love the dueling perspecitve of the Weekend Date. Are there more like this?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

There is also a spread about a college party, which I will show later. Both these stories are the same sort of satirical stuff Mad magazine would do later on. Many people, including Harvey Kurtzman himself have commented that the college magazines were a huge inspiration on Mad, but in all my years of collecting I have found very few samples of Mad type humor in them. Then suddenly Varsity came along with about six seperate types of Mad magazine humor!

The funny thing is, that this is the type of humor Harvey Kurtzman himself never used on his run of Mad. The two page spreads, the statement and sample features (starting with a statement and following it up with five or six samples), something like this which basicly is a what he said and what really happened feature.