A Pain in the Ad
Wednesday advertisment day.
As I said last wednesday, all through the forties and fifties lots of ads in the Sunday section were done in comic strip form, often draw by the same people who worked for the strips, or would be working for them later on. One of the major comanies supplying these sort of strips was Johnstone and Cushing. Dik Browne and Gill Fox were two of the famous artists working there, but there were many more. almost none of these strips were signed, of course. As Dik Browne said - if you signed your strip, you were in fact saying that that was your one and only style. It was better not to sign and work in lots of different styles.
All this makes it very hard for a collector such as me to identify the artist in some of these strips. Even more harder, because there seems to have been a house style, both comically and realisticly. The realistic style was set by people such as Lou Fine, Stan Drake, Leonard Starr and others working in the 'photo-realistic style' which was a continuation of the work of various magazine illustrators of the thirties and forties and the comic book work of Alex Raymond. The funny style was a blend of Blondie's Raymond Young, Penny's Haenigson and a heavy dose of whatever it was Browne and Fox put of themselves into the mix. And if the client wanted something different, that could be done as well.
Take these Camel ad, for instance. They are part of a series, which apparently ran for over four years. The first one is from 1953 and the second one from 1957. Is this Browne of Fox? It looks as if Browne had a hand in it, but he started doing the Hi & Lois Sunday strip in 1956, so the second one is a bit late for him. He did do some advertising in the sixties, but most of that was in his own style. This looks more like Gill Fox influenced by Dik Brown, doing some sort of imitation of They'll Do It Every Time.
There were other artists involved with these ads, of course. Here one that's signed by an Elmer Wexler. He was unknown to me, but here is what Wikipedia has to say about him:
Elmer Wexler is an illustrator and cartoonist. He is most famous for his work on comic strips and comic books in the 1940s, including being the inventor of the DC comic hero Miss America (DC Comics) in 1941. He is credited with being the first artist to draw a soap-opera style comic strip - Vic Jordan from 1941 (reference: The Look of Love web site). Later he made his living from illustration, including books, magazines and record covers. He is the illustrator on a number of books about sports.
Wexler's record cover work was mainly for Grand Award records, for whom he did almost as many illustrations as did Tracy Sugarman. These date from the late 1950s.
Spalding Book of Rules (ISBN: 1570281491) Bing Broido and Elmer Wexler. NY: McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 1998. Numerous other editions exist.
More Instant Tennis Lessons (ISBN: 0914178709) Lamarche, Robert J. illus by Elmer Wexler. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1984.
The Complete Racquet Sports Player (ISBN: 0671247409) Fitzgibbon, Herbert S. II; Bairstow, Jeffrey N. illus by Elmer Wexler. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1983.
The Look of Love: The Rise and Fall of the Photo-Realistic Newspaper Strip, 1946-1970
http://profmendez.tripod.com/html/casey.html (mentions his influence on Neal Adams)
What surprises me most is how many stylistic elements this art has in common with all of the other artists mentioned before. Look at the left hand of the lady in the last panel. You can see hands like that in any funny ad as well, especially in the Sergeant Bilko ads I will be showing later on. And the folds in the clown's jacket on the first panel are very similar to those Gill Fox uses in his realistic work.
Another artist who did a lot of ad work both in the newspapers and in the comic books (although I do have the impression a lot of the comic book ads were nothing more than adopted newspaper ads), was Lee Elias. Elias is another of my favorite fifties artists. I will tell you a bit more about him when I have scanned some of his other work. If I had to make a blind guess, I would say this is one of his strips.
There's just one catch... this strip is signed Betts of Getts. Not a name I could find in any kind of reference work, but still. And if you look closely, you'll see the same cloths folds and kids faces you see in all of these ads. Still, it does look a lot like Elias' work. To compare, I have a rare funny page from one of Harvey '50's romance comics.
To end it all for today, I have a strip that mixes all the previously mentioned styles. This was a series as well, but the artist is a complete mystery to me.