Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flessel With The Pessel

Tuedsay newspaper strip day.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to pay some attention tot the work of Creig Flessel, the industry legend who had worked on everything from pulps to th earliest DC comics to advertising comics, newpaper strips and finally Playboy. I showed some of the commisions he was still doing in his nineties.

When I returned from my two weeks holiday in France, I read online that he had died july the 17th at the age of 96. Several people, including my old friend Mike Lynch have written more about him and I urge you to look it up. Mike links you up to Mark Evanier's obituary, the completest I have yet seen and a full presentation of the presentation of the 2007 Sparky Award, with a great interview of the then 95 year old Flessel, which is up on youtube. I have decided to take the opportunity to show you some more of Flessel's magnificent, but often unseen work.

Since today is newspaper strip day here at the FF, I have spend all my free time yesterday to round up what I have of Flessel's only newspaper outing, the Christian message strip David Crane. Flessel took over the strip from it's creator Win Mortimer. Mortimer had created David Crane in 1956 and seems to have left it in 1960. as you can see from the samples I am showing, Mortimer's name wasn't replaced by that of Flessel until 1961, which makes it sort of hard to find out when exactly the change-over was done.

David Crane was a niche strip about a hunky minister, who gave sermons and life lessons to the youngsters in his care. By the time Flessel took over, it had changed into a gag strip about one of it's side characters, a diddering old fool of a man. At first I thought this figure was David Crane, as must have many of the readers. In the early years the sundays usually had some sort of sermon or showed a certain biblical fact or thought. As with most miche strip, the editors must have thought there was an audience for such a thing. The change to a gag a day strip bout a pensioner and the fact that the strip was taken over by Flessel seem to indicate that it was not the succes Mortimer and the syndicate had hoped.

Still, the fact that Flessel did take over the strip after a full decade of doing a lot of well paying work for the advertising company Johnstone and Cuching, must have some significance as well. The comic strip ads that were so popular in the sunday section sof the forties and the fifties were losing ground to other forms of advertising. Maybe Flessel's income was dwindling and he had to look for another source of income. Or maybe he had had enough of drawing that sort thing all the time (although David Crane wasn't all that different from the biblical tales he had been drawing for Boy's Life) and wanted a change. Whatever the reason, around the same time he seems to disappear from Boy's Life as well. He did continue his succesful series of ads for Eveready batteries, as can be seen from my previous post (and the one above this from tomorrow).

Anyway, here are all the David Crane's I could find in my collection. The first one from 1957 is clearly by Mortimer and has his rounded inking style.

The next three from 1958 already give me problems. They seem to be by Mortimer, but the inking style has changed. The subject matter is still Christian Message (not unsimilar to the style of Flessels bible stories from Boy's Life), but we have been introduced to the character that will eventually take over the strip.

The next two from 1960 are still attributed to Mortimer, but it seems to me that the change-over to Flessel must have taken place somewhere around here (if not earlier). If you have a look at the last two, you'll see Flessel's own style emerging, making it plausible that he did these as well. From this point on, the grumpy old guy seems to be the main character of the strip. I don't know if he is a pensioner or an old clergy guy, who at some point played the Barry Fitzgerald to David Crane's Bing Crosby in the movie Going My Way.

The last two are signed by Flessel. Here we also have my only three tier version. The strip was three tiers, or course. And it look sit's best in those dimensions. But as usual the three tier version wasn't used a lot anymore since the late fifties. Too bad, because in the three toer version Flessel signs in the first panel. If he and Mortimer did that in the other strips as well, there would have been no doubt about who did what. Note that Flessel signed his name Creig, although he was officially names Craig. He went back and forth between these two names all his career.

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