Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am down to my last Coogy. I have some more photo scans Paul Spector sent me, but all in all I think they'd be better appreciated if we have a book deal and they can be scanned in properly. I tried to take out the shadowy bits from two of the 1954 samples he sent me end ended up with something unreadable.

This 1953 Sunday illustrates where the strip went wrong. It's not for nothing the paper decided that Coogy's tag line would be 'there is nothing more uncertain then what next weeks Coogy will be about' or something along that line.

For those of you looking for something extra, here's an original Hi and Lois Sunday page that was sent to me by Dutch artist Gerben Valkema (see Elsje in the links). He bought it not realizing he was getting such an early sample.


pspector said...

So, why do you feel this strip is an ominous precursor to something going wrong? Do they lack your personal preferences in what you usually like about the strip? Several of the panels are quite nicely rendered, I thought, and a well-respected professional I know told me he liked the gag (he'd have told me otherwise.)

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I think the gag is quite generic and I don't think the audience would have cared for the union reference. In the end the whole gag is a silly image based on a imagined idea (that totempole makers would have unions with chapters) based on the selfadmittedly false notion that all Indians make totem poles. In the execution of the gag I like the way the penultimate panel was drawn, but it doesn't help the flow of the gag. The last panel is too small. At the same time Mort Walker was doing great silly visual gags that were based on his doodles and that he did manage to link succesfuly to the reality of his characters. The main fault may be, that your father didnt' create a believable reality for his characters, which prevented him from grounding his humor, however well drawn it may have been.

pspector said...

Sometimes a gag is just a gag.

I have no gripe if the strip doesn't work for you, but I don't buy the out of context argument. Regardless of historical accuracy -- e.g., southwestern Native Americans didn't have totem poles, -- it's much closer to the Native American melieu (pardon my French) than Big Mo dressed in drag as Mary Worth and surrounded by human figures for 5 episodes, or totally out of his element in NYC's modern art world.

I'll email you a couple of items about unionized Native Americans (or at least why they shuold have been) contemporay to the strip.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

As a comedy writer I have learned that the phrase 'a gag is just a gag' is to be mistrusted. Before you know it 'any old gag' will do. In some genres the audience must never feel that a gag is only made for the gags sake. It is the characters who should be driving the thing, not the author. When the voice of Al Capp overtook Litt'le Abner in the sixties, the strip lost it's appeal.

Thanks for the scans, by the way. Even though I love the satirical pieces in Coogy best and personaly think the etiquette fourparter with George Shaw was a high point, I'd say your father's choice to do Coogy and Mo as human indians in the later strip version you sent was probably best. My complaint here is not about specific gags, but about lack of focus. It may seem Pogo lacks a focus as well, but in that strip everything is kept together by the characters. In Pogo, Walt Kelly seems to follow his characters to the weirdest places, from reimagined fairy tales to mangled Christmas carols to political commentary, not because the author is driving the characters, but because the author is expressing all his obsessions through the characters. Coogy at it's best has a very modern feel to it. Which is why the bits about the art world seem to work better for me than old fashioned gags about a shrewish wife, even if she is indian. It all just bever seems to flow effortlessly from the characters. But I am saying all this just for the sake of discussion. In the end, Coogy is a wonderful strip, that deserves a lot more recognition, flawed as it may be. I'll use the material you sent me on sunday.