Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sketchy Information

Sunday Leftover Day.

Last Tuesday I showed two more Coogy Sundays from 1953.They probably were the first and last episodes of s five part satirical story about 'singing cowboys'. Irv Spector's son Paul e-mailed me to tell me that he didn't have the missing Sundays either, but he did send me a closer shot of one of the panels in one of the Sundays I used. This shows Spector's inking technique quite well.

We also corresponded about the first of the two gags in those Sundays, where Spector shows that a real sheriff wouldn't wait for a good moment to fight it out with the villain, he would just should him in the back to take care he never killed anyone anymore. Paul asked me if I thought that said anything about his fathers political sensibilities. I replied, that it was a very typical exaggeration for a satirist. Like Harvey Kurtzman, Irv Spector seems to me a disappointed romantic, who attacks the romantic cliches of popular culture by comparing them to the much harsher reality. That doesn't mean he hates romantic notions or loves the world as it is. He just can't believe in them anymore. Kurtzman did a similar thing in one of the issues of Mad, when he compared movie cowboys with real cowboys. He never let anyone shoot anyone in the back, though.

Paul then sent me this piece, which has a similar harsh confrontation. It is also one of the few 1954 Coogy's I have ever seen.

If anyone related to Fantagraphics or The Comic Journal is reading this, let's get together to see if we can't do a feature on Spector in a future issue of Comic Journal. My ultimate goal would be to get together a full reprint of Coogy as a book, with all the extra material that Paul Spector has (including letters from readers and sketches for a possible revival/rethinking of Coogy and Mo as a normal strip). Of course, some research and buying would have to be done to meet my own standards (see the post about Betsy and Me a few months ago).


pspector said...
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pspector said...

Thanks for posting these.
Artistically speaking, I find a good-size difference between the Singing Cowboy strip of a few days ago and the Horse To Water in today's post. The former's horse is of an elegant line, like Roy Rogers' Palomino named Trigger (For those who didn't grow up on 1950's American TV, Rogers is THE quintessential gelded cowboy). One couldn't imaging that horse talking at all. Contrast that to today's "Fact or Fable" cartoony talking equine with the exagerated bone structure and working-horse's collar. That horse speaks the fact even while succumbing to it, Trigger is the fable.

Sticking to an old west theme, and your mention of "disappointment", I'd suggest that he was always aware of the difference between the "real" old west of Wild Bill Hickock and any romanticized notion that began with Buffalo Bill Cody and dimestore novels. Being born in 1914, he grew up on Tom Mix, -- commonly referred to as only one generation removed from the last of the western cowboys -- who made the leap to Hollywood.

In the previous Coogy with the Singing Cowboy I was more curious about the last panel. Usually -- if there is any "message" -- it is couched in a verbal or drawn gag. However, in that last panel both the text and picture are atypically downcast, at least in my view. I wasn't concerned that he'd ever advocate a shooting in the back(!), but more the last line, about the law having to protect people from themselves. Not really in the way he thought at all, nor do I think it was letting down his liberal guard for a moment. I believe you're on the right track about the Romanticist leanings, although I tend to think they were more laced with pragmatism, or as you say, "the harsher reality" (if it's possible those two to coexist), rather than disappointment.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I knew I could count on you to explain your thoughts here further, Paul. Additionally, I think the talking horse in the 1954 Sunday is extra special if you note that Irv had slowly ben removin all talking animals from the strip. It started out with only animals, but ended with Coogy and Mo in a world of humans. I wonder if Mo's last name was Hican, by the way.

pspector said...

Yes, well I didn't even know I had any further thoughts on it ;) I usually tend to think about these things more on a surface level, although you'd never know by my word count.

Re the removal of talking animals:
As you know the strip was cancelled 3 months later. He had already been "pressured" by the Trib to make it more Pogo-like. There are some people who feel they may have been right -- I might have been one of them except I tend to take it on a strip-to-trip basis. To me, some work better than others regardless of animals or humans renderings, since they ALL talk like humans. I'm just speculation, but maybe he had already said all he wanted to say in a Pogo-like regard, wanted to take it in a slightly different direction, but had a difficult time mixing his own version and the Tribs into a creative whole. I think this is one of his better strips from this times, as in some of the others it seems he's already accepted the writing on the wall and just going through the motions.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Personally, I think the lack of direction is one of the weaker points of the strip. Even though I like the silent gags bettre than the ones with Mo and his wife, I feel the one where Googy works as a car machanic and takes revenge on his doctor really should npt have been there. Maybe it shows that this was a sideline for your father more than anything substantial. I do think the whole strip shows his talent as a writer and an artist, though.

pspector said...

I agree that the car mechanic strip was pretty weak. That was '52, I think. Many of the strips from '54 are along those lines, and I agree that some of the "wife" strips are played out, at least from our own 50-year perspective. Interestingly (or maybe not), as I surf the web for comic strip and comic book sites, most people in general seem to be more concerned with the artwork than story -- I am referring to all comic creators, not just my father (not to slight those current surfers who like story as well). That is, however, in contrast to his fan mail from the time, which almost exclusively writes to him re the story.
Aside from occasional mundane subject matter or gags, possibly even his best serial strips, art- and gag-wise, were too varied for the public. He was a man of many interests, so what can you say about subject matter that could run from Hemingway and Shaw, Modern art to Mary Worth, and film noir and pulp novel, to name just a few? He would have been more successful using the Ernie Bushmiller model.

The strip in fact was a sideline for him as far as being secondary to his job at Paramount/Famous Studios, but in his heart it was more important. If he could have done it exclusively he would have as long as it was feasible financially. Interestly, quite a few letters I have to him from his longtime animation industry friends express that same desire.