Sunday, August 31, 2008

Return visit.

Sunday leftover day.

Oiginally, I had placed a sketch here, whih I believd was by Hank Ketcham. Turns out I had already used that sketch before and erroneously uploaded a sketch by Cral Barks, I had also on file. I have removed the Barks sketch an d to make up for it, I have added two more Kurtzman pieces... the first is a christmas card Kurtzman did when he was partnered with Bill Elder and John Severin.

The second is a cover by Kurtzman, I saw for sale in 1993 for $800 and didn't buy...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Kurtza Minor

Saturday leftover Day.

Not only did I miss posting this week, I also had a power failure today and lost a whole Super Rabbit story that I think may have been drawn by Irv Spector. I will rescan it as soon as possible and post it. In the meantime, here is the other story I wanted to post today. It's a rare Harvey Kurtzman story that has not been seen a lot, even by Harvey Kurtzman fans. The reason is, that it is not that good.

Kurtzman is justly known for his Hey Look series of one pagers he did for San Lee in the forties. They were fun and silly and weird and crazy (not to say mad)... and didn't really fit into the animal comic or girlie books there were used in as fillers. So it's no surprise that Martin Goodman ordered Stan Lee to ask Kurtzman to come up with somethig else. He was askewd if he could produce some sort of Archie clone. He proved that he could with a private page he produced for Stan Lee. But either he or Lee decided that was not the right way to go. Instead, he was put in charge of changing a series called Rusty into a Blondie clone. Working from a script by Stan Lee, Kurtzman did his best to be as uninteresting as possible.

But a talent such as Kurtzman's can hide from itself. Kurtzman turned this assignment into an exercize in minimalism... and a pretty good one. He took the best of Chich Youngs stilted style and turned it into a minimalist puppet show. I wouldn't be surprised if he learned something from it as well. He did one whole issue and several stories before deciding things weren't going to be any better at Timely for him.

Since I intended to complement this with another helping of Irv Spector's art, I will close with two pieces I had saved for later. The first is a later cover by Spector, which was sent to me by his son. It is one of the last issues of ACG's Giggle comics, featuring Spencer Spook, which was usually drawn by other artists, but apparently Spector did a couple of episodes as well. I thought Spector's work in the fifties was restricted to his work for Standard, most notably Lucky Duck, but apparently he did work for other companies as well. The second illustration is a sample of a one page filler for another ACG title, Muggy-Doo #3, taken from a review by Scott Shaw! on his oddball comics site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Thursday story day.

I have been out all day and evening, so I am late witj my weekly portion of Gill Fox' Jeanie. Two full weeks without any day missing. Well, that's why I created the leftover day. I wil post the Jeanies now and a new comic book story early saturday morning. Stick around. It'll be a good one.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hardly Boys

Wednesday Ad Day.

Last week I showed a couple of realisticly drawn advertising strips by artists I couldn't identify. Today I have four more from a series that seems to have been done by one artist, or at least in one style. I think I have seen the earliest Rusty and Dusty installments in some of those adverstisement heavy DC comic books that often also ran a similar Sam Spade ad page. These are from just after the war and my collection of newspaper sections doen't go back that much, so I have never come across any Sunday ads for Rusty and Dusty that have been adapted to a comic book format, but I guess that's how it went. They were produced for Sunday sections and used for comic books as well. Anyway, the artist for this series is unknown to me, although I feel it is not one of the regulars of these ads. I mean, it doesn't look like the work of Lou Fine or Greig Flessel or Lee Elias or Carl Wexler or any of the artist I know were doing realistic comic ads in that period. It doesn't remind me of any of the artists I know from that period. Most comic book artists didn't reach the level of these ads, either because they were beinners or because they didn't have the time to spend. but still, it could have been any of the competent artists that were around then.

Rusty and Dusty was an exciting detective strip and deserves more attention than it has been getting. The series ran until well into the fifties, so depending on the starting date, it probably ran for more than ten years. as did many of these series in those years. The samples I am showing are from 1954, '55 and '56.

As you can see from the second and forth sample, these ads were often paired with a one tier strip about The Trouble Twins. This is the series that got Dik Tracey the Hi and Lois assignment together with The Tracey Twins in Boy's Life.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Swinging with the oldies.

Tuesday newspaper strip day.

One of the biggest surprises when I started looking at the newspaper strips from the forties, was Chic Young's Blondie. First of all, I had gotten the impression that the forties was a barren wasteland for newspaper strips, full of dying strips and half dead zombies being kept alive by the assistants of the assistants. Some strips we associate with the thirties took as long as till the end of the fifties to finally make place for the new crop. Meanwhile the real innovation was being made in the magazine cartoons and in animation. These fields were the breeding ground for the new generation of strip artists, most of which got their opportunity in the fifties or early sixties. This is still true, but reality is more complicated (as always). Some of the assistants turn out to be quite good artists themselves. This was more true in the realistic strips, but in the cartoon strips as well, some fine work was done. I think, for instance, that the artist taking over Popeye from Segar, is a lot better than people take him for. Maybe I'll show you some samples at a later point.

But the major revelation was Blondie. I know Blondie from two periods. The early period has been reprinted a lot, and although it is interesting from a historical point of view, it is to much rooted in the cartoon traditions of the thirties to be really interesting. And of course, I know the strip from it's later years, starting with the side burn years of the late sixties and seventies to the rejuvenation by cartoonist extraordinaire Stan Drake and the subsequent dullification by the sixth generation of creators.

But those Sunday pages from the forties are really something else. The strip is for of life, slapstick and some really great observational humor. Now, as I understand it, Chick Young was still doing the strip by himself, although he did employ the assistant who later in the sixties would take over the strip completely. If you take a closer look at the art, you'll see that it is still rooted in the circle and sticks basic style of the thirties, but in the years since that, Young (or his assistants) had developed an ink line that was razor sharp. Everything I like about the cartoonists of the fifties, is already there. Take a look at the mouth of the titular heroin Blondie, for instance... this is the same mouth that Dan deCarlo uses on all his characters. In fact, that mouth and the black dotted eyes are the two trademarks that hold together all the great modern cartoonists of the fifties and early sixties. Even Bud Blake owed some debt to Young...!

One of the major reasons, I never noticed before how lively Blondie had been , is te way the strip was formatted. Underneath I will show you one sample from 1952, that is formatted in the way I got to know Blondie. Twelve panels on half page, which seems like the intended format for the strip. But when you look at the two other samples (one from 1950 and one from 1952) from the Puck section, you'll see how the strip was really intended to be shown. In this format of twelve square panels on two thirds of a page, the panels are all packed with action. The nationally syndicated Puck section was the only one presenting the strip in this form, as far as I know. If the topper strip (a silent strip about a Duchess) was added, a whole Chick Young page was created, but even Puck didn't do that. Instead they added a two tier version of Beetle Bailey or another popular comedy strip to the first page. All the other papers printed Blondie with elongated panels to fit it in a half page, which take out all the life and energy and make it seem a lot more bland than it is. Later, a tabloid version was also offered, which used the elongated panels as well. It was in this form that I got to know and hate Blondie for the first time, when it was published on the back page of a Dutch television guide.

All in all, I'd say that Blondie is the victim of publishers habit of starting with the earliest strips. The only reason I am buying the complete Terry and the Pirates is because it is being done in a great format and complete in six books. But I only need the fifth and sixth book, because all the other strips have been reprinted here and there so many times, that I have read every story at least twice. Same with the intended reprinting of Pogo by Fantagraphics. We now have the first years of this strip in three different forms. Of course, they will be the first to include the Sundays, so I will certainly be buying these books if and when they finally appear, but why not map out the books in advance and start with tome #16 to give us the never reprinted Pogo in Hysteria sequence from 1966? No one is ever going to do a complete Blondie... and if they do, they will have to start at the beginning, which will scare of potential buyers and the series will not progress beyond the early forties. But if Fantagraphics or anyone would do a complete edition of 1948 in the same format they are using for Popeye... they might have a whole new audience.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Two Halves Make A Lot.

Monday Cartoon Day.

Today some of the earliest Ketcham cartoons I could find.

In the later days of WW II Ketcham drew a series called Half Hitch for the Saturday Evening Post, about a wide eyed innocent little sailor-boy who got himself into all sorts of mischief. The second one I am showing here has been reprinted here, there and everywhere, but at least I can put a date to it. The first one is from May 1944 and the second one from April 1945.

In these two cartoons at least, Half Hitch is not that dissimilar from Dennis the Menace. In fact, I can imagine either cartoon being reused in Dennis. After the war, Ketcham started selling one shot cartoons to all markets. Earlier, I showed a couple he did for Dell's 1000 Jokes. In these three 1946 cartoons (two from the Post, one from Collier's) we see him trying out new styles. But the solid design that exemplifies all his work, was still there.

PS Today my copy of Al Jaffee's Tall Tales arrives from Amazon. Have you already got yours? I review it later this week. For those who want to know more, click the Al Jaffe link underneath.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Would you buy a used car from these characters?

Sundat leftover day.

I have been a good boy this week and didn't miss posting anything.

So for today I have a few odds and ends. First a comic character ad with America's most famous hillbilly couple. There were tons of these, but this one was new to me.

After that two more realistic ad by artists I can't identify. The second one seems to be in the Drake/Starr/Kotzky school.

This last one was from the days when it was still possible to advertise a kids product with the fcat that it had energizing sugar in it. What would we have today to replace it? Captain Light? Corporal Ritalin?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Puppetry of the gentils

Saturday leftover day.

Since Bill Wray mentioned it, I am taking today to show you on of Chad's Howdy Doody pages. This on is from 1951. More about it and more samples at a later point. Most eye-catching feature is that weird line that became his trademark.

The green and orange hue is a result of my way of taking out the yellowbrown paper color.
Questionable material

Friday comic book day.

Just like last week and the week before that, I am showing you the early work that Harvey Kurtzman and Irving Spector did for Timely in 1946. What their connection is, I will get to later. This time I have one more Little Lionel one-pager, courtesy of Ken Quattro's excellent comicartville site. Comicartville hold a collection of essays about forties and fifties comics that display an impressive amount of research. These are the guys to go to if you want to know something. Or grab a scan, as luck would have it.

Paul Spector sent me the link and he also sent me a few scans from a cover and a story that are probably by his father. In his father's files he found a copy of Funny Frolics #1, with a note on the cover: "put Irv Spector". He takes it to mean that his father may have drawn the cover and one or more stories inside. Inside is the one-pager from comicartville, but also a longer story that Paul reckons is his father's. Several people have had a look and agree that it may be so, but the inking certainly isn't. The lion in this story does look like Spector's work. I am less sure about the cover, but as Paul says: "why would his father mark it if there wasn't a reason?" Interesting to know that Spector may have started out by providing art for Stan Lee's regular series. That throws up the question if he was recruted by Lee or by parting editor Vince Fago. And Harvey Kurtzman, who arrived at the same time? Did he also do 'regular' work before starting Hey Look and Pig Tales?

After that, we have one of the shorter Pig Tales by Harvey Kurtzman. It's only two pages, but what a beauty! For a long time I have toyed with the idea of publishing a comic with all of Kurtzman's Pig Tales (and some of his other work from the same period to make it 32 pages). For the cover I would have asked Bill Wray to do the cover based on the final scene of this gag. Wray is a big Kurtzman fan (who has drawn several strips in Kurtzman's Hey Look style) and if you visit his cartoon site, you'll see that his full color cartoon work would be very suited to such an assignment. For that I would gladly have paid the commission price.

I have added a link to Bill Wray's cartoon site and one to his more recent blog of his work as a painter. I am very impressed by his industrial paintings and would buy a couple as an investment if I had any money left after spending it on comic strips.

The rest of this story has been posted elsewhere...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jeanie therapy

Thursday story day.