There's Gold In Them Thar Hills
Tuesday Comic Strip Day.
Last week, while looking for more obscure stuff on Newspaperarchive, I came across a series of weekly comics done for a California paper, which caught my attention. In this time period, just as in any other most papers ran roughly the same comics, but here we had a paper that ran a whole new set of comics, none of which I had ever seen. It tuned out to be some sort of weekly comics page for a small town paper. And maybe because the paper was from a small town in California, all the features seemed to have been drawn by moonlighting animation artists. The most obvious of these for me was Dick Moores, the newsaper and animation artist who is most know for his long period in Gasoline Alley (whee he set the style that as since been the basis for this strip. He had had an adveture strip in the late thirties, tha was prety well known as wel and most biographies mention the fact that he drew the Tales of Uncle Remus for Disney for most of the early years. Comic collector's know him for his many stories along those lines in the Disney comic books. But what I didn't know was, that he drew a weekly strip called Merton Musty. Even the style seemed diferent than all his other work.
I contacted Alan Holtz at the Stripper's Guide, who know more about newspaper comics than anyone else on the web (and who is working on a complete list of all newspaper strips, including accurate creator information as wel as start and end dates) to ask him if he knew anything about this. He hadn't but he confirmed that many of the artists involved seemed to have come from animation. A couple of them, including Dick Shaw and Dick Moores worked together at Disney. Culd this be a group of animators moonlighting. Fellow blogger Joakim (who has a big interest in the first generation of newspaper and comic Disney artists) joine din and together we are piecing together as much information as we can on this group. I have found a link to a limited animated teleision series and Joakim is trying to find out when this page exactly ended or if it slowly petered out. I am also trying to contact possible living artists involved.
So it is up to me to show all of this to you and ask the cartoon freaks among my readers if they can provide me with information about the names mentioned here. Everyoe will have his personal favorites, but the stars of the show to me are Dick Shaw and Gus Jekel.Shaw was a respected cartoonist and a good friend of Virgil Partch, so I won't have any troble finding more about im. But Gus Jekel is only mentioned here and there on the web and usually he is not singled out as a particulary good artist. But still his strip here is a stand-out, full of great poses.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Who is the Will, who signed the silent strip Pepe?
Although Milford Muddle is credited to Ray Patin, later strips lost his byline and later strips are sometimes signed very small Wess Campbell. Does anyone know if this is Patin's style and who Campbell was?
Pam by Gus Jekel is greta, but what else did he do?
Life With A Wife is my Mitchell. Leter strips are unsigned, but just as dull.
Jerry Hathcock is know as an animator. Did he do any other strips?
Bob Dalton too, is mostly know as animator. What else did he do?
Are any of the side panels part of this group? Starlight is by Tom Ray. There is an animator by that name, who is still alive. I am trying to contact him. There is also a panel by a Tom Kay, called The American Way, which is sometimes placedon this page and sometimes somewhere else in the paper. I don't think he is part of this group. And there is a Jay Ganschow, who does several features. Who's he?
I am sorry to be presenting pages from micro-fiche. I usually try to mix them up with scans I made myself, as I know they are less interesting. But still... this might the the only record left of these strips.
And espceially for Joackim, I have added a special drawing done for the May 10 edition. This very lively ad for some sort of war bonds seems to have been drawn by one of the better Mickey artists. I have never seen it before.
And after posting this, I read this post at The Stripper's Guide.
Alberto Becattini sent me quite a bit of information regarding this mystery. Following is from several emails:
"Yes, as far as I know most of these people were working at Disney during the early 1950s. And I do think that they were also part of Moores and Boyd's moonlighting Tele-Comics (aka NBC Comics) crew.
Notice that some of them were writers, but they could obviously do storyboards.
Will - Should be James Will - animator. I have him at Disney in the 1940s, but perhaps he was there even later
Mitchell should be Dave Mitchell - story-man at TV Art Productions
Jack King - Longtime Disney animator/director, was there from 1936-48
Gil Turner - Warner Bros. and MGM animator, comic-book writer/artist
at Western Publishing
Gustave (Gus) Jekel - Disney animator in the 1950s
Dick Moores - Disney comic-strip artist, 1942-56
Gerald (Jerry) Hathcock - Disney animator, 1940-58
Bob Dalton - Might be Cal Dalton, animation writer at Disney in the
Ray Patin - Disney animator 1937-41, story-man 1946-47. Ran his own studio later on.
Dick Shaw - Disney animation and comic-strip writer, 1941-46/1951-53
Thomas (Tom) Ray - I have him at Warner Bros. in 1957-63 and later at Chuck Jones/MGM, but I guess he was at Disney prior to that. And yes, he is still active and has his own website.
You can view more complete profiles and credits for these artists at my website:
I then asked Alberto if he recalled reading any quotes from these guys regarding the newspaper venture:
"No, Allan, I don't remember anybody mentioning these strips. The only information I have concerns the strip The Middles, which was written by Bob Karp (longtime Donald Duck newspaper strip writer), and drawn by his brother Lynn Karp (Disney animator and then comic-book artist at Western and Fawcett). This strip is said to have appeared in Australian papers as late as 1955, having started in 1944 according to some
sources and in 1950 according to others.
This is all very interesting, and I look forward to knowing more. I'll be looking at the blog in case somebody comes up with more insights.
Anyway, the best way to know something is to get in touch with Tom Ray who is, as far as I know, the only surviving artists among all these."
I [Alan] responded, regarding The Middles:
"It was distributed by Consolidated News Features. According to Paul Leiffer, start date is 4/13/44 (I have samples from '44, so the 1950 start date is definitely bogus). I have a note that the strip may initially have been a daily, but I haven't checked through my files to figure out why I said that. The feature was also distributed as part of the Western Newspaper Union package. The strip was advertised in E&P through 1955."
More from Alberto:
Looking more carefully at the Milford Muddle strip in the PDF page you sent, I can see that it was drawn by Jack Bradbury (Disney animator 1936-41, then Warner Bros. animator 1942-44). I have no doubt about this. Lettering on the strip is by Melvin "Tubby" Millar, a Warner Bros. story man.
What I gather from this is that these strips were not coming from the Tele-Comics staff, but more probably from the Sangor Studios staff. This was an outfit led in California by animator Jim Davis, producing funny-animal comic-book stories for such publishers as ACG/Creston, Better/Standard and DC/National from 1944-52. Davis employed about 70 moonlighting story-men and animators. Evidently at a certain point Davis & Co. decided that they would also try their hands at newspaper
strips. Of course this is just an educated guess, but 90% of the people involved here were also part of the Sangor Studios freelance crew."
Alberto has studied these artists quite well and he has also provided important lists of art credits for the Dell Four Color Series. I am inclined to take his word as gospel. Two notes: I am sorry I didn't say I thought the work signed Gus Jekel was by Bradbury. I noticed the similarity, but didn't want to influence my readers. Stll, it explains the obvious quality.
The bit about Bo and Lynn Karp concerns a strip that turns up later in the run. This strip and others that replaced this line-up a year later make me suspect that the page wasn't discontinued but slowly replaced by individual weekly strips taken from different sources. More about that later.
I also have to correct smething I said on Alan's blog. I mentioned The american Way there and said it was also by Tom Ray. But I saw later that it was Tom Kay, and it predates as well als post-dates these strips.