Thursday, April 01, 2010

Just the Scans, Mam

Thursday Story Strip Day.

When I started this blog, I was more than happy to share every bit of newspaper I could find with you. Since I came across NewspaperArchive, I have tried to give you as complete storylines as possible, often using the microfiche scan archives to fill in the holes of my spotty collection of homemade scans. But this time I am reverting back to my old form, sharing with you only the first six week of a story from a time when newspaper storylines usually ran about 11 to 13 weeks. I might go back and get the rest of the story later, but with the Easter weekend coming up I wouldn't hold my breath for it. Still, what there is of this story is quite interesting and shows another aspect of those fabulous fifties I have een wanting to share.

We all know that westerns were big in the fities and early sixties They ruled the cinema, the televisio, cmics and even newspapers were full of western strips. Most of those were based on famous movie or tv characters. Some of them were even decent comics, such as Bat Masterson by Howard Nostrand and Bob Powell which I hope to share completely with you on day. But another popular genre of that period (and beyond) were the detectives. Most detective started their life in books, pulps, radio or a combination of those. Some traveled to television and some to comics or comic books. In researching the strips of the fifties, I found it fascinating that almost all of the big literary detectives of that era had been adopted to the newspaper comic page at some stage. Perry Mason, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and many others all had their own (usually short) run. The only one who lasted a bit longer was The Saint and his history is so interested that it will take me a couple of posts to cover that. One difference is, that The Saint had action type adventures (almost like a precursor to James Bond) which translated a lot better to the daily storylines of those strips tha the who dunnit type stories of the others.

Another very interesting but also very short running strip ws Dragnet. Based on the radio show and tv series of the same name, Dragnet was a television series come to the comic page. The stories were written by Jack Webb (at least at the start, although he was credited lonegr than that). The first artist was illustrator Joe Scheiber, but it seems to me he was quickly replaced. At first I thought it might be by Mel Keefer, who took over the strip in 1954. Mel Keefer is a realistic comic strip (and book) artist who did a lot of ghost work here and there. He is still alive and has his own website, which I recommend. Looking there I saw that he signed his version of the strip, so I will have to rethink the idea he did these strips. Maybe it was Scheiber after all, whom I don't know very well. I think I remember seeing his name on some illustrations n The Saturday Evening Post and will scan those if I come across them.

I will also try and write a bit more about Mel Keefer some other time, for instance when I am writing about Perry Mason, another strip he did for a while (before being replaced by a very young Frank Thorne) or about the early sixties strip Thorn McBride, which was started by Frank Gaiacoia but taken over by Keefer as well.

So without much further ado, here is the not really that bad at all Joe Friday in the official Dragnet newspaper comic strip. We begin with two announcements of the strip, a very poor reproduction of Scheiber's first strip and a couple of samples from August 1952, before this storyline starting a couple of months into the run...

June 20 1962:

June 23 1952:

June 23 1952:

Aug 1 1952:

Aug 2 1952:

Aug 4 1952:

Sept 22/Oct 31 1952:


Smurfswacker said...

Interesting strips. I was surprised that Mel Keefer's art was rougher than most of his stuff I've seen (though his slicker work was also done later; maybe it's just an evolution thing).

I was struck by the inaccuracy of Webb's likeness. Since Keefer seems able to do likenesses, it suggests either an editorial decision or simply a lack of stills to work from.

By the way, the strip was also drawn (perhaps in its last days?) by Bill Ziegler.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

You are so right. Because I knew Keefer had done this strip and because it looked to me that the strips shown here were remarkably different from the first ones, I assumed that these must have been Keefer's. But on his own web page he says he only took over the strip in 1954. In 1955 he was already doing something different, so maby Bill Ziegler is the suspect for the last year. I can have a look, because Keefer also signed his version. All this leads me to suspect that the story shown here might be by the original artist Scheiber anyway.