Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Age of the Cavemen

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

In the last couple of years almost everything Harvey Kurtzman ever did, has been reprinted. Or has it? Denis Kitchen is working on a new book that will reprint all of Kurtzman's failed attempts at newspaper stips and probably some other stuff as well. One of the most famous of those failed strips is Kermit the Hermit. For that strip Kurtzman teamed up with an old friend, Elliot Caplin (Al Capp's brother). Caplin had hired Kurtzman to do work for some of his magazines, when he was running Toby Press (like Variety, which featured some of Kurtzman's first MAD-like work). It seems Caplin contacted Kurtzman about doing a strip about a hermit called Kermit. Kurtzman tried out a couple of jokes, but they didn't manage to sell. That much is known, even though the only thing that has ever been seen of the artwork are some copies of copies made by fans. So I will be very happy to see those included in a book.

Imagine my surprise when I cam across a strip called Kermit the Hermit published only a few months after Kurtzman's attempt to sell it in the early sixties. The artist uses a completely different style and frankly I prefer Kurtzman's loose but mature cartooning. I am not sure, if this is another artist doing Elliot Caplin's scrips or if someone came upon the same idea. It uses the same gimmick of having a main character that isn't seen, but gives comments on our daily lives from his cave. But still, if you think of the name Kermit for a Hermit (not a stretch by any means) the rest authomaticly flows from that. This version of Kermit the Hermit did not run very long. The last samples I have are from january 16 1962 (although I can't seem to find any others in for that week in the same paper) and it started in May 1961. Not a full year. The artist is unknown to me as well. There was very little publicity and the name Eli is very little to go on. Maybe some of my more learned friends can assist me.


dddegg said...

Elias 'Eli' Bauer.
Magazine cartoonist, animation (creator of Hector Heathcote), and comic strips (Kermit the Hermit, Norman, and maybe Hoot 'n' Annie).

Chris said...

Wow! Amazing find! The Kurtzman originals can be found in Glen Bray's The Illustrated Harvey Kurtzman Index. Ger maybe post Kurtzman's under Eli's for a comparison.

Also, I've been hearing about Denis Kitchen's book for years now. When the heck is it going to materialize? Craig Yoe is churning out comic reprintsbooks left and right. Maybe Kitchen should hand over the project to Yoe?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I have a stack of copies, which contain samples not sed in Bray' excellent book. It is out of respect for Denis' efforts I have not yet shown them here, but you are right: I might choose at least one to show...