Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Say, Wise Man

Monday Cartoon Day.

Among collectors it has long been known that the Dennis the Menace Sunday strip everuone loves so much were completely independantly done by Hank Ketcham's assistants, starting with the great Al Wiseman, who drew the whol ething in a spot on version of Ketcham's style, but maybe more comic booky. He did most of the early comic books as well. So what most people have been calling a Ketcham influence o the work of people such as Jaime Hernandez is in fact an Al Wiseman influence. He knows that too, I think that was even the first time I read about it. Now ketcham was a formidable artisti his own right. He invented an 'open' style of cartooning in the second half of the forties, that inlfuenced a whole generation. I can recommend the first ten years of his panel to anyone and will bet if ou are an artist you will learn something from it. The later years are less exceptional to me, because Ketcham a. started relying more and more on gag writers and he stopped doing new characters. It is the way that he draws the occasional gas station attendant or stuffy shirt along the way, that makes me laugh out loud most times.

As for Al Wiseman himself, he is supposed to have been a cartoonist himself, before he joined Ketcham at the Menace Factory. But what his style as a cartoonist was and how many he did or did not draw, is pretty unknown. I had frankly never seen any of his solo work before I came across this set from 1951.

Turns out the reason we haven't seen any of his cartoon work, is because he didn't sign it. There is a Bernard (B.) Wiseman, who id sign his work and may or may not have been a relative, but that's about it. All I couldn find on the internet is a sample of the solo stories Wiseman did for the Dennis the Menace comic: http://fourcolorshadows.blogspot.nl/2011/06/punky-al-wiseman-1957.html

SO then I run across an issue of the cartoon magazine Zest. It has the usual mix of Al Wenzel, Al Kaufman, et al cartoons, but the real surprising Al here is an Al Wiseman signing the cover. The signature is only half legible on my scan by the way, because of the bad condition of the magazine before I cleaned it up. And on the back, there was another one in black and white. Knowing that, it wasn't hard to see that a number of the unsigned cartoons inside might in fact be by Al Wiseman himself. I scanned a selection of unsigned cartoons, some I think defenitively are by Wiseman, others I am pretty sure aren't. And I have added some commentary.

Zest #69 from 1951. A strangely savoury book of cartoons in a marketplace filed with sleaze. The same company also did Smiles, which I have always associated with Al Wenzel. But who knows, maybe there is more Wiseman in there as well.

Let's start with a maybe. Looks like it could be by Wiseman and there is no signed cartoon in the same style in this magazine, but it is pretty unsimilar to the cartoons I positively think are by Wiseman.

The eyes give this one away. It is more solidly inked than some of the others, which makes this cartoon a maybe.

Probably not by Wiseman, but unsigned as well and nice and loose.

Looks like Wiseman to me. Some sources say Wiseman and Ketcham were golfing buddies, who had agreed that whomever would sell a newspaper strip first, the other would become his assistant. I don't think Ketcham woul dhave gone for that if it was the other way around, but he did let Wiseman do his own thing on the Sunday strip.

Probably not by Wiseman, but nice and loose.

This could easily be mistaken for a Hank Ketcham cartoon, but since he always signed this must be Wiseman.

Here you can see the similarities and differences between Wiseman and Ketcham. They have the same sort of figures, but Wiseman's seem to be even looser and have more animation.

Another great example. Is it me, or does have Wiseman something in common with Boltinoff as well?

Just a great gag and clearly by Wiseman.

Probably not by Wiseman, but it could be. Ketchem himself did these sort of gags as well and like most cartoonists, he tried a new style every once in a while. Could be a sketch that was found to be so funny, that it was bought just 'as is'.

And another great expressive image by Wiseman.

The backcover gives us the image of Zest #67, which means I will be looking for this one ánd #68 at the very least.


Glen Mullaly said...

These are great, thanks. None of the interiors appear to be by Wiseman, IMO. Having seen lots of his work outside Dennis the style just doesn't match up. Love the covers, though.

Dick Buchanan said...

Newcomer to your blog so don't know if old comment will ever be noticed. However, I agree on interiors somewhat. The beef ragout gag looks a bit more like Bo Brown to me. However, my actual comment is that I recently purchased a volume of 1946 Judge which several signed Al Wiseman cartoons. Not sure if you are interested, or have them already. I may be reached at dickbuchanan23@gmail.com