Tuesday Comic Strip Day.
Harry Haenigson was a very influentual artist. His comic strip Penny was one of the early 'modern' strips, with clear lines and a graphic rather than illustrative approach. Like the work of cartoonist Otto Soglow and a few others, it was no longer the intention to make your art a realistic representation of nature. Instead, the graphic approach tried to create pictures and composition that were pleasing to the eye. In the world of moving pictures this approach was represented by the so-called (after the fact) UPA-movement. Forced in the war to produced instructive cartoons in a hurry, a less illustrative style was developed. While the Nine Old Men at Disney started seing their pictures more and more as a believable rtepresentation of life, the UPA guys went the other way. Out of that grew the whole limited movement approach that made television cartoons a possibillity.
Now of course, this movement has it opponents. The trouble with a grpaphic representatio of life if that it codifies evry easily and before you know it, what was once exciting an new soon becomes tired and repetative. In cartoons you have the added provblem of stories being carried by believable beings. The graphic approach gets you only so far. All in all, my guess it that it works best in magazine cartoons, although there are quite a few samples of it working in comics as well. I never tired of the work of Johnny Hart, even in his later years. Or Virgil Partch. Or Don Martin for that matter. Although it must be said that all three did codify their work toward the end of their career to such an extend that there seems to be less life in it.
This certainly was true of Haenigson. Penny was a huge influence on a whole generation of artists, which can be seen in the advertising work of Dik Browne and Gill Fox, for instance, and everything that grew out of that. But where he once was new and exciting, he very soon started repeating himself, often in one Sunday page. From the early fifties to the end of the strip in, what, the seventies, it almost hurts to look at.
Which made it all the more surprising when I found some of Haenigson's earliest cartoon work from 1928. What a lively, energetic, funny and inspiring cartoonist he was. Too bad he buried it once he found a steady job. Coincidentally, I came across a later Penny Sunday where he showed a flash of his earlier brilliance. I scanned it as a sample of his stilted work at that time (in the first panel) and of how he was apparently still capable of surprising himself.