Friday, March 13, 2015

Momma's Family

Thursday Story Strip Day.

Today, when I am doing this post a day late, the news arrived that Golden Age creator Erwin Hasen has died at the age of 94 in New York. Never a superhero fan, I knew him primarily from his newspaper strip Dondi, which ran from 1955 until 1986. It was one of the last comic strips to be shown in a full page (tabloid) version in most papers and as such it illustrated the inderlying principle of this blog: that the fifties were far from the wasteland artisticly as it is often made out to be. Most newspaper strip historian bemoan the fact that full page strips disappeared after the forties (except for Prince Valiant), while in fact many full page strip were introduced in the fifties (though mostly in tabloid form, which in itself usually was a reformatted version of the half page three tier form). In fact, the fifties can actually be seen as the decade of the three tier - a from I find even more satisfying than the standing page graphically. Many of the reformatted strips, such as Pogo, King Aroo, George Wunder's Tery and the Pirates, The Heart of Juliet Jones, Long Sam, Tarzan, Johnny Reb, Sherlock Holmes and in fact Dondi, read better in the three tier form, which has more options for wider panels. The only exception would be Lance, which like Valiant, has the text underneath the action.

One of the main atractions for me in Dondi, is the Milt Caniff roots of Hasen's style. He soon gets a lot looser, though. That doesn't always work for me. And the sentimental tone of the orphan runaway theme is not my cup of tea either. But I do have the collection from Classic Comic Press and enjoyed it a lot. I can recommend it to everyone, especially today.

Two years ago I attended a panel at the New York Comicon taht featured Al Jaffee and Erwin Hasen. When he took the stage, Hasen stole the show with one surefire anecdote after the other. He told us about an earlier newspaper strip effort, I didn't yet know about. After the war, he was asked by popular comedienne Gertrude Berg, the Jewish momma at the heart of the radio comedy The Goldbergs to draw her comic strip. He did so for more than a year., slowly learning his trade.

When I got back home, I immediately sought the strip and I was lucky enough to find a run on the Fulton History site, where they have newspapers from the New York area that you can access to have postcard made. The interface is very slow and hard to navigate for anyone looking for something in particular, but I did get th emajority of the episodes. Ever since then, I am working to clip the strips from that mountain of scans. To honor Mr. Hasen, here is what I have so far.

The earliest samples are from 1944.

Here are one from a year later.

And these are even from 1948.

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