Monday, June 08, 2015

Cole Saw

Monday cartoon Day.

I don't know who was first in his admiration for the cartoon work, if it was Paul Tumey or me. I think in fact, that I beat him to it, at least on the internet. My interest in the cartoon work of the famous Plastic Man creator came through my exposure to the Humorama line of cartoon magazines from Timely-Atlas owner Martin Goodman. These saucy cartoon series with names such as Joker, Laugh, Gee-Whiz, Comedy, Breezy, Romp and Stare appeared all through the fifties and contained work by the greats of that genre: Bill Ward, Al Wenzel and Dan DeCarlo. They also had hidden in them gags by free-lancing comic book artists such as Jim Mooney, Dave Berg, Jo Albistur and Basil Wolverton.

Jack Cole did a whole series of wash cartoons for them in the mid fifties, after the collapse of Plastic Man publisher Quality and before he joined Playboy as their premiere full color artist (before his untimely death in 1958). These cartoons were used again and again and you see them appearing in the pocket sized magazines until 1961 and ever after that in the full sized Popular Jokes magazine series all through the eighties. Alex Chun did a collection of the cartoons (always signed Jake) but unfortunately even he could not provide a list of all of them. Every now and then a new one pops up in Popular Jokes which make the fans discuss where it was first published and if it even was first published or just part of some unpublished treasure trove. Alex Chun also did a couple of digest sized book collections of cartoons by Dan DeCarlo, Al Wenzel and Bill Ward and even a miscellaneous collection called Humorama cartoons. All books I highly recommend, although I am still sad no one has started a website where collectors could add lists of the cartoons inside and their makers.

Anyway, these books appeared slightly after I got interested in the Humorama digests and got a few myself. Around the same time Paul Tumey started his Jack Cole website (see the sidebar). It seems to me he came from Cole's comic book work primarily, describing all of Cole wonderful comic book series from the forties, his origins in the thirties and finding many new 'undiscovered' Cole stories along the way in series that were not by him but from the same Quality stabel of artosts that sometimes assisted him on Plastic Man. I was immediately attracted by the quality of Paul's essays and read them all. They are still up and highly recommended, as well as his two annotated collections of Jack Cole's Mr. Midnight stories, a sort of semi-serious parody of Will Eisner's the Spirit.

Paul also started digging into Jack Cole's career and found a lot of previously unknown cartoon work from the thirties and forties. I assisted him every once in a while with a find of my own. One of the biggest and weirdest finds was a large wash cartoon that Jack Cole had done for the comical Judge magazine in the mid forties. This was done at a time that Cole was still working for Quality, although many of his series were now ghosted by others. He had just finished a run of assisting Lou Fine and others in producing the weekly Spirit section while creator Will Eisner was away during the war. The cartoon was a sign Cole may have been reluctant to return to the comic book grind and would like to pursue a new career as a cartoonist. The normal way to do that would be to try and sell to the top selling magazines such as The New Yorker, but there has never been any sign of that. The cartoon done for Judge was done especially for that magazine, since it featured a Judge character that had been hanging around the magazine (and sometimes added to the cover) in little vignette drawings that were just as lively as Cole's own work, but probably not done by him.

Recently I bought a complete set of 1944-1946 Judge magazines to see if there were any more Cole cartoons around the same period. And there were. I found four single cartoons in late 1944, ending in a first wash drawn full page Judge gag with a Christmas theme in December. Three more full page cartoons featuring the Judge character followed in the second half of 1945. I feel that these cartoon 'prove' that the Judge vignettes were not drawn by Cole and the character itself probably not designed by him - even though it first appeared around the same time as his version. All all, they seem the result of to visits, the reason for which is not know at this moment.

1 comment:

Paul Tumey said...

FABULOUS FINDS, Ger! Thank you so much for sharing these!