Saturday, May 02, 2020

I Was Raabed, I Say!

Saturday Lefover Day.

Of all the Milton Caniff imitators and former assistants, I find Charles Raab to be the most underrated. After starting out as an office boy at the studo Cabiff shared with Noel Sickles, he worked with Alfred Andriola on Charlie Chan. It has often been told that that strip was peobably sold because of the first wek of samples that were done by Caniff and Sickles for their 'underlings'. IDW put out nice collection of the first year or so of dailies of that strip and although the difference between that first week and the rest of the strip is clear, to me it is also clear that Raab joined Andriola pretty much from the beginning. Some people believe he may even have done the whole thing as it is commonly assumed Andriola never did a full strip on hs own in his whole life. I am still trying to find out what Andriola's own style is. Anyway, after Charlie CHan folded, Raab was chosen to take over Patsy and her Friends, a little strip about a very smart and very young girl actress, which had up to that point been done by Mel Graff in his own version of the Caniff/Sickles style. When Raab took over, very little changed. He kept it on for a couple of years, before going into the army. After he got out, he never went back to newspaper strips, but took various jobs in comics in the froties and early fifties. It is that work (some of which I have shown here) that gives me a baseline for his own stylistic markers. Where he went after the mid fifties, I don't know and despite looking for many years, I never found out. If by any chance any of his surviving relatives reads this, please get in touch. I am writing a series of articles about the Milt Caniff imitators and would like to give Raab his due.

One of the reasons he has been neglected by comic strip historians is that apparently at some point Noel Sickles assisted Raab on Patsy. As far as I know, that was not yet the case at the start shown here, but that fact alone has made most people doubt Raab's solo abillities. I say his work after the war says otherwise.

9 comments:

comicstripfan said...

Your interest in Charles Raab is to be respected, however you probably are aware of Ron Goulart’s comments on Raab in The Adventurous Decade (2005). Mr. Goulart may be said not to have a particularly positive view of Mr. Raab’s style (“a choppy, thick, black [although interesting] approach” to The Adventures of Patsy; “Although he was sloppy and much more inclined to swipe than his peers…”) or career (“None of Raab’s comic-strip work was ever reprinted” and “…because of his down-and-out end [??] few of the men who knew him care to talk much about him even now.”), although he does acknowledge that Raab (to him) remains the least known of the Caniff/Sickles-influenced artists.

Manqueman said...

In the second scan in the post, first panel, what the heck is the dog standing on?? Can't be hanging on the desk by his little paws.
I'm no expert on these things, but I looked closely at the first two strips and don't see anything that says assist from Sickles unless the help was at the breakdown stage.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

It is one off comments such as this one that I have been fighting against from the start of my blog. Although I have great respect for Ron Goulart as a comic historian and a writer (I loved hos Groucho detective books, for instance), he and many of his generation were boxed in by the opinions of their youth. As good a book as The Adventurous Decade was, it was also the blueprint for everyone who came after to ignore the fifties, because they were not as good as the thirties. To my eyes, the thirties had a lot of charm and raw energy (which is great if you encounter it the first time) but many artists reached their peak in the often maligned forties or fifties. I am aware of Goulart's comments on Raab and I am pretty sure they are part of the reason most people ignore him (not the fact that he was a lesser artist). As I say, a case could be made that he was a better artist than Andriola. And although I can understand where Goulart is coming from if he calls Raab's approach to inking chppy and thick, that is what makes him a more interesting artist to me than for instance Paul Norris. And as for his comic book work not being reprinted, that is probably because he did not do superheroes. To continue the comparison, I would rather have one of Raab's Dorothy Dare stories than ten of Norris' Aquaman. In the end those are all just opinions. What I am asking everyone to do with thoese posts, is to look with their own eyes. Are these two weeks choppy of ill-concieved? Does the staging looked stilted, as if Raab was using swiped poses only? I don't think so. Of course you can choose to say that since Raab was a bad artist, everything he did with any quality must have been done for him by Sickles, but that seems to me like putting the horse behind the opinion.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

As for the dog, it seems to me his is standing on the bed, where Patsy is packing a suitcase. not hanging on to a desk.

comicstripfan said...

Appreciate your comments with which I tend to agree and would indicate you have made a more extensive and arguably fairer examination of Mr. Raab’s work; and, as you say, everyone will have their own opinion about an artist’s oevre d'art. Furthermore, Mr. Goulart may not necessarily hold the same views today without qualification. The mystery, as your earlier comments indicate, remains as to his later career, and Ron Goulart’s statement “because of his down-and-out end” I don’t think was further elaborated upon in his book, which is why I added question marks to the quote.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I have met Ron Goulart once and have befriended him on Facebook. I will try and reach him, although he is a bot older and I have not seen him around on any of the groups lately. I have also asked this question about Raab on a comic hostorins group that has helped me in the past. Who knows, maybe we will find out. In my article about Raab I am also going to float the idea that he may be the 'mystery Prize inker' I have been looking for for a long time. A heavy handed inker who has not been identified on many Prize titles). It also would not surprise me if he inked Carmine Infantino for Prize on... Charlie Chan.

Frank Santoro said...

Great piece. What year are the strips posted here from. 46?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

The actual dates are in the file names, but they start 1940-06-17. Much earlier than I would have thought before this.

Alberto Becattini said...

Hello Ger.

Glad to know you're writing about the "Sickles-Caniff School" of artists. There's still so much to say!

Regarding Charles Raab, you may want to check the post I did about him on my blog, that I have just updated. Perhaps it will be usefuil to your research. You'll find it here:

https://alberto-s-pages.webnode.it/news/charles-raab/

All the very best,
Alberto