Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bumped again

Tuesday Strip Day.

Remember when all this stuff about Gill Fox started on this blog with my finding a couple of samples of his Bumper To Bumper? This charming little strip was done as a filler for the Sunday New York News. I don't think is was syndicated although it does have a News Syndicate notice. According to some sources it started in 1954, not long after Gill left Jeanie to Leon Winik. My earliest sample is from 1956, which is shown below. Fox did this strip in an imitation of Hank Ketcham's style, so now that I have started uploading some of his cartoons, you can compare the two - and Jeanie as well, which will continue on Thursdays.

I was going through some stuff when I found these samples in a stash of Sunday strips, that were cut out by their owner. I bought them about five years ago and was very disappointed that the owner had cut the strips so close that in some cases the border lines of the outer panels were cut off. These Bumper to Bumpers were on the other sides of some of these strips (as well as two more Eveready ads by Fleissel, which I'll show later). Some were affected even more, others got of better. So with apologies for the missing edges... here are some more samples of Bumper to Bumper's almost ten year run. I think this strip showcases Gill Fox at his best. The jokes are charming and the tone of the strip is similar to that of Hi and Lois. With the added bonus of car maintenance gags. To me this really is a forgotten gem.

November 11 1956:

December 15 1957:

January 25 1959:

Februari 14 1960:

Fox had two formats for this strip... one a half page tabloid in two tiers and one a vertical half tabloid with three panels. My guess is, he made sufficient amounts of either, so the paper could choose which one to carry. The cutting of the strip on the other side really screws up the vertical ones. I have several of those, which I am adding mostly to show the art. On some you can just barely make out the joke.

November 29 1959:

November 10 1963:

November 5 1961:

April 12 1959:

Paul asked me about Fox' 'own' style. I don't know if he ever had one, so let me put a few samples of his various styles in a row and let you conclude for yourself.

In the Heritage archives is a 1935 animation drawing of Betty Boop, suggesting that Gill Fox started out as an inbetweener at the New York studio's of Fleischer. he wasn't the only New York artist doing that. Both Jack Kirby and Irv spector went the same route.

In the early forties he ended up at Quality, where he drew one pagers in the style and manner of Jack Cole.

After he went into the army he didn't stop drawing. He did spot art for his camp newspaper.

From there he went to The Star and Stripes, where he became the house artist. For years his spot drawing appeared in the weekly army newspaper. He also did a couple of strips for the paper, most notably Bernie Blood. The style he developed here, is a variation of the one he used on his Quality work before and after the army. This style is quite recognisable, even though it enabled him to morph effortlessly into the styles of Klaus Nordling, Jack Cole and Bill Ward. Later in the forties and into the fifties he drew features and covers for Lady Luck, Torchy and possibly Plastic Man.

Meanwhile he joined Johstone and Cushing and his style got 'moderner'. The main thing to change was his inking style, which got more angular and open. We can see this in a cover for The Big Top he did around 1951.

In Jeanie we see a combination of those two styles. My guess is, that he didn't have the time he needed to deliver a 'fabcy' inking style, so what's left is Fox' pure drawing style. As Jeanie went on, the inking got less and less detailed.

Over at Johstone and Cushing he was influenced by Dik Browne, but he worked on new styles for himself as well. As we could see from the 7 Stories samople last week, he developed his own version of the current 'children's book style'.

But he wasn't limited to that style. Dik Browne once said: "We never signed our names at Johnstone and Cushing. If you did, it would have seemed as if you could only do one style. And the more styles you could do, the more work you got."

In the same period he also worked on Bumper to Bumper in a variation on Hank Ketcham's style. And in 1961, he started a shortlived new series in a totally new style. Bless, the Mayor was developed for a comic magazine that was distributed to supermarkets. Unfortunately, it only ran for 11 issues, even though a lot of very good artists worked for it. Allan Holtz got hold of a complete run of the magazine and devoted a lot of space to it last year. Unfortunately, he sold the lot to the highest bidder, rather than scanning all of them in and offering that to his readers. I hope someone somewhere will issue a complete reprint of this unique experiment.

In the early sixties, Fox finally hit the big time, when he was asked to take over the strip Side Glances from it's second artist, William Galbraith. The fact that he could seemlessly take over Galbraith's style as well muist have been a factor in that. anyway, he did the daily panel for the rest of his career. Which doesn't mean he stopped drawing when he retired.

Somwhere in the sixties, he also took over The Tracey Twins in Boy's Life from Dik Browne. Since Browne signed the strip in all samples I have seen up to 1966 and since Fox could mimic Brown's style so well, I have no idea how to tell which strips are Fox and which are Browne's. I only have this original by Browne, mentioning Fox.

In between all his asigments, Fox also ghosted several strips for his buddy's when they wanted a week off. This strip from the late sixties or early seventies was in the Heritage Archives and even they don't know where it came from. The style seems to be that of Alex Kotzky's Appartment 3G or one of those doctor strips.

After retirement, Fox took on all sorts of assignments. Here one I had never even heard of, until I found the original in the Heritage archives. It's a 'funny' strip for a computermagazine in a style I can't even recognize.

One of the last things he did, was create a children's book for Random House about the popular Ninja Turtles. If the creators of this strip knew which legend of comics was working for them, I don't know.


p spector said...

Wow, no kidding about the Ketchum style. It would be no surprise to me if the syndicate ""highly encouraged" him to draw it that way. Not that I know much about Fox, but so far it seems to me he could probably emulate just about any comic artist's work. I wonder if he minded having to draw that way, or if he was just happy to have a steady gig and make some good money? Just curious, but have you seen any work of his that would indicate a drawing style unique to himself?

Ger Apeldoorn said...

I think Jeanie comes as close to a style of his own as he showed. For the last years of his working life he took over the Side Glances Panel from William Galbraith... style and all.

JohnK said...

Wow! Gill Fox is great!

Did he ever work for Ketcham? Or did he just figure out his style on his own?

Trevor Thompson said...

Speaking of styles ( you're the expert here, Ger ):

Was there a point in the mid 80's where Mort Walker, Dik Browne and Jim Davis were just like "Hey, let's draw the same!"

I should probably ask Chris Browne, my friend and neighbor going on thirteen years, but I'm only half asking. Seriously, it really used to bug me to see three cartoons in the comics page ( "Garfield", "Hi and Lois" and "Beetle Bailey" ) that had seemingly the exact same style.

Also, I was curious what you thought of the work that Walker's kids, Brian and Greg, are doing these days?

And as unfunny as I think Family Circus is, I'd still be interested to see a post on Keane's artwork.

- trevor.

p spector said...

Great effort there, Ger, putting that all together. When someone can work in so many styles so well, maybe it's tough to decide which one to work in. Or, maybe the challenge is in the emulation...I really have no idea. Especially with that last one, "Attack of the Seabee". Where that come from! Whew!
BTW, Irv Spector was already a full-fledged animator when he went east to Fleischer, having done his "in beween" time on the west coast.

Ger Apeldoorn said...


I think Brian Walker is one of the best vomivs historians around. And I think Chris Browne is a really funny guy when he works on his own stuff. You really should have a look at his website. Unfortunately, I think Hi and Lois went wrong when they dropped the work part of the strip and became a pure family strip. Dik Browne stopped doing virtuoso cartoon tricks around the time Hagar started and the current strip is just a continuation of that bloodless version of the strip. As you can se from mu blog, I am a fan of cartooning and timing. Very little of that on the current comic pages, these days. The strips I liked best from the Walker factory were Sam and Silo and Boner's Ark.