Friday, August 08, 2008

Little Irving

Friday Comic Book Day

Last week I posted a list of tpoics I would like to handle over the next few months. One of them was the forgotten newspaper strip Coogie by animator Irving Spector. Soon after I was contacted by Irving's son Paul, who happens to be a regular here. He was very pleased that I wanted to give some attention to his father's four year period on this rare and weird Sunday only strip and offered to help. This help may turn out to grow into something much bigger, as he still has a lot of his father's originals as well as other materials, such as correspondence, other newspaper try-outs and efforts to try and revive this strip.

Since today is comic book day, I want to start by showing you one of Irving Spector's earliest comic book efforts. Spector had been working as an animator in Hollywood, just before the war. During the war, he was at some point detailed to te Signal Corps, working on propaganda and information posters and movies. In fact, he was in some sort of animation unit over there.

After the war, he decided to try his luck at something else. Maybe he went back to animation as well, I am not very sure about that part of his career. But he ended up at Timely, where Stan Lee, just back from the war himself took over the reign from Vince Fago, who had been editing all the the funny animal comics with his own host of artists (including himself and his brother Al). A great article about this period of Timely, by Doc Vasallo, the man who knows everything about Timely, can be found here:

Stan Lee took over from Fago (who remained as a free-lancer) in late 1945 and introduced a couple of new features and artists of his own. These included Harvey Kurtzman (who provided the wonderful one-pagers Hey Look as well as Pig Tales, short stories about two dumb pigs) and Irving Spector (who did Little Lionel). There was a remarkable black and white strip by George Leterese and a weird strip about a mouse, by another artist who seems to have had a animation background. All these features are pretty unique and it seems to be as if the artists were asked to come up with somehting fresh themselves, rather than being handed a script. Maybe they all were friends of Lee, who worked in the Signal Corps himself. Although I never heard Kurtzman worked anywhere else but on camp and I am pretty sure he was stationed in Paris, Texas in the summer of 1945.

Mentioning Harvey Kurtzman here is very appropriate, because Spector and he crossed paths a couple more times in the next decade. They both had sunday only strips in The Herald Tribune, for example. Kurtzman did a very short run of Silver Linings in 1947 and Spector did Coogie from 1951 to 1954. Al Fago, by the way, took over Peter Rabbit from it's orginal artist in 1948 in the same newspaper by the way an dcontinued it at least until 1945.

Well, more about all this when we get there. First, let me show you a couple of pages from Little Lionel and the first Pig Tales by Kurtzman. When I first saw Little Lionel, I though it might be bhy Kurtzman as well, so it'll be fun to compare them. I finallyd ecided it couldn't be true and a couple of months after that someone at the Timely/Atlas Yahoo group indentified the artist as Spector (whom I hadn't heard of at the time).

Like Pig Tales, there seems to have been only a few Little Lionel stories. Paul Spector feels his father must not have liked them a lot, as he didn't mention them ever. But that could be due to the fact that they never took off. Apart from the four or five short stories there may have been, he did a couple of one pagers as well. In fact, the one I am showing here (the only one in my collection) has no job number (Timely's system of regestering stories and payments) but simply #19. That would seem to indicate there have been 18 before that. If any of those were ever published I am not aware of it.

The Little Lionel Pages are from Super Rabbit #13, on the stands in the summer of 1946. The Pig Tales story is slightly earlier.


p spector said...

"Little Irving"? it.

Ger, hope you don't mind if I amend some of your text here. Probably some of it gets misconstrued in the rambling emails.

Leading up to WWII and the army: Had been in New York for a few years before WWII at Fleischer Studios and was actually at their new Miami, FL building by the time he enlisted. In the army was assigned to the East Coast Signal Corp animation unit.

After the War: Timely for a short period. Also briefly an editor a Lev Gleeson's. Probably did alot of work out of the Sangor Shop, just one the herd of animators there who were doing the same. And more with other publishers throughout the next decade. Fleischer had at this point already been taken over by Paramount, and was known as Famous Studios. He did a trememdous amount of animation and story for them starting at that point -- simulataneously with the comic books, and a lot of other things --for about the next 15 years.

How he felt about this comic book work I don't know that he didn't like them (the Little Lionel), I just know that after I was born he didn't talk much about his comic book work to me, as compared to all the other work he had done. I use that as a guide. Years later (as an adult) I was kind of shocked to see some of the very early comic book work, -- it's style is much different than what it later came to be in the 1950's, when I think he really found his style both in drawing and writing (not just in comic books).

Thanks again for posting it,


Ger Apeldoorn said...


If you don't mind my asking... were the Fanous Studio's based in New York as well? I am grateful for these additional bits of information. I can now check to see when Sand where tan Lee was stationed in the Signal Corps, for instance. It's great to see how all these areas of my interest run into each other.

p spector said...

The very short story is: they were orginally Fleischer Studios in NY, then moved to a new building in Miami. Later back again to NY. Along the way, Paramount bought in with an influx of money, Paramount took control when Fleischer couldn't pay back the debt. Eventually renamed Paramount/Famous Studios, often referred to as Famous, especially after Paramount sold a lot of the rights to the theatrical releases.

p spector said...

Oh, what you really wanted to know: Yes, they were back in NY for good at the time of these comic book works.

Paul C.Tumey said...

Thank you for the Kurtzman Pig Tales stories. I'd never seen these before. Wow... these are so darned great!