Tuesday, April 07, 2009

There's Gold In Them Thar Hills

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

Last week, while looking for more obscure stuff on Newspaperarchive, I came across a series of weekly comics done for a California paper, which caught my attention. In this time period, just as in any other most papers ran roughly the same comics, but here we had a paper that ran a whole new set of comics, none of which I had ever seen. It tuned out to be some sort of weekly comics page for a small town paper. And maybe because the paper was from a small town in California, all the features seemed to have been drawn by moonlighting animation artists. The most obvious of these for me was Dick Moores, the newsaper and animation artist who is most know for his long period in Gasoline Alley (whee he set the style that as since been the basis for this strip. He had had an adveture strip in the late thirties, tha was prety well known as wel and most biographies mention the fact that he drew the Tales of Uncle Remus for Disney for most of the early years. Comic collector's know him for his many stories along those lines in the Disney comic books. But what I didn't know was, that he drew a weekly strip called Merton Musty. Even the style seemed diferent than all his other work.

I contacted Alan Holtz at the Stripper's Guide, who know more about newspaper comics than anyone else on the web (and who is working on a complete list of all newspaper strips, including accurate creator information as wel as start and end dates) to ask him if he knew anything about this. He hadn't but he confirmed that many of the artists involved seemed to have come from animation. A couple of them, including Dick Shaw and Dick Moores worked together at Disney. Culd this be a group of animators moonlighting. Fellow blogger Joakim (who has a big interest in the first generation of newspaper and comic Disney artists) joine din and together we are piecing together as much information as we can on this group. I have found a link to a limited animated teleision series and Joakim is trying to find out when this page exactly ended or if it slowly petered out. I am also trying to contact possible living artists involved.

So it is up to me to show all of this to you and ask the cartoon freaks among my readers if they can provide me with information about the names mentioned here. Everyoe will have his personal favorites, but the stars of the show to me are Dick Shaw and Gus Jekel.Shaw was a respected cartoonist and a good friend of Virgil Partch, so I won't have any troble finding more about im. But Gus Jekel is only mentioned here and there on the web and usually he is not singled out as a particulary good artist. But still his strip here is a stand-out, full of great poses.

Here are some questions to get you started:

Who is the Will, who signed the silent strip Pepe?

Although Milford Muddle is credited to Ray Patin, later strips lost his byline and later strips are sometimes signed very small Wess Campbell. Does anyone know if this is Patin's style and who Campbell was?

Pam by Gus Jekel is greta, but what else did he do?

Life With A Wife is my Mitchell. Leter strips are unsigned, but just as dull.

Jerry Hathcock is know as an animator. Did he do any other strips?

Bob Dalton too, is mostly know as animator. What else did he do?

Are any of the side panels part of this group? Starlight is by Tom Ray. There is an animator by that name, who is still alive. I am trying to contact him. There is also a panel by a Tom Kay, called The American Way, which is sometimes placedon this page and sometimes somewhere else in the paper. I don't think he is part of this group. And there is a Jay Ganschow, who does several features. Who's he?

I am sorry to be presenting pages from micro-fiche. I usually try to mix them up with scans I made myself, as I know they are less interesting. But still... this might the the only record left of these strips.

And espceially for Joackim, I have added a special drawing done for the May 10 edition. This very lively ad for some sort of war bonds seems to have been drawn by one of the better Mickey artists. I have never seen it before.

And after posting this, I read this post at The Stripper's Guide.

Alberto Becattini sent me quite a bit of information regarding this mystery. Following is from several emails:

"Yes, as far as I know most of these people were working at Disney during the early 1950s. And I do think that they were also part of Moores and Boyd's moonlighting Tele-Comics (aka NBC Comics) crew.

Notice that some of them were writers, but they could obviously do storyboards.

Will - Should be James Will - animator. I have him at Disney in the 1940s, but perhaps he was there even later

Mitchell should be Dave Mitchell - story-man at TV Art Productions
Late 1940s

Jack King - Longtime Disney animator/director, was there from 1936-48

Gil Turner - Warner Bros. and MGM animator, comic-book writer/artist
at Western Publishing

Gustave (Gus) Jekel - Disney animator in the 1950s

Dick Moores - Disney comic-strip artist, 1942-56

Gerald (Jerry) Hathcock - Disney animator, 1940-58

Bob Dalton - Might be Cal Dalton, animation writer at Disney in the
early 1950s

Ray Patin - Disney animator 1937-41, story-man 1946-47. Ran his own studio later on.

Dick Shaw - Disney animation and comic-strip writer, 1941-46/1951-53

Thomas (Tom) Ray - I have him at Warner Bros. in 1957-63 and later at Chuck Jones/MGM, but I guess he was at Disney prior to that. And yes, he is still active and has his own website.

You can view more complete profiles and credits for these artists at my website:

I then asked Alberto if he recalled reading any quotes from these guys regarding the newspaper venture:

"No, Allan, I don't remember anybody mentioning these strips. The only information I have concerns the strip The Middles, which was written by Bob Karp (longtime Donald Duck newspaper strip writer), and drawn by his brother Lynn Karp (Disney animator and then comic-book artist at Western and Fawcett). This strip is said to have appeared in Australian papers as late as 1955, having started in 1944 according to some
sources and in 1950 according to others.

This is all very interesting, and I look forward to knowing more. I'll be looking at the blog in case somebody comes up with more insights.

Anyway, the best way to know something is to get in touch with Tom Ray who is, as far as I know, the only surviving artists among all these."

I [Alan] responded, regarding The Middles:

"It was distributed by Consolidated News Features. According to Paul Leiffer, start date is 4/13/44 (I have samples from '44, so the 1950 start date is definitely bogus). I have a note that the strip may initially have been a daily, but I haven't checked through my files to figure out why I said that. The feature was also distributed as part of the Western Newspaper Union package. The strip was advertised in E&P through 1955."

More from Alberto:

Looking more carefully at the Milford Muddle strip in the PDF page you sent, I can see that it was drawn by Jack Bradbury (Disney animator 1936-41, then Warner Bros. animator 1942-44). I have no doubt about this. Lettering on the strip is by Melvin "Tubby" Millar, a Warner Bros. story man.

What I gather from this is that these strips were not coming from the Tele-Comics staff, but more probably from the Sangor Studios staff. This was an outfit led in California by animator Jim Davis, producing funny-animal comic-book stories for such publishers as ACG/Creston, Better/Standard and DC/National from 1944-52. Davis employed about 70 moonlighting story-men and animators. Evidently at a certain point Davis & Co. decided that they would also try their hands at newspaper
strips. Of course this is just an educated guess, but 90% of the people involved here were also part of the Sangor Studios freelance crew."

Alberto has studied these artists quite well and he has also provided important lists of art credits for the Dell Four Color Series. I am inclined to take his word as gospel. Two notes: I am sorry I didn't say I thought the work signed Gus Jekel was by Bradbury. I noticed the similarity, but didn't want to influence my readers. Stll, it explains the obvious quality.

The bit about Bo and Lynn Karp concerns a strip that turns up later in the run. This strip and others that replaced this line-up a year later make me suspect that the page wasn't discontinued but slowly replaced by individual weekly strips taken from different sources. More about that later.

I also have to correct smething I said on Alan's blog. I mentioned The american Way there and said it was also by Tom Ray. But I saw later that it was Tom Kay, and it predates as well als post-dates these strips.


Smurfswacker said...

It's exciting to find a hitherto unknown batch of strips like this. If this package appeared in one paper the odds are it appeared in at least one other. I wonder which.

One thing is clear: the drawing on these strips is much better than the writing. Obviously it ain't easy to write good jokes.

For the record, the V.F.W. is the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a fraternal organization. It was really big in the years following WWII, when I was growing up. Each year they'd sell paper poppies to pin on your coat. The money went to care for disabled vets. While it still exists, the V.F.W. didn't pick up many new members from Viet Nam or later conflicts; it faded gradually as its WWII and Korean War members aged.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Thanks for the VFW information. The consensus at the moment is that the Ukiah Redwood Journal could actually e the only paper involved, since it was so close to the base of opertion of these artists. But you are right, if this was a package, it could have been shopped around to others. My guess is, they used this paper as a starting point and couldn't get the syndication part of the ground.

Allan Holtz said...

Hi Ger -
Congrats again on this wonderful find. I for one am on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what this Tom Ray fellow might be able to tell us!

Best, Allan

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

I've never seen that Mickey and Donald drawing either!
Thanks! :)

Alberto is right about Jack Bradbury doing Milford in the beginning. But it should be noted that only the first two dailies are by him.
Bradbury did a great job for the Donald Duck comic book in the 50's. What we see here hardly shows how good he became later.
The same goes for Gil Turner. His Holly Wood doesn't look very promising, but the Big Bad Wolf comics he later did for Walt Disneys Comic's and stories are some of the finest Wolf stories ever made.

Dave said...

Alberto definitely knows his stuff! Yes -- those first two Milford Muddle strips are the work of Jack Bradbury, but not the later ones. I don't know why Patin's name is on them . . except Jack and Ray did share a studio for a while with other great cartoonists of that era!

Bradbury definitely did not do the strips attribued to Jekel. Maybe you typed it wrong.

I had many many conversations with Jack about his career and never heard about this brief sojourn on a weekly strip. It was probably sandwiched in with his work for Davis, as has been suggested.

Neat find!

SangorShop said...

and yet another person agreeing on the Bradbury work, Ray Patin did some comic book art for the Sangor Shop - but not much.
while most of this work is by folks who worked for Davis at the west coast Sangor Shop, I feel sure that Ben Sangor himself knew nothing about this at all.

Smurfswacker said...

The Redwood Journal Press Dispatch is the ancestor of the current Ukiah daily, The Ukiah Daily Journal.

Out of curiosity I emailed the DJ's publisher to see if knows someone who knows anything. I'll let you know if I get a reply. Ukiah isn't that far from here; who knows, maybe they have bound volumes of the paper.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Yes, I mixed up Jekel and Patin. When the name Milford Muddle is changed to simply Milford, the strip seems to have been taking over by someone called Wes Campbell, who signs the strip sporadicly (but the style remains the same). I wil point it out when I get to a cople of later srips. Maybe Bradbury's relatives (who seem to be visiting here) can do something with that name.

David said...

I think the VFW art was created by Disney artist Hank Porter. While battling cancer at this time in his life, he was still working at the Studio.

Porter created dozens if not hundreds of magazine covers, inside illustrations, publicity art for theatrical releases, Studio Christmas cards, etc. He also drew the Snow White newspaper strip, many of the later Good Housekeeping pages, several Walt Disney's Comics & Stories comic book covers, art found in various Disney children's books and during the war he created the bulk of the estimated 1,200 combat insignia to come out of the Studio (see my other blog toonsatwar.blogspot.com to see some fabulous examples).

And finally, Walt Disney often called on Porter to create special pieces of presentation art, which he gave to various friends, acquaintances and organizations he thought highly of including William Randolph Hearst, the Boy Scouts, Shriner's and others. Disney once referred to Porter as "a one man art department."

I have interviewed both of Porter's surviving children, who have graciously copied everything their father did while at Disney's that is in their collections. I am in the midst of trying to write his biography.

Studio Jantze said...

As the Chapter Chair of the Northern California-NCS, I'll pass the link along to two of our members who live in the neighboring towns. Interesting stuff...

Michael Jantze
The Norm - Jantze.com

Anonymous said...


Joanna said...

I'm hoping you can help me. I'm trying to find Alberto's email address to ask him some information about a project I'm working on. Would you happen to have his email address? Thank you!

Renee said...

I am Ray Patin's daughter. I thought he started Milford Muddle.

He hired Gus Jeckel as his right hand man at Ray Patin Productions ding animation TV commercials. Gus later broke away and started his own studio.

Ray Patin and Gil Turner were very good friends.

If you email me, I will send an article about early Disney days.