Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advertising Comics, 1940

Comics Go Legit, Sorta

In an earlier post I presented some comic-strip-style ads that found their way into the New York Art Director's Club 1939 Annual of Advertising Art. In this installment I offer the three strips that appeared in the 1940 edition.

In those bygone days three kinds of comic-like strips appeared in American magazines and newspapers. The Art Director's Club lumped all three into one category, "continuities." In my blogs I limit "continuities" to the most common sequential ad form: a series of photos or drawings illustrating a story told in typeset captions beneath the pictures. These continuities tended to be illustrated by "classy" illustrators like Albert Dorne, Jon Whitcomb, and James Williamson. The second category, the least common, told the story comic style with balloons and captions, but used photos instead of drawings. The third group was the standard comic we know and love, drawn either by noted cartoonists or by anonymous specialists.

In the hallowed halls of the Art Director's Club, all three types received short shrift. In the Annuals a magazine illustration was often reproduced on a full page. Comics were crammed three to a page at the back of the section. Nonetheless, given the books' high-quality printing, it's possible to extract viewable copies. Of the three 1940 entries the halftoned Wizard of Oz strip suffers the most.

Note the blank spots in the Pep and Oz strips. This suggests they were reproduced either from originals or from early proofs taken before type and stock cuts were added.

This full-page ad introducting Wizard of Oz was drawn by Joe King. In my earlier post you'll find speculation about King, who may have been an eccentric painter--or just someone with the same name. I'd love to see this strip in print. This tiny (3-1/4 by 3-3/4 inches) repro looks really good. I get the impression that in the finished product there may have been typeset captions beneath the panels.Next is an outing with The Captain and the Kids (or was it the Katzenjammer Kids?) credited to Rudolph Dirks. Advertising agency Kenyon & Eckhardt, Inc. produced it for Kellogg's All- Bran cereal. If you read the copy you'll find All-Bran is promoted as a laxative.Finally an energetic geezer named J. Fuller Pep teaches a bunch of kids the glories of Kellogg's Pep cereal. I don't know if J. Fuller was a continuing character. I've never seen another strip featuring him.Another Kenyon & Eckhardt project, the Pep half-page originated at the Johnstone & Cushing comic art studio. These Annuals are useful because sometimes they reveal the names of unsigned commercial artists. Not this time. Only the studio receives an art credit. Has anyone ever seen it in print?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family of Love Promo Comic

Spiritual Love Goes Physical

In the early 1980s I found this exceedingly odd comic-style pamphlet on the ground at a street fair. I will read anything in comics format (even Jack Chick comics!), so I studied this strange mingling of soft-core porn and Christian proselytizing with increasing disbelief. The comic came from the Family of Love, a cult which began in the 1960s as the famous (one might say notorious) Children of God.

The history of the Family, which continues today as The Family International, may be found in this Wikipedia article. Suffice it to say that the cult was started by one David Berg (who was not working for Mad magazine). Its members lived communally, studied Scripture, and apparently enjoyed considerable sexual liberty.

In 1974, Berg (aka "Father David") conceived a proselytizing tool for the new age, "flirty fishing." Female Family members were encouraged to find love-starved males through escort services and share God's love with them physically. By chance many of these liaisons involved money passing from saved to savior; this point led to later accusations that the Family ran a prostitution ring. Read the details in the Wiki article.

It's interesting to note that the Family shared a trait with many other sexualized cults through the years. Some old guy, touched by God, suddenly found himself surrounded by available young (allegedly sometimes very young) women. Given my advancing years, I've concluded this might be a good time for me to consider starting my own cult.

"Is Love Against the Law" justifies and promotes flirty fishing without naming it. Perhaps the Family figured men would read the comic, then join the cult in hopes of finding busty girls taking notes while wearing transparent shirts. The 8-page strip was offset-printed on both sides of a 6-1/2 by 11-1/2 inch sheet of paper. The paper was folded into four segments in an arcane manner that made it easy to read the story out of sequence. Art was credited to "Zebulon Geppetto." The only reference I found to ZG on Google was in the Family's archived correspondence. Someone had chastized him for illustrating a "false" story criticizing Berg and the cult. ZG credited the cover layout to a co-worker, "Eman Artist."

All things considered the artwork is pretty good for an amateur comic. It surely beats the clunky stuff in Jack Chick mini-comics. But Jack Chick would consider the Family allies of the Devil, and the Devil always seems to get the best artists.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another NEA Obscurity

Nature's Wonder Book

When looking after my mother in Washington, I had a few spare moments to browse an antique mart. There I found this interesting little book, "Nature's Wonder Book," which consists of panels reprinted from a nature feature syndicated by NEA. The copyright date is 1928-29 and the artist is William Ferguson.

From Lambiek I learned that Ferguson made a career of nature-oddity strips like "The Great Outdoor World" and "This Curious World." His last work was in the 1960s. I speculate that the feature reprinted here was "Mother Nature's Curio Shop," which Lambiek says ran with NEA from 1928 to 1931.

Ferguson's art is quite good and his humorous vignettes are drawn in a pleasant style.

The oddest thing about the book are the redundant captions above each page. Some make lame jokes about the content of the panel while others merely repeat the information. My theory is that when assembling the book NEA used a standard paper size and felt a need to fill the empty space at the top of each page.