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?


john adcock said...

I wonder if the J&C Fuller Pep feature is by "Paul Arthur," the partnership of Caniff and Sickles. They drew Mr. Coffee Nerves and others in a more Steve Canyon serious style than this, but the dark haired kid here looks almost like Caniff's Dickie Dare.

Smurfswacker said...

An interesting suggestion. The kid certainly has that Dickie Dare look. However I think Caniff and Sickles had gone their separate ways by 1940 (their Coffee Nerves work appearing in the mid-30s). Also, in their cartoony work their posing was still quiet, tempered by their realistic bent. I can't see either of them drawing things like the old man leaping the fence in the last panel.