Monday, December 26, 2011
Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff--2
The Great Postum Face-Off
In my last post I presented a Noel Sickles Postum ad. I mentioned having once seen an alternate version. I am grateful to Fortunato Latella for turning up a copy of that version. (In case you don't know, Fortunato curates an excellent comics blog which is always worth reading.)
Fortunato's ad is in third-page format, while mine is a half page. I had misremembered that the art in each version was completely different. In fact some panels were the same. The two make an interesting comparison.
Panel 1 of the third page is a completely different drawing from panel 1 of the half. Note that in the third page the girl sits on the passenger's side of her car. In the half page the car points the other way and she sits (more logically) behind the wheel. The dialogue in the third page panel is shorter, which is a good thing because the panel is only half as wide.The second panel of the third page telescopes into a single frame what takes the half page three panels to tell. The half boasts a lot more great artwork, but the third-page version takes the prize for economical storytelling.The next panels are the same in both formats. However the third page's panels have more art. We see more of Mr Coffee Nerves' vest and the hero's coat in the first panel. There also seems to be more "air" at the top. The next panel shows more of the house in the third than in the half, and we see all of Mr. CN's left arm, which is cropped in the half page.
The dialogue has been tweaked between versions. Some changes are so small I wonder why they bothered: "What does he advise" in the third is "What did he advise" in the half, while "If you give up flying" becomes "If you give up trying." The hero's dialogue is considerably simpler in the third page. Mr. CN's lines are the same in both versions.
The last two story panels are the same in both formats. Again they show more art in the third than in the half. In the award scene we see an extra aviator on the left side and an extra spectator on the right. The officer's dialogue differs slightly between versions. The girl's dialogue is the same, but her balloon is lettered anew in each version to fit the different panel sizes. The hero's final balloon has also been relettered between versions. In the half page the hero's picture is larger relative to the copy, pushing the final paragraph into a narrower column.
When I first saw this ad I assumed that the half-page version was the original. But comparing the versions I believe the third-page came first. I'm pretty sure panels from the third were cropped to fit the half-page layout. It makes more sense than extending the edges of smaller panels for the third.
Why would the agency draw three new panels and add extra dialogue to convert a third page to a half? Why not? It occurred to me that my assumption that the half-page was the "real" one was based on the syndicate procedure of using expendable panels to convert half page Sundays into thirds. But when this ad was produced in 1940, that process wasn't yet standard procedure. Probably after the agency finished the third page the client asked for a half-page version. The agency reformatted existing panels and added extra art and text to fill the space.