Friday, August 24, 2012

Remembrance of Things, Passed

Was It Real...or Was It Memory?

Memories are odd things. We've probably all had the experience of returning to a vividly-remembered place  to discover it wasn't like that at all. Sometimes with the passage of time we begin to question whether some things we remember ever happened. That's what this post is about: a childhood memory so vivid that it's remained with me my entire life. Yet I've never found evidence that the remembered event happened. Even given my small group of followers, I'm hoping the magic of the Internet will finally give me an answer. That fantastic toy I lusted after one Christmas nearly 50 years ago..did it really exist? Or have I carried a false memory with me for half a century?

In the early 1960s I lived in a small Washington town called Snohomish (pop. 4000). The nearest large town was Everett (pop. 14,000). In Everett was a Sears store. Next to the main Sears building was a sort of annex. I think it served as the garden and hardware department for most of the year. But at Christmas it was transformed into a Toyland to dazzle the eyes and quicken the heart of any pre-teen boy or girl. Especially a boy. Toys were strictly gender-segregated and the boys got all the trains, bikes, airplanes,  guns (of course), construction equipment, and spaceships. One special Christmas I saw a magnificent toy line that brought the last two items together:  a group of futuristic building machines, like Tonka Toys from the 25th Century.

These were the days when Marx and Tonka sold big, ruggedly-built toys representing the era's construction equipment: earthmovers, caterpillar tractors, road graders, steam shovels.The toys I seem to remember were similar to these. They were supposed to be construction machines of the future: larger, fancier, and more exotic than their contemporary cousins. They were big, and therefore expensive, which is why I knew I'd never convince Mom and Dad to buy me one. I estimate they were some 12 to 18 inches in height and length, but I'm remembering their scale as seen by a kid, so they could have been bigger.

I haven't retained detailed pictures of these machines. Rather I have impressions of how they looked. One feature was an exaggerated vertical scale; that is, the cab section of a futuristic steam shovel would be two or three times as tall as a real one. Second was an enormous overall scale. Though the toys were roughly the same size as their realistic counterparts, details like their cabs were scaled such that the machine appeared to be several stories tall. I remember streamlining and futuristic crisp edges, like American cars of the post-fin era. However (as you'll see below) this impression conflicts with the art-deco styling in images that "resonate" in my memory. I also have a vivid impression of lots of wheels. Not the big, fat wheels like on the realistic toys, but many small ones. Where a real tractor would have one big wheel at each corner, the futuristic tractor sported a housing grouping together perhaps a dozen small ones. Oddly, the strongest impression I've carried for all these years is of the "glass" used for the cab windows: a vivid turquoise plastic that to my young mind seemed indescribably exotic, the very essence of the future.

Three or four times in my adult life I've encountered images which remind me of these wonderful machines. None of them evoke a "that's it!" reaction. Rather they stir old memories, tantalizing me without ever coming into focus. Two images with the strongest resonance come from Arthur Radebaugh's amazing series of advertising paintings for Bohn.

This one produces the strongest reaction. The scale, the many small wheels, the segmented steering unit, and the tiny glassed-in cab are much like I remember the toys having. The glass would be turquoise, of course, and the scale of the driver might be even smaller.

What resonates most in this one, apart from the mini-wheels, is the proportion of the cab area. Narrow and quite tall, with a streamlined canopy integrated into the body. The tall chrome grille also seems familiar.

The last resonant image surprised me when I encountered it in one of Alden McWilliams' Tom Corbett comics. I didn't recognize the shape of the "water-manufacturing machine" so much as I did its scale and purpose. This is the sort of job my dreams toys were built to do. That rear-mounted scoop rings a bell, and something about the view of the machine in the final panel is tantalizingly familiar.

I've never met anyone who has heard of these toys. I've never found them in old ads, nor offered on ebay, nor described on baby-boomer toy fan sites. The more I research them the closer I come to concluding that the entire experience was imaginary. Maybe I saw ordinary toys which my memory transformed into things of magic. Or perhaps I saw one of those Bohn ads and over the years manufactured the memory of seeing them as toys.

One thing I know for fact. The annual visit to the Sears Toyland was real, and the store definitely pulled out all the stops to fill their huge room with the most mouth-watering toys. Using several autobiographical guideposts I've determined that I would have seen these toys (if I did see them) sometime between 1959 and 1964, more likely earlier than later. In 1964 I entered high school and this is definitely a memory of my elementary school years.

So I entreat you to spread the word and establish for all time the truth or fiction of one of my childhood's fondest memories. Were the super-machines real?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big Project! Lousy Money!

Established Company Needs Artist!

My son has often told me about the preposterous job offers he finds on craigslist. His field is film. Craigslist is full of opportunities for highly-qualified film professionals who don't mind working for nothing. Typically the ads take one of two forms. The first is a hype-filled description of how you'll be getting the chance to work for real industry movers and shakers, with a hip crew and a sky's-the-limit future once the project is done. The other type offers an earnest description of how this is the finest project ever conceived, and it will make a fortune, but right now there's no money...but you can get in on the ground floor of the next Big Thing!!!

Of course all these jobs expect you, the applicant, to have a combination of skills and experience that would be the envy of many long-time professionals.

There are fewer comics-related projects on craigslist, but one surfaces occasionally. Some of them even pay! Like this one I found today:

Established company is seeking a sequential artist to illustrate a 70 page, black + white, graphic novel to be completed by January 15th, 2013.

This will debut at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con.

Compensation: $1400

The genre is a hybrid of steampunk/fantasy and adventure.
The character designs are already in place (though there is room for interpretation)

Please e-mail samples or link to portfolio.

I must admit that at first glance '$1400" looks least it's not copies and credit. Five seconds later you've done the math. $1400 divided by 70 pages is...twenty bucks a page!

Flash back thirty years...1972, San Jose, California. I drew my first paying comics job for an issue of Barbarian Comics, published by comics dealer and underground fan Bob Sidebottom. I was paid $20 a page. And let me tell you, twenty bucks went a lot further in 1972.

The sad part is, some kid hungry to break into the big time will take the job, and the "established company" sets a precedent for graphic novel illustrators.

Many times in my life I worked for much less than I was worth. I did it because I was stupid. Nowadays I read something like this and wonder, if you're an established company and your project is so damned great, why aren't you putting your money where your mouth is? If you're paying twenty bucks a page, your project is a twenty-buck-a-page project.

Hopefully these guys will get what they pay for.

Monday, August 6, 2012

British Cartoonists Album: Part 5 and Last

Everything is (British) Politics

The early 1960s was a tumultuous time. I know: I was there. Kennedy was in the Presidency, Castro was in Cuba, Mao was in China, The Wall was in Berlin, Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, and Khrushchev ran the USSR. All these things found their way into the British Cartoonists Album, along with local events that I, as an ignorant Yank, don't understand. Today we wind up our stroll through this 1962 collection with a brace of political cartoons.

There are two kinds of political cartoons. Some present a joke based upon a current event, with the joke being the main thing; the others present a commentary about a current event with the joke playing backup. Both kinds are represented in this spread from the Album.
The British Cartoon Archive has a lengthy biography of Osbert Lancaster, whose eventful younger life included studying to be a lawyer. He joined the Daily Express in 1939 and by the time he retired in 1981 he'd drawn some 10,000 cartoons. In the second cartoon Selwyn Lloyd was Great Britain's Conservative Foreign Secretary (1955-1960) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1960-1962).

Norman Mansbridge began drawing for Punch in 1937. He started political cartooning there, and later switched over to newspapers like the Daily Sketch. Mansbridge was a man of many talents, exhibiting paintings at the Royal Academy, teaching art, and doing advertising work. When he retired from the Sketch he took up drawing for comics for IPC and Fleetway. Mansbridge apparently had no particular interest in politics. He was quoted as saying, "An editorial committee works out the idea [for a cartoon] at lunch, then I go off and do it." I don't know who the African leader in the third cartoon is--or the two guys sawing down the Platform in the fourth. "Polaris" was an American submarine-based nuclear missile that caused a fair amount of controversy in those days.

Next are two damned fine caricatures from Sallon. I don't know who "General Slim" is, but I'd recognize him if I ever ran into him. What a great drawing! Sallon also captures the essence of mid-life Orson Welles beautifully. Ralph David Sallon (born Rachmiel David Zelon) had a truly remarkable life, described in this article in the BCA. He started cartooning after WWI, when he was living in South Africa. He freelanced cartoons to all the major papers and drew propoganda illustrations throughout the Second World War. He joined the Daily Mirror in 1948. He retired in 1991 and died eight years later at age 99.

Emmwood's two cartoons are of the joke-first variety. His line is impressive and he does great character faces. John Bertram Musgrave-Wood started his career drawing the passengers on a cruise ship on which he was a steward. In 1956 he joined the Daily Mail as one of three alternating political cartoonists.

David Low was a cartoonist of enormous stature. His cartoons chronicling the rise of Fascism in the 1930s brought him international renown. Wikipedia has an overview of his career. By the time the Album appeared Low was at the end of both his career and his life: he passed away in 1963.

Nikita Khrushchev was God's gift to Western political cartoonists. Fat, ugly, and boorish, he filled all the requirements of the Number One Bad Guy. I'm not sure who the couple at upper left are. Don't know anything about these cartoonists either. The BCA doesn't list Marwood and when I Google him I keep getting William, the famous hangman who invented the Long Drop.

The Ban-the-Bomb movement began in England about this time. The Bomb was on everyone's mind. You'll never understand if you weren't there: while we were constantly reminded that the world teetered on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the major powers constantly upped the ante in their game of pushing us closer to that brink. I grew up with a phobia about sirens (the old fire sirens they don't have anymore) that lasted until I was pushing thirty. Any time I heard a siren my heart would pound and I'd obsessively count the rises and falls to make sure this wasn't the Yellow Alert.

These two Bomb cartoons were drawn by Leslie Illingworth, who enjoyed a long career with Punch and the Daily Mail. Here's his BCA bio. (Have you noticed how much easier it is to find biographies of political cartoonists than of comics and gag artists?) I'm not sure of the point of the second cartoon. It seems to refer to Khrushchev's replacing Stalin...Stalin out, super-bomb in? The 50-Megaton Bomb represented a major increase in the power of nuclear weapons. Illingworth, by the way, was more into the cartoon than the political, and preferred developing cartoon ideas "in committee."

Here's a spread of cartoons by Lee, one of whose cartoons I showed earlier. He seems to have liked panoramic views full of detail. I have finally discovered he was Joseph (Joe) Lee, and when he retired in 1966 he was the "longest running daily cartoonist in history." His first job was in 1920 at age 19. Here's the link to the BCA essay, which describes Lee's unusual working arrangement.

Jensen illustrates two of the hot-button issues of the late fifties and early sixties. First, Berlin, which in those days was a city split into Western- and Soviet-dominated halves...and sitting smack in the middle of East (Soviet-controlled) Germany. The world was just as crazy back then as it is now. The second cartoon shows Fidel Castro swacking someone with his cliched cigar. I don't know who the spankee is. Obviously the cartoon's point is that Castro and his victim are proxies for Khrushchev and Kennedy. John Jensen was born in Australia and moved to England in 1950. He worked for Punch and numerous papers, and was active in the Cartoon Art Trust. Here's his page at the wonderful British Cartoon Archives.

President Kennedy got a more ambiguous reception overseas than he did at home. Many cartoons played up his youth and inexperience. This one is by Vicky, the pen name of Victor Weisz. Weisz was the opposite of the gag-first political cartoonist. He was a passionate and driven man who wanted to use his cartoons to change the world. His left-leaning politics clashed with the editor of the News Chronicle in 1947, sending him first to the Daily Mirror and then the Evening Standard. After a long fight with severe depression Weisz committed suicide in 1966. He was 53. Here's the whole story at the BCA.

I'll conclude this chapter, and my look at the British Cartoonists Album, with a cartoon by Peter Maddocks that sums up the spirit of that bygone age. I think it was intended to be less grim than it seems in retrospect. But I can't look at it without remembering a day in October, 1962, when I heard about the first moves in what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was 13. For some reason I'd stayed late at school, listening to radio news reports that the US had proof Soviet-supplied ballistic missiles were based in Cuba, and we had told the USSR to remove them--or else. I sat at a typewriter and condensed all I'd heard into a page of newspaper-style headlines. At the end I wrote, "We will post more details when we receive them." Then I tacked the page to the bulletin board and went home. That night I went to bed wondering if the world would still be there tomorrow when--if--I woke up.

That, gentlemen, was the Sixties.

I would like one more time to express my thanks to and delight with the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent. Their site contains a wealth of material...not only biographies, but also hundreds of original drawings by the cartoonists being discussed. It's an Internet treasure!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

British Cartoonists Album: Part 4

Gag Me With a Book!
 I thought this would be the last of my explorations into the 1962 British Cartoonists Album, but it looks like there will be one more. The Album contains so many gag cartoons that even a brief sampling pushed the political cartoons into their own chapter.

There's not much to say about gag cartoons. You either think they're funny or you don't, you like the cartoonist's style or you don't. It doesn't help that many of the Album's cartoonists have Google-proof names: Fox, Taylor, Larry. I finally just pulled a random selection of pages. So here we go...

I like Baker's gag on the upper right. I found a Kenneth Baker cartooning for The Daily Sketch, but he did political cartoons in a more elaborate drawing style. Of Nardi I found nothing, unless you count a bunch of porno links (??).

Why can't cartoonists have names like Morgengesternstein? I could find no clue as to who Phil Hanson or Carr were. The latter's signature looks more like Carro, but they say it's Carr. that should be an easy name to find, right? Nope. There's a contemporary strip artist with that name, and someone who worked for Punch in 1876. I suspect that isn't this guy. As for the face of Rupert Murdoch I didn't even try. The second gag (the first Finbow) may be dumb but it cracks me up. Do you suppose the "black paint" label on the can was added by an unimaginative editor? It's hardly necessary.

Here's somebody I know about. Ian Gammidge was a very busy fellow. Not only did he write a ton of daily strips, he also had time to draw gag cartoons. If these are any indication, he had a great sense of humor.

The top cartoon is by Ray (I think; might be Roy). On the bottom is yet another cartoon about school beatings. There were four of these in the collection. Must have been a hot subject.


Two by Alby, including another "six of the best" gag. The British Cartoon Archive knows he existed but has no information. Atchison's scribbly line really sells the joke in the last cartoon.

Three funny cartoons by Alexander. He's another of the guys whose style reminds me of Larry and Bill Tidy.

 Ayris and Acken. There were a lot of Daily Sketch cartoons in the Album. I got a laugh out of the psychiatrist gag, but I swear I've seen the same joke in an American cartoon. Not an accusation: with thousands of cartoons every year, it'd be strange if there weren't duplicates. I don't know anything about Acken, but I found another one of his cartoons--and a treaure trove of British cartoons from the Weekend Book of Jokes--on Rod McKie's blog.

To wrap things up, here are two quite funny cartoons with really nice drawing by Chic Jacob. Finally, someone with a bio! Cyril Alfred Jacob...began cartooning in 1950, worked on the Daily Express and the Observer. Won Cartoonist of the Year in 1966. He did a strip with Les Lilley, another wide-ranging British strip writer. The two also freelanced TV and radio scripts. According to the British Cartoon Archive his cartoons appeared in Punch, Picturegoer, Star, Daily Sketch, Daily Mirror, Sunday Dispatch, Accountancy Age, Law Society's Gazette, Spectator, New Statesman, Oldie, Insider and Private Eye. Wish all these guys had such thorough biographies.

Tomorrow, the last part of this series: back to the past with British political cartoonists.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

British Cartoonists Album: Part 3

Another Stack o' Strips
In the last post I presented some of the newspaper strips showcased in the British Cartoonists Album. Today we'll see the rest of them.

First off is Jack Dunkley's The Larks. This domestic strip ran from 1957 through 1984. The versatile Dunkley also drew editorial cartoons, sports cartoons, and cooking and gardening strips. According to the British Cartoon Archive The Larks was originally written by Bill Kelly and Arthur Lay. Later writers included Robert St John Cooper, Brian Cooke, and Ian Gammidge. The Larks were a working-class family (the dad worked in a supermarket), but according to the BCA, when Cooke began writing the strip in 1962 he upgraded them to middle class.


The Perishers was a strip phenomenon. It starred a ragtag group of working-class English kids and ran from 1957 to 2008. The feature was created by Maurice Dodd, who also had a successful advertising career, and the original artist was Dennis Collins. Collins retired in 1983 and Bill Melvin took over for the remainder of the run. Toonhound has a good overview of The Perishers, with some odd comparisons to America's long-running kid strip Peanuts. Based on the samples I've seen, Collins had a terrific cartoon style. The gags are funny, too. Wikipedia says The Perishers is presently running in reprint.

Reg Smythe's Andy Capp began as a single-panel cartoon in 1957 and switched to strip format. Both versions are shown in the Album. Andy Capp has been an international phenomenon and is still running today. Obviously it's a flaw in my character, but I've always found the strip repellent. For a fairer evaluation check this article at planetslade.

Here's another interesting strip I'd never seen. An article in the Daily Mirror calls The Flutters "a  sports-page strip about a couple who liked to gamble (hence the title)." Can someone explain what "flutter" has to do with gambling? Anyway, I really enjoy Len Gamblin's artwork here, and the story is funny. It turns out The Flutters was written by Ian Gammidge, a cartoonist who served as staff writer on many Mirror strips, including The Larks. This obituary for Gammidge details the many projects he worked on.

It's on to the adventure strips now. Leading the pack is Buck Ryan, a tough-guy detective strip  Drawn by Jack Monk and written by Don Freeman. According to, in 1937 Monk and Freeman were working on a strip adaptation of an Edgar Wallace story when rights problems killed the project. They decided to create their own strip, and Buck Ryan was the result. The strip ran until 1962, so it was on its last legs by the time the Album came out. I read somewhere that Ryan was conceived as an "American-style" strip. The tough atmosphere and high body-count suggest this may be so, but I don't know if it's true. Monk's art improved greatly over the years--check out this blog entry about the first Buck Ryan story.


Garth, the time-traveling muscle man, debuted in 1943 and ran until 1997. Apparently it was co-created by artist Steven Dowling and BBC producer Gordon Boshell. Dowling wrote part of the first story, then Don Freeman was brought on board. I know Peter O'Donnell wrote some later episodes; there were probably others. The strip had a rather convoluted storyline in its earlier days, which is described here. The Lambiek biographies of Steven Dowling and his assistant John Allard conflict. One says Allard took over the artwork in 1957; the other says Allard began assisting in 1957 and took over completely in 1968. In 1971 he relinquished the art chores to Frank Bellamy. The art on Garth still confuses me. Dowling's earlier strips which I've found online are drawn in a "mainstream" style quite unlike the highly stylized work below. But this is the style in the last dailies before Bellamy took over. Could Allard have drawn this example? I don't know. Opinions vary about Garth's changing art style. Frankly I don't like this one much. I preferred Bellamy's dramatic art, even though his Garth was ridiculously over-developed. On the other hand, by the time Bellamy took over the strip had dropped any semblance of an underlying storyline. The continuities I read in The Menomonee Falls Gazette simply dropped Garth into one exotic world after another and gave him another naked woman to nail.

Last and certainly not least we have Romeo Brown, the skirt-chasing private eye. As I mentioned in the last post, Alfred Mazure was the original Romeo artist. When he moved over to Jane, Daughter of Jane, his assistant Jim Holdaway took over. Peter O'Donnell wrote the scripts. I'll never quite understand Romeo Brown, an almost completely asexual strip about leering sex. Holdaway had a strong comic flair, but in these strips you can see his realistic side straining to escape. He found release the following year in Modesty Blaise.

One post remains from the British Cartoonists Album. Next time, political and gag cartoons.

Friday, August 3, 2012

British Cartoonists Album: Part 2

A Glance at English Strippers
Today we continue yesterday's stroll through the 1962 British Cartoonists Album. This will be the first of two posts focusing on the collection's sampling of newspaper strips. Strips in the Album come in two flavors: individual dailies placed among the cartoons, and proof sheets filling an entire page. We'll start with the former category and tackle the latter next time.

An inauspicious start: beneath a Clive Hudson he-she cartoon  are two unnamed strips by a cartoonist named Ghilchik. The lightweight jokes seem to depict the escapades of Boy Scouts. I found many online references to a cartoonist named David Louis Ghilchik, who was active at Punch during the 1930s. Could this possibly be the same guy? The style in his Punch work looks nothing like these strips.

Next comes a caricature of someone I don't recognize and an amusing gag by a Daily Sketch cartoonist named Rains. Below that is an interesting sample from a pin-up strip called Lindy, drawn by Ernest Ratcliff. I don't know how long this strip ran; Ratcliff apparently drew several British girl strips. He was also a magazine illustrator during the 1950s. This sample only hints at Ratcliff's abilities. Take a look at these two originals on comicartfans. Nice!


 I'm puzzled that while Lindy has a nice pin-up figure, her face isn't particularly pretty. I gather from this sample she's supposed to be a "tough broad" type; maybe this was extended to her character design.

An entire page is given to Trog's Flook. I can add nothing to the reams of material written about this British icon, except to wonder that anyone could have thought of syndicating this ultra-English strip in the USA (It happened!).

Beneath a funny gag by Spencer is a superb Carol Day daily by David Wright. I've never seen enough strips from any Carol Day continuity to get a sense of the stories. Various commentators have called them "brooding" and even "death-obsessed." However there's no question about the quality of Wright's art. For years he used the elaborate cross-hatched style shown here. Later he switched to rendering with overlaid Ben Day films. The art still looked great, but I prefer the earlier pen style, which ranked right up there with the great Gilded Age penmen. Carol has her own website,, with biographical info and tons of beautiful art supplied by Wright's son Patrick.

After Carol comes a typical episode of the seafaring adventure strip Tug Transom, which the Album misspells "Transon." Alfred Sindall's rough-edged, brush-based artwork was just right for the subject. Scripts were supplied by Peter O'Donnell. I was interested to learn that Sindall was the original artist on Paul Temple, though I haven't turned up any examples.

 Next are two gags by Burgin. Wrapping up the page is For Better or for Worse, a gag-a-day strip about a young married couple. Leslie Caswell's art seems a touch over-realistic for such a strip, but the closer you look the more there is to like. The chattering biddies in the last panel are wonderfully characterized. It turns out Caswell was more of an illustrator than a comics artist. He did many monochrome illos for various British magazines. Here's a nice overview of his work. For Better or for Worse seems to have run quite a while. It was later taken over by Frank Langford, another talented illustrator, who brought a more decorative style to the project. One web reference from 2008 said a "modernized" version of the strip was still running.

The frustrations of search engines hover over Twick by Digby Adams for the Thomson Newspapers. Overwhelmed by Twickenham, Digby the World's Biggest Dog, Douglas Adams, and companies named Thompson, I found nary a mention of this so-so married-couple strip.

Speakiing of married-couple strips, I get a distinct Dagwood vibe from The Daily Dees by Butterworth, though the art isn't that similar. Perhaps it's the Chic Young-style balloons, which are rare in British strips. I don't know anything about the artist. It surely couldn't be Jenny Butterworth, the Tiffany Jones artist. But it's she and Rick Dees who dominate the Google results.

The strip below the Dees is my nominee for the hidden jewel of the collection. I'd never heard of Colonel Pewter, but I was impressed by Arthur Horner's whimsical artwork. Thanks to the Web, I've learned that Horner was an Australian cartoonist who lived for many years in England. He wrote and drew the Colonel's adventures between 1952 and 1970. The more I read about this strip, which combined social commentary with fanciful adventures and odd characters, the more I want to read a long run. Here's an introduction on the "Ian T. Graphics" blog. Maybe I'll be able to scour up a (affordable) copy of one of the reprints.

Next post we'll scan a few proof sheets from noted English continuity strips.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

British Cartoonists Album: Part 1

A British Cartoonifest
I haven't posted for a couple of months thanks mostly to  a crisis of confidence with which I'll deal in a future post. Maybe. In the meantime I'd much rather talk about another old book that's surfaced during my never-ending excavation of the Great Garage.

I picked up British Cartoonists Album (no "the," no punctuation) decades ago in one of the little used-book stores that once dotted Los Angeles. In those pre-Internet days the Album was like a tiny window providing a tantalizing glimpse of a wonderful world that I would never get to explore.

It's always seemed to me that English comics are among the world's most woefully-underdocumented. Thanks to the World Wide Web the situation is improving, especially given blogs like those of Lew Stringer and Dez Skinn, men who are not only historians but also writer/editors who have worked in the field for years. Their articles have been an endless source of enlightenment. Even so, the sheer volume of English comics--newspaper strips, comic papers, comic books, annuals, etc. etc.--would provide years of material for an army of researchers.

The Cartooonists Album was published in 1962 by Anthony Gibbs & Phillips, Ltd. It was "prepared under the auspices of the British Cartoonists Club." No editor is listed, just the list of the club's officers, beginning with His Grace the Duke of Bedford.  The 128-page hardback is a smorgasbord of gag cartoons, political cartoons, and newspaper strips.  In most cases the artists, especially the political and gag cartoonists, are people I'd never heard of. Probably English readers will know many of them. Over the next couple of postings I'll offer glimpses of this cartoon treasure trove.

As a prelude, here are the book's vital statistics, followed by a listing of the featured artists. To my annoyance many of them are identified only by their last names. Fine in 1962, when everyone knew them, but less than helpful when you're Googling a cartoonist named "Lee."


This page offers two quite different strips. The first is Barley Bottom by Lucian. Believe it or not the only Web reference I've found to Barley Bottom is a 1963 article in The Catholic Herald describing a "harmless wart cure" mentioned in the strip. Obviously those are caricatures of real MPs in panel one. Can any English readers identify them? Of all the work in the book, Double Trouble by Brian White is the most old-fashioned. This isn't surprising: White was born in 1902. In the late 1920s his company produced animated commercials for movie theaters. Decades later he worked on the milestone animated feature Animal Farm.
On the left of the spread below is a  nicely-drawn political cartoon by the above-mentioned Lee. It's one of several cartoons basing its gag on corporal punishment in English public schools. The right-hand page features two cartoons by Bill Tidy. Tidy was one of the few English gag cartoonists I knew when I bought the Album. Earlier I had stumbled upon a reprint of his Fosdyke Saga strip. I love Tidy's stuff; his gags are consistently funny. His art style reminds me of Larry (also represented in the Album), but paging through the book I notice a number of gag men with similar styles. Was there a "granddaddy" cartoonist who influenced them?

Here's a nice find: The opening days of Jane, Daughter of Jane, drawn by Dutch cartoonist Alfred Mazure. This was one of several English "girl" strips done by this talented (and nearly forgotten) artist-writer. One of them was Romeo Brown, which "Maz" originated. That strip was later taken over by Peter O'Donnell and Jim Holdaway--you may have heard of them. Daughter of Jane was an attempt to re-create the success of Jane, the iconic World War II pin-up strip. Unfortunately it didn't catch on. On the right page are two gags by Leslie Starke, a Punch cartoonist, and an episode of Will Spencer's Animal Crackers. This amusing panel ran for twenty years and was syndicated overseas, including in the US.
 Wrapping up today's episode is a montage of really great stuff. First comes a John McNamara Paul Temple daily. I used to follow this strip in the Menomonee Falls Gazette. McNamara's layouts were a bit stodgy--just like the scripts--but his draughtsmanship was excellent. Lew Stringer posted some later Temples in which the venerable hero was redesigned to appear more up-to-date. The strictly-upper-crust stories didn't change, though.

Following McNamara are two panels by Arthur Ferrier, a legendary pretty-girl cartoonist. Ferrier is credited with pioneering the English pinup-strip in the 1930s with a weekly feature, Film Fannie. He did other weeklies and in 1953 did a daily strip, Eve.

I don't know anything about Vic Wiltshire. He may still be around:  offers many copies of a 2002 book by Derek Robinson and Vic Wiltshire, A Load of Old Bristle. It's a humorous illustrated glossary of Bristol dialect.

Winding up the spread is a smashing panorama from Tony Weare's Matt Marriott, reproduced criminally small. In fact my one gripe with the Album is its indifferent reproduction. The rough-surface book paper doesn't help, and too many illustrations are much too small. Later in the book several continuity strips are represented by syndicate proof pages--an entire week of strips shrunk to fit a page the size of an American comic book. Ouch!

Next post I'll show some of those strips, ouch and all.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Comics Irrelevancies--3

Dogpatch Shazam

Am I the only one who wonders if the Big Red Cheese is channeling Li'l Abner as he calls upon his will power?