Friday, June 25, 2010

A Sight Unseeen--6

The Comic Section That Never Was--Over and Over Again

I've been digging through my garage looking for this item for months. Finally my labors have borne fruit.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd done comic-style artwork for an episode of the TV series Remington Steele. One of the props in that show was a fake newspaper comic section. Remington and Laura are fans of "The Blaster", an adventure strip supposedly produced by curmudgeonly cartoonist Raymond Kelly, but actually ghosted by his murderous assistant, Arte Wayne. Among the art I produced was a Sunday episode (in black and white) which presented the show's opening action in comic form.

The Sunday episode art was inserted into a mockup comic section that the post-production house had lying around. The post house was the Howard Anderson Company, a legendary post-production and effects company that has been around since 1927. It goes without saying this mockup had been around a l-o-o-o-ng one remembered just how long. Whenever a client needed a phony comics section, Anderson stuck new art into an empty space on the mockup and ran off a new four-page "edition."

I'm not sure exactly how they did this. These were the days before large-format copiers and computer printers. They either had an old-fashioned letterpress unit or an offset printer which they fired up for these special occasions. The copy I have doesn't have the "indentations" characteristic of letterpress printing, so I'm voting for offset. It had to have been a big machine: the fake paper is the same size as a full-sized American newspaper spread.

I was fortunate to get a spare copy of the Remington Steele edition. I present it here for two reasons: first, to give everyone a look at this comic oddity; and second, to invite you Golden Era art-hawks to tell me who drew the other features. I'm sure there are some interesting stories buried here.

Here's page one:

The first strip, "Our Street," has a 1950s UPA look to it. The strip isn't very slick and like several other features has no story. To me this implies it was made specially for the section and not taken from some cartoonist's back stock of unsold strips. Bill Carter is surely an alias.

The second strip, "Casey the Cop" by Wally Bullock (another alias?), seems amateurish to me. Or is it just "stylized"?

The third strip, "Donny and Dolly Dewlap" could conceivably have been someone's unsold strip. It delivers a gag rather than being open-ended like the last two. 'Ted Baker' is too generic to take seriously.

The fourth feature, which has no title, is drawn in a capable early-1930s adventure style reminiscent of "Tailspin Tommy". The signature is interesting: 'Jan Grippe' is unusual enough to be a real name. Google turned up two references to a 1950 movie producer with this name, but I couldn't find the pages. Then there was a Jan Grippo (b. 1906) who co-produced the Monogram "Bowery Boys" movies. The sig could be "Grippo." Maybe he started out as an artist and tried to sell a daily adventure.

The last strip, "Captain Smith", is drawn in a competent 1940s semi-realistic style...except for the main character, who is Dick Tracy under another name. Though the episode has a beginning and an end, it doesn't seem like an unsold daily. "K. Lentz" means nothing to me. IMDB didn't have any Lentzes that made sense, and the name was too vague to make a meaningful Google search. The lettering on this strip is the most professional of the bunch; it has almost a Ben Oda look to it.

And now page two:

"Uncle George" by 'Max Morgan' (surely a fake name) could be from almost any time. My guess is 1950s. The art isn't exactly bad, but it ain't great either.

"A Day at the Fair" by 'Todd' is completely unlike any other strip in this potpourri. Whoever this guy is (the signature 'Michael Kent' sounds unlikely), he must have trained as a 1930s animator. Both character design and drawing style point that way. It's a damned nice job, too.

Look who's here! "Toby" is by none other than animator extraordinaire T. Hee (real name Alex Campbell). He signed his own name and got a byline. Among his many employers was UPA (early 1950s). Given the style of "Our Street", could there be a UPA connection to this paper? Or am I grasping at straws?

"Marty" by 'Herb Klynn' appears to have been drawn by a cartoony artist drawing straighter than usual. Something about it says late-1940s to me (could it be Marty's resemblance to the Bardahl man?).

"Snips and Runty" seems to be the top row of a real (unsold) Sunday page, although the signature is probably phony. Unlike most of the strips here, the lettering appears to be professional.

"The Rovers" intrigues me. Based on both the cartooning style and the heroine's dress and hair, I'd swear this was an unsold strip from the late 20s or very early 1930s. Its pacing suggests it's part of a longer story, and its subject brings to mind all those "Joe Palooka"-style strips. Google drew a blank on 'Leo Courey'.

Page three has a couple of features I know something about:

"Gerry" is likely the work of Gerry Woolery of Playhouse Pictures, the animation studio which contracted with the Steele team to supply art for the show. It was probably done on the spot to fill the hole to the left of "Sylvia Trace."

"Sylvia Trace" is, of course, two retouched "Dallas" dailies over which I lettered new dialogue. This was from my latter days on the project, when the late Thomas Warkentin was brought on as inker. You don't need a very keen eye to recognize J. R., Pam, Bobby, and Miss Ellie under those mustaches and glasses. Gerry agreed to my leaving Thomas' and my names on the strip, since Playhouse Pictures got screen credit for the Steele art, not me.

"The Blaster" is the fake Sunday I drew. Of course I signed it 'Raymond Kelly', but using my own signature style. Some friends who saw the episode thought I'd actually signed my own name to the art.

"Dinky" seems to be signed 'Ade'. It appears to be newer than most of these strips. It has that light, casual style that started in the 60s and continues to this day.

The fourth page of the mockup merely repeats the strips on page two. Now listen up, art spotters and strip historians. Who drew these strips? When? Why? Has anyone out there seen this comic section in other TV shows or movies? Get to work! And thanks.


Alfredo Castelli said...

(follows from previous posting)

No ideas for “Casey the Cop” and “Dolly and Donny”.

“Captain Smith by K. Lentz” is the title of the aviation strip with the balloon above the title, and not the one below with the detective. I say this because you may see it together with other strips in a newspaper in “Hawaii Five O! (episode “Draw Me A Killer” 1973): the story concerns a cartoonist who draws a strip called “Judy Moon” (the real artist is the multi-talented actor Tom Hatten); in the same page are featured “Captain Smith – Space Adventurer”, without the last panel with the signature (see it in the guards of my book) together with the ubiquitous “A Day at the Fair” (see below ), signed Michael Kent in the panel but bylined “by Rafael” in typeset credits (here, in an added panel, the strip is signed Todd). Last but not least you can see the title (just the title, no drawing) of Snips and Runty (See below).

The untitled strip with the detective was drawn for a “The Comic Strip Tease”, a 1952 episode of “Mr and Mrs North”; The “tease” consists in the fact that the two detectives provoke a group of young hoodlums with a comic strip in which they are humilited by its eponimous hero, “Chip Hanley” “by Walter McCoy” (actor George Oppenheimer). The same paper publishes – guess – “A Day at the Fair”, apparently featured here for the first time.

No ideas about Uncle George, Toby, Marty and The Rovers from page 2.

“A Day at the Fair” is the most ubiquitous of the fictional strips: you may see it retitled “The Colonel” in an episode of “I Led Three Lives” (No title known, 1955). The character reminds to me the “actualized” version of Foxy Grandpa as drawn by the Harry A. Chesler shop in the 1940s
“A Day at the Fair” accompanies the main fictional strip of the telefilm: “Captain Champion” by Charley Niby (actor Alan Harris), a cartoonist blackmailed by the commies.

“Snips and Runty” was originally drawn by Tom Cooke (“Drift Marlo”) for the 1956 film “A certain Feeling”. Here the logo of the Sunday strip is used with a daily. Cartoonist “Larry Larkin” is portrayed by George Sanders; Bob Hope is his “ghost” Francis X Dignan, the true mind behind the series. No complete strip is seen in the film, but a glimpse of a framed color Sunday Page on a wall.

Smurfswacker said...

For Alfredo Castelli:
When I posted this article I hoped someone might have further information. I never dreamed someone had written an entire book on the subject! Thank you for the link. I can see myself spending many nights reading it carefully.

I was surprised how many comics-related movies and TV shows appeared in the "old days" before comics went mainstream in the late 1960s. It's fascinating seeing the same bogus strips reappear over the years. I still wonder when that balloonist adventure strip was drawn. The style is so 1930s! Of course cartoonists often draw in the style they learned when young, not the one that's current. Perhaps the artist simply had an old-fashioned style (like me!). "The Rovers" is the other strip that definitely seems pre-1950s.

I don't by any means mean to criticize your prodigious effort, but I wonder if you may have missed another comics-related feature. During my scan of the book I didn't notice Jake Speed, a low-budget adventure movie from the mid 1980s. I've never seen the movie, so I don't know if fake comics actually appear in it. However I drew five "daily strips" featuring the Jake Speed character which were used in newspaper ads. As I understood the movie's plot, Jake Speed was a comic strip hero who comes to life to help the some guy who's in trouble. The only other thing I know about the movie is that Maltin's book described it as having an exceptionally high body count and said the star-director-writer had "all the personality of a can of tuna." Anyone out there seen Jake Speed?

Thanks again for your notes, your scholarship, and that great book!

P.S.: You're one of the lucky(?) few with a Dallas daily. As I mentioned in an earlier post, most were chopped up and the pieces mailed to Lorimar.

Alfredo Castelli said...

Thanks for the Jake Speed news; apparently it was not released in Italy. To my knowledge there's no repertory of "Fictional Cartoonists (excluding a few difficult-to-find Internet page), so the only possibility tu put a list togethers is memory and help from everybody. I suppose that I left out dozens of entries; if you or your readers remember some series that was left off (you can download the book at the above addresses), please tell me about it.
Concerning the Dallas page, I'm lucky enough to have mot a daily, but a Sunday page, of October 11 1981.Ha!

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Wow, what a blog! You might have mentioned it more often! I will certainly create a link on mine. This post is a delight and Alfredo's comment is great too. Too bad I can't get the link to work. I'd love to have that extra file...

Smurfswacker said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ger. Alfredo should be able to provide a working link to his book; it is priceless!

David Bernstein said...

A page of these strips appears in E.T. the Extra Terrestrial!

Smurfswacker said...

To D. Bernstein: No kidding, they were used in E.T.? Do you happen to have a screen grab?

K. A. Thacker said...

The fourth feature, which has no title, is from the comic Judy Gallant, by Jan Grippo who co-produced the "Dead End Kids" and the "Bowery Boys" movies. My father Josef Montiague, wrote some of the copy and I have one piece of original signed artwork. So I'm positive about this information.

Mike said...

Page one of the mock comic section (topped by "Our Street") turns up in Roman Polanski's classic 1974 neo-noir "Chinatown". An early scene has Jack Nicholson's character attending a public hearing regarding a proposed dam; while a public official is speaking, we get a shot from Nicholson's POV and we can see the edge of the comics page (presumably being read by someone sitting next to him) on the left-hand side of the frame.

Luis Sopelana said...

Indeed, seeing Chinatown the other day and the scene mentioned in the previous comment caught my eye and made me google "Our Street Bill Carter Chinatown" which led me here. Thanks for the info on this mock-up.

noncanadianguy said...

A screen grab of that "Chinatown" scene: