Saturday, May 31, 2008
Podcasting is a great medium for the interview. I've been listening tonight to Bob Andelman's Mr. Media long engrossing interview with Jules Feiffer (born January 26, 1929) who has a new book out from Fantagraphics. Bob has a very interesting talk with Feiffer on comic books , Will Eisner, politics past and present, his Village Voice strips, Calvin & Hobbes, the craft of writing, Hollywood, Popeye, the Spirit, and the writing of memoirs. The podcast can be found at Mr. Media Interviews HERE. Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes is still the funniest book on the working lives of cartoonists at the low end of the scale that has ever been published.
Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-66)
Image © Fantagraphics Books Inc.
Rob the Rover, by Walter Booth, began globe-trotting on 15 May 1920 in Alfred Harmsworth’s Puck which began 30 July 1904 by modeling itself after the American newspaper supplement. Rob was a foundling, alone on a raft in the sea, rescued by the old fisherman Dan who became his surrogate father. Adventures took place in in exotic locations, in Canada, in lost cities, and under the sea. Rob the Rover appeared all over the world sometimes pirated. A paper shortage in wartime ended Rob’s roving in May 1940 but Denis Gifford wrote in a 1971 article that “in a hundred dusty volumes and a million memories Rob roves ever on.”
These reprints are from Le Samedi 1950.
A thorough biography of Walter Booth can be found HERE.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I'm surprised that the popularity of blogging hasn't produced more websites on Canadian comic books, comic strips and comic art so have started another blog called Punch in Canada after the first Canadian comic periodical. Many American comic strip characters have gone (or tried to go) to Canada including Desperate Desmond, Salesman Sam, Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny and Bobo Baxter.
Before Barbie, before Chatty Cathy, there was Sparkle Plenty (1947). Sparkle was the daughter of B O Plenty and Gravel Gertie, two hideous characters from Dick Tracy, and sold in the millions. Maggie Muggins was Canadian, a character from the CBC. Maggie first appeared on radio and then crossed over to television in 1954. The photo below is from Ebay. Sparkle sported 'Magic Skin' while Maggie came with an anatomically correct belly button.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Deadwood Dick Library, Cleveland, Ohio : A. Westbrook, 1899. These are the prettiest dime novels I ever handled. The Westbrook versions of Deadwood Dick were tiny, about four and a half by six inches, ideal for hiding within a textbook for surreptious reading. They consisted of 32 pages of teeny-weeny type but are remarkably easy on the eyes. They were copyright to one James Sullivan.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I was rummaging though boxes in the closet and found these clippings from December 31, 1994, the last of the guffaw provoking Far Side comics. Gary Larson single-handedly rejuvenated the single-panel cartoon on January 1, 1980 with his lunatic cows, snakes, insects and humans.
Friday, May 16, 2008
King Cobra (1933) by Mark Channing. King Cobra began as a Daily Mail serial and was soon issued in book form in London by Hutchinson and in Philadelphia by Lipincott. Other thrillers featuring the adventures of Colin Gray were White Python, The Poisoned Mountain, and Nine Lives. What ever happened to the illustrated newspaper serial ? Bring it back ! The inkwork is signed but difficult to identify.
Little Growling Bird in Windego Land was by A. T. Crichton syndicated by the North American Co. This sample is from August 18, 1906. Was this the first continuing comic strip western? That honour usually goes to James Swinnerton’s Little Jimmy which began in 1902 but that was apparently a city strip which changed to a South-western locale at a later date. This full page can be seen HERE.
Laredo Crockett (1954-1967) by Bob Schoenke. One of my favourite western comic strips with a sample from 1954 and one from 1957. Crockett would make a great reprint project. The style makes me wonder if Alex Toth assisted on the artwork. In 1947 Schoenke illustrated the Jack Armstrong All American Boy comic strip.
Jack Sparling was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba 21 Jun 1916. He drew a variety of comic strips and comic books. Comic strips included Hap Hopper Washington Correspondent, Claire Voyant (for PM), and Sam Hill (1960). Jack Sparling died in 1997.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
In 1970 The Scarecrow Press Inc., of Metuchen, New Jersey, issued a remarkable book called Billy the Cartwheeler Reminiscences by W. Harrison Culmer “The Last of the Dickens Boys.” I’m not sure what Dickens scholars thought of this tale, which can only be described as “startling,” but I had the uneasy feeling when reading it that my leg was being pulled to unconscionably long length. The memories were evidently composed in America sometime in the 1930’s.
The reminiscences of Billy the Cartwheeler (1859-1939) seem to be partly true, Culmer knows his London streets. His description of the Magdalen Ragged School he attended, situated in a cobble-stoned blind alley facing Tooley Street, is fine. His tales of Dickens are, however, an amazing species of melodramatic braggadocio, especially the tale of a Pickwickian carriage ride to a picnic with Charles Dickens at the reins.
Billy was one of those poor street boys who earned his living turning cartwheels in crowded thoroughfares for the coins tossed from admiring passengers in omnibuses and cabs. It was a dangerous way to make a living somersaulting through streets choked with pedestrians and traffic. To make a long story short “Dickens Boys,” (apparently there were seven of them), served as his sources for his writings when he needed information on the underworld of London. It seems quite strange that Dickens, a man who took long night walks all over London and had the assistance of the London detective police to make first-hand investigations into the Seven Dials and other insalubrious areas of the metropolis, should seek the assistance of a precocious ten year old street boy. Dickens comes across as a vaguely feather-headed old duffer with no firsthand knowledge of the geography of London.
There are no dates in this book but from hints in the texts I judge these “memories” to be from the years 1867-1869. Now to the point of this post:
Culmer mentions the serial Oliver Twist twice in the text. In the Preface and Author’s Introduction he recalls Dickens fame among street Arabs was because of the serialization of his popular works in penny weekly numbers. These appeared every Saturday afternoon with a medallion portrait of the author in the upper left hand corner of the parts.
The other mention gives more details about these penny numbers. One Saturday in March Billy the Cartwheeler walked to Exeter Place for a rehearsal of the Queen’s Choir made up of Ragged School students from the slums. Billy remembered the exact time, 12:30, because it was at that precise moment every Saturday that newsboys materialized all over London selling halfpenny numbers of Oliver Twist in a “single sheet, folded once, usually containing one chapter on the four pages.” The cover contained only the title with a portrait of Charles Dickens the size of a penny on one corner and “Ha’penny Edition” opposite. I might add that no such edition of Oliver Twist has survived to amuse this generation.
David Paroissien compiled Oliver Twist An Annotated Bibliography in 1986 in 313 pages of small text. The Annotated Bibliography is a thorough and authoritative look at every edition of Oliver Twist that has survived including plagiarisms, parodies, children’s versions and contemporary reviews of that marvelous work of Newgate Fiction. Alas no “Ha’penny Edition” with penny-sized portrait is mentioned. Chapman & Hall published a cheap edition in weekly numbers at one and a halfpenny in 1850 which had a special Cruikshank woodcut on the wrapper but there is no mention of a penny or ha’penny Oliver Twist appearing in 1867-1869.
Chapman & Hall issued The Adventures of Oliver Twist in 1867, illustrated, at three shillings per copy, and the covers carried a facsimile of Dickens signature on the cover to indicate “his present watchfulness over his own Edition,” but no portrait. There were numerous unauthorized works published in 1839 and penny parodies (Oliver Twiss the Workhouse Boy) that same year then nothing in pennies until 1881 when Charles Henry Ross edited a sixteen page scissors & paste hackwork Oliver Twist (The Penny Library of Popular Authors) concentrating on criminal excerpts for penny publisher Henry Vickers.
Billy also recalls a statue of Charles Dickens round which these penny weekly numbers were sold. Dickens was aghast at the thought of memorial statues to himself and it was not until 1891 that a statue was unveiled, not in London but in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dickens had a stipulation in his will that no monument or statue of him ever be erected, a dying wish his family recently tried to have annulled.
Ah, Billy, ye was a fine romancer, but Billy the Cartwheeler seems to be just that, a romance. It may be partly true, it may have more than one author, (Muriel Harding ?) it’s an enjoyable time-waster, but in the end it seems our Billy, the “last” of Dickens Boys, was but a leg-puller after all.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I had a request for more of Jessie Marsh's superb newspaper work on Walt Disney's Robin Hood. Here are a few lovely examples I do have from September 1953 to February 1954. These may have been reprinted in a Dell comic book adaptation as well.