Monday, August 31, 2009

That Superbeing Philosophy III



This will be the last post on this subject for awhile. I found this article to be a calm contrast to the screaming headlines and sensationalism of the “Superbeing Philosophy” series penned three years earlier in the Southtown Economist.

Chester Times, Chester, Pa. 31 July 1948.

HERE’S WHAT TIMES READERS AND CHESTER’S POLICE CHIEF THINK ABOUT COMIC BOOKS

There is a school of thought among child psychologists which subscribes to the belief that the common denominator of present day unusual aggression of little boys, and a strong manifestation of the sex instinct among small girls is some of the comic books sold throughout the country.

The editors of the Times aren’t sure whether that’s sound reasoning or not. However, in an effort to get a clearer picture of the comic book phenomenon it was decided to get reactions of a good cross-section of Delaware residents.

Orrin C. Evans,* a member of the Times staff, was given the assignment, because it was felt that in view of the fact that before joining the Times staff he was in the comic book business he wouldn’t be accused of being biased against the comic books.

He is familiar with many of the problems incident to preparation of script, developing situations with artists, and editing of comic book text.

Last Wednesday, during sessions of the 35th annual convention of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, held at the Benjamin Franklin hotel, in Philadelphia, Chester’s Chief of Police Andrew J. Desmond, Jr., attacked comic books in a radio address.

The script of his address, giving Times readers an appraisal of comic books from the standpoint of the police, is printed in a parallel column.

By ORRIN C. EVANS

So they tied up the girl, and put her in a cave so the snakes would kill her.

If you’re a juvenile -- either the nine-year-old or the 35-year-old type -- you go for the script. You go for it to the extent of 60,000,000 copies of comic books (too many emphasizing that approach to entertainment) which are published monthly.

Because city officials consider them harmful to children, Indianapolis has banned 35 comic books, Detroit and Hillsdale, Mich., 36 comic books from newsstands.

How do Delaware countians feel about these books? Do they consider them harmful?

We already know how Dr. Frederick Wertham, MD., director of the Psychiatric Service of Queens General Hospital and of the Lagargue Clinic, in New York City feels.

His reaction is based on an appraisal given him by an 8-year-old clinic patient.

That child told Dr. Wertham: “The two I like best (comic books) are about crooks. The crooks rob the liquor store. They stab two women with a knife. One crook started killing people -- five cops, six women, and eighteen other people. If anybody crossed him he didn’t give them any chance. He found himself in the electric chair.”

Is that literary fare of murder and mayhem bad for the kiddies?

Here’s what Delaware countians think of it:

Rev Clarence Howell, pastor of Linwood Methodist Church: “I am positively opposed to such comic books. The children absorb a lot of it, and it soon becomes a reality. It’s very bad for them, and very few escape the harmful influence of comic books.

Miss Doris Geyer, employed as a secretary by a Chester insurance firm feels differently, however: “I don’t think they do too much harm, although I admit I have seen some of the boys try to act out some of the characters. But I don’t think they take it too seriously.”

F. Herman Fritz, superintendent of schools in Chester is “definitely opposed to comic books stressing murder and sex. I positively do not approve.”

However, Dr. LeRoy Gates, a dentist and Sunday school teacher, feels that the stories in the comic books are “taken more or less as a make believe situation. Parental training that is right will offset any bad effect of such comic books. I saw crime pictures in the movies when I was a kid, and I don’t think they had any bad effect on me.”

In a certain public school in New York City two police officers circulate on the grounds and in the corridors of the school to prevent violence.

In another school, older pupils threaten younger ones with violence and with maiming, rob them of their money, watches, and fountain pens.

Could that happen in Chester as the result of “psychological impressions” gained through avid reading of the wrong type of comic books?

Mrs. Lydia Driscoll believes so. A housewife and mother of two girls, she said: “I definitely think such comic books do harm to growing boys. The violent, vicious stories they read in the comic books put the wrong ideas in their heads. Up to a certain age they believe it’s make-believe, but the impression has been there.”

A dissenter from this viewpoint, however, is Edwin B. Kelley. A grandfather, he thinks: “If properly pointed up, such comic books serve a good purpose. The good guy always wins, and the stories emphasize that ‘crime doesn’t pay.’”

But then one thinks of the many violent crimes committed recently by boys and girls.

A 12-year-old boy kills his younger sister; a 13-year-old burglar operates with a shotgun; Another 13-year-old shoots a nurse and is sent to a reformatory (where, incidentally, he will read more comic books); a 17-year-old killer leaves a note signed “The Devil”; tow 12-year-old boys and one of 11 shoot a man on the street with a semi-automatic; three 16-year-old boys kill a 14-year-old “for revenge.”

A revolting, ugly picture. And psychologists still are trying to determine to what extent reading of suggestive, wrongly-slanted comic books have contributed to these youth’s delinquency.

Mrs. William G. Keller is dead set against comic books. “I have three children in my home and I don’t let them bring them into the house. There is too much trash in them. One of my children is a particularly avid reader, and very impressionable. It wouldn’t do for him to get hold of them.”

She encourages her children, she said, to read the comic strips appearing in daily newspapers.

“They give the that type entertainment and release they want, and they apparently are carefully edited so that they are good clean entertainment.”

Robert Goldberg, a 20-year-older, is all for them, though. He reads comic books “almost religiously.”

“I think they’re all right,” he said, “the kids see what happens to criminals in the end. They certainly show that it doesn’t pay to be a criminal.”

And Mrs. Ida Billingslia has much the same ideas.

“I have a 10-year-old daughter who reads them regularly,” she said, “I’ve never seen her try to imitate or quote anything she’s seen in comic books. Of course boys may be different. I don’t know about them. But I believe if a child is raised properly it will only take the situations out of comic books which are right.”

Robert M. Schulz, Chester’s recreational director, is for comic books -- with qualifications. He believes they can have a “good effect if they are edited carefully.”

“I don’t see, however, how comic books emphasizing murder and sex can have a good effect. I do know that during the war the most popular magazine among servicemen were the comic books.”

Pulling no punches in his attack on the “wrong type” comic books was Rev. LeRoy Patrick, pastor of Fifth Presbyterian Church, and a lecturer on religion at Lincoln University, Oxford, Pa.

“My positive impression is that they are deleterious. It’s easy to see how absorbed the youngsters become in them. If you can think of young kids having jaded appetites, just think of what the pronounced sexual characteristics in most of the women characters in those books must have upon them.”

Asked about the “good” comics, like Bible Stories and Classic Comics, he said he has a feeling that such comics are not widely sold, because the kids have become so conditioned to the other type books.”

Now -- how do the police feel about comic books?

It may be recalled that last year the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association achieved national publicity by condemnation of the gaudy, lurid type of comic book. The Williamsport Sun, the Wilkes-Barre Record and other papers throughout the state and nation editorially lauded the policemen for their action.

Samuel Siegle, past superintendent of police of Haverford Township, spearheaded the police-chief’s drive against the comic books.

“If we have arrived at the stage where children must be terrified and startled in order to secure entertainment, society is in an unfortunate position,” said Siegle.

By ANDREW J. DESMOND, JR., Chester Chief of Police

How do I feel about some of the comic books now being marketed?

Well, I have in mind one particular case where a 14-year-old boy, after reading numerous comic magazines, decided he was going to be the “Scarlet Spider,” or the “Desperate Avenger,” or some such individual and rob a lumber yard.

Patterning his scheme after a popular comic, he arranged a pile of lumber overhanging the path along which the night watchman would make his rounds.

As the watchman approached the boy toppled over the pile of lumber. The man, warned by the clatter of boards, jumped back, whereupon, in the best “Scarlet Spider” manner, the boy dropped a weight on his head, seriously injuring him. When taken into custody the boy readily admitted where he had secured his ideas and insisted he was only trying to have some innocent excitement.

And this case is not an unusual one. Anyone examining the book I have in mind will find that the method used by the boy was one of the less spectacular and bloodthirsty.

Skimming through the pages of some of the comic books on the market today you can have your choice of being devoured alive by crocodiles, stamped to death by elephants, torn apart by infernal machines, or shot and stabbed by anything from a spear to an atomic bomb.

I don’t believe you can turn to any page in some of the comics where at least one individual is not being put to death by the most fiendish means.

Many will recall that J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, recently stated in an article published in a national magazine that these comics are one of the principal outside influences for the cause of juvenile delinquency.

He said, “Some of the influences for delinquency are the crime books, crammed with anti-social criminal action. The glorification of un-American vigilante action and of the criminal are extremely dangerous in the hands of the unstable child.”

The fallacy of the statement that the comics serve a good purpose inasmuch as criminals lose in the end is best illustrated by the statement that was made when a police officer arrested a 15-year-old gang leader.

The boy had several comic books in his back pocket; one of them entitled “Crime Does Not Pay.” The arresting officer asked him:

“Doesn’t the comic book always tell you in the end that you can’t win?”

“Sure,” was the answer, “but I never read to the end.”

That youth later confessed that his gang had slugged a taxi cab driver in a robbery holdup, and had committed numerous other crimes, all based on adventures in these same books.

I have in mind another case -- slam-bang out of the pages of one of these comic books -- where a threatening letter was sent to several outstanding persons in the community.

Then an unknown caller, in a childish voice, would telephone the person, and, in stilted and obviously fictional language would say:

“If the blood money is not deposited at the north gate of the cemetery before the stroke of midnight, your doom will be upon your head. This is the last warning from the “Hooded Avenger.””

What happened after that call? What invariably happens -- a trap was laid.

The “Hooded Avenger” walked right into it, and it was discovered he was a 14-year-old boy who had taken the context of his extortion notes and the material for his phone calls verbatim from a particular comic magazine.

What happened to this boy?

He was placed on probation to his parents until he is 21-years-old, and I feel certain that the sudden taking into custody and the detention at the police station until his parents could be notified, plus the lecture given by the judge, will deter him from following in his hero’s footsteps again.

One suggestion I’d make to improve the situation is that it is necessary for parents to supervise the child’s reading. They should provide books on sports, sea stories, hunting, and numerous other types, which, while interesting and full of action are not the gory sensational tripe being peddled to the child today.

Believe me, crime isn’t comic!

*All Negro Comics

Sunday, August 30, 2009

That Superbeing Philosophy II


“Every great police department makes the reading of certain ‘comics’ a ‘must’ because the crime pattern delineated by the cartoonist is certain to be followed by youthful imitators of the villain depicted. If parents would like to explain the erratic behavior of their children, let them do as the police do and learn from the ‘comics.’” - The Rev. William A. Gorey, pastor, St. Sabina Church, Chicago.

I’ve always felt that the full story of the anti-comics crusade has yet to be told. David Hadju’s Ten Cent Plague is an admirable book, the best so far on the involvement of Dr. Wertham, but comics never had a chance of survival with the dizzying array of forces lined up for battle between 1945 and 1954. J. Edgar Hoover thought the comics were a fifth column run by the pinkos, (William Gaines foolishly tweaked the bull’s nose by running his “Are You a Red Dupe?” ads in his comic pages,) the American Nazi Party thought comics were a Jewish Plot aimed at rotting the minds of the kids of America, and the (North American and British) communists thought comics were a tool of the military-industrial complex (although Ike would not coin the phrase until 1961.) The Catholic National League of Decency, who might just have been the original instigator of the war on comics, took aim at movies, books, comic books, and, at a later date, television. Marshal McCluhan and Dr. Frederick Wertham dissected the comics using the methods of Freud, while Gershon Legman attacked comics with the hysterical zeal of a true neurotic.

In Chicago, in April 1945, while the war was winding down in Europe, the Southtown Economist detected the philosophy of Neitchze and Hitler in the comic magazines, and ran a series of sensational front-page articles on the “Crime and Superbeing Philosophy” in comic books. The newspaper’s pages were filled with photographs of the dead of World War II, and Chicago was undergoing a minor crime wave of tavern robberies carried out by the juvenile delinquents left fatherless by the war. The Economist received and printed tons of mail from judges, policemen, lawyers, pastors, priests, nuns, librarians, teachers, mothers, fathers, and even high school students, praising the campaign to get rid of the “eye-shocking” trash poisoning the minds of “Young America.”

“Consider this:” said the Economist, “Surveys prove that the odds are nine to one that your child does, has, or will read “comic” books. In other words, only one out of ten children in the country has not or will not come under the influence of these teachers of crime.”

“Since the start of the defense program before the United States actually entered the war, two factors have combined to skyrocket the “comic” books into the realm of big business. One is the well-filled pockets of the nation’s school children during a period in which almost all adults are working at high wages. The other is the market developed by the war in the person of the soldier or sailor looking for a quick escape from the realities of his existence and one that does not make too great a demand upon his combat-drugged mind. But the comic book publishers themselves insist that the children remain their best customers.



LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT A “COMIC” BOOK.

“But perhaps you are one of those who have never read a “comic” book. Let’s take a look at one. Here’s one picked up at random. It is titled “Speed Comics” and its star performer on the basis of the cover is presumably Captain Freedom.

That cover is a riot, literally as well as figuratively. The scene is apparently a basement. In the centre is the half-clothed figure of a woman suspended by her arms with a block and tackle above a seething, bubbling mixture in a vat labeled “ACID.” The woman’s breasts are over-emphasized, and although little of them is covered, that little is drawn so as to leave nothing to the imagination. Her thighs and hips are also over-emphasized. By studying the contents of the book we learn that this is a superwoman known as the Black Cat.”

I found the Alex Schomburg cover referred to at The Grand Comics Database from Speed Comics no. 35, November 1944. Our friend Ron has posted the whole whopper of a story HERE. I recall coming into possession of some eye-popping issues of Black Cat in the fifties and thinking how fine it would be to be employed as a cartoonist at Harvey Comics. The art and stories had everything a reader could want in a comic: sex, violence and vivid imagination. The art was generally in the Caniff style and the Black Cat was very easy on the eyes. Our scribe spends quite some time dissecting the first story featuring Captain Freedom, a villainous beekeeper, and some giant bees.. A short excerpt:

“Inside the barn the children find a laboratory and the beekeeper. One of them trips over a pail. The beekeeper hurls a smoking smudge pot at them and they are overcome. The beekeeper trusses the children, hangs them on the wall, and paints them with a substance from a pot labeled “NECTAR.”

“First I anoint my victims to make a decent dish …! Then turn on the ultra-violet lamp over the bee-hives… Heh-heh! Soon giant bees will hatch … an’ have a royal feat on these nectar-smeared kidlets! Heh-heh!”

After breaking down the door, (with his head!), Captain Freedom dispatches of the giant bees with a pitchfork and tackles the insane bee-man, who falls into a bee-hive to be stung to death by normal-sized bees.

“Says one of the children:

“He on’y got what he desoived. All de same, it’s too bad!”

Says Captain Freedom:

“He died the same way he killed his neighbor -- ironic justice!”

And that is justice as it is taught in the “comics.” A superbeing steps in and solves everything.

SOME MORE OF THE SAME

“Our cover girl, Black Cat, fights off an attempt by Nazi spies to set the American Indians on the warpath. In the process at least seven persons are killed and Black Cat outfights three strong men. Through it all she wears the minimum of clothing and what she wears fits like the paper on the wall.”

The comic book publisher’s oft-quoted crocodile tears defense that comics were read by adult servicemen and that it was up to the parents to guard their children’s reading was a bit self-serving. Most comic book publishers, while aware of an adult readership, i.e. soldiers and sailors, directly marketed their comics to boys and girls. The influence of sex (the “sex angle,” as the Economist would have it) and violence comics on child-crime and suicide may be debatable but the bottom-line for publishers and their pocket-books was the children’s market. It was laughable to pretend that the publishers were unaware of their core audience. As the publishers became bolder in their depiction of sex and violence the storm clouds were gathering over their profitable enterprise. It was only a matter of time before they would be faced with cleaning up their acts or facing extinction.

“Oh yes, the “comic” books are strong on justice, but it’s a special brand handed down by supermen, superwomen and even superkids. Is that what you want your children to read? If not, what are you going to do about it in your own home?

In the final analysis, the problem is one that faces each parent in the privacy of his own home. He must solve the problem himself, in his own way. But he must solve it. The alternative is a child mentally and morally imperiled.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

That Superbeing Philosophy


“To read some of these comics is to be lost in a labyrinth of Freudiana, a sickening reminder of the depths to which human imagination can sink,” said the Church of England Newspaper, the unofficial publication of the United Church on 13 Oct 1954.

Frederick Wertham did not begin his crusade against comic books until May 29, 1947 in the Saturday Review of Literature. In 1945 Chicago the Southtown Economist preceded him with a series of sensational front-page articles on the “Crime and Superbeing Philosophy,” which they felt was being promoted through comics. The vigilantism of the comic book heroes apparently undermined children’s confidence in the police and the legal system. The articles were short on facts but long on hyperbole. The Economist “leafed” through a stack of the current newsstand comic books, and what they found was shocking. A detailed examination of several titles found the following:

“In one of them an Indian discovers an attempt to smuggle aliens into the United States at a mythical point where the boundary is a river which flows through a precipitous gorge. He foils the attempt by smashing one man’s head with a stone and killing the others with arrows from his bow. Only then does he start after the Sheriff. This is alright, the story implies, because the Indian’s son is in the army.”

In another story this sentence appears: “He had been prominent in government work until suddenly and inexplicably, he had been changed from a clear-thinking patriot to one of the country’s most rabid isolationists.” In other words, this “comic” magazine tells its child readers that anyone opposed to intervention is not a patriot, and therefore necessarily is a traitor. It thus teaches the same kind of intolerance that was characteristic of the Nazi Germany that is now dying.

Around the same time the Economist was comparing comic books to the fascism of the Nazi’s and the Superman philosophy of Neitchze, J. Edgar Hoover considered them the work of the communists: “Some of the influences for delinquency are the crime books, crammed with anti-social, criminal action. The glorification of un-American vigilante action, and of the criminal, are extremely dangerous in the hands of the unstable child.”

“Funnyman” is the name of the next “comic” magazine character. Funnyman is a criminal whose face has been distorted into a permanent smile. He kills his victims by making them laugh themselves to death. He always outwits the police. In this story he murders a police detective by smothering him with a gigantic balloon which he blows up mechanically in the detective’s bedroom. In this story no suggestion of retribution is apparent. Funnyman escapes and the story tells us in advance the police are unable to determine how the detective died.


Funnyman would appear to be a different hero (or was it?) than that drawn by Joe Shuster for Magazine Enterprises since the first issue would not show up on newsstands until 1948.

Another “comic” magazine story is about “Archie,” an adolescent who is always getting into trouble, always falling over his own feet as it were. In this story he sends his friend to break an appointment with a dentist who is so stupid he forcibly puts Archie’s friend into the chair and extracts two teeth. The “friend” later knocks out three of Archie’s teeth.

These fairly mild examples were followed by an explanation of “The Superbeing Philosophy:

We have told repeatedly of the subject matter of these “comic” magazines. We have told how their subject is crime, physical assault, and general bestiality. We have told how they reek with suggestive art, with pictures of women whose feminine characteristics are over-emphasized. We have told of their vulgar and incorrect speech, of the sadistic acts they portray, of the vulgar behavior they present. We have emphasized that through many of their sequences stalks the figure of a hooded “justice,” a superbeing who knows all, sees all and can do all. He rights wrongs by superseding God-made laws and takes unto himself all the powers of all men by assuming he has the right to punish -- to punish even with death.

It is this superbeing philosophy that the Economist has found particularly vicious. It is this philosophy of the need of a superbeing which we have attacked. The Economist has shown, too, how physical monstrosities stalk the pages of the “comic” magazines, fit subjects for the nightmares of impressionable children.




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gene Ahern (1895-1960)



"The Squirrel Cage," by Gene Ahern, 20 Nov1941, King Features Syndicate. Ahern is remembered mainly for the creation of Major Hoople, "Egad! Kof! Kof!," in the single-panel Our Boarding House, but other of his creations were just as deserving of preservation. "The Squirrel Cage," according to 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, was created as the topper to the Sunday Room and Board on June 21, 1936. most myserioos was the little mystical hitch-hiker, who tried (and failed) every week to thumb a ride to the city of Swolz. "Nov Shmoz Ka Pop?"


Friday, August 21, 2009

Charles Peace XI


Charles Peace Update :

Thanks to my good friend Nick McBride, in the UK, I can add another publication to the many featuring stories of that marvellous malefactor Charles Peace.

The New ALDINE HALF-HOLIDAY Library, complete stories of adventure

“Has 355,000 Readers Weekly,” Aldine Publishing Company Ltd. 1, 2 & 3 Crown Court, Chancery Lane, London, W.C. One Penny. By post: 3s 4d for six months. 6s 8d for twelve.

THE MASTER CRIMINAL

Being the Life History of Charles Peace

by Tristram K. Monck

Author of “Peril of the Ocean,” “At Bay with the World,” “Under the Black

Flag,” “Britain at Bay,” “In the Wake of the Armada,” etc, etc

766: 1 - Foreword and Peace’s First Burglary (pps 13-18) May 23 1907

767: 2 - The Bradford Burglar (pps 12-19) May 30 1907 etc

769: 3 - The Sheffield Burglar (pps 12-18)

770: 4 - The Diamond Necklace (pps 12-18)

772: 5 - Charles Peace’s Revenge (pps 1-8)

773: 6 - Birds of a Feather (pps 1-10)

774: 7 - At Bay (pps 1-10+?? missing pages 11 onwards)

776: 8 - A Winning Hand (pps 1-13)

777: 9 - A Race for Freedom (pps 1-7)

778: 10 - Gripped by Flame (pps 1-8)

780: 11 - The Sliding Door (pps 1-7)

782: 12 (missing this the final part)

No Peace in 768, 771, 775, 779, 781.

Volume I No,1 of the Aldine Half-Holiday Library was published on September 12, 1893 and ran to No. 904, January 13, 1910. It promised a “24 page complete adventure every week.” Two known contributors were Charles Edward Pearce and Ogilvie Mitchell. The editor may have been Walter Herrod Light who edited a companion paper True Blue Library begun January 15, 1898. True Blue shared the same authors.

I was surprised to find a fictional reworking of a true-life criminal in Aldine Half-Holiday Library. The usual adventures in this publication came from the American dime novels. Stanford’s dime-novel site has images for two such titles, Lion-Hearted Dick and The Submarine Detectives. However, a photo from a bound volume on Ebay showed a serial of Jack Sheppard (no illustrations) so the Half-Holiday must have been a mix of British authors and American reprints.

The Aldine Printing and Publishing Company, last of the penny dreadful publishers was founded by Charles Perry Brown (1834-1916) and ran from 1886 until the early 1930’s. they specialized in reprints of dime novels featuring Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick and Frank Reade Jr. Brown’s introduction into the penny dreadful field was as editor of the Boy’s Journal (Jan. 1863-February 1871) published by Henry Vickers. According to the Waterloo Directory this story paper came with separate plates on toned paper from artist Huard Prowse who must have been a relation of Robert Prowse the elder.

Nick says of the cover pictured above : “Although I can’t confirm this, the illustrator may well be a Rex Osborn, as in one issue, the editor offers a prize for someone who can display a poster of Charles Peace on a prominent building ‘for no less than three days.’ This poster is by Rex Osborn.”

To this I can add that the masthead is initialled R. P. ‘06, no doubt that this was by Robert Prowse Jr., a frequent cover illustrator for the digest-sized Robin Hood, Black Bess, Jack Sheppard, Claud Duval, Blackbeard the Pirate and Spring-Heeled Jack Libraries published by Aldine in the 1900’s. Thanks Nick, your time and effort is greatly appreciated.











Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Buck Ryan

Jack Monk wrote and drew private eye Buck Ryan for the Daily Mirror from 22 mar 1937 to 31 July 1962. This sequence from Feb 14, 15, 18, 19, and 20, 1952.© Daily Mirror

© Daily Mirror

Garth

With the help of friendly scientist Professor Lumiere, past, present, future, time and space, meant nothing to time-travelling Garth, the reincarnation of a Greek God. Garth was created by Stephen Dowling for the Daily Mirror on 24 July 1943. Garth’s later artists were John Allard and former Heros the Spartan artist Frank Bellamy. This sequence is by John Allard, from Feb 14, 15, 18, 19, and 20, 1952.

© Daily Mirror



Monday, August 17, 2009

V. T. Hamlin (1900-1993)


Alley Oop has always been a special strip to me. It was one of two (three if you count L’il Abner, which I do) adventure strips that appeared in my hometown B. C. newspaper, the Trail Daily Times. The other was Buz Sawyer which had a lot in common stylewise with V. T. Hamlin’s art. Oop’s girlfriend, Oola, was drawn in the Roy Crane style of drawing women, although Oola always had a more masculine appearance about the face. I read Alley Oop almost without interruption from 1956 to 1969, bowled over by the excellence of art and story.

Hamlin must have studied the competition well since he used ideas from every newspaper comic genre then in use. He borrowed elements from Tarzan, Prince Valiant, Wash Tubbs, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Alley Oop’s exciting adventures in the Land of Moo caught the public’s fancy from the first. Dinny had been conceived as the original star of the strip (Hamlin got many of his ideas for Dinny’s facial expressions from Betty, a pet black Russian Muscovy duck ) but Oop, Oola, King Guzzle, Foozy and the Grand Wizer soon took precedence in the strip.

Hamlin shocked editors and readers alike when, through the “Time Machine” he catapulted Alley Oop from prehistoric times to the Twentieth Century. The invention of the “Time Machine” allowed Hamlin to deposit Oop in any time frame he chose. In years to come Oop adventured with the knights of King Arthur, met Cleopatra, skirmished with American Indians, and rocketed off to the moon.

Hamlin was born in Perry, Iowa in 1900 and began drawing at an early age. After high school he enlisted in the army, and went overseas in 1917, where he was wounded in action. While recuperating in Europe he was urged by two journalists in adjoining beds to become a cartoonist, and, following their suggestion, that’s just what he did. “When I went back to Perry in 1919 I returned to high school for a short while and then took a course in journalism at the University of Missouri.”

“My first jobs as a reporter were on the Des Moines Register Tribune and the Des Moines News. Later I left des Moines for a job as artist and photographer for the old Fort Worth Record.” As a reporter he covered a little known Mexican revolution, the Escobar uprising, in 1926. He got “shot up” in that affair.

In 1927, while Hamlin was producing artwork for an oil company he met a geologist who was a student of prehistoric life. “I became fascinated,” said Hamlin, “and took up the study of science out of library books. From geology I drifted into the study of life in past ages and later made history in general a hobby.”

Hamlin had the idea he would like to write a strip about dinosaurs with Dinny as the main character. He took a job with the Fort Worth Star Telegram as a reporter and rose to head of the art department. Hamlin had been drawing editorial cartoons for the paper when Alley Oop began to take form. He moved to Des Moines and one day in a fit of despondency threw all his drawings onto the fire. “I didn’t think I’d ever get over it,” his wife said.

In July 1933 Hamlin began all over again, writing and drawing his caveman feature for syndication by NEA beginning on August 7, 1933. Hamlin liked to think of himself as the biographer of the strip rather than the author. According to Hamlin Alley Oop was “just a big dope.” Mrs. Hamlin did all the color work for the Sunday Alley Oop.

In the beginning Alley, King Guz, Foozy, Oola and the other denizens of Moo were planned as human gimmicks to give conversation to a comic projected with mute Dinny the dinosaur as the lead character. The human element took over little by little and Dinny was relegated to the background. On April 7, 1939 Hamlin took a chance that his readers would follow Alley Oop into the present with the introduction of a time machine. One perplexed New York doctor psychoanalyzed Hamlin and “discovered” a dissatisfaction complex that had caused the artist to make the change.

When Hamlin retired in 1973 Oop’s writing and drawing were taken over by Dave Graue, his assistant of twenty years. Graue’s interest in cartooning began when he was a young boy copying the Chicago Tribune comics. V. T. Hamlin’s daughter, a high school classmate of Graue’s, introduced the two men. Graue was off to Air Force duty in WWII when Hamlin gave him a sketch of Alley Oop in an airplane. Graue gave him a sketch in return. “I guess I must have impressed him,” said Graue, “he got in touch with me after the war and asked me if I’d like to give up my job as a soda jerk to do some color charts and some lettering for him.”

Hamlin died at his home in Florida in 1993 but alley Oop continues to this day, written by Carole Bender and drawn by Jack Bender.

*The five Oop strips on top are dated April 3, April 4, April 6, April 8 and April 9, 1959. The three Oop strips on bottom are dated April 24, April 25 and April 30, 1959.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Leaders in American Illustration


The New Leaders in American Illustration from The Bookman. Part V The Humorous Men: Newell Kemble, Sullivant, Zimmerman and Hamilton. Each cartoonist has a portrait and a sample. Date unknown probably 1903. The E. W. Kemble illustration above is from St. Nicholas, Mar 1887, the Kemble and C. G. Bush illustrations at bottom are from Harper’s Weekly, June 7, 1890.












A.B. Frost (1851-1928)


Out of the Hurly - Burly; or, Life in an Odd Corner by Charles Heber Clark (Max Adeler), Today Publishing Company, Philadelphia 1874. A. B. Frost's earliest work of illustration. H. C. Bunner, an author and editor at Puck, wrote an article about Frost and Hurly Burly for Harper's Magazine in 1892 which can be viewed HERE.












Friday, August 14, 2009