Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Cartoonists of America, October 20 1900
The Funny Fellows who Furnish Pictorial Political Cartoons to the Newspapers.
Although the modern cartoonist has not exactly pushed the spellbinder and the leader writer from the stool of chief importance, he has given these worthies a hard battle in the race for popularity and the victor is yet to be declared. The up to date reader now takes a glance at the cartoon in his newspaper as an appetizer for the elaborate details of the news column and the clinching arguments of the editorial page. A happy depiction of the subject of current interest is the great cartoonist’s forte.
Since the days of Tom Nast, who did “Boss” Tweed to an untimely death with his little pencil, the cartoonist has been an indispensable feature of progressive American journalism. It was the popularity of the cartoon, a popularity due to Nast’s brilliant genius, which gave rise to the humorous weeklies printed in colors, and as Nast’s power waned, more for want of a subject than a lapse of energy, the public looked with longing for the appearance of Puck and Judge, with their rival cartoons from the hands of Keppler, Wales, Gillam and Opper.
Opper, now one of the New York Journal’s staff, is among the last of the old school cartoonists, yet few of his admirers would admit that he is any the worse for that. His character studies fairly talk from the printed sheet, his tramps are redolent of trampdom, and his ward politicians seem ready to step out of the saloon and haul the reader up to vote straight. Frederick Opper was born in 1857 and began work for the New York papers at the age of 20. After doing comics for Leslie and Harper, he joined the staff of Puck, where his cartoons alternated from week to week with those of Keppler and Wales.
Homer Davenport, the westerner whom the New York Journal has been starring, is ten years younger than Opper and has been in journalism only eight years. Born and reared in a small town in Oregon, he had few advantages, and owes his skill to natural genius supplemented by hard work. There are judges who place Davenport at the head of the American cartoonists of today, but in any contest for honors in that field Mr. Pulitzer would beg to present as a rival the World’s well known artist, George Green Bush.
Bush is a worker who at least did not come up in the irregular way. He believes that the cartoon should be an editorial in picture form, with a dash of humor thrown in. Before Bush found his element he studied art 3 years in Paris, and even after that was compelled to give lessons in drawing to make both ends meet in his little household, for while abroad he found an American girl courageous enough to marry a struggling artist.
While drawing weekly cartoons for the New York Telegram Bush made a few hits that brought him fame. One of these was his “Klondike,” a powerful sermon against the lust for gold which even the religious papers copied. Then he gave David B. Hill the little hat, with its big streamer declaring “I am a Democrat.” Being well read in the classics Bush draws upon history and mythology, for characters and settings, while the main idea of the cartoon is often developed in a chance conversation or even worked up after the artist sits down to his task with the feeling that something must be done. “Study, application, and hard work” is his stereotyped advice to beginners who burn for fame and yearn for emoluments around the art sanctums of the New York press.
The career of Charles Nelan, cartoonist of the New York Herald, is an illustration of the fact that the cartoon is an old feature breaking into a new field. The press is growing, and the cartoon is essential to the new development. Nelan was an Ohio boy, and says that after losing several positions for drawing funny pictures, he concluded that drawing funny pictures must be his forte. He made his first cartoon for a weekly paper published in his native town of Akron. This drew the attention of Cleveland editors to the budding genius, and he got regular work there. Finally he engaged with a league of papers and manipulated the chalk in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago, by which time his work was known in the east, and the Herald took him on the strength of his western reputation three years ago.
For a real free lance cartoonist one instinctively turns to Leon Barritt, now of the New York Tribune, hence a free lance no longer. Barritt, like Topsy, “just growed.” He began active life as a newsboy in his native town of Saugerties, N.Y. From selling newspapers to reporting, editing, and publishing was a natural step, but meanwhile young Barritt kept his eye upon art. He had learned wood and photo engraving, and, working at that in Boston for a year, returned to journalism and finally launched his bark upon the troubled seas of Gotham life as a contributor of cartoons to any paper which would buy. His name appeared regularly in nearly every daily of consequence, and, his ideas not being narrowed down to the requirements of a single sheet, his work had a wide range.
A newspaperman whose name is known to the public as a clever correspondent from the seat of war in the Phillipines and South Africa is John T. McCutcheon of the Chicago Record. His letters have been extensively copied, but it was only the accident of happening to be in the Pacific when Dewey sailed to Manila that caused him to put pen to paper as a journalist. He says that while at school in his native town of Lafayette, Ind., he developed cartoon symptoms, and they have stuck to him ever since. Crane, the Boston Herald man, is new to that paper, but his work is well known in New York, having appeared in the Recorder, now defunct; the World and the Herald. He was art editor of the Philadelphia Press four years and held the same position on the New York Herald two years.
The traditions of life in America are rather reversed by the career of Felix Mahony, cartoonist of the Washington Star. Born in New York of cultured ancestry, he passed through school and college and began the study of art in Washington. Mahony is now 29 years old and has delighted readers of the Star with cartoons and caricatures for the past three years.
A. J. Van Leshaut now enlivens the Chicago Inter-Ocean with a pencil once devoted to rough caricatures of railroad men who came under his notice while a telegraph operator. Finally his contributions to the press were accepted, and he abandoned the key to become a cartoonist. After working 2 years on the staff of the New York Press he engaged with the Inter-Ocean.
Ryan Walker, whose signature -- a black cat -- has become famous in the St. Louis Republic, where he is the all round “funny man,” is a Kentuckian 30 years old. He worked at everything from engraving to pork packing, from publishing to reporting, in order to study human nature. He turns out two or three cartoons a day as well besides managing the comic supplement and doing outside work.
W. R. Bradford, who contributes an occasional cartoon to the Chicago Tribune, is a machinist by trade and a cartoonist by nature, having inherited skill with the pencil from his father.
Hedrick of the Globe-Democrat has had a varied career as a self-taught newspaper artist. He emigrated from the Texas prairie to the St. Louis sanctum three years ago.
“Donnie,” J. H. Donohey, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, began work as the “devil” of the Ohio Democrat and by hard study has won a reputation for high art in his cartoons.
A glance at a cartoon signed “Bart” (C. L. Bartholomew) in the Minneapolis Journal is like a hasty survey of a well ordered dinner table; the beholder is conscious of being up against a feast, details of which may be left for future investigation. He is the pioneer cartoonist of the northwest, and the Journal set the pace in the matter of printing a daily cartoon.
Harper’s Weekly clings to the feature which made it a power in the fight against Tweed thirty years ago. The cartoons now appearing in that journal are the work of one of the editors -- W. A. Rogers -- who, like Opper, is something of an old-timer. Rogers worked on the Daily Graphic in the seventies. He made a hit with a political cartoon in the Garfield-Hancock campaign, and his pencil has never since been idle. He is an all round illustrator for the weeklies and magazines.
Miller P. Culver in the Deseret Evening News, Saturday, 20 October 1900.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Hammond Edward Fisher, salesman and self-taught cartoonist created prizefighter Joe Palooka during the Depression. At time of his death in 1955 Palooka was appearing in 800 newspapers in the United States and Canada.
Fisher, born 24 Sept 1900, or 1901, left school at 16 and became a truck driver and brush peddler, before landing a job as reporter and advertising salesman for his hometown newspaper the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Record. Fisher claimed he had first come up with the idea of Joe Palooka in 1921, originally calling him Joe the Dumbbell.
Fisher was employed by Captain Patterson’s New York Daily News, but the job did not help him sell Joe Palooka, the Captain turned it down, probably because Fisher was not a very accomplished artist. However, the story goes, in 1929 Charles V. McAdam, of the McNaught Syndicate, allowed Fisher, at no salary, to sell Palooka to editors along with Dixie Dugan. He proved successful enough that Palooka was finally accepted for syndication. That was Fisher’s usual story to reporters, probably best taken with a grain of salt.
Emile Gauvreau, in his book My Last Million Readers (1942), wrote that he bought his last comic strip
“one New Year’s eve, when Ham Fisher, known in New York circles as “the pride of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.,” an enthusiastic cartoonist who sought to introduce his wares to the metropolis, befuddled me with a rare bottle of Burgundy during a hilarious celebration. When I woke up the next day I found I was the sponsor of “Joe Palooka,” an exemplary character who never drank or smoked and was good to his mother. Strangely enough “Palooka” became one of the most successful ventures in the comic field and soon had Fisher living in affluence and riding an Arabian horse in central Park.”
Fisher left an estate of $2,500,000 behind at the time of his death in 1955.
“When I started Palooka in 1930 the big comics were Bringing up Father, Barney Google, Orphan Annie and Our Boarding House. It was pow, wham, zowie. Jokes.”
Fisher was very patriotic and before the war Palooka joined the French Foreign Legion. During World War II Joe Palooka was fighting the Nazi’s in comic strips and comic books. In the fifties Joe Palooka was the star of Harvey Comics bloodthirsty Korean War line. Real celebrities made their appearance in the comic strip; Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Harry Truman, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In 1933, according to Fisher, cartoonist Al Capp “begged me for a job…I took pity on him and gave him a job lettering and inking-in.” When Fisher was about to take a week’s holiday Capp demanded a raise of fifty dollars “and sneered that I wouldn’t be able to go away if he refused to work. I blew up. I fired him and took the work with me.” Thus began a feud that tried the patience of friends of both cartoonists.
Al Capp rejected Fisher’s version of the feud.
“Fisher’s wrong when he says I was hired to ‘letter’ for him. I was an artist -- good enough the year before to do a syndicated cartoon for the associated Press called Mr. Gilfeather. Fisher would have been a highly impractical man to restrict a competent artist and writer to simple lettering.
Fisher cannot draw at all, except for a few simple chalk-talk tricks, so when he says ‘he took the drawings with him’ it is a pathetic claim. I never told him Joe Palooka was my favorite strip. It’s the kind of strip I deplore, a glorification of punches and brutishness.
I was making $19 a week, later $22, while working for Fisher. For the period I was employed by Fisher I drew in their entirety all his Sunday pages, created all the characters therein and wrote every line…I had time on my hands and whipped up Li’l Abner and sold the cartoon to United Features syndicate.”
When Capp left Fisher hired three assistants, Moe Leff (stolen from former assistant Al Capp), Phil Boyle, and a lettering man, all of whom worked for him for over twenty years. Moe Leff helped with the continuity scripts and all three collaborated on the drawing. Fisher concentrated most on advertising the strip and himself, briefly branching into radio and movies.
Regardless of ‘who done what’ Capp must have learned quite a bit from his supposedly tight-fisted boss; Leff drew most of the strip while only Fisher drew the faces, a situation that Capp continued with his own assistants. Fisher said of Moe Leff that “he could do a great strip of his own. I have to pay him a king’s ransom to keep him.”
Ham Fisher, after first phoning his mother one last time, committed suicide by overdose in Moe Leff’s studio, 27 Dec 1955. According to his suicide note he was distressed by failing eyesight and diabetes.
In 1950 Joe Palooka appeared in 30 Canadian newspapers, three in Montreal alone, and was second in popularity to only Blondie and Li’l Abner. Palooka raked in millions from comic books, candy, and ‘seven dozen’ Palooka movies. Indian Lookout in Wilkes-Barre was renamed Mt. Joe Palooka, and a 30 foot tall limestone Palooka statue (in a Superman type cape) was raised on a hill overlooking Route 37 in Indiana in September 1948. Joe Palooka was continued by Moe Leff, then Tony DiPreta, until its demise in 1984.
*Most Quotations from “Joe Palooka, Richest Pug in the World,” by James Edgar, Maclean’s Magazine, Canada, 1 August 1950.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Albéric Bourgeois, comic strip artist, columnist, musician and composer, was born 29 November 1876 at Montréal and died 17 November 1962. Bourgeois studied art in Montreal then moved to the United States where he worked as a newspaper illustrator and drew the English-language comic strip “The Education of Annie,” for the Boston Post. He worked on the strip from 1900 to 1903, then went home and was employed by Montreal’s La Patrie, where he worked drawing comic strips from 1903 to 1905.
Bourgeois created the series Des aventures de Timothee a la famille Citrouillard (The Adventures of Timothy) in 1904, with word balloons replacing the usual captions of newspaper comics. He drew dozens of other strips for La Patrie, one called Les chroniques de Baptiste et de Catherine, featuring the Quebec everyman, Baptiste. Alberic Bourgeois then joined the daily newspaper La Presse in 1905 and stayed until his retirement in 1954.
He illustrated Les voyages de Ladébauche, published in Montréal: A. & N. Pelletier, (191?) and Joyeux propos de Gros-Jean; petits monologues comiques en prose rime, by Régis Roy (1928). A slim book, Albéric Bourgeois, caricaturist (Montréal-Nord : VLB), was written by Léon-A. Robidoux, with prefaces by Normand Hudon, and Robert LePalme (1978).
*Top Illustration from the Montreal Gazette, 3 March 1942. (And its very hard to find images by Bourgeois these days.)
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
By John Adcock