Thursday, March 28, 2013

With Mr. Weedon Grossmith’s Compliments

Starring actor Weedon Grossmith

THESE IMAGES, courtesy Robert Kirkpatrick, are images from a Souvenir brochure and a programme of the 204th performance of The New Boy in England. Peter Jensen Brown discovered a poster recently which shed much new light on the origins of Alfred E. Neuman (see HERE). The Souvenir brochure contained 12 b&w photos, mounted on card, of the cast along with their facsimile autographs. Peter Jensen Brown has a new post which examines ‘New Boy’ Willis Searle’s cross-dressing background HERE. No photos of Searle have turned up as yet. Also see Faces of the New Boy HERE.

Programme, August 13, 1894

Souvenir Brochure, February 21, 1895
Playwrite Arthur Law
May Palfrey

Frederick Volpé

Actor Volpé played Felix Roach in later performances of The New Boy.

Cast List

The cast list which is pasted to the inside cover of the Souvenir Brochure, with a slightly different cast to that in the earlier programme.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Thomas Nast’s Greeley Lampoons

by E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

TWO cartoons from Harper’s Weekly by Thomas Nast from the 1872 presidential election, when poor old Horace ran against incumbent U.S. Grant.

Nast always lampooned Horace Greeley as an insufferable know-it-all, his pockets jammed with pamphlets entitled ‘WHAT I KNOW ABOUT…’ His running mate was a nonentity named Benjamin Gratz Brown, who is always portrayed as a tag pinned to Greeley’s coat tails, or a small boy running after him with a small placard.

[1872] Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast, ‘We are on the home stretch,’ with parodied Tribune logo, November 2.
One cartoon parodies the likely front page of Greeley’s New-York Tribune for the day after Election Day, November 5, 1872. (It appeared a few days earlier.) The played-out candidate is being carried home on a litter by two of his less-respectable Tammany supporters. The masthead contrasts a prosperous Republican economy under Grant with a barren desert (a lampoon on Greeley’s ‘Go west, young man…’) of Democratic ruins.

The cartoon was eerily prophetic — worn out by the arduous campaign, Greeley would die on November 29.

[1872] Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast, ‘Let us clasp hands over the bloody chasm,’ September 21.
The picture in the other cartoon shows Greeley attempting to ‘clasp hands over the bloody chasm,’ a phrase that came back to haunt him. In his coat pocket is a pamphlet entitled “WHAT I KNOW ABOUT SHAKING HANDS OVER THE BLOODIEST OF CHASMS BY H.G.” This stark image of Andersonville Prison inflamed the anti-reconciliation sentiments of Grant’s supporters (who ‘waved the bloody shirt’) and ridiculed Greeley’s efforts to forgive the former Confederate states.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Comics Criticism Criticised

“Wind!,” cartoon by Charles Keene, in Punch, April 30, 1870.
by John Adcock

A recent tongue-partly-in-cheek post by Eddie Campbell at The Comics Journal, ‘The Literaries,’ took note of ‘a new species of critic who demands that comics be held to the standards of LITERATURE.’ Comics critics took note as well, first in the comments section of TCJ and then on to other blogposts inspired by Eddie Campbell’s cheeky opening shot.

Comics criticism is a world-wide phenomenon with early contributions in Europe like Claude Moliterni’s 1966 critical revue Phénix. Five years later the Smithsonian Institution in Washington put on an exhibit honoring Seventy-Five Years of the Comics (also its title), showing the growth and development of the American newspaper comic strip. In 1967 in Paris an international exposition on comic strips and their creators was held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs / Palais du Louvre, hosted by Moliterni, then director of SOCERLID (Société civile d'études et de recherches des littératures dessinées). In attendance were American cartoonists Burne Hogarth, Mell Lazarus and Lee Falk.

The exhibition traced the evolution of figurative drawings from carved Trojan columns to space-age comic strips using slide projections and panel blow-ups of comics from America, Europe, Argentina and Mexico.
‘The psychological and political orientation of most American comics is virtually unknown in France. French comic strip thinking is at least 40 years behind the American counterpart’
Moliterni told an American reporter at the time. All that would change with the eye-opening influence of the American comic strip (and later the Undergrounds) on European cartoonists. Claude Moliterni died January 21, 2009.

In the United States comics criticism accelerated when The Comics Journal, with fanzine antecedents, published its first issue in magazine format in December 1977 (No. 37) with the notion of using criticism to elevate the status of comics to that enjoyed by art and literature, as ‘a bonafide art.’ Unfortunately there was a schism from the start between TCJ, the Direct Market, comic book fans, and fanzine publishers who weren’t critical enough for TCJ’s taste.

In 1978 Will Eisner’s A Contract with God was published and marketed as a ‘graphic novel’ and we were well on our way to the situation we find today with scholarly journals deconstructing comic books, Graphic Novels Studies at Universities, and pistols at dawn between rival professors of comicology at our revered educational institutions.

There are basically two types of critics, the ‘gentleman amateur’ and the professional. The professional is usually (though not always) employed by a University, or has a University education. The amateur might be called an ‘Independent Scholar,’ meaning he had a high school education and maybe some college, and probably (not always) emerged from science fiction or comic fandom. Some involved in comic criticism are successful career cartoonists or (as some prefer to be known) ‘artists.’ Scratch any one of them and you will find a fan under the skin.

Comics criticism is meant to be published but, like comic fans they have a strong and verbal online presence, a fandom of their own, based on mutual admiration, devoted to hashing out definitions (a failure so far) and debating whether comics are art, literature, man or beast. The Comics Journal came up with its own approved canon, which means code, rule, laws, to decide what is acceptable and what is outside the artistic fence so to speak. The controversy over superhero comics in the canon points to a major schizophrenic flaw in comics criticism. TCJ voted to include Captain Marvel, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, all produced, written, and drawn by industry ‘hacks,’ side by side with graphic novels Maus, Palestine, Acme Novelty Library, and City of Glass. Who knew Buddy Bradley and Sugar and Spike were art?

It might be worth considering what the lists’ comic-strips, comic books, and graphic novels have in common. I don’t have to scratch my head over it – what they have in common is that they’re all comics. Even the staunchest graphic novel fan must, while searching for a defining definition, admit ‘graphic novels,’ ‘comic strips,’ and ‘comic books’ are marketing terms which don’t describe what they most obviously are – just comics in different marketing formats. 

As to what exactly defines a comic I won’t hazard a guess – except to note that ‘I knows one when I sees one…’ Art Spiegelman might have agreed with me, in the 1988 book The New Comics; Interviews from the Pages of The Comics Journal he described the packaging of RAW as a ‘deceit,’ comics masquerading as graphics to attract people who held their noses at comics.

In the same book Gary Groth vented his spleen on comic book ‘hacks’ although he admitted there was an occasional comic book artist who was brilliant (like Carl Barks or Harvey Kurtzman). He accused the comic book profession of having both a lack of artistic standards and lacking a moral spine. To be fair that was a long time ago and his thinking has probably matured since 1988. The funniest thing was the follow-up by Robert Fiore, Comics for Beginners; Some Notes for the Newcomer under the term ‘Graphic Novels.’ He described them as ‘a reflection of the industry’s yearning for unearned status … through semantic jiggery-pokery.’ He might have been describing The Comics Journal.

One of the godfathers of the comics critics canon is Will Eisner, who surely would not have approved of including Spiderman or The Fantastic Four. Eisner, as early as 1972 thought of himself as a ‘visual-writer’ rather than a cartoonist, and was quite pompous about it when talking to James Steranko (in History of Comics 2): ‘To achieve the name, or to be worthy of the name, of creator, a man should be both writer and artist.’ He would have measured Jack Kirby by ‘his contribution to the script.’ In other words Jack was no creative artist, he was a hack cartoonist. Ditto Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and C.C. Beck. I said ‘one of the godfathers,’ the other two, Kurtzman and Crumb, two brilliant cartoonists, were not as comfortable with the term ‘artist.’

TCJ’s comics criticism is not a bad thing, a lot of it is thoughtful commentary, some is entertaining, some thought-provoking, but at its worst it is a form of condescending cultural superiority reminiscent of the suffocating nineteenth century French and British Royal Academies, elite groups who decided what was art and what was dreck, meanwhile starving deserving groups like the French Impressionists. It also seems a very insular community, rife with obfuscation, quick to take umbrage at critics, and prone to denigrate the lower class ‘fan-boy.’ Comics criticism’s saving grace is the unintentional hilarity it produces in the skeptical reader.

Who reads comic criticism? Why comic critics of course, and many have little to offer but verbal verbosity and a mental dexterity with the witty riposte. Who wouldn’t rather read a comic book than look at art? Why do comics have to mean anything? What’s so great about art? Why call comics ‘graphic narratives’ or ‘sequential art’? Why should ‘cartoonist’ be a dirty word? And in what mad universe does Karl Marx explain the world-view of Carl Barks’ comical Donald Duck?

[The original of this article – dated Friday, March 22, 2013 — was subjected to an inadvertent deletion. Mr. Brown apologizes for the inconvenience.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

PICK-ME-UP, 1888-1909

1 [1891] PICK-ME-UP splash-page ‘London Night by Night’ by Dudley Hardy — with an early batwoman, March 28.

by John Adcock

PICK-ME-UP (1888-1909), ‘printed for the proprietors by Wertheimer, Lea & Co., London,’ was a glossy penny paper that did what its name implied: it cheered you up.
‘It may not be coincidental that PICK-ME-UP and the earlier Punch both picked a title that also stood for a nice alcoholic drink. Both intended to stimulate as well as intoxicate their readers. Self-labeled ‘A Literary and Artistic Tonic for the Mind,’ PICK-ME-UP in particular had the changing role of the turn-of-the-century woman on its mind.’ — Huib van Opstal
2 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mr. Albert Chevalier’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Albert Chevalier (b.1861) was a very successful comedian-actor.
3 [1888] PICK-ME-UP front-page logo or ‘masthead’ — first logo, designed by Leslie Willson.
4 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘The £1,000 per Night-ingale’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ This is probably a performer who was as well paid as famous singer Jenny Lind, ‘the Swedish Nightingale,’ who died in 1887.

Modern females were a prominent feature in PICK-ME-UP. Since 1890, its art editor — at twenty-three — was artist Leonard Raven-Hill who also contributed illustrations. One of its later editors was Clement King Shorter, who also became part proprietor. In PICK-ME-UP the style of art in the 1890s was modern, bohemian, cosmopolitan and mildly titillating. 

5 [1891] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by L. Raven-Hill, March 28. ‘Sarah Jane to Mary Ann: — County Council be ’anged; this ain’t no music hall!
6 [1891] PICK-ME-UP front-page, Bob and his sister with their Governess, April 4.
Many PICK-ME-UP illustrators became celebrated names, and in its twenty-years run it seems to have invited every talented artist in England. Artists like Leslie Willson, René Bull, Phil May, Chip, A.E. Sterner, Sidney Sime, Dudley Hardy, H.S. Hebblethwaite, Charles Altamont Doyle, M. Woolf, John Hassall, A. Chasemore, Max Beerbohm, Thomas Arthur Browne, Alfred Gray, Bert Thomas, J.F. Sullivan, Alfred Leete, and Hilda Cowham when she was an art student. All artwork was reproduced the modern way, photomechanically, via Process.  

7 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mrs. Besant’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Annie Besant (b.1847) was a theosophist.
PICK-ME-UP also featured cartoons and strips from German and French sources which included work by Thomas Theodor Heine from the German magazine Simplicissimus, and by Frenchman Adolphe Willette. Cartoons from New York’s Judge and Life periodicals appeared in many issues. Cartoons by Eugene Zimmerman and Frederick Burr Opper appeared regularly in it. 

8 [1891] PICK-ME-UP Girl, ‘Fripperies,’ opening capital F, January 24.
Historian David Kunzle saw the paper as a ‘particulary egregious pirate’ though, which ‘had the gall to print over its masthead “All our sketches are specially drawn for PICK-ME-UP, and persons reproducing them become liable under the Copyright Act”. ’

9 [1891] PICK-ME-UP strip by L. Raven-Hill, ‘The Saint’s Manual; or, How To Wear a Halo,’ May 2.
10 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon Sir George Newnes by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ Newnes was founder-proprietor of successful papers like Tit-Bits (1881) and The Strand (1891).
11 [1891] PICK-ME-UP page ‘Picture of a Sporting Lady in 1900 A.D.’ by Dudley Hardy, May 2.
Suffragettes were figures of fun, that is, if male-dominated funny books of the time took any notice of their struggle at all. Few females contributed to comic periodicals of the nineteenth century. Little notice of politics was taken and the majority of PICK-ME-UP cartoons involved beautiful women, a perk for the (mostly) male artists who provided illustrated copy, and probably of interest to fashion-concious female readers.

12 [1899] PICK-ME-UP cartoon page ‘Scenes in Mars,’ installment 4 of 30, by Horace Sydney Hebblethwaite, May 20.
According to an 1897 article in The Critic, PICK-ME-UP was published by a syndicate; both Sir William James Ingram, managing director of The Illustrated London News, and editor Clement King Shorter owned a controlling interest in the paper. The name PICK-ME-UP was also licensed to third parties: it was successfully used to advertise tobacco, whisky and tea, and as the name for a board game called PICK-ME-UP.
13 [1894] PICK-ME-UP advertising page for Brooke’s Soap – Monkey Brand — ‘Won’t Wash Clothes.’
14 [1890] PICK-ME-UP Girl, opening capital A, October 11.
My impression of PICK-ME-UP was that it was aimed squarely at the middle-class male and female reader, and followed the same class system as dominant English society. Seriously though, I doubt there ever was a comic periodical devoted exclusively to women, it never would have sold. Women were probably attracted by cartoonists showing women’s fashions of the day — George du Maurier, Linley Sambourne, Archibald Chasemore, etcetera.

15 [1890] PICK-ME-UP Girl, ‘Old-fashioned Doctor,’ opening capital O, with cartoon ‘First Professor / Second Professor’ by L. Raven-Hill, October 11.
16 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by Phil May featuring the PICK-ME-UP Girl, in his series ‘On the Brain.’ — Mr. Punch looks quite annoyed by all the attention to femininity.
Brainy artist Phil May — in 1891-92, twenty-seven at the time — in his series ‘On the brain,’ poked fun at the fact that PICK-ME-UP even took hold of Mr. Punch’s brain. Two years later, May saw his own drawings published in Punch weekly, and joined the ‘Punch Brotherhood’ in the mid 1890s. Around the same time his colleague and friend Leonard Raven-Hill, PICK-ME-UP’s art editor, also started drawing for Punch.

17 [1901] PICK-ME-UP cartoon by Archibald Chasemore in the middle of a page titled Hare and Hounds, July 12.
I have tons of stuff on comic and cartoon papers but PICK-ME-UP is the most elusive of all. Apparently it started modest; it had roughly an estimated 50,000 readers in its first year (see HERE), more than Judy, less than FUN. A recurrent figure was the PICK-ME-UP Girl — never exactly the same but usually showing a leg or two. Inspired by stage and music hall dancers no doubt.

18 [1891] PICK-ME-UP spot illustration by Dudley Hardy, the Sunday papers and piano play.
19 [1901] PICK-ME-UP front-page with a later logo and ‘Our Curling Club’ cartoon by A. Chasemore, February 9. [photocopy via poor microfilm]
20 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Mrs. Martha Ricks — “Aunt Martha” ’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’
Years ago I browsed an incomplete run of PICK-ME-UP on old fashioned microfilm reels at the University of Alberta. I have only been through a very short run. The machines were all low on ink and not well taken care of. So I saw only segments of PICK-ME-UP’s twenty years. I did pick up some poor photocopies such as the Archibald Chasemore single-panel cartoon above but gave up finally and just took notes. One day, online archives will probably drive microfilm — a lousy substitute for print copies in the first place — into the garbage can of history.

21 [1891] PICK-ME-UP strip cartoon by H. Gerbault, ‘The Clown and the Peacock Feather,’ May 9.
22 [1891] PICK-ME-UP illustration by L. Raven-Hill, ‘Scene from “Antony and Cleopatra” at The Princess’s,’ January 3. 
23 [1891-92] PICK-ME-UP cartoon ‘Duc d’Orleans’ by Phil May, in his series ‘On the Brain.’

PICK-ME-UP, Volume V, 1890-91, is HERE.
PICK-ME-UP, Volume VI, 1891, is HERE.

(For some reason, copyright related perhaps, these so-called ‘Full View Volume’ links for the volumes V and VI show no more than useless snippets in some countries.)


Thanks to Huib, Ed Stewart and Leonardo De Sá.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Comic Life of Horace Greeley


The Comic Life of Horace Greeley, New York, “Wild Oats” Office, 1872, 30 pp., illustrated by Livingston Hopkins and others. Read the comic HERE. More on Wild Oats HERE.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Mokeanna; or, The White Witness (1863)

‘…The Chapeau Blanc, rooted to the spot, follows the Mokeanna…’
by John Adcock

The origins of Mokeanna; or, The White Witness. A Tale of the Times, form an interesting story. The serial began in Punch on February 21, 1863. That year Francis Cowley Burnand – later Sir Francis – ‘frequently saw Reynolds’s Miscellany’ on the newsstands and ‘much did I admire the dashing pictures by that master of his craft John Gilbert…’

[2] as visualised by John Gilbert, Punch, 21 February, 1863.
Burnand was mistaken; Frederick Gilbert supplied the illustrations to Reynolds’s; his brother John Gilbert supplied them to the London Journal. Burnand then began writing a parody in the penny serial style and approached proprietor Mr. M’Lean (Burnand’s spelling) who bought jokes from him on occasion, at his looking-glass shop in Fleet Street, downstairs from the FUN office, and began to read to him. But ‘He never chuckled; he rubbed his hands and slightly coughed, that was all.’

[3] as visualised by George du Maurier, Punch, 28 February, 1863.
Burnand then read the manuscript to his friend Fred. Collins Wilson who said ‘Bravo! We’ll have it illustrated! I’ll get the artists to burlesque themselves! Gilbert will do it! And I’ll get Jack Millais! And Hablot K. Browne! It’s first rate!’ Wilson’s connections got Burnand a deal with Punch.

Each installment was ‘Dramatically divided into Parts, by the Author…’ And when Mokeanna started appearing on February 21, 1863, ‘It created a sensation.’
In the first place, so well had Mark Lemon kept the secret, that the senior partner, Mr. Bradbury, who, having been invalided for some little time, had been unable to attend at the office, on receiving his early copy of Punch on the Sunday previous to its date of issue, was utterly horrified, on opening it, to see, as he thought, the first page of the London Journal (or of Reynolds, for I forget which it was) appearing as the first page of Punch! The error was just possible, as the London Journal (or Reynolds) was at that time printed by Messrs. Bradbury and Evans.    
[4] as visualised by Charles Keene, Punch, 14 March, 1863.
Bradbury considered it risky business but by the second number they knew they had made a hit with the public. Burnand said W.M. Thackeray told him that ‘he wished he had written it.’ Mokeanna (no doubt from ‘mockery’) was illustrated by John Gilbert, Hablot K. Browne, Charles Keene, George du Maurier and John Everett Millais. Mokeanna, by the way, was the name of the mule — shades of Black Bess!

[5] as visualised by John Everett Millais, Punch, 21 March, 1863.
Burnand wrote tons of stage burlesques with titles like Faust and Loose and Sir Dagobert and the Dragon; or How to run Through the Scales and The Frightful Hair; or, Who Shot the Dog? He would rise to the editor’s chair at Punch and crown his career by receiving a knighthood. One of his most famous books was The New History of Sanford and Merton (subtitled: Being a True Account of the Adventures of “Masters Tommy and Harry,” with their Beloved Tutor “Mr. Barlow”) which boasted 77 illustrations by Linley Sambourne.

[6] Some of Punch’s editors: Mark Lemon, Shirley Brooks, Tom Taylor and Francis Cowley Burnand.
The 1873 book version of Mokeanna can be read online HERE.

[7] Our Boys’ Novelist, Harry Furniss did the pictures, Punch, 11 March, 1882.
Punch tried something similar (under editor Burnand) with the serial Our Boys’ Novelist, illustrated by Harry Furniss and starting March 11, 1882. The serial parodied the boys’ periodicals of Edwin J. Brett and George Emmett. The heroine ‘Cachuca’ is named after ‘an uninhibited dance craze of the 1840s, something like the Lambada crossed with a Cancan.’ Mike Saavedra notes of the spoof advertising pages that
The ‘advertisements’ for ‘Bamboozelum’ sound suspiciously like the old bawdy ballad of ‘Kafoozalem, Kafuzalem, the Harlot of Jerusalem, Prostitute of Ill-Repute and daughter of the Baa-Baa.’ Oscar Brand recorded it back in the 1950s.
♦ Francis Burnand’s Records and Reminiscences (1903), in 2 volumes.

[8] 11 March, 1882.
[9] 25 March, 1882.
[10] 25 March, 1882.
[11] 3 June, 1882.
[12]  3 June, 1882.
[13] Spoof advertising page. ‘The Way We Advertise Now,’ in Punch, 12 November, 1881.
[14] Spoof advertising page. ‘Our Recreations; or, How We Advertise Now,’ in Punch, 28 January, 1882.
[15] ‘Man is but a worm,’ illustration by Linley Sambourne, in Punch’s Almanack for 1882, published 6 December, 1881.

Thanks to E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra.