Saturday, August 4, 2018

Introducing… A Crowded Life in Comics

1897 [1] The Billposter And The Kid. A Tale of Revenge, by Carl Anderson, in New York Journal, Jan 24.
by Rick Marschall 
“In the comic strip we have the embodiment, the culmination, of civilized man’s 4,000 years of groping for the perfect form of communication.” — opening line of first Editorial in Nemo, June 1983

THE FIRST installment of this column will be a crowded introduction, or explanation; and the ‘crowded life’ will appear in weekly slices. It feels a little presumptuous to appear confident that readers will care about my career and activities, whether in the comics field or out. In fact it is presumptuous; but I thought the same way about blogs 15 years ago, then took the plunge 10 years back, and have written a weekly web message without a miss, with 170,000 hits or so. Perhaps peeking in someone who displays presumption is only a 21st-century spectator sport. But not clicking or clicking out is simpler than yelling at one’s postman, or burning newsletters in an old-fashioned bonfire every few months.

Also, I overcame false modesty and yielded to the suggestions of Yesterday’s Papers editor John Adcock that I write an ongoing memoir. This was the secret ingredient in the recipe. Some of you will know that years ago I edited a magazine called Nemo: The Classic Comics Library. Fondly remembered on two continents, a 32-issue run back in 1983-92 when vintage comics largely were unknown even to devoted fans and scholars.

Nemo ceased publication for various reasons, but I was proud of it, and of the dust it raised. In a way the reprints and scholarship that followed were partly engendered by Nemo. And I feel that, better than anything else of an ongoing nature, Yesterday’s Papers is the legitimate heir to the vision and accomplishments of Nemo. So it is proper that I find a way to be part of this online magazine of John’s — and proud to be here.

NEWS FLASH. Oh, two notes. Nemo will be starting up again: a print magazine; larger page size; approximately 200 pages; with color. And, closing the circle, John Adcock will be our Associate Editor… while maintaining his stewardship of YP!
1983 [2] Dik Browne, Milton Caniff, Rick Marschall.
So I am glad to be here, but at my age I am glad to be anywhere. That is an old joke, and not, however, a hint that these recollections are a function of a realization that Marschall’s life is drawing to a close. Of course, maybe it is (I leave such spiritual wrestling-matches to my blog) — but, mostly, I have come to the point of realizing that I have been blessed with… well, a crowded life. In and out of comics.

I was a guest on Comic Book Historians podcasts recently, and the three interviewers knew things about my career that I barely remembered. Last week, my son, a TV news producer in Florida, found three employees including the weekend anchor jumping with excitement upon learning that his father (me) had been Editor at Marvel; asking things that he didn’t even know.

I’ve got to get some of this stuff down!

BLESSED. I used the word ‘blessed.’ By circumstance, geography, parental encouragement, I have realized that I am sort of a Forrest Gump of the comics game. Just to continue the introduction for people unfamiliar with my spotted past —

I have been a political cartoonist for several publications; I have illustrated books and magazine articles;

I have been a newspaper reporter and columnist; have founded six magazines and edited eight; I was a comics editor with three newspaper syndicates, and of Marvel Comics;

I have written 74 books (history, biography, children’s, humor, Baroque music, country music, television history, Christian apologetics and devotionals; and the field of cartoons and comics, anthologies, reprints, and criticism. Hundreds of magazine articles in the categories and others litter the landscape.
1916 [3] Krazy Kat by George Herriman, June 11.
As a writer (of comics) I wrote stories for Marvel; many scripts for Disney comics, mostly in Europe; and introductions to many books and catalogs;

I served on the Boards of Director of the San Francisco Academy of Cartoon Art, the Museum of Cartoon Art, and the Museum (and Foundation) of Caricature and Cartoon Art in Washington DC. I have attended many comics conferences and symposia in the US and Europe, where I have spoken and organized exhibitions; at various times I was the US representative of Lucca, Angoulême, and ExpoCartoon in Rome. I also repped, at various times, for European comics publishers Dargaud, Strip Art Features, and Glénat.

A few awards have come my way: Friend of Fandom, Eisner, and Harvey awards from Comicon in San Diego; Yellow Kid award from Lucca Festival (for EPIC Magazine); Max und Moritz Prize at Erlangen Festival; RTL award in Luxembourg; and various recognitions for the 20-stamp commemorative series for the US Postal Service;

Speaking of which I consulted, provided artwork and information, and wrote the 100-page book for the Postal Service ‘American Classics’ comics history stamps; and was sent to 11 cities to promote comics and the stamps. Along the way, in similar events and publicity tours, I have spoken at the Library of Congress, at the Kansas City Public Library (Truman Foundation), on C-SPAN and on NPR; and at many universities;

Speaking of which I have taught comics history, techniques, and criticism, at the School of Visual Arts; Rutgers University; Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts); and Summer Institute for the Gifted at Bryn Mawr University.
RECALL. The bulk of these reminiscences will not be a recitation of jobs on my résumé, or lists of desks I have sat behind, but to recall the people I have been fortunate to meet and/or interview. A partial list might cause you to stick around; an eclectic bunch, and will stray from comics occasionally — hey, it’s all popular culture:
…Rube Goldberg, Harry Hershfield; Roy Crane; Rudolph Dirks; John Dirks; Joe Venuti; Jimmy McPartland; Teddy Wilson; Alice Roosevelt Longworth; Herblock; Spiro Agnew; Strom Thurmond; Jerry Lee Lewis; John Severin; Al Smith, Vern Greene; Gluyas Williams; Roy Acuff; Bill Monroe; Sam Phillips; Walt Kelly; Jimmy Swaggart; Frank King; Otto Messmer; Matt Koehl; Abbie Hoffman; Jerry Rubin; William Kunstler; Lyn Nofziger; Dik Browne; Dick Hodgins, Johnny Hart; Brant Parker; John Wheeler; Jim Ivey; Jerry Dumas; Harry Neigher; William Loeb; Jean Shepherd; Bob and Ray; Al Capp; Jacob Burck; Stephen Becker; Jack Finney; Mort Walker; Edwina Dumm; Gerald Ford; Henry Kissinger; Charles Schulz; Faron Young; Pete Hamill; Mac Wiseman; Leonard Starr; Stan Drake; Carl Barks; Floyd Gottfredson; Ron Goulart; George Jones; Tammy Wynette; William F. Buckley; Jeff MacNelly; Russell Patterson; Chester Gould; Pierre Couperie; Donald Phelps; Will Eisner; Noel Sickles; Jackie Gleason; Art Buchwald; George Wallace; Mark Russell; Al Kilgore; Bill Holman; Milton Caniff; Robert Novak; Burne Hogarth; Stan Lee; John Buscema; John Romita Sr. and Jr.; Hal Foster; Ernie Bushmiller;  Mell Lazarus; Hank Ketcham; Harvey Kurtzman; Jean Giraud (Moebius); Al Hirshfeld; Mookie Wilson; Alberto Breccia; Benito Jacovitti; Hardie Gramatky; Hank Snow; Hermann Huppen; Eric Gurney; Mel Blanc; Jules Feiffer; Loretta Lynn; Arnold Roth; Stan Lynde; John Fischetti; D. James Kennedy; John Cullen Murphy; Herb Gardner; Alex Toth; Guillermo Mordillo; Maurice Horn; Martin Williams; Bill Blackbeard; Denis Gifford; Warren Tufts; Jim Raymond; Dean Young; Bob Weber Sr. and Jr.; Orlando Busino; Debra Murphrey; Vittorio Giardino; Gill Fox; Leslie Turner; Charlie Rich; Ann Coulter; Maurice Sendak; Bill Mauldin; Art Spiegelman; Francoise Mouly; Allen Saunders; Jack Kirby; Studs Terkel; Frank Thomas; Ollie Johnson; Raeburn van Buren; Jack Clement; Will Gould; John Stanley; Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; Curt Swan; David Levine; Chuck Jones; Otto Soglow; Phyllis Schlafly; Jack Dempsey; Bob Kane; Jack Davis; Harlan Ellison; Nicole Lambert; Lee Falk; Merle Haggard; Joe Kubert; Walter Gibson; Jack Kent; Dr. Seuss; Mickey Gilley; the Statler Brothers; Gil Kane; Fred Lasswell; Al Williamson; Gene Colan; Mike Greg; Ferd Johnson; Dr. Bennet Omalu; Bill Gaither; Howard and Vestal Goodman; Mark Lowry; Hugo Pratt; Mike Yaconelli; Bill Watterson; Al Kaline; Tony Campolo; Tweed Roosevelt; Matt Groening; Jack Phillips; David Irving; Edmund Morris; Wade Mainer; Paul Manafort...
In no particular order…  And there are others I have forgotten, but these names and their associated stories might interest visitors to A Crowded Life in Comics in weeks — months? years? — to come.
1960 [5] Peanuts by Charles Schulz, in Vancouver Sun, Sep 17.
I will not make this feature into a scrapbook, or a record of musty memories. I aim to recall interesting anecdotes and revelations that shed light on comics history and popular culture. I will share my thoughts on the language and structure of strips, literature, movies, music, and such… and open some windows, and even doors, to greater discussions.

The installments will NOT be as long as this intro-piece is. But on the web we waste a few electrons; not whole trees like in the old days.

Continued In Our Next —