Monday, March 25, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

The Power of Cartoons

 by Rick Marschall

Short and sweet this week.

I came across this drawing when I was a young kid. I was hooked on cartoons and comics from an early age… and I mean cartoons and comics from THEIR early ages too.

I relished being able to meet, or correspond with, Rube Goldberg, Harry Hershfield, Rudolph Dirks, Jimmy Swinnerton, Russell Patterson, Otto Mesmer, C M Payne, and other old-timers. And when I met cartoonists who merely were old, I pumped them for information about older cartoonists they had known. I met Walt Kelly when I was 12, I think; and what did I do but pump him with questions about T S Sullivant. (That evening, he was not in state to chat about much, especially a punk asking about someone who died in 1926…)

I don’t know why I had these tendencies. Perhaps my mother was scared by an antique when she carried me.

However, what sealed my fate going forward was when I discovered this drawing in an old magazine. It was an ad for a cartooning correspondence school (I recently promised readers of my promise to Fantagraphics Books to finish my book about mail-order cartoon courses…)

It was all I needed. Documentary evidence. Proof! One look at this (anonymous) drawing and my path was charted – cartooning, strips, political cartoons, comic books, collecting, research, history, scripting, writing, editing, publishing. What an amazing array of ways to go bankrupt.

I drew my version of the ringleader in this cartoon and begged my mother to buy me a suit just like his. It took an awful lot of persuasion, but I was outfitted. Unfortunately, the most use I ever got from it was on Halloween when, with the addition of a cardboard  monocle, I roamed the neighborhood as Mr Peanut.

Seriously, I did hear of one cartoonist with a similar experience – and I assume equally  as apocryphal. Al Capp told me that when he was young he saw a newspaper photo of Bud Fisher (Mutt and Jeff) leaving on a cruise ship, showgirls hanging on his arm… and he decided right there on a career.

Following a thread, Fisher was a playboy who enjoyed hot and cold running showgirls. The story goes that he met a “countess” of fuzzy nobility, returning to America on one of those cruise ships. He married her. This one, however, he neglected to divorce; and also neglected to see her again for decades; but somehow appeared when his death was announced in the papers.

True or almost true, that is the Power of Cartoons.


No comments:

Post a Comment