Monday, January 31, 2011

Hampson, Bellamy and Eagle

Growing up in Canada was the best of all possible worlds because we not only had access to all the American comic strips and comic books but the newsstands were also full of British periodicals and comics. When I was five my English born granny bought Beano and Dandy, and once she had collected foot high piles she would deliver them to the house. My Hungarian born granny did likewise with the American comic sections. My old man saved all of his childhood reading so I spent many happy hours with the Magnet, the Rover, and the Hotspur story papers as well as the British annuals of all kinds. Dad also bought the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express with Garth, Jane, Belinda Blue-Eyes, Calamity Gulch,Wes Slade, and the Gambols.

Round 1961 I began a newsstand subscription to the Eagle, a magnificent painted comic tabloid which opened up to about two by three feet of spectacular graphics. It cost about 15 cents a week. Dan Dare was captured by the futuristic Mekon, a supreme Venusian villain with a huge green head and a useless body. He got around on a little anti-gravity silver chair. The centre two-page comic was Heros the Spartan and I arrived just in time to read the last few pages of a lovely Frank Bellamy drawn adventure with Romans and maniacal Druids. Luis Bermejo took over Heros, and I much preferred his wet brush work to Bellamy’s chiseled artwork. I did love Bellamy's sense of design which took in the whole page, the panel borders were often as electric as the content, with textured figures and faces enclosed in zig-zags and circles.

There were also PC 49, Frank Humphris’ Blackbow the Cheyenne and Jose Ortiz’ UFO Agents and Smokeman. I recall a robot character as well although his name is long gone from my memory. My mouth was set to watering by an ad for a similar comic, Boy’s World, which featured a swashbuckling adventure called Wrath of the Gods, which was written by Willie Patterson and drawn by Ron Embleton. I tried getting a subscription but unfortunately all I ever saw of Wrath of the Gods was a few panels from the advertisement. Below are two Times obituaries for Frank Hampson (July 10 1985) and Frank Bellamy (July 10 1976). The Letter to the Editor was from Nov 7 1985. Illustrations are courtesy Steve Holland, Deskartes Mil and Ebay.

Those were the days my friend,
We thought they'd never end...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Inside on Mutt and Jeff

The Inside on Mutt and Jeff, Goodwin's Weekly, 7 Aug 1915. Strips on bottom Nov 10-13 1925.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Foreshadowing Playboy

Two dozen Jack Cole gag-cartoons, and more, from Boy's Life HERE.

Asthma Simpson the Village Queen

“Asthma Simpson the Village Queen” ran through the Philadelphia Evening Ledger from 28 Dec 1914 to 27 April 1915, a little over 100 daily strips. The artist was the mysterious Billy Liverpool. The villains name was Con Traffic, the village was Cheezburg. One woman wrote a letter to the editor enclosing a 2 cent stamp and asking for the Ledger of April 5 “on account of the prize fight returns the supply was exhausted before we could get it. Being rural New Jerseyites, we more than look forward to the daily paper and more than enjoy its contents, especially the daily laughs afforded by “Asthma Simpson.” Much credit is due Billy Liverpool.” The entire comic strip can be read HERE. They have a nice setup, just find the issue for 28 Dec 1914 and you can read the newspapers in chronological order by clicking 'next issue.'

*Update: Drew the bogus Mutt & Jeff around1915, then hired by Bud Fisher to ghost the real thing for over fifteen years, up to 1934. Thanks to Steven Rowe.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early Illustrated Newspapers

An article on one of my favorite subjects, by one of my favorite Victorian reporters, George Augustus Sala, published Dec 6 1890 in the Penny Illustrated Newspaper. John Williams, illustrated top, was Britain's first serial killer, the supposed Ratcliffe Highway murderer. The two bottom illustrations have nothing to do with this post, a photo of Sir John Gilbert in action at Blackheath and an ad for magic lanterns.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New York School of Caricature 1901

The New York School of Caricature was founded in 1900. The St. Louis Republic Sunday was drawn by Puck artist Syd B. Griffin 6 Jan 1902. Some Griffin Sundays in color HERE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jack Johnson and the Cartoonists

TEXAS NATIVE Jack Johnson had traveled as far as he could fighting Negro boxers, and the reigning champion in 1903, Jim Jeffries, refused to fight a colored boxer. When Jeffries retired the championship went to Tommy Burns, a tough scrapper born near Hanover, Ontario. For two years Johnson chased Burns round the world by automobile, railroad, and tramp steamer, until the champion agreed to fight him in Sidney, Australia in 1908. 

After 14 grueling rounds, on 26 December, the police reluctantly ended the fight to avoid Burns being beaten to death. Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Johnson was no obsequious champion, he considered himself the equal of any white man in the world, and he rubbed their noses in it every time he opened his mouth. He dressed like a king, flaunted his white girlfriends, and drove all over the country in expensive automobiles. He was a godsend to the cartoonists from the day he began coveting the hitherto all-white championship of the world.
On 5 May 1929 cartoonist Tad Dorgan was escorted to his grave by about 40 people, mostly from the newspaper profession. Also accompanying him were Duck and Spensi, his two adopted Chinese boys, Jack Doyle, head of the National Billiard Association, Gene Buck, songwriter, Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, a boxer, and ex-champion Jack Johnson. This was so unusual for the time that Johnson’s presence topped Dorgan’s name in many of the headlines over accounts of the funeral.

26 Dec 1908 by unknown cartoonist
26 Dec 1908 by Bob Edgren
31 Jan 1909 Bow
13 Mar 1909 Fitzmaurice
March 1909 Leet
1 July 1910 Condo
12 Nov 1912 Cory

See also 
Jack Johnson Remembers HERE 
The Fight of the Century HERE.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Charley Wag

“The result may be seen in the shop window of every cheap news-vendor in London -- ‘The Boy Thieves of London,’ ‘The Life of a Fast Boy,’ ‘The Boy Bandits,’ ‘The Wild Boys of London,’ ‘The Boy Detective,’ ‘Charley Wag,' ‘The Lively Adventures of a Young Rascal,’ and I can’t say how many more… If these precious weekly penn’orths do not openly advocate crime and robbery, they at least go so far as to make it appear that although to obtain the means requisite to set up as a Fast Boy, or a Young Rascal, it is found necessary to make free with a master’s goods, or to force his till, or run off with his cash-box…” -- Contemporary Review, Vol. 26, Page 985, 1875.

I have told the story of Charley Wag already and you can read the details HERE. The following illustrations are all by Robert Prowse, Sr.

These two illustrations below were sent to me by comic strip historian Bill Blackbeard from his personal copy along with the publisher’s data: Charley Wag, the New Jack Sheppard, by the author of “The Woman with the Yellow Hair,” “Somebody Else’s Wife,” &c. London: George Vickers, Angel Court, Strand, 577 pp., 72 parts.

Bill B.’s copy is also different from the copy otherwise posted here, from Barry Ono's copy, in that it was published in 8 page penny parts. The rest of the Illustrations posted here are from a different edition with the same illustrations and text but in 16 page penny parts: Charley Wag, the New Jack Sheppard, by George Savage, author of “The Woman with the Yellow Hair,” “Somebody Else’s Wife,” &c. London: William Grant, 4 Bouverie St., no date, 577 pp., 36 parts.

Charley Wag also supplied the music to a comic song, Gammon and Spinnidge (Bacon and Spinach), written by “Rymer.” It has been assumed that Rymer was James Malcolm Rymer, author of Varney the Vampyre, but there is no evidence that this is true. Oddly enough the address at bottom of the song is given as 28 Brydges-street, the offices of the United Kingdom Press in 1860. Charley Wag also inspired the title of a racy comic penny-paper, bottom, in 1867.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Clare Briggs (1875-1930)

You might think the beautiful John T. McCutcheon cartoon above appeared on the death of cartoonist Clare Briggs on 3 Jan 1930 but it actually marked the passing of the popular cartoonist from the staff of the Chicago Herald to the New York Tribune in 1914. McCutcheon’s dog is a marvel of sketchy pen and ink brilliance. Winsor McCay also drew a cartoon welcoming Briggs to the Big Apple.

Briggs, one of America's best-loved cartoonists, was born in Reedsburg Wisconsin on 5 Aug 1875 and landed his first job at age ten as a newspaper delivery boy in Dixon, Illinois. He began as a sketch artist on Hearst’s St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1896 at $10 a week and then moved on to the New York Journal. He was sent to Chicago to work on Hearst’s Chicago Herald and Chicago American where he created A. Piker Clerk. His first Tribune cartoon (below) appeared 15 Feb 1914. Briggs remained with the Tribune until his death of pneumonia at 54 years of age.

His most widely known features were “When a Fellow Needs a Friend,” “Ain’t it a Grand and Glorious Feeling,” The Days of Real Sport,” and “Mr. and Mrs.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Alfred Harmsworth

Propaganda is nothing new, the early Christians were reported to worship an Ass, Jews were said to eat Christian and Muslim babies, the Society of Jesuits and the Protestants each blood libeled the other, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has plagued the world since 1897, forged by Russia’s secret police, the Okhrana. These days newspapers and television news are increasingly irrelevant to the public, reduced to serving as a “bully pulpit” for the creators of “reality” in politics and the press. Edward Bernays (1891-1995) is often called the father of propaganda, however the use of press propaganda and advertising as a means of changing the public’s perception of reality had its English-speaking roots in London in the 1890’s, under baby-faced Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, who served as Director of Propaganda to enemy countries in the Great War.

Alfred Harmsworth was born Saturday, July 15, 1865, in Chapelizod, near Dublin. He loved books and newspapers as a child, and, while his favorite author was Dickens, he also dipped into the penny dreadfuls, then accused of poisoning the manly minds of British youth. A friend of his family ran a local newspaper and young Alfred visited the composing room on press days. On his eighth birthday he received a gift of a toy printing set from the proprietor. Harmsworth entered the printing trade as a sub-editor on James Henderson’s Young Folks’ Budget, and supplied squibs for George Newnes Tit-Bits, a cheap magazine of scrap-book oddities gleaned from various periodicals. This type of scrapbook compilation went back a long way. The Thief, edited by Gilbert Abbott a’ Beckett in 1834, was aptly named, all of the contents were the result of the judicious use of scissors and paste.

After a stint as editor of the Bicycling News, Alfred started Answers to Correspondents in 1888. In Answers Harmsworth let his guns loose on the penny dreadfuls. “-- shop boys and factory hands, pit boys and telegraph boys, devour them eagerly and fill their foolish brains with rubbish about highwaymen, pirates, and other objectionable people.” Harmsworth liked to pretend his publications were different from the penny dreadfuls, but even in Answers he adored stories of cannibalism, or the woman buried alive only to wake up screaming and scraping her fingernails to the bone in her anxiety to be freed. He began offering prizes of a pound a week for life; each entry had to be countersigned by five people, resulting in a circulation of 205,000 weekly.

In 1890 he issued Comic Cuts a halfpenny eight page weekly and in 1890, Illustrated Chips. Although he later distanced himself from the boys’ story papers he published, he was always proud of his comic publications. At this time he came up with something called the ‘Schemo Magnifico.’ This was a written plan to overwhelm the competition with loads of magazines featuring ‘bad paper and cheap printing.’ He published For-Get-Me-Not, aimed at ladies and shop-girls, and in 1892, the Funny Wonder. A new comic, Funny Bits: or Roars of Laughter, was registered but never published.

Harmsworth began to investigate the boys’ story paper market. First he investigated the American boys papers, asking an American journalist about circulations. “I mentioned the Munro papers, The Fireside Companion and Family Story Paper; The Street & Smith publications; Frank Tousey’s Boys of New York; and Frank Munsey’s The Golden Argosy.” In 1893 he brought out the Halfpenny Marvel, and in 1894, the Sunday Companion. There were “Thrilling serials,” short stories and illustrated articles. Alfred offered the following bizarre incentives to his subscribers; Bottled Water from the River Jordan, Bethlehem Earth, and “The Harp of David,” a musical instrument. His competition received a double blow in 1894 when he launched the Union Jack and the Pluck Library. The Union Jack offered prizes of ‘Pocket Money for a Year.’

In 1893 Answers ran a serial by William le Queux, entitled “The Poisoned Bullet.” England is invaded by France and Russia in 1897, the story “deals not with the vague, shadowy and distant future, but with the almost immediate present.” The streets of England were crammed with corpses, but in the end England had a glorious victory. One promotional poster showed aircraft dropping bombs on St. Paul’s Cathedral while London burned. Alfred Harmsworth and Le Queux would return to the invasion theme with a serial called “The Siege of Portsmouth” in his newly acquired newspaper The Evening Mail in 1894 and “The Invasion of 1910” in 1906. By now he was well off and could afford to have a stuffed polar bear in the hall and American alligators in his greenhouse.

“The Poisoned Bullet,” was just the latest future war story that was begun with Chesney’s “The Battle of Dorking,” published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1871. These fictional accounts were popular in England and the Continent until 1914. Harmsworth’s newspaper serials and editorial stance reflected his real fear of Russia, France, or Germany gaining naval dominance of the North Sea.

After 1900 Harmsworth concentrated on his newspapers and in 1901 the Amalgamated Press was formed to handle the story papers and magazines. By 1908 Harmsworth dominated the newspaper field. He controlled the halfpenny tabloid Daily Mail, the Sunday Dispatch, the Daily Mirror, The Observer, the Times and the Sunday Times, which gave him unprecedented influence over both the working class and the elite. Even his story papers and comics were drafted in his propaganda wars, Weary Willie and Tired Tim fought the Boer and the Hun in the weekly Chips. Harmsworth used his story papers, the Union Jack and Pluck, to recruit young men for the British Navy. Winston Churchill once wrote to his mother describing “Harmsworth’s cheap Imperialist productions” that were “produced for thousands of vulgar people at a popular price.” Churchill had no love of the common people, as he showed by drawing up plans for concentration camps for the mentally unfit, amongst others.

Above from Tacoma Times 1917.

Harmsworth also awarded Pluck Medals, which would make a fine collectible today. “The Editor of the Pluck Library will make it his duty to search out and inquire into all such heroic deeds; and whenever he finds a deserving case, he will reward the plucky one with a silver medal, which has been specially made for the purpose. He hopes to be able to award a medal every week; enough cases will, we feel sure, be forthcoming.” Awarded Pluck Medals, the editor said, were instituted for “neither high nor low, but for all sorts and conditions of heroes.” The first medal was awarded to a British sailor.

The Daily Mail whipped up hatred against English born Germans, accused them of spying, and advocated deportation and the use of concentration camps for “aliens” born on British soil. Mail readers were whipped into a poisonous hatred that resulted in beatings, the burning of shops, and a boycott of all Germans working as managers and waiters. Even a German surname was enough to make a man unemployable for the duration of the war. The Weekly Dispatch on 16 May 1915 wrote that “the Germans are enemies and spies. We loathe them. We feel they pollute the air. We see blood on their hands… We demand that the wretched creatures be removed. The thought that there are 20,000 of them walking our streets was enough to make all London sick.”

Political careers were ruined by innuendo; a man might have a German cousin or a German chauffer and that was enough to ruin him. It was due to the rabid ranting of the newspapers that royalty adopted the English name Windsor, replacing Saxe-Coburg-Gotha by royal proclamation on 17 July 1917.

At war’s end Northcliffe demanded nothing less than unconditional surrender from the Germans. His newspapers thirsted for revenge; the Kaiser should be brought to London and hanged. The outcome of the “blighted peace” made World War II all but inevitable. Harmsworth was not the only publisher involved in the propaganda war but he might well be termed the “Godfather” of modern propaganda since he reached the largest audience.

It was one of Harmsworth’s writers who invented the term ‘Hun” for the Germans. Harmsworth had begun attacking the Kaiser in print in 1896, for the support given by Germans to the Boers. In 1918 Northcliffe was appointed Director of Propaganda to enemy countries at the newly formed Ministry of Information under Lord Beaverbrook. H. G. Wells resigned from the Ministry after only two months, apparently because of Northcliffe’s savage attacks on the German people. Northcliffe continued using his newspapers as a personal pulpit to promote the views of himself and his political allies while overseeing the operations of the Ministry.

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, died on 14 August 1922 from a streptococcus infection. During his lifetime he pioneered the use of the newspapers as tools of propaganda. The lessons were not lost on the United States which formed their own propaganda ministry, the Committee on Public Information, under George Creel, (which employed Edward Bernays) in 1917.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

At the Movies

Ed Mack was a Hearst cartoonist who eventually took over Mutt and Jeff from Bud Fisher. In 1916 he was drawing a full-page Sunday in the Fisher style called Lost in Lonesomehurst about a suburban couple and their new maid. I'm partial to this single-panel, At the Movies, again showing that Fisher influence. All from 1916.