Friday, November 30, 2018

Christmas With The Cartoonists

Bill Mauldin

(Pulitzer Prizes for political cartoon;
 Willie and Joe in WW II)


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Sunday With Jimmy Swinnerton

Jimmy Swinnerton
Chicago Examiner
Dec 19, 1909


Christmas With The Cartoonists

Rube Goldberg 
(late in life took up humorous sculpture)


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bill Williams – Comic Artist

by John Adcock

Bill Williams was an exceptional cartoonist and ink-slinger. Alfred Owen “Bill” Williams was born on May 22, 1918 in South Bend, Indiana.  Bill’s grandfather Jonathan Williams was born into a Quaker family in Hamilton County, Indiana in 1840. His father worked for Clark Equipment and is credited with developing the gasoline powered forklift. Bill enrolled in the school of architecture at the University of Michigan in the late thirties, only to drop out to work for the Walt Disney Studios in Hollywood. He worked on Fantasia, Dumbo and The Reluctant Dragon before enlisting in the Army Air Corps, serving in the Pacific during world War II. He received the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Clusters for distinguished service in air combat. Williams returned for a short time to Disney then moved to New York where he drew a single-panel cartoon called Dolly, syndicated in 187 newspapers. He died November 10, 1986. Services were held in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

[1] GI Jane advertisement, Bill Williams, 1955
I did find a reference to an interview in a paragraph in the SC Bulletin, Wilton, Conn., dated July 3, 2002, which sheds some light on his early years
People in the news. 
In an interview, cartoonist Alfred O. Williams of Wilton spoke about his days working for Walt Disney when he did the penciling part of animation productions. His subjects were Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy and others. Among the animated feature films he worked on were Fantasia and Dumbo. He also did layouts for MGM for the Tom and Jerry series and Hanna and Barbera.
[2] Henry Aldrich No. 22, Sept/Oct 1954
Bill Williams drew a lot of comic books, specializing in teenagers and sexy women. His earliest work was reportedly on Phantom Lady drawn for Jerry Iger’s studio. In 1950 he began drawing Henry Aldrich, his work appearing from the first issue in 1950 to the 22 issue of Sept/Oct 1954. John Stanley wrote the scripts.

[3] Farmer's Daughter Feb/Mar 1954
Williams contributed to Millie the Model comics for Timely, and GI Jane, The Farmer’s Daughter and Broadway/Hollywood Blackouts for Stanhall (1953-1955). Hal Seeger was Stanhall’s editor, Adolphe Barreaux (Sally the Sleuth) executive editor. The Farmer’s Daughter seems the likely progenitor of the sixties Dell beatnik comic book Kookie.
[4] G.I. Jane, Hal Seeger and Bill Williams, 1954
Frank M. Young believes Williams may have drawn the occasional Little Lulu. Bill Williams is probably best remembered by writers and readers of my age for eight issues of Around the Block with Dunc & Loo (Oct/Dec 1961, simplified to Dunc & Loo for issue no. 4) with writer John Stanley (Little Lulu) for Dell/Western publishing. 

[5] First issue of Kookie, Bill Williams
Dunc & Loo was followed by Stanley/Williams Kookie, a short-lived beatnik comic begun Feb/April 1962. He also drew Bullwinkle comic book advertisements for Cheerios.

[6] Advertisement. Bill Williams
Johnstone and Cushing created the first Boy’s Life comic features in 1950, scattered throughout the pages of BL. They were a mixture of comic strip ads and comic strips, among them Kit Carson by Ames, and Scouts in Action by Stan Pashko and John Sink. The first real Boy’s Life comic section, concentrated in one sector, began in 1952 and featured humorous, serious, Christian and educational comics. These inserts were created by the art director of Johnstone and Cushing, Alfred B. Stenzel (1897-1979), a talented artist, designer and writer. Al Stenzel took over the Boy’s Life contract from the Boy Scouts in 1962 - soon after Johnstone and Cushing closed shop.

[7] Pee Wee Harris, Bill Williams, March 1959
Pee Wee Harris, based on Percy K. Fitzhugh’s popular series of children’s books, made his first appearance in comic strip form in the September 1, 1952 issue. Fitzhugh was credited with the comic, but he had died in 1950. For many years Pee Wee Harris and virtually every Boy’s Life comic feature was written by Al Stenzel. Usually anonymous; sometimes credited as “Alsten.”

[8] Boy's Life, Bill Williams, March 1959
Almost from the beginning the art was by Alfred O. Williams, familiarly known as “Bill” Williams. His name first appeared attached to the fifth episode in January 1953.

[9] Farmer's Daughter Feb/Mar 1954
Frank Bolle, a regular artist for the Catholic comic Treasure Chest took over Pee Wee Harris and the Tracy Twins (originally by Dik Browne) when Al Stenzel passed on in 1979. Mike Adair drew Pee Wee Harris from November 1997 on.

[10] Dunc & Loo, Oct/Dec 1961
Cartoonist Frank Hill (Short Ribs) recalled Bill Williams as one of the artists on Dennis the Menace comic books, including the series Dennis and the Bible Kids, from 1977 to 1980, before Marvel took on production.
[11] PX Pete, Bill Williams, GI Jane 1954

[12] Boy's Life illustration, July 1957
Thanks to Skip Higgins for additional biographical information.

Christmas With The Cartoonists

Frank Willard (pre- Moon Mullins)


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Crowded Life in Comics – Werner Wejp-Olsen

The Cartoonist Known As WOW

by Rick Marschall

This week we lost a favorite international cartoonist, Werner Wejp-Olsen. His years were 1938-2018, and his residences were Denmark-United States-Denmark. I want to pay tribute to a friend and a good cartoonist, and share how friendships can grow into mutual friendships, and connections, and networking, and new career paths.

That’s how life is supposed to work. And in cartooning, which I think has a greater percentage of good people than most professions, it happens a lot.

Werner (the “Wejp” part of his name is pronounced “Wipe” but with a soft “v,” unless the Dane is eating herring when making the explanation, and then all bets are off) started drawing professionally when he was still in high school, for Ekstra Bladet, around 1955. He signed his humor strips and cartoons WOW. A dozen years later he drew the continuing series Peter and Perle; and in 1972 inherited the popular Felix from Swedish cartoonist Jan Lööf.

Ever creative and entrepreneurial, Werner created the flagship of his several quiz and puzzle type features, Dick Danger; and in 1974 the strip Fridolin. It was at this stage of his career that Werner intentionally adopted into his style what he called “the Connecticut School” – a term that entered the language of Scandinavian cartoon – the “bigfoot,” rounded, somewhat minimalist humor style of Mort Walker, Dik Browne, and their fellows.
[1] Sketch
I met Werner when I was Comics Editor of Publishers Newspaper Syndicate (Field Enterprises) in 1975. The syndicate president Dick Sherry had a penchant for foreign cartoonists, which he presented as a cosmopolitan reach, but which we all knew, sub rosa, was his excuse to make one or two overseas trips a year “on syndicate business.” England, Australia, Italy, Scandinavia…

As an editor who was not consulted on these “finds,” I usually was less than enthusiastic, and so were American editors, as it turned out. But the promotion department was kept active, and so were international airlines.

Nevertheless, Werner was flown over to Chicago for strategy sessions, promo art, and such. We hit it off immediately – especially when he learned that I moved to Chicago from Fairfield County, Connecticut; and that several of his cartooning gods were close friends, some even having attended my wedding only months previous.

I will mention a couple of strips that have not been cited in any of the obituary articles around the world. One was a suburban family strip – not an automatic challenge for a Danish cartoonist; on my several trips to Denmark I have noticed that the Danish sense of humor, and its lifestyle, especially in suburban neighborhoods, is closer to the Americans than in other lands I have visited. The name of the strip was Zip Cody, a pun on ZIP Code.

It proved a wet match, attracting only 25 newspapers as I recall. Although this was Dick Sherry’s “baby” I suggested that the aggressive, no-nonsense grandmother – she invariably chomped on a cigar butt, and was not the strongest, but the only, standout personality in the cast. Otherwise it was basically another follower of Blondie, Dotty Dripple, The Berrys, Priscilla’s Pop, etc. So the strip was rechristened as Granny and Slowpoke, her sarcastic-thinking dog sharing the billing.

Unfortunately the client-list dropped further. Despite Jud Hurd’s nice boost in Cartoonist PROfiles magazine, it was not to be.
[2] Maestro And Amalita
Another attempt from Werner’s pen, almost concurrent and at Publishers too, was a strip whose cast lived in the wings of an operatic theater. Within the bounds of Werner’s firm pen lines, there was a daffy quality to the strip. The Maestro and Amalita. It was close to screwball, with frustrated conductor, the Brunhilde-proportioned diva, and group of assorted crazy singers, stagehands, and supernumeraries.

This, sadly, was unsuccessful also. At the time – and after I left the syndicate – I told Werner (diplomatically but sincerely) that the gags were slightly awkward, and the dialog more so. He assumed I mean that his “ESL” English was the stumbling-block, and wouldn’t I be surprised to learn that an English-speaker actually ghost-wrote both strips. No, I wasn’t surprised; I figured from the start that Dick Sherry, who had no sense of humor and was an opera-lover, hoped to feather his nest as a silent partner in the strips.

Werner was in his clutches. I happily note that Granny lived on – funnier and certainly more successful, back in Denmark’s Ekstrabladet as Momsemore (I think “Mother-in-Law”). He continued with other strips in his native Denmark; and moved to California in 1989, to start and self-start (publishing and distribution) other features. Between the two nations he produced Viggo Vampire, TRENDZ, Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Inspector Danger’s Crime Quiz, Professor Yuk-Yuk’s Cartooning Class, and other books and features including editorial cartoons and a how-to-draw book. I don’t think there was a time in his career that he was not busy, and producing several creations simultaneously.
[3] Momsemore 
My friendship with Werner continued, including a great visit to his studio and home in (yes, suburban Copenhagen) Nivå. It is a charming small town on Denmarks’s largest island, Sjælland; and is a station on the CopenhagenHelsingør rail line. The tug of 127 varieties of herring, or one of myriad other ancestral attachments, saw Werneer and his wife Inge move back to Denmark a few years ago.

A happy coincidence was the friendship I made through Werner, that of Jørgen Sonnergaard, a brilliant (and also constantly active) editor, translator, author of novels, especially crimes stories, and of comics. He translated many of the Tintin books into Danish. After working as editor of PIB Service, he was Chief Editor at Gutenberg Publishing Service in charge of new Disney releases in Europe, beginning in 1975.

It was there that the coincidence set in, because Dik Browne asked me to write the script for one of the Hagar the Horrible graphic novels. I did so – Hagar, King of England was the title – and it was done for Gutenberghus/Egmont in Denmark, and their subsidiaries throughout Scandinavia, Germany, and England. And my editor was Werner’s friend, and my earlier acquaintance Jørgen.

[4] Werner Wejp-Olsen
There was nothing rotten in Denmark. I wrote the Hagar graphic novel just before starting as Editor with Marvel; and when I left Marvel, Jørgen offered me the opportunity to write scripts for Disney comic stories – Gutenberghus had the license for the same lands where they published Hagar books. This I did, happily, for several years, writing approximately 30 pages a week.

Every month their editors flew to New York City, stay at the Plaza Hotel, review my finished stories and go through my concepts for the next ones. Eventually they almost grew bored of monthly flights to New York. I suggested that they periodically fly me to Copenhagen, which they commenced. For several years, life with people named Jørgen, Jens, Lars, Mickey, Scrooge, Donald, Chip and Dale was my “work.”

Not to mention that dinners at Danish restaurants in New York and of course Copenhagen were easy to take. For my old friend Werner Wejp-Olsen had introduced me to the joys of wine herring, creamed herring, kippered herring, herring and onions, herring in tomato sauce, and (believe me) even more preparations of herring.

Farewell and skål (the toast pronounced “skol”) to the WOW of cartooning.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Mother Hubbard Up To Date

T.S. Sullivant


March 7, 1908

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday With Bugs Bunny

Al Stoffell and Ralph Heimdahl


In my childhood I used to follow the daily comic strip adventures of Bugs Bunny in my hometown newspaper the Trail (BC) Daily Times. Finding information about Al Stoffell (writer) and Ralph Heimdahl (cartoonist) has always been a near futile chore, perhaps they were unjustly ignored because they were producing a cartoon “property” rather than illuminating original characters. I did, however, find a short article that shed some light on their lives. In the creators’  own words:

Al Stoffell – “Away back thar in 1947, after I had been a freelance writer, hotel publicity man, newpaper reporter and a lieutenant in the Navy, I turned up as a handy man in the editorial department of Western Publishing Co., which had an agreement with Warner Brothers and Newspaper Enterprise Association to produce a Bugs Bunny Sunday page. One day somebody gave me a pat on the back and told me I was going to write the Bugs Bunny Sunday page. My Norwegian friend (Ralph Heimdahl) and I have been at it ever since.”

Ralph Heimdahl – “I had been teaching for seven years in Minnesota, six years in a school for the deaf, when I read about a national competition that Walt Disney was holding to find artists to work for him in California. I drew up some Mickey Mouses and some Donald Ducks and sent them in. I was accepted along with eleven other guys in 1937 and we went through the Disney training.

There was a big strike and I wound up on a farm in Vermont. While on the farm I created a comic strip called Minnie Sue and Little Haha which I finally sold to an outfit in New York after my return to California. It wasn’t real successful but it was a nice little Indian story.”

[1] November 22, 1958
[2] September 1, 1959
[3] May 14, 1960
The Men Behind The Comics: Heimdahl, Stoffell: 
Batty About Bugs, R. Terrance Roskin, 
Desert Sun, July 12 1976

Eminent Victorian Cartoonists

The author of Eminent Victorian Cartoonists is Dr. Richard Scully, Associate Professor in Modern European History at the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, 2531, Australia. The book, a "labour of love," published by The Political Cartoon Society, is a three volume comprehensive social and biographical history of the Victorian political cartoon from John 'H.B.' Doyle to Sir (John) Bernard Partridge. The three volumes are built to last; beautifully printed in solid boards with a sturdy slipcase.

To date the histories of the British Victorian political cartoon have focused rather narrowly on the gentlemen of Punch; a carryover from the class-dominated establishment snobbery that dictated the acceptable in literature, art and theater throughout the nineteenth century. A seat at the Punch Table was an entrée to high society and a distinguished knighthood. The young du Maurier looked forward to the day “when illustrating for the millions (swinish multitude) à la Phiz and à la Gilbert will give place to real art, more expensive to print and engrave and therefore only within the means of more educated classes, who will appreciate more.” 

Nibbling at the edges were the déclassé serio-comic journals, lower-class cousins of the "estimable Punch," embracing "the million" who sought entertainment by the penny or halfpenny: Judy, with her sideline in "Jolly Books", Fun, Moonshine, Figaro, Funny Folks, The Big Budget, Comic Cuts and Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday...

Eminent Victorian Cartoonists widens the scope of study with its emphasis on five of the best of the generally neglected political cartoonists, "The Rivals" of volume II; Matt Morgan, John Proctor, William Henry Boucher, John Gordon Thomson and Fred Barnard. An essential  game-changing reference book filled with insightful biography and caricature history.

Eminent Victorian Cartoonists

is available HERE


Saturday, November 17, 2018

A Crowded Life in Comics – Stan Lee

“I always thought I’d quit in a couple of years.
 But it never seemed to happen…” – Stan Lee

‘Nuff Said: Memories of Stan Lee

by Rick Marschall

Stan Lee died this week. As if he were invulnerable like many of his superheroes – or the usual superheroes, not the Marvel Universe head-cases – many fans likely thought he would simply live on and on.

He did, in a way that few others in the comic-book field did. Even Steve Ditko, so closely linked to Stan and who also died this year, began his career when Stan was well established. Heck, Stan was a veteran in comics when I was born. Eventual retrospectives will assess his career as spanning the Adolescent Age (of the comic-book format, not only readers’ ages) to extravagant SFX Hollywood exploitation.

There have been a plethora of tributes and appraisals of Stan this week, starting within hours of his death. Media canned obits; fans’ fond memories; critics jumping on his grave before he could even occupy it – carping, criticism, iconoclasm, deconstruction, revisionism.

I think Stan’s contributions were enormous, and I can avoid hagiography to say so. His personality was enormous, and so were his talents and instincts and ego and modesty. With great power comes great contradictions.

Instead, I will offer some aspects and anecdotes that might not be found elsewhere. And they can be added, perhaps, to the assessments other will make in the future. They are personal, but not mine alone.

I met Stan when I was Comics Editor of Publishers Newspaper Syndicate in the mid-1970s. It was in Chicago, in the Sun-Times Building, across the river from the virtual cathedral known as Tribune Tower. Stan was in town I think as a guest of Chicago Con, but also to speak with my syndicate’s president Dick Sherry. Not about a Spiderman strip; another syndicate, another time, would do that. No, Stan and Dick had been discussing a European-style magazine, along the lines of Linus, Eureka, or the original Charlie – new contents, international material, articles, interviews, news, reviews, all about comics.

I don’t remember whose idea it was, originally, but Marvel (or Stan himself?) and Publishers Syndicate would co-produce. A major investor would have been Johnny Hart (BC and Wizard of Id), who did not join us for lunch or back at the office. My familiarity with European comics and cartoonists was a major reason Sherry hired me, and I would have been the editor. The working title (appropriately random and only vaguely germane) was to be GROG! after the strange beast in BC. He would have been the magazine’s “mascot.”

We made dummy copies and got to second base, but never to third or home, for various and sundry reasons.

But Stan and I kept in touch. A couple years later, with Chicago (and the third of the syndicates where I edited comics) in the rear-view mirror, I wrote to Stan about working for Marvel. I had never been a particular fan of superheroes, which I did not, um, stress in our correspondence. It seems that it would not have made a difference, however, because I was indeed hired, but initially to handle the magazine line – black and white comics, one-shots, “Super Specials,” movie adaptations, and such. The Hulk was a hit on network TV then, and the process-color magazine stories I hatched or edited were supposed to be “more like the TV Hulk.”

Eventually I was given the privilege of conceiving (with many Stan conferences), designing, naming, and charting the course of what became EPIC magazine.

This brief column will correct some of the conceptions and misconceptions about this Marvel period, and Stan. The Editor in Chief at the time was Jim Shooter, and he has written some memoir about my hiring, and the birth (and birth-pangs) of EPIC. I would like to say that I have read and enjoyed these. I would like to say that, but I cannot, because they are mostly tripe. He wrote that I was hired “cold” by him, yet I had known and (almost) worked with Stan previously, as I have related.

The same with EPIC: it was to be more like Heavy Metal than GROG!, of course; and I took the position that, like HM and the European magazines, we would have to grant creators’ rights and sign royalty agreements.

This argument was resisted in higher echelons at Marvel, of course. Shooter came on board but was not father to the idea, despite his revisionist history. And it did happen: in the Marvel Universe, EPIC was the entry-way to royalty deals. Stan eventually sent me to Europe, to the Lucca Festival principally, to scout for artists. (Shooter was steamed, just as he complained about my invitation to lunches and meetings when European publishers came to New York. But. I had previous relations with many of them; and as one executive said, “We don’t want to scare them off.”)

Back to Stan, and some more pertinent things to share. He was, in the office, just what people saw in conventions and TV commercials. Dashing about in warp-speed. Gregarious. Yes, nicknames. There were many meetings, and chats, in his office; but he often came into the office of me and Ralph Macchio, my assistant. Sometimes business, of course, but – this was cool – sometimes to talk about nothing. Not quite like Seinfeld, but… old comics, newspaper strips, “what ever happened to this-or-that old cartoonist” who I might have known. Once when Burne Hogarth came up to visit me, I took him down to meet Stan, who acted (and surely was) blown away to meet the Tarzan artist.

If memory serves, when Tom Batiuk visited New York once (I had edited Funky Winkerbean at Publishers) he was awed to be in the Marvel offices, and met Stan. My Connecticut friend Chad Grothkopf (who was my first landlord after I married Nancy) requested that I arrange an audience with Stan. They had worked together decades earlier, and were friends whose wives shared the same first name.

Ralph thought these visits to my desk were out of the ordinary, by Marvel standards; usually editors were called to his large office if at all. But these were social calls. One thing he shared I never forgot. Out of the blue, one day he talked about his early, and surviving, dreams for Marvel: he always held up Disneyland, the theme parks; and what they represented. Not so much the characters except “the way Disneyland, the whole Disney thing, is tattooed on everyone’s brain... There are other cartoons, but Disney is first. There are other funny animals, but the Disney ones are what people think of. Mickey Mouse is the most famous character in the world! Disneyland! A whole city!” I wondered, years later, after Marvel was swallowed by Disney, how ironic that was to him – maybe bitter, since Stan was long-gone by then.

More than that, is something I can share, and it seldom is mentioned about Stan. His instincts. He loved comics as an art form, but never got artsy about it (believe me, friends here and in Europe can and do) (so do I). By the end of my time at Marvel, Stan knew little about the Marvel titles or new characters. Enough – no; actually, not enough – to answer fans’ questions at conventions. That was the real reason he gave talks with no questions, or arranged signings alone, with no presentations.

But he never lost his technical-editing (if I can use that term) chops. As I said, I had been a cartoonist, had edited comics, churned ‘em out at Marvel after all; and studied strips. The “Language and Structure,” as my course would be called as a teacher at SVA. Stan, however, held “classes” every day.

– How to construct a page? He would explain how to lead the reader’s eye through a page.

– Balloon placement? He was brilliant, seeing designs like parts of jigsaw puzzle, making the reader look here and notice that, via balloons, sound effects, visual elements, “camera” angles. 

Covers and colors? This was what Stan held onto longest – approving every single cover. The drawing, usually roughs AND finishes, and especially the colors. Contrasts and values, logos and figures. He would never merely reject out of hand; he would correct and show and discuss. By my time, the assembly-line of cover roughs had Marie Severin execute the final versions for Stan, and her own talent as well as years-with-Stan, virtually assured their OKs. But there was almost always one little tweak, at least, and spot-on irrefutable.

Every chat was like going to school.

Whatever is said, or speculated, about Stan Lee’s collaborations, what is seldom said and less often acknowledged is the undeniable effect that such “lessons” – his instincts, not just about what would make young readers flip – but how to do it, in a million subtle ways… could not have been lost on Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others. Even Drawing the Marvel Way does not give a full impression of the passionate love affair Stan had with the comic-book page. And his visceral analyses. I would ask John Buscema if he realized the same things about Stan. “Oh, sure,” he would wave his hand. He acknowledged picking up countless tips from Stan.

Memorable characters? Stan created or wet-nursed them; all with his DNA. Strips? He loved comics, so launched several newspaper strips. Other genres? He loved humor, as well as teenage, girls, parody, fumetti, and romance themes. Merchandising, movies, theme parks… we know them all. Astounding, really.

In one dynamic man, he was what other publishers needed staffs for. He always seemed a bit uncomfortable in person, however affable, as if fighting eternally blocked nasal passages; and – during my time – I used to wonder how painful those hair plugs were. Yet nothing slowed him down. I even remember hearing that when he moved to Los Angeles, his place was so big that he skated around on roller skates, even answering the door with them on. True? Even if not, it fit the man perfectly. Legends imitate life.

In that regard, finally, one time he bounded into my office, and related an idea he had for a Silver Surfer story in the planned EPIC. He was full of life, gesticulating, doing action poses, loudly building to a crescendo ending. After he left, Ralph Macchio and I looked at each other, rolling our eyes and stifling laughs. We had the common impression – the story hung on the sort of speculation that we both had as kids, young kids, and therefore many readers probably would too; and therefore the pitch seemed mundane, not special.

Eventually I realized that the story idea, I won’t recount here, was pure Stan. If it was juvenile… it touched on ordinary fantasies. A good thing. If it was simple… it meant it was universal. If it was child-like…

… well, that was Stan Lee. A brilliant child – maybe several brilliant kids rolled into one – who never lost the joy of childhood. Everything could be fun, if you dreamed it right, planned it right, told it right, drew it right, and sold, or shared it, right. At the root of it all, whatever the genre or project, Stan Lee asked “What if…?”

And I ask: What if there had been no Stan Lee?

Topper: Jack Kirby, Fantastic Four, Marvel Treasury Edition, 1976
Bottom: Stan Lee, 1969