Sunday, December 1, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Creig Flessel, AKA
Mr Sandman, Bring Me a Dream...

By Rick Marschall.

I was a mere 13 years old when I attended my third National Cartoonists Society Meeting. The New York Metro chapter met monthly in the legendary, ancient actor’s “clubhouse,” I think on 44th Street. Meeting rooms, conference halls, a restaurant, and bars everywhere. Old wood, old mirrors, old actors – many of them asleep in overstuffed leather wing chairs. I swear I spotted a slumbering Brian Aherne, but what does a 13-year-old know?

And of course, one evening a month the NCS had the restaurant and meeting room. These were substantial monthly events, not only excuses to go and fraternize. Always a dinner… always a speaker and entertainer… always a time for drinks before, during, and after… and always a “Shop Talk” to close the evening (except for drinks) (boy, did I get sick of ginger ale).

The Shop Talks were formal affairs, carefully planned and well attended in a separate room. Usually they revolved around a cartoonist visiting from out of town; sometimes they addressed issues like taxes and IRS write-offs for professionals – good discussions, and a lot of Q&As.

After Al Smith (Mutt and Jeff) took me to my first meeting, I became something of a mascot or something – more like a curiosity, this kid who knows about turn-of-the-century comics – and other cartoonists invited me. Vern Greene, Harry Hershfield, others. Was it a kick? Unbelievable.
But on the evening I recall here, and maybe because I felt like a jaded veteran, I largely eschewed the programs. I was in the thrall of two cartooners.

The first was Al Kilgore. He died too young – age 155 would have been too young – and he is remembered today as a caricaturist; a founder of the Laurel and Hardy Society Sons of the Desert; and artist on the Bullwinkle comic strip. I will devote a future column to this genius and friend – eventually I was his editor and a frequent guest at his home in Hollis, Long Island. But that evening, totally impromptu, he held court for me and commercial artist Jim Ruth, on a giant Lamb’s Club red-leather sofa – delivering a steady monologue of anecdotes, reminiscences, dating stories, problems with taxi drivers, crazy friends… I thought he was in a class with Jean Shepherd, if tears of laughter were a gauge. If it sounds like he was the funniest guy I ever met, that’s only because… he was.

The other magnet drawing my interest that evening was Creig Flessel.

I only knew Creig as the artist on the Sunday page of David Crane. It ran in the Newark Star-Ledger, so I knew it well. I was aware that the dailies originally were drawn by Winslow Mortimer, who had created the strip, or was its first artist. At first it was a continuity strip about a small-town pastor, the Sunday pages given to a religious “message.” This was the template of the Mark Trail strip (that is, Sunday pages given over to educational messages); and I believe its cartoonist, Ed Dodd, created David Crane and scripted its first years. When other writers came in, and the syndicate thought that Sunday gags would be more appealing, comic-book and advertising artist Creig Flessel was brought in.

(I recall that at one point while I was talking with Creig, Win Mortimer walked passed, and the two cartoonists exchanged rather hostile glances; nothing more.)

I had absolutely no sense or knowledge of Creig Flessel’s “earlier lives” that evening. He was one of the pioneer comic-book artists – breaking ground and producing “firsts” of titles, characters, covers, and formats with people like Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Vin Sullivan. The Shadow pulps for Street and Smith… Johnstone and Cushing ad strips… More Fun covers… the pre-Batman Detective Comics… New Comics… the earliest appearances (maybe significantly creating) The Sandman… eventually Superman and Superboy.

In my opinion, nobody ever drew more handsome comic-book covers than Creig Flessel in the medium’s first generation. 

I was years away from an interest in comic books and superheroes, so there were a thousand un-asked questions from me that evening at the Lamb’s Club. But I had many other questions; and many of those were typical of a 13-year-old aspiring cartoonist. Creig answered everything, and flattered me by asking a lot about me – my favorite cartoonists, my ambitions, my family’s encouragement.

He was genuinely interested. A genuinely nice man. And he confirmed this when, less than a week later, a package arrived at my parents’ house from him. It contained inscribed Sunday and daily originals (he had taken over the daily strip); color proofs; and a three-page, hand-written letter full of advice, encouragement, even information about his working methods and his tools at the drawing board. We reproduce it here; I hope double-clicking will make it readable for you.

Such encounters were not detours but the essence of my Crowded Life in Comics, a chronicle of blessings of time and chance; and of exceptional people.

– XXX –


Sunday, November 24, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Opper-Level Memories.

By Rick Marschall

Two special drawings of Mr. Hooligan – the 1907 sketch was done for cartoonist Gus Mager’s ailing sister; he arranged to have cartoonists in the Hearst bullpen send sketches in separate postcards to her. 

A couple of weeks ago I shared my affection – hagiography, really – for Frederick Burr Opper. Still my favorite cartoonist, whose work in old books attracted my interest before I could read; creator of Happy Hooligan, Maud the Mule, Alphonse and Gaston, and more than 10,000 cartoons and strips throughout his career. Political cartoonist, book illustrator; strip pioneer; and the cartoonist who codified conventions like speech balloons in progressive panels.

As I chip away at my full-length biography of Opper and his work, I will share a few more treasures here. (And in an early issue of the revived NEMO Magazine.) No need for much narrative, since I confessed my fealty already. His work did, and does, and will, speak for itself.

Opper among eight other prominent cartoonists of his day, ca. 1903. 

A card from a testimonial dinner given in honor of F. Opper, Cafe Martin, New York, April 1912. Among those present, and signing their names on this part of the program, were Carl Anderson, C. S. Rigby, Gustrave Verbeek, Albert Levering, George McManus, H. A. MacGill (The Hall Room Boys), Jimmy Swinnerton, Rudolph Dirks, L.N. Glackens (Puck), Rudolph Block (editor of the New York American comic section), Gus Mager, Al Frueh, animation pioneer E. G. Luitz, Fred Nankivell, political cartoonists William H. Walker and Charles Macauley.

Fifteen years later, another testimonial dinner – this one a massive affair where Opper, Charles Dana Gibson, and political cartoonist W. A Rogers were honored. At the Hotel Astor in Manhattan. I also have an enormous “gaslight photograph” of the entire room, hundreds of guests at their tables. (And giant drawings, hanging from the balconies, by Winsor McCay and others. Oh! Whatever happened to those drawings?) Signers of this program were the three honorees, and humorist Irvin S. Cobb, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Arthur Brisbane, Sen. William Borah, and Broadway compoer Gene Buck.

When Opper retired in 1934 (due to failing eyesight; he died three years later) he was given yet another testimonial dinner. Here he draws his old hero Happy Hooligan In the background, Harold H. Knerr (The Katzenjammer Kids) look on.

… and when the evening was over, the assembled cartoonists drew their characters as a send-off to the “The Dean of American Cartoonists.” With Opper at the easel was King Features’ newest star, Alex Raymond, who commenced Secret Agent X-9, Jungle Jim, and Flash Gordon that year.

No. 59

Thursday, November 21, 2019


is on view at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum from

November 2, 2019, through May 3, 2020.

Tarpe Mills, Amazing Mystery Funnies, Vol 2, No 5, Centaur Publications Inc., May 1939


Sunday, November 17, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Impeachment Funnies.

My portrait of Nixon as Pinocchio. A natural, right? 

By Rick Marschall.

Well, the word of the month is impeachment. Rather, the Subsection D, category 17, folder T-1, is “Phone Call.” Oh, just stick in there somewhere between Collusion, Stormy Daniels, Emolument, Tweets, and Weird Hair.

Back in my early days of cartooning, Impeachment likewise was in the air – taken further than this flavor-of-the-day is likely to go. But who knows. I am talking about the Nixon Years, of course (whoops, not “of course” – you might have thought I meant the Clinton Years).

One of a multitude of differences with the Nixon impeachment furor that, as inviting as Trump is to caricature, no president was more inviting to draw. Well, except for Theodore Roosevelt. And maybe Abraham Lincoln. But Nixon preternaturally looked shifty and guilty, possibly from his first baby picture onward. A cartoonist’s dream.

Jules Feiffer drew Nixon as Banquo’s ghost. Certainly not a MacArthur reference. This was actually from my sketchbook, drawn after the resignation. The following caricatures are all from before the impeachment.

Here is a little gallery of Nixon caricatures drawn for me in those years. If I asked a fellow cartoonist for a sketch, I never requested a Nixon. But the political cartoonists had the jones for low-hanging fruit.

So did I. When a was a college student I drew for New Guard magazine, the monthly journal of Young Americans for Freedom, the campus youth group launched by William F Buckley; and for other outlets like Battle Line of the American Conservative Union. In an early taste of 2019’s definition of freedom of the press, I was good enough for those national publications but my own school paper, The Eagle at American University, Washington DC, would not run my submissions because I was conservative. Something dies in darkness, I heard somewhere...

Movement conservatives early were disenchanted with Nixon, of course, and many of the cartoons in my old files are less than kind to him. The “Pinocchio” concept was a natural, with his nose that put Bob Hope’s to shame; yet I always was surprised more cartoons did not use it.

As the Watergate pot began to boil, other obvious concepts presented themselves. Hardly a tiny fraction of his face shows, but I think I captured Nixon well.

A few years later I was political cartoonist for a chain of papers owned by William Loeb of the Manchester (NH) Union Leader. Bill’s father had been Theodore Roosevelt’s private secretary; and Bill himself was a delightfully crusty traditional publisher – editorials on the front page; sticking it to liberals; we got along fine. His papers were the first major chain, left or right, to call for Nixon’s resignation or impeachment. The second cartoon here is from my tenure on his Connecticut Sunday Herald.
Art Wood, cartoonist, collector, and founder of the National Foundation and Gallery of Caricature and Cartoon Art (whose name was longer than the life of the institutions), of which I was to become president.

The other drawings here are by cartoonists who stuck with it longer than I did. I turned to editing and writing. As I say, cartoonists skewered Nixon virtually whenever a blank piece of paper was in front of them.

Donald Trump to the contrary notwithstanding, cartoonists are among the only people in America who are not happy that, in Nixon’s famous rant in 1962, they “don’t have Dick Nixon to kick around any more.”

Joe Papin was a staff artist on the New York Daily News, doing news portraits and editorial art. More talented than the paper allowed him to show. For a while I lived on the Jersey shore, in Rumson, and sometimes wound up on the same buses and trains, Manhattan-bound with Joe. He was as light-hearted and insouciant as his portrait of President Nixon suggests…

Jim Berry

Bill Crawford


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Our State Art Studio at Sing Sing –

Outcault and the Yellow Kid, E.W. Townsend and "Chimmie Fadden" and Kemble and His "Coons" Give the Idle Prisoners Their First Lesson in Drawing.
NY Journal, Feb 7, 1897 


Sunday, November 3, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

A Lifetime of Opper-tunities.

A matted original drawing of Happy Hooligan, drawn for cartoonist (Bugville Life) and animal illustrator Paul Bransom.

By Rick Marschall.

I have written, recently here, of the early wellsprings and touchstones in a Crowded Life working and wandering in the comics vineyards. My father’s encouragement; my family’s indulgence; the blessings of friendships and mentoring from professional cartoonists when I was young – even to meeting some of the Founding Fathers of the art form.

A real Opper comic book, 1911.

Dirks, Swinnerton, Goldberg, Hershfield, Charles Payne, Frank King, and other greats were still alive when I began drawing, collecting, and “interviewing,” which developed from marking time once I was in their studios and presences. Natural curiosity led to natural questions.

But one cartooning great was not alive, and that fact was a literal regret to me, because F. Opper was the cartoonist whose work attracted me the earliest – almost before I could read – and was cartooning I copied, and cartoons that made me laugh. Opper died in 1937, 22 years before I was born, so the miss was as bad as a mile. He was born in Madison, Ohio, in 1857, and already in his teens he was professionally cartooning in New York City.

Leslie’s Weekly; then Puck for two decades; then the Hearst papers with countless comic strips and editorial cartoons for more than a subsequent 30 years. He illustrated many books for the top humorists of the day, including Bill Nye, Mark Twain, and Eugene Field. I can – and will – write more about Opper, here; and some of you know that I am in the process of writing a major biography of him.

One definition of hero-worship, not to mention foolish immaturity, can be my early attraction to his work (my father had an early anthology of old material, Cartoon Cavalcade, and I found other sources) that manifested itself in a fantasy. Before I knew that he no longer lived, I imagined calling on him. Did he live, in this dream, in a normal suburban home like the cartoonists I was meeting in the New York area? No… I imagined that Frederick Burr Opper would be seated on an elevated chair, almost a throne, at the end of a long room. Royalty? Yes – that was my conception: how I viewed him, and his deserved place.

Kids in school wondered why I always drew a tramp on chalkboards, one with a tin can for a hat; and “who is Fopper?” (I guess I never forged the period strongly enough after the “F.”) Well, that’s how it went. Among my first questions to Hershfield and Goldberg and the others were What was Opper like???

My tattered, surviving cover to a custom Happy Hooligan comic book – “All New Stories!” Opus from my twelfth year.

I even re-created – or, rather, created – a Happy Hooligan comic book, as if the strip were still running, or as if anyone cared, but it was complete with cover promo copy. Forty-eight pages, reviving Happy, Gloomy Gus, Montmorency, Maud the Mule, Alphonse and Gaston, et al. I think I was 12 when I embarked on the self-delusional enterprise. It was not to make money, of course; it was paying homage, but subconsciously honing the cartooning, character, storytelling chops.

I eventually met his granddaughter Nellie Anna, a delightful lady who counter-signed a portrait I did of Mr Hooligan. Late in life she married my old friend the Socialist political cartoonist Walt Partymiller. And I met Frederick Burr Opper III, a distinguished and reserved gent who also worked for Hearst, as a diplomatic correspondent.

Enough of that. Some of Opper’s footprints here. I hope he generates among the uninitiated some appreciation of his genius – the innocent mayhem, the native humor, the superb craftsmanship, such as flawless anatomy beneath his casual lines.

My “Opper Wall” down the staircase – the Hooligan drawing and several of the Opper Sunday-page originals in my collection.

As Hallowe’en approaches, and I write this, I wonder why I never did trick-or-treating as Happy Hooligan, fastening an old soup can to my head. I was a Kid; and I was Happy enough; but I was never Krazy. There are limits.


Friday, October 25, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

After I had met Al Smith (Mutt and Jeff) my parents met him at the church we all attended. Al wrote to invite me a National Cartoonists Society meeting, hoping it was all right with my parents (I was 12). It was a thrill, and a surprise, to be invited; almost as big a thrill to receive the formality of a typed letter, “sincerely yours,” and such.

Father Knows Best.

by Rick Marschall.

I wonder, sometimes, if I would have had this “crowded life” in comics if it had not been for my father. My parents and my supportive family.

This week upcoming will see what would have been my parents’ 72nd anniversary, so my  memories are fresher, my recollections a bit accelerated.

My dad never drew, or aspired to be a cartoonist. But he loved cartoons and strips. He had saved, from his own younger years, a long run of Judge Magazine, beginning with a 1927 issue with a cover cartoon by S J Perelman. I managed a bit of homage by making that cartoon the cover of an anthology of Perelman’s work I edited years later. Ironically, When our family moved from a brownstone in Queens to a spacious New Jersey suburban home, he sold the stack of Judges. He almost immediately, and with subsequent frequency, regretted the decision.

But he loved comic strips, maybe more than anyone lacking artistic ambitions could. In New Jersey, he subscribed to the Bergen Record; and on Sundays the New York Times and the Newark Star-Ledger. However… he subscribed, or would buy at newsstands (remember them?) papers he would not read at all, except for the funnies. New York City: Sunday News; the Mirror; the Journal-American; the Herald-Tribune. Long Island:  The Press. New Jersey: Newark News; Atlantic City Press (all the NEA strips; saved by his old Army buddy for me); Philadelphia: The Bulletin; The Philadephia Inquirer in its garish roto-colors. Also saved by family friends for me.

I say “saved for me,” but he devoured them all with equal gusto. And saved them all neatly for me, a percentage of my tonnage of comics. He also neatly cut out daily-strip pages of comics; and likewise saved them neatly. And our archival trove was of more than New York-area comics. Dad visited out-of-town newspaper stands in Manhattan, where he worked, and brought home random Sunday papers from random cities – I remember being amazed at the Chattanooga Times, which resembled The New York Times (same ownership) except that it ran comics! Perhaps making up for the Gray Lady’s sins of omission up north, it carried two color comic sections every weekend, a tabloid and a standard section.

He loved almost all the comics, but he invariably laughed the hardest, and most frequently, at – hard to guess, but hard to argue – Archie, Hubert, and The Jackson Twins. In later years I was able to secure sketches, signed books, or originals of these, and other cartoonists’ creations. Bill Watterson inscribed one of his Calvin and Hobbes collections to my father.

Lank Leonard (Mickey Finn) was a cartoonist we saw on Florida trips. One year he invited us to join the cartoonists’ contingent, a couple tables at a Welcome Home event for Jackie Gleason, who had traveled abroad between seasons of his American Scene TV show. Jackie was attempting to make Miami a center of television production. We also met Art Carney that evening.
This was not a mere pack-rat childhood. I have shared in these columns how every year’s vacation to Florida, Dad would encourage me (not acquiesce, but encourage) to write letters to cartoonists along the way; and one or two days before driving back home would consistent of visiting cartoonists in their studios. I do, and did, realize that these detours seldom delighted my mother and sisters. But Dad was always by my side… thrilled to be meeting his favorite cartoonists, often boyhood favorites. Roy Crane; Frank King; Leslie Turner; Jim Ivey; Fred Lasswell; Lank Leonard; Mel Graff… I have shared some of these travelogues, but I hope you indulge my return to Memory Lane.

Cartooning as a profession? No, there my father dissented, even despite the encouragement of cartoonists. I should be a teacher – “a job that is secure” – and could ways try cartooning as a sideline. I listened, but did not hear or heed, the advice.

He infected me with pleasant “conditions.” I am not sure if I would have tried to draw, or earn my living as a cartoonist for years, without the first germs. Would I have collected comics? Would I have collected, on broader horizons, first editions and rare books of literature, otherwise?

I was able, in a properly ordered and organized life cycle, to reciprocate in various ways. When I interviewed Bob and Ray – sitting in their WOR studio for an entire broadcast (and risking hernias, trying not to laugh out loud) I asked if they minded if he joined me.  Dad also played jazz piano, and after I developed a friendship with the great Teddy Wilson – one of his stylistic idols – I introduced them and we attended an intimate performance. And so forth.

There is a saying that The boy is father to the man. In Marty Marshall’s case, the boyish father was father to the boy who became the man I am, at least chronologically. As we must all be grateful to our parents, I thank God every day… and I am not even talking about faith or citizenship or being kind to dogs.

If you have endured this far, glean a lesson, if I may suggest.  Appreciate the deeds your parents planted in you. And be intentional about planting seeds in this who follow you.

Between visits to the cartoonists of Florida, we actually did vacation-y things, like fishing. That’s me on the left… no, all the way to the left.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

About Face.

by Rick Marschall.

I have been blessed through the years to meet a lot of cool people – one of the excuses for this running column. Not all of them have been celebrities, in comics or out of comics. I cannot guarantee that people I met have come away with the same feelings I have, of course, but Sick Transit Gloria Monday, to cite the woman who fell ill taking the subway after a rough weekend.

Between my memories and huzzahs are some disappointments, in myself, that I neglected to get photographs of some encounters (more difficult in the BC era – Before Cellphones); and too often I was dissuaded from asking for autographs or book inscriptions or sketches, not wanting to appear to be a fanboy. Me. Not wanting to appear to be a fanboy.

But occasionally I drew sketches or caricatures, and usually I was bold, or suicidal, enough to ask the victims to sign the drawing.

When I was with the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists we descended on Washington DC, I think in the Spring of 1975 or ‘76. The annual meeting, given the location, was a bigger event than usual, and the AAEC was invited to the White House by President Gerald Ford.

In one of the receptions I pulled out my sketchbook and, virtually one-handed and quickly, attempted this caricature. I signed my full name, Richard; and he signed “Jerry” instead of Gerald. Saved ink.

Jack Tippit, my cartoonist friend who worked for a while as Director of the Museum of Cartoon Art, was asked by a large newspaper group in New York if he could secure Herblock to receive an award. Jack did not know Herb, but he knew that I did, and asked me to persuade the famously shy Pulitzer-Prize winner to come out in public for the honor. Indeed Herb was reluctant, but it was a great honor. Herb donned a tux, traveled to New York City, and confided how awkward he felt.

However, his attendance was in doubt to the last minute. Somehow, for some reason, the group (honestly I forget which one, but the turmout was huge; tuxes and gowns everywhere) discovered that Henry Kissinger was available and willing to glom a medal too. The Secretary of State was controversial and – in addition to suddenly sharing the honors with Herblock – was no favorite of the liberal cartoonist.

But Herb affably accepted his award and spoke a few words of thanks. So did Kissinger, except that the audience actually could understand Herblock.

During the dinner I sketched each of them. I tried to capture Herblock’s mood. Kissinger was Kissinger, and as he signed his caricature he asked me, “Did you haff to make me look so morose?” Mirror, mirror, on der vall…

Of the many country music stars I met and interviewed, I sometimes drew large, formal portraits and had them inscribe them. Jerry Lee Lerwis, Linda Ronstadt, Tom T Hall… a nice gallery, probably now in the den of Bob Cole, a former sheriff in Nashville, who swiped them from me. Oh, well; a lot of country songs are sad stories.

But I sketched Merle Haggard backstage once, and the rough sketch came out OK. He signed it with a nice inscription. I made a “tighter” drawing of him for publication, based on the sketch, and it ran with a review of his concert. Through the years I lost the signed sketch, but the “finish” has remained on top of various piles around here…

I have many more caricatures done of me, by other cartoonists. With a face as funny as mine, some of the artists found it irresistible to depict my “phiz.” I will share them some day when I am not looking...

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

The Long Trail a Little Longer.

by Rick Marschall.

Editorial cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling received the news of Theodore Roosevelt’s death very close to his deadline for the Des Moines Register. It was January 6, 1919. Roosevelt and Ding had become friends, with natural affinities including reform politics and hunting.

As he told it afterward, he naturally wanted to make a profound statement in his cartoon, but also had the deadline monster in his studio. His cartoons appeared in the Register but also were distributed nationally by the New York Tribune Syndicate. Legend has it that he decided to hold the place with a recycled concept of a popular cartoon he drew two years ago almost to the day, a tribute to Buffalo Bill Cody on the latter’s death. “Gone to join the mysterious caravan,” shaking the hands of young admirers.

Ding would then, he thought, have a day to draw a proper, more thoughtful, detailed tribute to Col. Roosevelt.

He never had to draw a second cartoon. The reaction, in Des Moines and around the country, was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. It was printed in many newspapers and praised in editorials. Eventually it was printed as cards, posters, and prints. Ding himself  drew it as a signed, numbered etching. For years copies were displayed in schoolrooms and post offices.

Despite winning two Pulitzer Prizes, and fame as a naturalist (he designed the Government’s Duck Hunting stamps for years and has a wildlife refuge named in his honor on Sanibel Island, Florida), the hurried recycle is Ding’s most memorable work.

Recently I saw a third version. After speaking (and presenting legacy cartoons) at the Annual Symposium of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson University, I joined a group that traversed the Enchanted Highway. Along a 32-mile stretch of local roads, through farm country of western North Dakota is a collection of the world's largest scrap metal sculptures Gary Greff, an amateur sculptor, began constructing two-dimensional images in 1989. There are nine built to date, at spots along the roads, with cut-offs for parking and a few recreational areas.
Most of Greff’s sculptures refer to the flower, fish, and fauna of North Dakota. But one pays tribute to another essential aspect of the region’s landscape: a 60-foot-high sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt. And he used Ding Darling’s famous and iconic image from “The Long, Long Train” cartoon as his model.

Against the grassy hills and the Dakota sky, it seems to come to life… as much as a cartoon can, in its own way.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Theodore Roosevelt Center AT DSU

Welcomes Rick Marschall To Team

Political cartoonist, historian and author Rick Marschall

Rick Marschall contributes a weekly column, A Crowded Life in Comics, to Yesterday's Papers 

Read more with links HERE.

J. Campbell Cory, June 29, 1912

The Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University is creating a comprehensive digital library of all things Roosevelt, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, personal and office diaries, sound and film recordings, and political cartoons. To learn more about the Center, or to access any of the 57,000 items available to date, visit


Thursday, September 26, 2019

C. G. Bush, Cartoonist

by S. H. Horgan, The Inland Printer, Oct 1907


Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Down the Bunny Trail

Rick Marschall

I have just returned from the 14th annual Symposium of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. I recently was named their Cartoon Archivist, as noted here, and indeed the keynote was a “Cartoon-Off,” with the honorable Clay Jenkinson and myself showing 15 cartoons each, commenting, and inviting the registrants’ votes.

Among many things to which my “mind” raced back was not Roosevelt specifically, but peripherally:

When I was very young I already had twin obsessions – more than a couple, really – but two were Roosevelt and vintage cartoons. My mother’s mother was born in New York City of German parentage. She moved from Manhattan when young and quickly acquired and never lost a Brooklyn accent. “Berl the water” and “Don’t get boined,” were such footprints of speech.

Perhaps her ears were affected, too; or maybe my famously quiet voice, but one day in the kitchen I wanted to ask if she ever laid eyes on Theodore Roosevelt in her youth. An  “excuse me” and a “what?” and “speak up” had me repeating “Theodore”… until she thought I was asking if she attended the theater as a girl.

An unconscious shift to my second interest. Her face lit up, and she recalled being taken to a Broadway musical as a girl. It was one of several musical comedies staged around the pioneer comic-supplement character Foxy Grandpa. She didn’t remember much about the plot or the songs… but she remembered that there were moments so funny that a fat man sitting on the aisle laughed and laughed.

“His face turned so red when he laughed that I thought he was going to pop!” she told me. So that was tattooed on my memory, too, and through years since I cannot think of Foxy Grandpa and his two grandsons without thinking of little Augusta Vagt watching that man almost laugh himself to death.

Foxy Grandpa commenced in 1900 in the color pages of the Sunday New York Herald. The artist was Carl Emil Schultze, who had signed his cartoons in Life magazine with his surname, but his newspaper work as “Bunny,” often beside a furry mascot. His other features for the Sunday funnies were random gags or short strips under the title Vaudevilles, and were collected in a book of that name.

An immediate hit was Foxy Grandpa. Its premise was simple – indeed, a one-gag premise. Oddly enough, the early strips virtually all were variations on a single joke. Happy Hooligan was a well-meaning tramp whose kindly efforts backfired. Hans and Fritz would conspire, execute a prank, and be punished. Little Jimmy was distracted from every errand, with comic results. Buster Brown’s pranks went awry on their own. Maud the Mule kicked people – usually her owner, Si – into the next county to assert her dominance. Alphonse and Gaston’s politesse inevitably resulted in chaos, not order.

… and so on. In all, a remarkable but ironic foundation for commercial successes and a viable and pliable art form. Yet such was the early days of the comics. Foxy Grandpa’s formula was, simply, the mirror-image of the Katzenjammer Kids. The grandsons plotted a trick on the old boy, who predictably outsmarted them in the ultimate panel. It is amazing that for almost 20 years the boys were surprised each week. And each week.

And in various formats, appearances, books, and Broadway musicals. As far as I have seen, or remember (having the complete run in the Herald and Hearst’s American to which he moved amidst much fanfare soon afterward; and ultimately to Munsey’s Sun) neither Grandpa nor the boys had Christian nor surnames. Neither “Little Brother” who eventually joined the cast. No intermediate generation of parents were ever seen, beginning tradition that a homonymic namesake, Charles, continued. (On stage, Grandpa had a name: Goodelby Goodman; and the boys were Chub and Bunt.)

I will share here memorabilia including buttons and songsheets generated by the stage sensations. Not pages nor reprint-book covers here; maybe later.

“Bunny” had a sad ending to his life and erstwhile successful career. He died in poverty in New York City’s West side in 1939, filling his last years with occasional pages for early comic books, a couple of children’s books, and drawing sketches of Foxy Grandpa for neighborhood businesses and kids.