Friday, February 15, 2019

DAILY MIRROR comic strip series index — Now Available in 2019 Update


Can You Beat It?, Jack Monk, Mar 20, 1937
The DAILY MIRROR comic strip series index has now been updated until January 26, 2019 (previous version was done a year ago, on February 3, 2018) and there were some changes in the Daily Mirror’s comic strips line-up during 2018 after the previous update, so now the newspaper has even less strips...

Also new is the addition of the two old strip-like features by Jack Monk from 1936 and 1937 (“Can You Beat It?” and “Behind the Scenes...”). These two comic features are now included in the Index because of the artist’s significance and also because they have never before been referenced with any dates, even partial.

DAILY MIRROR comic strip series index 1904-2019



Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Crowded life in Comics –


The Cat Who Walked
( Otto Messmer )

A sketch that Otto drew for me. So many coincidences in my Crowded Life in Cartooning – I later visited Joe Oriolo, who managed Felix after Otto’s retirement. A high-school crush of mine, Janet Ralston, later a TV news anchor, had dated Joe’s son.

IT WAS SERENDIPITY, for a young fan of comics and cartoons, to grow up in the New York City area, as I did. I wrote sincere fan letters to cartoonists out of the region, and usually received gracious responses; and some of those letters resulted in invitations that, thanks to my indulgent parents, often led to visits.

Among the long-distance replies to fan letters, I received letters and signed artwork from the likes of Charles Schulz, Frank King, Gluyas Williams, Bill Freyse, Lank Leonard, Crockett Johnson, and Jack Kent.

But closer to home, in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island, the streets and woods were full of cartoonists. Those who were not available for the world to discover in phone books – O halcyon days – like Rudolph Dirks, John Bray, and Gardner Rea, the cartoonists I did know as a young guy, were happy to make invitations. Like a happy game of telephone, cartoonists recommended me to friends and associates they knew.

Evidently I was just on the right side of Pestering to merit this networking. Indeed I tried to be polite, and I unconsciously honed my interviewing skills, wanting to do more than stare admiringly at my heroes and assorted legends.

One day my initial mentor, Al Smith of Mutt and Jeff, told me about a cartoonist who lived in nearby Fort Lee NJ, with his daughter. Maybe I didn’t know his name, but surely I knew his work – Otto Messmer of Felix the Cat.

Surely I did. I knew his work on the King Features strip, because he eventually was allowed to sign it; but his longtime work in his amazing style stretched back to the 1920s in my collection of old funny papers. And I was aware of his pioneer work in animation.

I even had examples of cartoons he signed in the ‘teens, for the New York World comic magazine Fun; and for Judge.

… which items I brought with me, you can be sure, when I visited him. Otto was as a gracious as any of the cartoonists I met, and immediately invited me to visit when I called and introduced myself. Fort Lee is at a terminus of the George Washington Bridge (and has a fascinating history itself, “America’s First Hollywood,” where many early movies such as The Perils of Pauline serials were filmed, before the studios moved to Astoria, Queens; and Long Island; and then California) and was close enough to me parents’ home that frequent visits were comfortable. And comfortable visits were frequent.

Photo of Otto Messmer at the drawing board during one of my visits. 
I HAD CAMERAS and sketchbooks in hand, but I regret never taking notes nor recording our conversations. Curse my foggy memory, but had stories of cartooning even before he met Pat Sullivan, of Felix in the early days (maybe before Sullivan himself – see what I mean?), of a train ride with Walt Disney and their wives, discussing early conceptions of Mickey Mouse…

Otto was kind, gentle, and modest – every one of the characteristics to the nth degree. It was evident there was no “shadow of turning” in him, no embellishments of what was a fabulous career. Most of that career was spent in anonymity, signing Suillivan’s name, or none, to his work for decades.

Except for some forgotten footnotes, rather momentous to the histories of comics and cartoons, I have a passel of memories of a modest genius, generous with his time and friendship. A retired cartoonist living in his daughter’s house.

Behind the kindly smiles and his self-effacing memories, there sat the man who created one of the century’s iconic animated heroes, favorite of generations of children. He spun stories of whimsy, comic adventures, and plots that were both vivid and hilarious in ways that could exist on the screen and comic pages.
 
Otto Messmer’s artwork – anonymous, as usual – 
during the glory days of Felix. 
I THANK GOD for the Good Neighbor Policy among cartoonists during my youth!

26

Friday, February 8, 2019

Sunday with Hal Foster –


 PRINCE VALIANT 
Vancouver Sunday Sun
April 24, 1954



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Sunday with Arch Dale –


.THE DOO DADS.

August 29, 1925


&x!#$*

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New Reprint of Ruth the Betrayer –


by EDWARD ELLIS


The first 8-page installment of Ruth the Betrayer; or, the Female Spy appeared on London newsstands on February 8, 1862, price one penny. The entire text, along with the complete wood-engraved parts illustrations by W.H. Thwaites, have been carefully edited by Dagni A. Bredeson, a professor of English at Eastern Illinois University and brought back to life by Valancourt Books in a handsome affordable reprint. 

Ruth The Betrayer is one of the greatest of all penny dreadfuls, and a long one at 416 pages, or 52 penny numbers. This modern edition runs to a fat 1119 pages with an appreciative introduction by Bredeson and two near contemporary articles in the appendix:

Anonymous, “Something  About Working Men, By One Of Themselves,” The Argosy, Sept 1, 1868
James Greenwood, “Penny Awfuls,” St. Paul’s Magazine, Vol XII, 1873

The author was “Edward Ellis,” and Dagni Bredeson writes that “it has been argued” that Charles Henry Ross was the author. I should point out that it was myself doing the arguing (I was a consultant on the book) and Dagni is cautious about making the claim (and quite rightly so) since there is no absolute proof.

George Vickers published a penny dreadful on August 2, 1863 with the long title Fanny White and her Friend Jack Rawlings, a Romance of a Young Lady Thief and a Boy Burglar, including their Artful Dodges, their Struggles and Adventures; Prisons and Prison-breakings, their Ups and Downs; and their Tricks upon Travellers, Etc., Etc. by The Author Of “Charley Wag.” Following a scene where Fanny addresses a religious society with a sex talk followed by an erotic fandango, the author of Fanny White states in the text on page 153;

“Those who kindly followed the fortunes of Master Charley Wag, a hero of mine who made a very successful debut some time ago in society, and of pretty Mrs. Ruth, the female spy and betrayer, will allow, I think, that I have somewhat freely exposed religious hypocrites. In Charley’s life you had a show-up of the “shepherds.” In Ruth’s adventures you had some rather singular details respecting London nunneries.” 

“Ruth” was Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy by Edward Ellis (the author of “Charley Wag”) published by John Dicks, No. 1 appearing February 8, 1862. The Halfpenny Gazette, whose proprietors were G. W. M. Reynolds and John Dicks, ran a serial called The Felon’s Daughter; or, Pamela’s Perils: a Romance of London, from the Palace to the Prison, by G. W. Armitage on March 15, 1862 and The Daughter of Midnight; or, Mysteries of London Life, by the author of “Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy” commenced with No. 21, July 25, 1863.

When The Felon’s Daughter was published in penny parts by John Dicks the title-page of the bound volume stated that it was “by the author of “Daughter of Midnight.” Thus “Edward Ellis,” was also “G. W. Armitage,” and “George Savage.” Based on my notes and reading of Charley, Ruth and Fanny, and comparing those with over 20 texts written under the name C. H. Ross I reached the conclusion that all three were were pseudonyms used by Charles Henry Ross (creator of the celebrated Ally Sloper) and his collaborator Henry Warren.

The title of Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy, was surely intended to invoke James Malcolm Rymer’s 1843 penny blood title Ada the Betrayed; or, The Murder at the Old Smithy. It was also a parody of the homicidal heroines made famous by Sensation novelists like Mary Braddon in books like Lady Audley’s Secret. A writer in The Saturday Review in 1866 referred to these as “crime and crinoline” romances. “Edward Ellis” was able to combine humor and horror in a manner that makes the serial adventures of Ruth Trail, Death’s Head, Jack Rafferty, Eneas Earthworm, Alice Tevellyan, Charley Crockford and the Cadbury Kid a thrilling and amusing book to curl up with when the winter wind is howling at the outer door. Ruth the Betrayer is a fantastic addition to any Victorian bookshelf.


Ruth the Betrayer is available now on Amazon or from Valancourt Books