Monday, May 27, 2019

Sunday with Jimmy Swinnerton –

Pink Whiskers Jones! - Ah Yes! 
Roy Delancey, To Be Sure! 

Chicago Examiner 
Sept 13, 1908

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Cartoonists’ Love Notes, Good-Byes, and Get-Wells

Rick Marschall

May 24 was the anniversary of me and my late wife Nancy. She died six and a half years ago, a great wife and mother to our three children. She endured a lifetime of ailments – diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, celiac disease, amputations, dialysis, heart and kidney transplants, and, at the end, creeping dementia. She was strong; complained little; and kept her faith. The transplants were forecast to buy her three extra years, but she survived 16 years.

She was a saint to endure my comics and cartoon collecting; but after all I knew someday I would be writing this column for Yesterday’s Papers. She was also the star of our team, socially. The only people who did not love her were those who had not yet met her. A favorite of cartoonists and their wives; there were many dinners and parties in Connecticut especially, when we lived in Westport and Weston; and she loved throwing parties herself, especially surprise parties for us all.

Among the cartoonists and wives at our wedding were Dik Browne, Jerry Dumas, Jack Tippit, Bill Brown, Mel Casson, Mort Walker. Comics historians Maurice Horn and Bill Crouch were also there.

I will share some drawings here to illustrate the memories. The first is a Little Nemo take-off. When I left the Connecticut Herald political-cartooning job to join United Feature Syndicate, Dik and Joan Browne threw a little farewell party, and son Chris – the best amateur cartoonist of the day – drew me (Ouch! Yes, I looked like that, then) having fever dreams… with a cameo of Nancy, looking like, well, Nancy.

When we moved, years later, to Bucks County PA, a bunch of cartoonists had a BBQ where we were farewelled. Ron Goulart joined Bob Weber, Leonard Starr, Stan Drake, Ray Burns, Jack Berrill, Herb Green, and others. Orlando Busino engineered a scrapbook of everybody’s farewell drawings, some of which I have shared in Crowded Life columns. Here is the title page Orlando drew (yes, characters are his versions, including Moose Miller, which he occasionally ghosted). Also here, the Jerry Marcus vision of visitors at our old house’s door. I used this as a change-of-address card!

About a decade after we moved to Pennsylvania,  Nancy’s health problems spiked, and she was listed for transplants. More than four months, waiting for organs. Was her hospital room cheery? There was hardly room for flowers, so many cartoonists having sent get-well drawings for the walls. I shared some of these earlier; here are others – by Bob (Chance) Browne, with Hi & Lois and Hagar’s family; and by Dick Hodgins, who ghosted Hagar magnificently for years, followed by his son Richard III.

Nancy’s life was “crowded” in her own way – with challenges and faith, but also with cartoonist friends and their families.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Comic Shorthand – The Melee

by Jimmy Swinnerton 
encounter between a dog and a bad mans

another encounter between a dog and a bad mans

encounter between a dog and an artist

encounter between a cat, a dog and a bad mans

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

The World’s Greatest Comics Festival, Lucca  

[1] Sergio Aragones prepares his morning cappuccino

by Rick Marschall

I have been to Europe more than 60 times, a good percentage of those trips centered around comics festivals, salons, and symposiums. That I often planned trips to coincide, or, more often, I was an invited guest as speaker, juror, or exhibitor (not exhibitionist) made for very nice icing on the cake. I often took a week or two extra, since I was given freedom to choose the dates for the flights they booked… and this Intentional Tourist checked many boxes in cultural, musical, and sight-seeing categories.

It started somewhere, besides connecting dots of interest in comics and a Wanderlust. The major American cons, of course. But I have attended many international comics festivals including Angoulême; ExpoCartoon in Rome; Erlangen in Germany; and in Prague, London, and Brussels. A speaking tour for the US Information Service of the State Department. At many I was the American representative of festivals, sharing presentations or exhibitions; bringing American cartoonists and fans (more than 125 to Angoulême one year – whoosh!); and waving the flag at roundtables.

[2] Bonvi and Victor de la Fuente greet each other

But the earliest for me, my most attended, and most fondly remembered, is Lucca.

The Festival began in the Ligurian Italian town of Bordighera, beautifully nestled on the French Mediterranean border. It was the convention to which Al Capp was invited, and ultimately made a LIFE Magazine cover story out of the challenge of finding it. It moved the next year to Lucca, a Medieval Tuscan town situated roughly equidistant from Florence and Pisa. It has remained there ever since, surviving budget crises and politics; a biennial schedule; an osmosis-like split with ExpoCartoon in Rome; revival as Lucca Cartoons and Games.

[3] Moebius – Jean Giraud – on a chill October morning

For many years I was the American representative, succeeding Maurice Horn and David Pascal; often sitting on the International Jury. 

Of those days I can share much that will be interest to readers (maybe decade-by-decade here in A Crowded Life sometime) about those guests and those awards (plucking a couple myself) and those debates and those lectures and those side-trips and those restaurants… and those friends. It got so that I anticipated every Lucca largely because the cartoonists, the “experts” from all over the world, and special fans, formed the core of a true family reunion for me. 

[4] John Prentice, Mordillo, and de la Fuente looking over a Rip Kirby reprint book.

The “community,” now since dispersed or expired, felt the same way. Conventions endure, but “Luccas” are no more. In the golden days of Lucca, crowds would fill the Opera Theatre to listen to lectures about the most obscure aspects of comics history and theory; and once upon a time there were no costume events or laser-fencing on the streets. Readers will know what I mean.

For this column I will share some photographs from the first couple of Luccas I attended, and some sketches that were drawn… often late at night, at the bar of the Hotel Napoleon (built as the Hotel Mussolini in the 1930s) or the lobby of the Universo. Talking (as best we could), sketching, laughing, drinking, Hugo Pratt playing the guitar and singing… but there I go. More stories later. Here, visual memories.


The first Lucca I attended was 1978. I was still editor at Marvel (I convinced Stan Lee to send me and scout for talent for EPIC). Harry North, the British cartoonist for MAD, said he would do a sketch if he could take my book to his room overnight. Here is what met me at breakfast –

Harry North sketch

Jaroslav Horak, cartoonist of the James Bond strip

Hugo Pratt’s classic Corto Maltese

The great Guillermo Mordillo, Argentine cartoonist


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Comic Science Investigation #1


by Chris Beneke

     COMIC EXPERIMENT. American comics of the early 1900s were rich with experimenters and experimentation. Within a decade or so, and certainly by the close of World War I, if not before, this experimentation had given way to a formula, based on strong characters and what-came-to-be-called sequentialism.

     Here’s how Sidney Smith began Old Doc Yak in The Chicago Tribune in February 1912, with Yak’s kicking his way through a miniaturized front page:

In my recollection of my first encounter with this strip, it was somewhat different: A single panel on the paper’s actual front page. The historical record does not seem to bear out this memory; this first installment seems to have been on an interior page.

     Chicago readers of the sports page of Hearst’s competing Chicago Examiner would have recognized Smith’s anthropomorphized goat (or goat-o-morphized man) as Buck Nix.

Chicago Examiner, August 9, 1908

The Buck Nix dailies in Blackbeard’s Smithsonian newspaper comics collection remain a highlight of that book. On my one visit to Blackbeard’s San Francisco Academy of Comic Art, seeing more Buck Nix was a top request: the Smithsonian seems to have presented the most interesting episodes, however.
     Smith’s goat predated his Examiner run: The goat had been a comic commentator in Smith’s editorial work for The Toledo News-Bee as early as 1907, some of which are collected in Yankee Boodle Army [HERE], published in that year and reprinted in 1928. Like so many other comic characters, Nix/Yak just grew.

The Toledo News-Bee, September 30, 1907

     In the 1912 Chicago Tribune, during his first week, Old Doc Yak used the tools and plans that Smith had drawn for him to expand his space, but an even more powerful tool, one specific to comics, balloons, enabled Yak to act seemingly independently of creator Smith. Balloons opened the words and thoughts of comics characters to direct reader observation, free of a creator’s traditional literary tools, like narration or explanation; balloons freed comic characters, at least seemingly , of a creator’s control. [Read HERE at Barnacle Press]

Chicago Tribune, April 24, 1912

     By week’s end, on Saturday, the strip had unfurled to occupy the page’s full width. The animal neighbors sharing this panorama with Yak would be featured in later dailies.

Chicago Tribune, unknown month and day, 1918
     A color Old Doc Yak Sunday page, usually centered around his car, followed a month later.
Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1918

     Old Doc Yak had built the space that would be his home for the next five years. Through Yak, creator Smith claimed his own regular space in the daily newspaper, a space that would outlast Yak, thanks to Smith’s later, more popular feature, The Gumps.

Film Daily, Nov 26, 1923

     Even the most disinterested newspaper reader that first week would have noticed the strip’s expansion from day to day. This novel debut might have attracted readers to the new feature.

Chicago Tribune, April 9, 1933

     Bud Fisher had begun the first daily comic strip, A. Mutt, in 1907, only five years before Smith’s inaugural Old Doc Yak stunt. Smith’s stunt might have seemed incomprehensible to that earlier audience. That Smith dared, and apparently gathered and kept his audience, shows how quickly those 1912 comics readers had developed expectations of what a comic is (or can or should be): One or more recurring characters performing in a series of panels, separated by borders, and “speaking” through balloons.

     Strong characters had been instrumental in popularizing and sustaining comics features since the Yellow Kid, a diminutive waif who addressed the audience through “speech” scrawled on his nightshirt, made the overcrowded Hogan’s Alley, a full-page single panel, a popular weekly destination, and his creator, Richard F. Outcault, thanks largely to merchandising the Kid’s image outside the Alley, wealthy.

     Audience expectations about a comics’ content and form, already in 1912, were also understood by publishers and creators, eager to attract the most readers and fans and perhaps partake in the success that Outcault and his papers had enjoyed. In the 1910s, daily strips would depend on the popularity of such recurring, recognizable figures. Daily features in the 1920s and 1930s would develop more insistent hooks: continuing stories that required a reader’s daily attention.

     Smith’s 1912 self-conscious playfulness about his medium, equating a physical space on a newspaper page with a comic character’s home, was revisited in 1917, five years later: Yak’s bear landlord evicts Yak and son Yutch to ready the space for The Gumps.

     This gag repeats again in 1919, two years later, when the Gumps take possession of Old Doc Yak’s car (and his 348 license plate) and assume occupancy of the Sunday page. The Gumps would henceforth rule both spaces, and make that car an even more famous comic icon. A car-less Yak eventually reappeared in a Sunday topper strip.

Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1911

     The editor, of course, ruled every space on every page, though he was seemingly invisible (or hiding?) and, unlike a paper’s comic characters, faceless

Chicago Tribune, Mar 9, 1912

     With Old Doc Yak’s 1912 debut in The Chicago Tribune, Smith plays off his readers’ expectations of sequentiality, then a novelty, but rapidly establishing its dominance within the American comics medium. Hogan’s Alley had debuted only 17 years before and the regular use of balloons, begun by Opper or Dirks, was only a decade or so old. Captions under comics panels had persisted for much of the 20th century’s first decade; The New Yorker sophisticates have still not given up this holdover from 19th century illustrated humor. 

Chicago Tribune, June 6, 1912

     The comic formula that Sidney Smith gently mocked in Old Doc Yak’s debut week, one or more strong characters contained in sequential panels, became the formula that made American comics a mass medium for the next two decades or more. Later, talking films and radio would put a huge dent in comics’ dominance of American storytelling media.

This formula yielded the formulaic, a bad enough outcome, but, worse, as comics became equated with sequentialism, the understanding of comics, past and present, became hobbled, let us hope not permanently.

     Today’s lesson: Comics take up space

Chicago Examiner, July 19, 1908


Non-sequential tendencies, despite being ignored, unnamed, or glossed over, persist within comics. Some early American comics more boldly exhibit such non-sequential tendencies and a few comics from this experimental era seem wholly non-sequential. 

Comic Science considers the visible, not the invisible. These early American non-sequential comics will be examined in subsequent essays: They will not be dismissed as “non-comics.”

Comic Science asserts that the better comics of tomorrow will be built upon non-sequential principles, and with non-sequential practices. Subsequent Comic Science investigations into early American comic strips and pages will elucidate these principles and practices.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Art from Crowded Sketchbooks 

by Rick Marschall

I have been text-heavy in this space over the past several installments, so I will be merciful and be art-heavy today; or whatever its polar opposite is.

In a “crowded life” in the comics and cartoon worlds, I have been blessed to meet many cartoonists beginning in second grade of school (mine, not theirs). Some blossomed into lifelong friendships; some were one-time visits, especially with pioneers who were active in the 1890s.

I was a “fanboy” just enough to ask for sketches or inscriptions on original art. Often I was not, however – when I chose not to appear to be the fanboy I was – and regrets, I’ve had some.

However, I will share some here, and sporadically, providing a taste of the behind-the-scenes world when cartoonists wanted to strut their graphic stuff… or hastily reduced their characters to the simplest lines… or might have wondered if something like the internet would be invented, and share their sketches!



Saturday, May 4, 2019

Sunday with Jimmy Swinnerton –

 Jimmy - He Earns a Reward! 

 Chicago Examiner 

 August 6, 1911