Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Crowded Life in Comics –


by Rick Marshall

Searching for illustrations for the imminent revival of Nemo Magazine, I have been ransacking my bookshelves. After a crowded life in comic collecting, occasionally I come across books I forget I own, or inscriptions I forgot inhabit their inside front covers or flyleaves.

Some of these were dedicated to previous collectors. Some are sketches or lines to me, and I will share some of them here.


has a place in comic-strip history as being in the right place at the right time, more than almost any other cartoonist. He drew for Puck and the New York World in 1884, one of the most contested years of presidential campaigns. When newspaper photoengraving was introduced at the time, McDougall drew front-page cartoons that, by common  consent, helped decide the election. A decade later, he drew some of the first color cartoons in American newspapers. Through the years he drew for Pulitzer, Hearst, the Philadelphia North American and various pioneer syndicates. No less a figure than H L Mencken was an admirer, and a chapter of McDougall’s autobiography appeared in the very first number of Mencken’s American Mercury. In book form it was published by Knopf, and contains valuable material for cartoon historians.

My copy is an “association,” with McDougall’s self-caricature and the signature of the book’s first owner, screwball cartoonist Nate Collier. McDougall committed suicide in 1938.


On a trip to California some years ago I strolled through cartooning’s family album, of sorts. I met and interviewed and discussed possible projects with Mary Jane Outcault, Robert Winsor McCay, and R F Outcault III. Mary Jane was a delightful 96, having been born around the time of the Yellow Kid, in 1896. She married the nephew of Gemeral “Black Jack” Pershing, who led American forces in World War I; her memories were vivid, and salty, about her father, the Yellow Kid, and Buster Brown (and Buster’s girl friend… Mary Jane).

Bob McCay’s great-grandfather was Little Nemo’s father, and he shared family history gleaned from his mother Janet Trinker.

R F Outcault III was the grandson of the Father of the Comics, but did not inherit drawing talent. So he signed, without a sketch, an ancient copy of Buster Brown’s Resolutions.(And I secured another signed copy for Tom Heintjes; we were planning Nemo Magazine at the time.) By the way, Dick maintained that he could not draw, but he attended weekly painting classes… with Ferd Johnson (Moon Mullins) at the next easel!


was a respected illustrator and cartoonist. He was on the staff of Harper’s Weekly and the House of Harper in the 1870s, and after the turn of the century he drew daily political cartoons for the New York Herald into the 1920s. His 1922 autobiography A World Worth While is worthwhile mainly for a plethora of recollections about illustrators, cartoonists, and political figures – information that might otherwise be lost to history.

His first “splash” was as a reporter-illustrator in the Wild West. His account of the colorful figure known as “The Voyageur” attracted attention, and it is that figure Rogers drew on the endpaper of his autobiography. Another “association,” as booksellers call it – the inscription is to writer and editor James Leicester Ford (whose own Forty-Odd Years in the Literary Shop also contains a lot of historical minutia); and is co-inscribed by Clinton Brainerd, president of Harper and Brothers.


I knew Joe Dennett, onetime assistant on Mutt and Jeff, and resident of the next town from me in New Jersey as a kid. After working for Al Smith he joined the Harvey Studios and drew Sad Sack characters and stories. He put me in touch with George Baker, the Sack’s creator who produced wonderful covers for the line for years. Like Bill Mauldin (subject of another column) this iconic vet drew his iconic army schlump in many books and albums through the years.


God bless ol’Jim Ivey, whose Wash Tubbs reprint project (with Gordon Campbell and Tony deLuna) introduced many fans to that great strip by the great talent Roy Crane. … and provided pages for the affable and willing Crane to draw sketches. Here is one of the drawings in my copy of the book. Oboy!


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