Sunday, January 31, 2021

A Crowded Life in Comics –

         It Is Over at Dover

by Rick Marschall

Conversations with friends recently have revealed to me that many fans of comics, cartoons, and vintage graphic art are not aware that Dover Publications has gone belly-up.

Many of us cut our eye teeth on Dover books. Their variety of titles often introduced us to great artists of the past, and amazing works. And then, unless we happened already to know someone’s work, Dover books would feed our creative and intellectual appetites.

Dover’s catalog was, of course, far wider and deeper and higher than cartoons and graphic art. History, music, literature, poetry, technical books, incunabula, children’s books, instruction, patterns and clip-art, medicine, religion… Dover’s catalog was like a veritable library of old-fashioned Dewey-decimal cards in drawer after drawer.

I am sure many readers share my own experience with Dover – and maybe with the very same books – as I first discovered in grade school and high school the work of Heinrich Kley, Wilhelm Busch, Howard Pyle, Peck’s Bad Boy, and the “color” Fairytale books of Andrew Lang.

The company and its distinctive operation was the brainchild of Hayward Cirker. The quiet, distinguished man and his wife Blanche began Dover as sellers of remaindered books and then tentative reprinters of out-of-print books. Hayward was an omnivore, cognoscente, and (respectfully, admiringly I write) an intellectual vacuum cleaner. He claimed merely to be “curious.”

In fact his system was to seek out (mostly) public-domain books, free of editorial and royalty encumbrances; avoid setting new type or re-designing the original books; occasionally offer new and learned Forwards; design new covers; and, mostly, issue as paperbacks. Dover was a pioneer in the format of what became known as Trade Paperbacks – removing the stigma of cheap pocketbooks, not only by respectful designs but by using (and asserting the commitment to) quality paper stock and sewn signatures, not glued pages.

The other distinctive of his business model, providing the ability to keep his titles with astonishingly low price-points, was to avoid the publishing industry’s traditional Returns policy. Many bookstores and chains still order books and retain steep percentages when they sell… or if they sell; and then they have the right to return them to the publishers. For publishers this is cumbersome; unstable; required paperwork, shipping, and warehousing challenges; and results in damaged stocks. For authors, it justifies the slow reporting and payments of royalties.

Dover sold their books to interested retailers at steep discounts, but outright – no returns. Shops would have to order carefully, but would re-order; and sometimes patiently wait for the right customers to make happy discoveries. Lower overhead, all around, especially for Hayward, whose catalog eventually included thousands of titles.

If Hayward Cirker was the brains, Stanley Appelbaum was the feet, executing matters as a junior-Cirker – no less curious, no less intellectual. He saw to administrative matters at Dover, but also collected, edited, and contributed – for instance the superb collections cartoons from Simplicissimus and L’Assiette au Buerre.

Harvesting the vineyards of Public Domain could be seen as commercial rag-picking, but the taste of Dover’s offerings and the quality of its productions made the publisher a pre-eminent house, and a respected, and reliable, resource for people like “us.” In the classical-music recording field (in which Hayward and Dover briefly dabbled) it was practiced by labels like Musical Heritage Society, Nonesuch, and Turnabout buying European companies’ masters and releasing budget LPs.

Perhaps the greatest example of harvesting Public-Domain material was George Macy of the Limited Editions Club. Commencing in 1929 and continuing for many decades, the LEC designed elegant books, every one different in size, paper, and illustrations; all strictly limited to 1500 copies signed by the illustrator or designer, and numbered; in slipcases. With few exceptions the books were classics of world literature (therefore out of copyright), a happy coincidence that allowed Macy to engage designers like Bruce Rogers and W A Dwiggins, and arrange for illustrators ranging from John Held Jr and Boardman Robinson to Picasso and Matisse. I have acquired more than 130 LECs and purr like a kitten when I glance at my bookshelves.

I first met Hayward Cirker about 40 (gulp!) years ago. We had discursive conversations on discursive topics, but, strangely, this man of eclecticism and many accomplishments was not decisive. I almost did a half dozen books for Dover – one would have been great cover art from Puck, Judge, Life, and other vintage magazines, and caused me to remove covers from issues in bound volumes in my collection – but none happened until, years subsequently, a version of my first collaboration with Dr Seuss.

No editor or packager would have gotten rich working with Dover; I think they paid $1500 for projects. But the honor of being inside the tent where those Heinrich Kley books were born provided some alternative compensation. Other compensation was his invitation after every meeting in his office in an unpretentious office near the Holland Tunnel on Varick Street in lower Manhattan, to stop in the large stockroom of their titles and “pick whatever books I’d like.”

Hayward Cirker died in 2020. Dover (named for the Long Island apartment building where he and Blanche lived in the 1940s) continued on. Then it was sold, I think twice, and eventually filed for bankruptcy. I might have been as much in the dark about its demise if I were not one of its authors and on the court’s list of affected parties. I doubt there are few monetary assets to divide in a bankruptcy proceeding.

After all, it was a privilege, in a Crowded Life, to not only be in the center for a little bit of a publishing entity that was a major factor in my growth as a fan and scholar; but even to do a book with Dover’s imprint. I used to hum, and am, again, the lyrics of Vera Lynn’s classic song, “There’ll be bluebirds over / The white cliffs of Dover...”

A letter from publisher Hayward Cirker before we first met. Ironically, it had been several months previous that I had submitted a proposal, among several, to package a collection of Verbeek’s Upside-Downs. He wrote in this letter, inquiring if I would write an introduction to such a book he was considering! (It never did come out.)

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

A Crowded Life in Comics –

 Comic Art’s Forgotten World

by Rick Marschall

Recently I wrote in this space about a magazine that died stillborn, the most unlikely collaboration it would have been, between Stan Lee, Johnny Hart (BC and Wizard of Id) and myself. GROG! would have been a European-style magazine – that is, in the tradition of the day’s Linus or Eureka – focusing on strips, comic books, history, interviews, and such. I have since unearthed some of the working memos and proposals, and I will share them.

I have launched five magazines in my career and edited eight. In our field, I steered 31 issues of nemo: the classic comics library, as well as a few spinoff publications and book series. I am working hard on another crazy (= fantastic!) magazine, also for Fantagraphics, a nemo 2.0 – the same general focus, but more pages, larger page trim, full color. Heavy lifting, but it will be great. We’re getting a lot of support from scholars and fans.

I also conceived of Hogan’s Alley and somehow convinced Tom Heintjes to join… actually, be a partner. He, and my old friend David Folkman as Art Director, have really run with it. It is healthy and, although still one-third owner, I seem to have been scrubbed from a public affiliation with it. What’s a masthead between friends? I do not want to forget writing for TBG and more important, frequently for The Comics Journal, a point of pride.

With all these memories and current activity floating around in my “head,” I recalled another magazine about comic art – a real pioneer, short-lived, full of great dreams and promise.

The World of Comic Art was published between 1967 and 1972. Dorothy McGreal was the Editor and Publisher out of California. It existed on the virtual intersection of “overly ambitious” and “ahead of its time.” Slick paper, 48 pages, color covers… minimal advertising, unfortunately.

But Dorothy received cooperation from cartoonists, and she scored some important interviews. The magazine ran five or six issues before giving up the ghost, fondly remembered. And a real pioneer in the field. Dorothy died in 2000, I believe.

Just before I left for college I inquired about writing for her, and pitched a couple articles, one on F. Opper, and an interview with Harry Herschfield, who had generous befriended me. I wrote neither, and if I wrote anything else I am embarrassed to say I don’t recall (my issues are in storage). I went off to college – Washington DC in the late ‘60s – and actually started selling political cartoons. Distractions; plus I casually thought The World of Comic Art would last forever.

Even the ‘60s did not last forever,

Issues can be found in the collectors’ market, and any fan – any reader of the web magazine Yesterday’s Papers or interested in the imminent resurrection of NEMO – would naturally be interested to have them.

Here, a letter from Dorothy responding to my inquiry; and covers of the late, lamented  World of Comic Art.



Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Crowded Life in Comics –

Happy Old Years!

Even during Prohibition – perhaps especially during Prohibition – New Year’s Day was widely observed as hangover day, as in this iconic cartoon by John Held, Jr.

by Rick Marschall

Christmas cards are only about 160 years old, mostly the children of an increasingly efficient postal service in English. In America they proliferated mostly as postcards, around 1900, ironically produced in their numbers in England and Bavaria. In fact many of the famed postcards and greeting cards of Raphael Tuck and Sons, “Stationers to the Queen” and King, were printed, die cut, and embossed in Bavaria’s print shops.

Thomas Nast, whose conception of Santa Claus is the one we know today, called upon Father Time for this drawing in his 1874 Nast’s Almanac. 

The success of Christmas themes and post-card formats, and rank commercialism, inspired studios to make mailed greetings a necessary component of every holiday thereafter. Valentine’s Day, of course; but also the Fourth of July; Hallowe’en; Easter… even New Years.

Charles Dana Gibson welcomed a new year with pen and ink and watercolor. This was inscribed to his niece, and was used on a cover of Life, 1925.

The Post Office likely was happy with this fad. Stamps cost a penny for a post card with an image on the front and address on the verso. For “divided backs” (if the sender wrote a message to the left of the address-space) two pennies would do.

Friederich Graetz drew for Puck for about three years, 1882-1885, and then returned to his his native Vienna whence he came; and was then associated with the humor magazine Der Floh for many years. His penwork was exquisite.

A major subdivision of these holiday post cards (purely humorous artwork was a major genre too) was cartoons. Famous cartoonists drew gags, or, frequently their famous characters. Through the years I have collected about 1500 of these – and they are fun, well composed and colored, and largely forgotten spin-offs of strips and their artists. Avoiding the ubiquitous roadside, and anonymously drawn, cartoons of fat women with skirts caught on barbed-wire fences, my albums have cards from around 1900-1925.

Clare Victor Dwiggins (Dwig) was, with R F Outcault, the most prolific of newspaper cartoonists who designed holiday and greeting cards. This from 1906.

Another category is the Christmas card that cartoonists draw not for post cards or for Hallmark racks, but for friends and fellow cartoonists and some fans. Of these I have about 1250, and many have been shared in NEMO, in Hogan’s Alley, and in Yesterday’s Papers.

But here, having dispatched the ghosts of Christmases past, I will share a few New Year’s drawings by cartoonists. Postal greetings, magazine cartoons, covers, special art. With a couple words as guides, they will speak for themselves. And I will speak for them to this extent – it is a nostalgic relief to visit times where New Years seemed bright, hopeful, and predictably Happy indeed. 

Throughout the ‘teens and ‘20s the Kewpies of Rose O’Neill populated magazine drawings, plush toys and ceramic figurines, children’s books, and… holiday post cards.

Many things in daily life have changed, however. Is it “progress” that a penny postal now costs 35 cents?


Apologies to Rick and to Yesterday's Papers readers 

for late posting this. It should have been up a week ago!

John Adcock


Friday, January 1, 2021



Anonyma image above from Palace and Hovel: or, Phases of London Life 

by Daniel Joseph Kirwan, 1870. 

by John Adcock

(excerpt from Thieves Literature)

“(…) it was not long before she had disencumbered herself of all these ugly impediments, and stood in the ruddy glow and genial warmth, adorned only by her own loveliness –  but then, you know my heroine throughout has always been such a shocking slut.” – Fanny White and her Friend Jack Rawlings [1]

On August 9, 1863 The Women of London, A Thrilling Romance of Reality, giving an Insight into the Dangers and Temptations of a Woman’s Life in London was issued from the “Welcome Guest” Office, 4 Shoe-lane. Possibly the same work with a slightly different title, The Women of London Disclosing the Trials and Temptations of a Woman's Life in London With Occasional Glimpses of a Fast Career issued in penny numbers from George Vickers. 

One of the first prosecutions of the Society for the Prevention of Vice under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857, also known as Lord Campbell's Act, was of William Strange for an “obscene” publication called Women of London. On May 11, 1857, Strange, “who was a very respectable looking young man,” was sentenced to three months in prison but spared hard labour.

The title Women of London became notorious and was kept in print throughout the sixties and seventies from a variety of publishers. Likely the Vickers and Welcome Guest publications were different from those sold by pornographers Charles Perry and William Dugdale. William Strange and George Vickers had been associated with cheap literature all their lives, the fathers of both young publishers were among the radical unstamped pressmen of the 1830s and were acquaintances and neighbours of Holywell-street pornographer and Regency veteran William Dugdale.

William Strange Sr. had published an unstamped newspaper, Truth, and was one of many publishers of an obscene anti-Papist work, The Confessional Unmasked. George Vickers was responsible for the racy 1850 romance, The Merry Wives of London a Romance of Metropolitan Life, attributed to James Lindridge. The Reverend Jasper Sampson meets a lady at a ball and is thrown into a state of “intense fluttering.”

“Am I in godly company?” she whispered to him.

“The sons and daughters of Satan do abound here; but presently we will slay them with the sword of Gideon!” replied Jasper, giving her hand a palpable squeeze.

“Is it sinful to dance?”

“No; or else it were sinful to lie with a man.”

“Fie! That is natural!”

“Quite; and proper, too, when the parties are agreeable. The world must be populated, madam.”

“Verily it must; it was the law given to Abraham.”

“The wages of continence are death.”

“I feel it to be so. Would that we could pray!”

“On your back, madam – very proper wish; but not allowed here.”

One of the characters is a Bow Street Runner named Mr. Johnson, “a lean, but muscular fellow, with an eye as furtive as the ape’s, and as keen as the hawks.” His help is enlisted in finding and rescuing a disappeared young lady named Lucy.

“All right!” said the detective, plunging into a great coat, with large pockets, containing handcuffs, pistols, loaded and primed, and other etceteras of his agreeable profession. “Don’t talk here – plenty of time on the road,” said he, gulping down his brandy-and-water. “I know all about it. Special engine of course?”

“Certainly,” replied Walter, delighted with his new companions cool, prompt manner.

The Women of London was followed in 1864 by a spate of similar risqué penny numbers. The Work Girls of London; their Trials and Temptations and The Young Ladies of London; or, The Mysteries of Midnight issued forth from the Newsagents’ Publishing Company. The Outsiders of Society; or, the Wild Beauties of London and The Dashing Girls of London; or, The Six Beauties of St. James were published by Henry Lea on November 20, 1864. 

Young Ladies of London; or Night Scenes in the Haymarket was published by Lea in December 1864. The cover to the first number of The Outsiders of Society is illuminated with a woodcut captioned His Lordship Contemplates his Victim. Lord Vineyard is shown in the shadows, hunched over, and reaching furtively into his vest pocket. Before his predatory gaze, under a guttering candle, is a dying woman, whose child’s pale blonde face is the focus of the picture. This class of publication, recalling Reynolds’s Mysteries of London, usually pretended a social concern for the poor that did not match their mildly prurient content. 

The first publishing of Anonyma; or, Fair but Frail, A Romance of West-End Life, Manners, and “Captivating” People was in 1863, issued by George Vickers. The novel was “as vile a contribution to our blackguard literature as we have ever recorded in our monthly list of new books,” opined The Bookseller on September 30, 1863. In real-life Anonyma, also known as “Skittles,” was Catherine Walters, a fashionable member of the demi-monde born at Liverpool in 1839. She became famous in 1862 when she could be seen driving a pair of “the handsomest brown ponies eyes ever beheld” in Hyde Park. The “pretty horse-breaker” became notorious, so much so that West End shopkeepers displayed her photographed carte de visite in their windows.

When she ran off to America with a married nobleman named Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, in January 1863, her house was opened to the public, who viewed her bedroom, “a mass of huge looking-glasses, blue silk and white and gold,” and sniggered over her meagre library containing The Royal Blue Book from 1858 to 1862, Dod’s Peerage, Who’s Who, Dunbar on Park Riding and a racing calendar.  It was reported in June 1864 that “After a sensational review which appeared of a shilling biography called Anonyma, 40,000 copies of the book were sold, and this the publisher attributes to the review.” An 1864 review of Anonyma and its successor Skittles a Biography of a Fascinating Woman found them “not a whit inferior in style, language, ability, or morality” to any current novels finding their way into the libraries of decent families.

Anonyma is rather sentimental. Skittles is outspoken and cynical, with a dash of humour. In Skittles the subject is treated somewhat in the manner of Fielding, while Anonyma might have been written by a rather rowdy Richardson.[2]

The reviewer for The Athenaeum held a different view of what he termed “Anonyma Literature,” issued in “yellow covers, with gaudy illustrations, which professes to tell the histories of certain infamous women,” concluding “no respectable bookseller would like his daughter to read such books, and no man who values his repute should suffer them to disgrace his shop.” 

Anonyma’s success birthed numerous similar tiles (as listed by the reviewer): Skittles, a Biography of a Fascinating Woman, Companion to Anonyma; Agnes Willoughby, a Tale of Love, Marriage and Adventure; Kate Hamilton, an Autobiography of a Gay Life and a “Love” Career; Left Her Home, a Tale of Adventure, in which the Fortunes and Misfortunes of a Charming Girl are Narrated; Incognita, a Tale of Love and Passion; Annie, or the Life of a Lady’s Maid, comprising a full Description of all the Curious Occurrences, Intrigues, Amours and Expedients of Fashionable Gay Life amidst the Aristocracy, and Revelations of a Detective. All these publications were published in “gaudy covers” and sold openly at railway stations.[3]

In the text of Ruth the Betrayer; or, The Female Spy, by Edward Ellis (February 8, 1862) the homicidal heroine is described as a detective but the word is used loosely to denote what Ruth is, in fact, a police informer. Ruth is “attached to a notorious Secret Intelligence Office, established by an ex-member of the police force, and her services were only rarely employed, as upon the present occasion, in connexion with the regular police.” In addition to her work as a police spy Ruth runs a bordello and shoots, stabs, and hacks to death any man who has the misfortune to cross her.

There was an indescribable something about this woman’s manner, degraded though she was by the hateful calling which she followed of spy and informer, that seemed sufficiently powerful to curb the tongue of the roughest, coarsest, and most lawless, and effectually to check any attempt at familiarity from those persons who might have thought that her temporary association with them, in moments like the present, placed them upon a footing of equality.

Tinsley Brothers would publish a more conventional 3-volume detective story by C.H. Ross in 1870 called A Private Inquiry. The hero is a converted thief turned amateur detective. The headline to the Spectator’s review (Oct. 15, 1870) read A “PENNY DREADFUL” IN THREE VOLUMES. A reviewer in The Athenaeum said, “It’s style and price forbid the supposition that it has been written for that portion of the poorer classes who revel in the penny horrors of cheap periodical literature, yet it is sad to think that any who could afford more wholesome reading should waste their time in the perusal of such gloomy rubbish.”

On May 15, 1864, The Revelations of a Lady Detective, a yellowback by the author of “Skittles” (William Stephens Hayward), was advertised in Lloyd’s newspaper, issued by J. A. Berger of 13 Catherine Street, Strand. There would seem to be some sort of relationship between J.A. Berger and E. Griffiths who shared the same premises. The same work (both advertisements listed the same contents) was in the hands of George Vickers, Angel-court, Strand on Oct 2, 1864. The Female Detective, edited by Andrew Forrester Jr (J. Redding Ware), “never before published,” was advertised in Reynolds's Newspaper on May 22, 1864 from Ward & Lock.[4] 

A latecomer to the genre, In the Shadows of Crime, Romantic Revelations of a Lady Detective, by R. J. Tucknor, was serialized December 8, 1894 in the Illustrated Police News.

[1] 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 Charlie Wag, George Vickers, Aug 8, 1863

[2] The Saturday Review, Feb 6, 1864, p.171, 172

[3] The Athenaeum, No. 1930, October 22, 1864, p.523