Thursday, July 21, 2022

Another – 30 – .


One of Jim’s political cartoons

by Rick Marschall

I was 16 or 17 when I first met Jim Ivey. My family went on annual vacations to Florida, from New Jersey; and my father always indulged my interest in comics by reserving our last couple of days to visit cartoonists, of whom there were many in the Sunshine State.

I did not show up at front doors unannounced, of course. I sought the cartoonists out, usually with the help of cartoonists I was getting to know in the New York City area, and with the encouragement of my dad, who even helped me compose letters inviting myself to their homes. On those visits my father joined me – Roy Crane, Frank King, Leslie Turner, Mel Graff, Lank Leonard – as a vicarious fan, of course. My mother and sisters sat in the car or at a motel poolside.

But when I visited Jim Ivey I was alone, probably just old enough to drive. We usually stayed on the east coast, and I drove to Madeira Beach, over in the Saint Pete area. Surely I had already corresponded with Jim, probably trading originals. In those days, the 1960s, the hobby was barely hatched. The names I can summon are – now – a ghostly echelon; and I can write this because I started younger than others in that “first generation.”

John Coulthard – the San Franciscan who probably put me in touch with Jim; Abe Paskow of Brooklyn; Tony Sanguino; Angelo Cruz and Chester Grabowski; Gordon Hunter; Gordon Campbell; Ernie McGee; Vern Greene who drew Bringing Up Father and Art Wood the editorial cartoonist; all these have passed. About this time I met Charlie Roberts of Virginia, and Harvard student Fred Schreiber from France, who joined the small fraternity of newspaper-strip art collectors.

Then there was Jim Ivey. He “graduated” from collecting to producing minor publications; and in Madeira Beach he opened a “museum.” Like Jim’s letters and his drawings (he had been a political cartoonist)  – maybe his life itself – they were idiosyncratic and a little disorganized. His cARToon magazine was more of a scrapbook; and his Cartoon Museum that so attracted me was a storefront with original art from his collection thumb-tacked to the walls; books and cartoon anthologies on the floor at the base of those walls; and a platform by the street window, where Jim gave drawing demonstrations and held cartooning classes.

a self-caricature of Jim Ivey.

In Jim’s last note to me he tweaked me, saying that I always had “pooh-poohed” his museum. I never did so to him directly – not even one “pooh” – but I know the troublemaker who tried to be a provocateur. In fact I have served on the boards of several museums and, more pertinently, I have visited many museums. Calling his gallery / displays / drawing board in a storefront, a Museum did not make it a museum. But it was better.

The space in Madeira Beach – just like the comic shop in Orlando he later opened – was a representation of Jim’s mind and personality. Full of comics, old and older. Displays of his favorites – his love on display. Things for sale; things he gave away. And unlike any formal museum, the personality of the host (which he was, more than a Director) was a necessary component.

Jim was omnipresent in those places – and subsequently at OrlandoCon, the legendary annual comics fest he started with Charlie Roberts and Rob Word – with his trademark soft voice and Southern accent, bow tie, handlebar mustache, and, when it was allowed, a large cigar.

Better than these descriptions (and I hope worth the wait in this tribute to Jim, who died last week at the age of 97) was the experience of our first meeting, my first “museum” visit. We talked about everything under the comic-strip sun, tangent leading to tangent as he pulled out drawings and books to show me. King Aroo popped up, and I said I did not know it (it was before I found the Gilbert Seldes-prefaced reprint book).

With the zeal of missionary (which Jim was, and many of us are about classic strips), Jim rushed to the back room, emerged with a week’s worth of Jack Kent daily originals, appropriately self-referential in theme: King Aroo, Yupyop and others discussing how, as comic-strip characters, they should register surprise. Plops; hats flying off; classic nonsense. Of course I fell in love immediately (and subsequently became friends with Jack Kent), but Missionary Jim, noting my enthusiasm – and correctly assessing the investment he was making in my appreciation of strips, and our own future friendship – gave me the six dailies. Of course I tried to protest, and I forget what items I sent him when I returned home… but. That was Jim.

a Thoughts of Man panel.

The outline of his career is more than a rattly skeleton. A Kansas cartoonist, Albert T Reid, had established a university fellowship, and young Jim was a recipient, sent to Europe for a season to study cartooning. He returned with a taste for avant-garde drawing styles, as which his own minimalist style could afterward be classified. That was in 1959, and supplemented what he gleaned from the Landon Correspondence Course.

Jim drew political cartoons for a succession of big-city papers: The Washington Star; St Petersburg Times; The San Francisco Examiner; and Orlando Sentinel. Jim was active in the National Cartoonists Society and a recipient of its Silver T-Square Award. Beginning in 1973 he drew the syndicated daily panel Thoughts of Man for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate and, ironically but not uncommonly with cartoonists I met as a fan, I was his editor there.

As a comic-shop proprietor, Jim stocked all the latest releases, even if characters and costumes flummoxed him. In the back room were always vintage strip originals and rare reprint books. As mid-Florida was full of famous cartoonists, he frequently hosted signings and celebrations, even if mall kids did not know who Wash Tubbs or Smilin’ Jack or Snuffy Smith or Skeezix were. Usually their parents did.

a color Wash Tubbs drawing that Crane dedicated to Jim, and Jim in turn signed to me.

Among Jim Ivey’s legacies is the Wash Tubbs reprint book he did, the early years by Roy Crane, with a foreword by Charles Schulz. Jim and Nashville’s Gordon Campbell assembled it, a fine selection of adventures from precisely 50 years earlier, 1924. When I acquired Jim’s own copy, overflowing with color sketches by Roy on every blank page and margin, Jim included a note on how the book was produced, including the lament that he received author’s copies but never made a penny. He had to settle for the gratitude of uncountable fans.

When I edited the old NEMO magazine, it was natural that I turn to Jim for articles, for beneath his casual exterior was a fierce scholar and a good historian. Another “closed circle,” as I similarly recruited Ron Goulart, Bill Blackbeard, et al.

I should mention a little more about OrlandoCon, truly one of the great conventions, always boasting major-name guests (thanks to Florida’s cartooning community plus the proximity of Disney World) and, adding to my childhood forays, it was where I first met, or first spent significant time with, Dick Hodgins Sr., Dick Moores, Floyd Gottfredson, Beanie Velosky, Jim Scancarelli, Bob Burden, Ralph Kent, Rob Word, Ralph Dunagin, and Dave Graue.

“You dirty dog” was one of Jim’s affectionate epithets, if you told him you had just just acquired some treasure of original art. It was affectionate, with a twinkle in his eye, because he had taste but little envy. Jim often traded away excellent examples of an artist’s work if he could yet claim that his collection had some representation of the cartoonist’s. He aimed for a collection of 2500 different artists.

I realize now that Jim Ivey traded not only artwork and vintage books, but he dealt in joy, and traded enthusiasms. He will be missed; and we are a bit lonelier.




Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Peeps into the Past –

  A Detailed 1919 History of Penny Bloods, Penny Dreadfuls, and Penny Journals

by Frank Jay

Compiled by Bill Blackbeard and Justin Gilbert (2001)