Saturday, October 12, 2013


Herriman Saturday

Thursday, April 30 1908 -- In the wake of the smash hit opera The Merry Widow, in which the subject of the title wears a very large and highly adorned chapeau, ladies all over are donning their own versions of the  giant lid. A stage manager with the Temple Opera Company has had enough of the fad and banned the monstrosities from the theatre during rehearsals.

In the news story attending this cartoon, the anonymous scribe, perhaps our own Garge himself, has a bon mot I must pass on. The writer says of the ladies reaction, "the language that the ladies used was chaste, but vigorous." Ah, you just don't get reporting like that anymore...

After Herriman's yeoman service churning out multiple daily cartoons during fleet week, he seems to have been offered a rest, as for the next week he's off the sports page, contributing only one of these light items per day.


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Friday, October 11, 2013


Sci-Friday starring Adam Chase

Adam Chase (c) renewed 2013 by Russ Morgan. All rights reserved.

Adam Chase strip #42, originally published March 19 1967. For background on the strip and creator, refer to this post.


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Thursday, October 10, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: William Sherb

William Charles Sherb was born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 8, 1915. His full name was found in a Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 8, 1988, death notice for his mother; his birthplace was noted in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census; and his birth date was recorded in the Social Security Death Index. However, the Michigan Death Index has his birth as June 7. In the census he was the oldest of two sons born to John and Pauline, both emigrants; their marriage license said he was born in Austria and she in Roumania. They lived in Cleveland, Ohio at 1312 West 58th Street. His father was a barber.

Sherb has not been found in the 1930 census. The Plain Dealer, August 18, 1933, published a photo of him with the following caption: “William Sherb, 18, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Sherb, 5704 Detroit Avenue N.W., painted a portrait of President Roosevelt. The gift was acknowledged by the president. Sherb is a student at Gordon Barrick Studio, 5605 Detroit.” According to the New York Times, January 11, 1942, Barrick “was a director of the former Cleveland Academy of Fine Arts” and “director of The Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial art department.” The Cleveland City Directory 1934 listed him as an artist residing at 5709 Detroit Avenue. In 1939 Sherb produced the yet-to-be-found Masked Invaders strip and the holiday strip A Christmas Fantasy, which can be read in its entirety in five parts: 1 2 3 4 5

In the 1940 census he was married to Margaret and had an infant daughter, Judith. They resided in Cleveland at 1431 West 57 Street. He and his wife had four years of high school education. His occupation was an artist for the Works Project Administration. The Plain Dealer, April 8, 1945, said he was inducted into the navy.

At this time, his next known work appeared decades later, when he provided 30 illustrations for the 1976 book, Weather Wisdom: Facts and Folklore of Weather Prediction. The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Third Series, Volume 30, Part 1, Number 2, Section 2, Books and Pamphlets, etc., July-December 1976, had this entry:

Weather wisdom; being an illustrated practical volume wherein is contained unique compilation and analysis of the facts and folklore of natural weather prediction. By Albert Lee, with 30 edifying illuminations executed by William C. Sherb. 180 p. © Albert Lee; 1Oct76; A783265.
Sherb passed away March 13, 1993, in Westland, Michigan, according to the Social Security Death Index.


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Wednesday, October 09, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Jellybean Jones

Here is a feature that gives us an excellent opportunity to discuss some of the qualities that separate the blockbuster features from the duds. Jellybean Jones, a panel series about a mischievous kid, pre-dates the very similar Dennis the Menace by five years. It began on March 4 1946, never took hold at many papers, and was cancelled after almost four years on January 14 1950.

Dennis the Menace, on the other hand,  hit newspapers one year after Jellybean Jones expired, took the newspaper world by storm and never looked back. The feature turned into a multimedia empire practically on a par with Peanuts.

Both panels are about a mischievous kid. So where did Jellybean Jones creator Frank Walter go wrong; what did he not do that Hank Ketcham did so very, very right?

The easy answer, of course, is that Ketcham was a genius, while Frank Walter was a mere mortal. Okay, fair enough -- that's a given. But what in particular attracted people to Dennis the Menace and not to Jellybean Jones, and what might the aspiring newspaper cartoonist  take away as lessons (assuming there are some left with that perhaps outmoded dream).

Here are a few of what I consider the glaring errors in the way that the Jellybean Jones feature was constructed. I think these should all have been dealt with before the feature was ever accepted for syndication, and I am frankly shocked that King Features was so blind as to not recognize the problems:

1. Character Design -- the star of the show seems to be pretty much right out of the "How to Cartoon" handbook. While Dennis is visually arresting and memorable, Jellybean Jones seems like a generic kid. The kid's design just screams 'I'm a cartoon kid, not different than the thousands of others you've seen.' Walter seems to have put as much thought into Jellybean's look as if he were drawing a one-off gag cartoon for a secondary market magazine. You can't look at Dennis, especially the early version of the design, and not recognize him as a little hell-raising bastard instantly. He doesn't look like any other cartoon kid ever before created, but there is some indefinable 'truth' in his design -- he seems real.

2. Lack of Focus -- in our five examples above, two of them focus specifically on the parents. That would be fine and dandy if the name of the strip were The Jones Family. But it isn't. The star of the show is Jellybean Jones, and he should never be a completely unnecessary extra character, just looking on from a corner of the panel. I would wager that in all the thousands upon thousands of Dennis the Menace panels that Ketcham did, a gag exclusively related to the adults appeared less than ten times. And I bet every one of those was submitted on deadline and out of desperation lacking a better idea.

3. Everyone is a Comedian -- this problem is exhibited by many features, and I don't understand why it is so commonly accepted in new features. It seems to me that you need a straight man in any feature -- someone who has their head screwed on right, someone with whom the reader can identify. Henry and Alice Mitchell are perfectly reasonable people who react like we would to Dennis' shenanigans (apart from whaling the tar out of the little brat). We can identify with them. The entire Jones family, on the other hand, is out there flinging one-liners like Henny Youngman, and there's nobody around to take the pie in the face, or get that wonderfully stormy and rueful "What did I ever do to deserve this" look of Henry Mitchell's. Worse yet, in Jellybean Jones the pie-thrower one day can be the straight man the next, and then switch off again the next day. Characters with consistent personalities are the bedrock on which gags are built.

Well, this post is turning out to be rather long, but unfortunately for you I'm not quite done yet. Before I close we must consider this person 'Frank Walter'. Everything about Jellybean Jones, from the art style to the gags, points to this being a production of the husband and wife team of Jerry and Linda Walter (creators of Susie Q. Smith, also from King Features). I dutifully did some web searching looking for a cartoonist by the name of Frank Walter with no luck, but I did find this newspaper article about Jerry Walter which states rather matter-of-factly that he and wife Linda created Jellybean Jones. Why they chose a pen-name for this second feature is unknown to me.


Well-written Allan, thanks!
An interesting entry, to be sure. However, as a parent myself in today's world, I can find humor and identify with the characters and the jokes quite well. I think, given the right venue, this could be a big hit today!
Great analysis. I am reposting it in my Dutch comic artists group.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Ink-Slinger Profiles: Raymond C. Ewer

Raymond Crawford “Ray” Ewer was born in Napa County, California, in October 1888. The birthplace was determined by his father’s name in the 1888 Napa County, California Voter Register. The 1900 U.S. Federal Census had the birth date information. According to the census, he was the second of three children born to Fred and Adella. His father was a “wine grower”. They lived in Hot Springs, California. In the Polk-Husted Directory Co.’s Napa City, St. Helena and Calistoga Directory, 1908, his father was the president of the St. Helena Bottling and Cold Storage Company, and they lived in St. Helena on “Kearney off Pine”.

Detailed information on Ewer’s education and art training has not been found. At this time, what is known is that he attended St. Helena Grammar School. Photographs of the school and his classroom were published in St. Helena (2010).

During most of 1907, he was a staff cartoonist on the San Francisco Call; his first cartoon appeared January 1 and the last on December 13. And he wrote at least one sports article, “Gallagherites Defeat the Mahonyites”.
On a few occasions he contributed to the Sunday Call: February 10, “The Gentle Forefathers of the Native Son”; February 24, “Things Are Not What They Seem” featured back-to-back pages to be held up to light to see the overlapping images (here and here); and September 29, “Labor, Trade and Capital”, by O. Henry whose earlier stories in the Call were illustrated by H.C. Greening. (A list of his cartoons and illustrations in the Call follows this profile.) He also contributed drawings to the San Francisco-based magazine Sunset in its May 1908 issue.

Around September 1908 he made his way to New York City. He sent several postcards to his friends, notably Ralph “Pot” Yardley, in the art department of the Call. A postcard mailed October 3, 1908 said in part: “At last I’m in N’York. Whoopee! Wow!…”. A May 4, 1909 card was about his upcoming trip to Europe: 

Dear Butch: I leave for Europe the 29 of this month, on the steamship Minneapolis. Am being sent all expenses paid by Frank Munsey. Will go to London, Scotland, Paris and Berlin, also Holland. Am going mainly to do theatre sketches, but will get a lot of misselleanous [sic] stuff to [sic]. 

I have been up to my neck in work since the first month I landed, for the last month have kept the income at 100 a week and some times more, but I have to hustle to do it. Have you seen the Scrap Book—it is full of my stuff.

Good-bye, regards Ewer

It’s not clear if he went to Europe. A passport application has not been found and his name does not appear on any passenger lists at

In 1909, he produced two Sunday newspaper features and kid’s activity page. Things as They Ought to Be ran from January 17 to April 18, 1909; he started Those Ridiculous Questions January 24 and stopped June 20, 1909; Kid Cut Ups Puzzle had the longest run of the trio, from January 17 to August 8, 1909.

 Duluth News-Tribune 3/28/1909

Duluth News-Tribune 3/28/1909

The 1910 census recorded him and his wife, Ruth, in Manhattan, New York City at 514 West 122 Street. His occupation was magazine illustrator but he continued producing comics.  Brown—City Farmer, also known as Brown—Would Be Farmer, ran from May 15 to November 6, 1910.

Belleville News-Democrat 5/28/1910

He took over Slim Jim and the Force, from George Frink, beginning January 8, 1911 and ending three years later on January 11, 1914. He also busy contributing art to Judge, The MassesPuck and Vanity Fair. (Nemo, December 1984, has seven pages devoted to Ewer and his art in Judge.)

 Judge 11/16/1912

 Judge 12/7/1912

Puck 11/28/1914

Puck 4/3/1915

Ewer passed away June 22, 1915. His death was reported in the Dobbs Ferry Register (New York) on Friday, June 25:

Raymond Crawford Ewer, a resident of Circle Driveway, Riverview Manor, Hastings-on-Hudson, died on Tuesday [June 22], after a short illness. Mr. Ewer was 26 years of age and leaves a wife and infant daughter. The funeral services were held from his late home on Thursday morning at 10 o’clock. His body was taken to Fresh Pond Long Island for incineration. The ashes will be taken to his former home in St. Helena, Napa county, Cal.

He was buried at the St. Helena Public Cemetery.


Raymond C. Ewer artwork in the San Francisco Call at Chronicling America

January 1907
1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14a, 14b, 16, 17 (unsigned), 18, 20 (spot drawings), 21, 24, 26

February 1907
2, 4 (Buster Brown), 6, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18a, 18b, 19, 21, 22, 24a, 24b, 24c, 25

March 1907
3, 4a, 4b, 9, 10, 12a, 12b, 13, 17a, 17b, 18, 19, 22, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31

April 1907
1, 3, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14a, 14b, 15, 21, 23, 28, 29, 30

May 1907
5a, 5b, 13, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 31

June 1907
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23a, 23b, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30a, 30b

July 1907
1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11a, 11b, 14, 15a, 15b, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

August 1907
1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 5b, 6, 7a, 7b, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15 (unsigned), 16, 19a, 19b, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26a (unsigned), 26b, 27, 28, 29, 30

September 1907
1, 2, 3, 5, 6a, 6b (unsigned), 8a, 8b, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23a, 23b, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 (O. Henry story), 30a, 30b

October 1907
1, 2, 3, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8, 9a, 9b, 10, 12a, 12b, 13, 14a, 14b, 15, 16, 20a, 20b, 20c, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

November 1907
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11a, 11b, 12, 16, 18a, 18b, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25a, 25b, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

December 1907
2, 6, 7, 8 (Dargie caricature reused 14, 16, 18), 9, 10, 11, 13


Allan and Alex-- thank you. These past two days are the perfect example of why Stripper's guide is one of the best sites out in the ether. That Ye Olden Christmas page is pure magic! I can't thank you enough!!!
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Monday, October 07, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Those Ridiculous Questions

Long before Rube Goldberg became synonymous with crazy inventions, he was already the man behind another craze. He came up with a cute little bit he called Foolish Questions, and it caught on big.

The idea was simplicity itself -- an oblivious idiot asks a really dumb question, and his victim, rather than just rolling his eyes and answering the question, shoots back a totally off-the-wall bizarre answer drenched in fresh steaming sarcasm.

In Goldberg's very capable hands the concept was a goldmine of comedy. And it wasn't long before others realized that the form was relatively easy to imitate. Not necessarily imitate well, of course, as there is an art to making a really funny answer. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Goldberg was flattered all to hell and back.

Here is Raymond Crawford Ewer's *ahem* homage to Foolish Questions, stealthily titled Those Ridiculous Questions to throw us off the scent. Most of Ewer's answers are on the klunky side, but it's possible to forgive him as the drawings, on the other hand, are quite delightful. Ewer was just starting in the art game at this time, but it wouldn't be long before his work was snapped up by major magazines. Alex Jay will tell us what became of Ewer tomorrow in an Ink-Slinger Profile.

Those Ridiculous Questions ran in the McClure/Otis F. Wood preprint Sunday section starting on January 24 1909. Ewer's stint on the feature came to an end on June 20 of that year. After a several month layoff, the feature was resurrected, this time with William F. Marriner at the helm. Marriner drew the feature from September 26 to October 31. One final episode was published on November 7, which was unsigned and not by either of these cartoonists.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!


And of course more recently we had Al Jaffee's Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions in Mad magazine:
It drives me crazy how the balloons are in backward order, so the punch line comes first. Sort of like Jeopardy...what is the straight line for this payoff?
I wonder when it became standardized that dialogue in comic strips had to be placed so that it would always read left to right, unlike what this cartoonist did.
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Sunday, October 06, 2013


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics


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