Archive for the ‘comic strips’ Category

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Comic Strips: A Typical Golden Age Comic Section

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

I read the news on the internet the other day that many newspapers are discontinuing their comics sections. I don’t think many people realize just how far the market for cartoons has fallen over the past few decades. Newspaper comics are the clearest example of how quickly a once vital artform can go the way of the dodo bird. This weekend, take a close look at your local Sunday funnies. (If your city’s newspaper still has them that is…) Compare them to these comics from nearly 70 years ago. Keep in mind that this is just an average Sunday from an average newspaper of the time period. I think you’ll be shocked at how different it is from what passes for comics in today’s papers.

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

Until I had a chance to actually see a complete Sunday comics section, I had no idea how huge and diverse the Sunday comics section was in the past. Not all these comics are classics, but even the worst of them are more interesting than the crop in current papers. It’s a crime how lousy newspaper comics have become.

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

Here are some statistics to think about, courtesy of Mike Fontanelli’s research… At the time this newspaper comic section was published, Li’l Abner had a circulation of over 80 million, and Capp made $200,000 a year from the strip- not counting licensing and other ancillary income. At that time, the population of the United States was 145 million, and adjusting for inflation, Capp’s salary in 2008 dollars would be 2.2 million dollars a year. Capp’s cartoon was read every day by more than half of the United States, and he made much more money any modern day print cartoonist makes from his work. But Capp wasn’t alone. Chic Young made $5,000 a week from Blondie. Milton Caniff, Chester Gould, George MacManus, Hal Foster… all of these men made MUCH more than the typical cartoonist today does, (NOT factoring for inflation!) and their work was seen and enjoyed on a single day by more people than current artists can hope for in a decade. The difference in scale is mind boggling.

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

This week, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon chatting with Ralph Bakshi. I can’t seem to shake one comment he made when he visited and saw what we were doing here at Animation Resources. Ralph said, "Cartooning is in jeopardy." He explained that artists who would have become cartoonists in the past are going into other fields, because the market for cartooning has deteriorated so much. In the past, a cartoonist could do a newspaper strip, or contribute one panel gags to magazines, or do spot illustrations for advertisements, create comic books or make animated cartoons. Today, every single one of those branches of cartooning is struggling for survival. There are animated cartoons today that are neither animated, nor cartoons. The comic book business is suffocating under the weight of an unsupportable business model. Magazines rarely run cartoons, and advertisements are usually just Photoshopped collages. Some markets, like newspaper comics may be on the way out entirely. It’s clear that if you’re determined to become a cartoonist today, you can expect to be swimming against the current.

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

It’s difficult not to be depressed. I’m not sure what can be done to reverse the trend. I can only hope that this website will act as a catalyst to inspire the artists who truly love the medium to create something totally new and exciting. We can only hope that artists will stick with the art of cartooning and build up a totally new market on the internet, because that’s our best hope for the resurgence of cartooning. Perhaps today’s hard work and sacrifices will spawn a market for cartoons that replaces and surpasses all the old models. I sure hope that happens, and I’m doing what I can to see that it does.

David Apatoff's Comic Collection

I hope you cartoonists out there understand what I’m saying… I’m not saying that there are no good cartoonists and no good cartoons today. I’m saying that the market for cartooning has been allowed to dwindle down to nothing. That isn’t good for the business of cartooning or for cartoonists who want to make a living drawing. I’m reminding you here that there was a time when cartoonists didn’t think small or settle for being boxed into a "niche market". To them, becoming successful was the goal, and they didn’t consider that to be the same as "selling out". The aimed straight for the mainstream with a variety of challenging, well drawn comics, and they hit it big. Let’s find a way to do that again.

The New Orleans Times Picayune
First Comic Section
Sunday, June 25th, 1939

1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color<br />
Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics

Second Comic Section

1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics

Third Comic Section

1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics
1939 Sunday Color Comics1939 Sunday Color Comics

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Comic Strips: Milt Gross’ Cartoon Tour of New York

Milt Gross

Milt GrossMilt GrossIt’s especially gratifying when an animation professional stumbles across this blog and immediately grasps what it is we’re doing and how important it is to the art of animation. A while back an old friend of mine, animation director Kent Butterworth (www.attilatheham.com) was doing a web search and stumbled across the Animation Resources website. I hadn’t seen Kent in several years, but he was so excited by what he saw, he jumped in the car and came right over to see what I was up to. I gave him the tour and explained how the database we are building is intended to work, and he was behind the concept 100 percent. A day later he was back, with a stack of books and comics to allow us to digitize.

Kent’s collection is amazing, and the scope is huge. He brought a hard drive full of scans of vintage comic books by dozens of great artists, 40s Colliers magazines with Virgil Partch cartoons, original Sunday pages by Cliff Sterrett, and a book I’ve never seen before… Milt Gross’ Cartoon Tour of New York.

Milt GrossMilt GrossMilt Gross is one of the greatest comic artists who ever lived. His books Nize Baby, He Done Her Wrong and Dunt Esk are classics of ethnic New York humor. His drawing style is direct and funny with absolutely flawless staging, composition and expression. Gross’s Cartoon Tour of New York was published as a program guide for tourists visiting the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and it’s an amazing time capsule into life in the “big apple” in its golden age. If Weegee’s Naked City depicts the front page view of this marvellous time and place, Gross’ Cartoon Tour tells the Funny Pages version.

A lot of this book appears to have been drawn by Milt Gross’ assistant, but there’s still plenty of joy in every panel. Here are scans of the entire book. Enjoy!

Milt Gross
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Milt Gross

Milt Gross
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Milt Gross

Many thanks to Kent Butterworth for sharing this great book with us!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Comic Strips: Cliff Sterrett’s Polly And Her Pals

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals

Cliff SterrettCliff SterrettAl Capp once described Cliff Sterrett as “the finest cartoonist of them all”. Yet most people have never heard of him or his strip, Polly And Her Pals.

Sterrett debuted the Polly strip in 1912. Initially, it focused on a pretty girl, but as the strip developed, Sterrett turned his attention to Polly’s family- specifically, her father, known as “Paw” and her mother, referred to as “Maw”. Other characters filled out the cast- Neewah, the family’s houseboy; Ashur, the dimwitted nephew; and Carrie, Paw’s sister in law. Shadowing Paw through the panels is Kitty, the cat.

Cliff Sterrett

Richard Marschall produced a pair of books documenting the Polly And Her Pals Sunday pages from 1926 to 1929. This was the prime era of the strip, with Picasso-esque cubist backgrounds and surreal gags. If you see these books for sale, grab them. By the mid-1930s, Sterrett was afflicted with arthritis, and had turned over a lot of the responsibility for the strip to his assistant, Paul Fung. Sterrett let Fung create the dailies without much input, but he supervised the Sunday pages personally, with Fung simply providing the background detail repeated from panel to panel.

Cliff SterrettCliff SterrettMy friend Kent Butterworth brought in a stack of original Sunday pages from 1936 for us to digitize. This era of Polly And Her Pals has never been reprinted, so these delicate originals are particularly important. These oversize sheets are twice as large as the platen on our scanner, so we have to scan them in two passes and splice them together in Photoshop. With the high resolutions we’re scanning art at, it takes over an hour to digitize each Sunday page. But I think you’ll agree that it’s well worth it.

Cliff Sterrett
January 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
January 12, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 2, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 16, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 23, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
March 29, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
April 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
June 7, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
June 28, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
July 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
August 2, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
September 13, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
September 20th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
September 27th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
October 25th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 1st, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 8th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 29th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 6th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 20th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 27th, 1936

Here are a couple of prime Sterrett Sundays provided by my best pal, JoJo Baptista…

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 6th, 1927

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
April 8th, 1928

There’s an easter egg in this last one… do a google image search for the name hidden in this comic and see what Sterrett was looking at when he created this strip!

 If you enjoyed these strips, you owe it to yourself to splurge and get one of the finest books on newspaper comics ever published. This oversize volume is beautifully printed and packed with hundreds of great Polly Sunday pages. Order it now from Amazon…

For another example of Cliff Sterrett’s genius, see Michael Sporn’s Splog, and make sure to read Rick Marschall’s great comment adding more details to the story below.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.