Archive for the ‘Al Capp’ Category

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Cartooning: Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning Part One

Cartoonists People On Paper

Footage of Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Bud Fisher, Chic Young, Al Capp and other cartoonists at work in their studios…

"Passing Parade: People On Paper" (MGM/1945)

(Quicktime 7 / 24 megs)

REG’LAR FELLERS, LI’L ABNER, FLASH GORDON, TERRY & THE PIRATES, GAGS & GALS, STEVE CANYON… Meet The Men Behind The Comics

ByrnesByrnesToday, we began digitizing an important book… Gene Byrnes’ Complete Guide To Cartooning 1950. Marc Crisafulli and David King generously lent us a copy of this amazing collection of capsule features on all of the major cartoonists of the early 50s for digitization. It’s said that Ralph Bakshi learned to cartoon from this book.

In the coming days, I will be posting more from this book, along with a little biographical info on the featured artists. Today, the cartoonists profiled are all newspaper comic strip creators… Gene Byrnes, Jefferson Machamer, Alex Raymond, Louis Eisele, Charles Voight, Al Capp and Milton Caniff.

REG’LAR FELLERS
By Gene Byrnes

Gene Byrnes intended a career in sports, but after being laid up from a leg injury in 1911, he took to copying cartoons by Tad Dorgan and decided to take a correspondence course in cartooning. He began his career as a professional cartoonist with the help of Winsor McCay, who got him a job with the New York Telegram as a sports cartoonist around 1915. In 1917, he created his most famous strip, Reg’lar Fellers. which ran for over thirty years. He wrote several influential books on cartooning and illustration in the 40s and early 50s. He passed away in 1974.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

RIP KIRBY
By Alex Raymond

Alex Raymond is best known for creating the comic strip, Flash Gordon in 1933. He was responsible for several other important strips as well, as creator or ghost artist, including Rip Kirby, Jungle Jim, Tim Tyler’s Luck and Tillie the Toiler. His strip, Secret Agent X9 was created in collaboration with Dasheill Hammett. He died in a car accident in 1956.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

JEFFERSON MACHAMER

Thomas Jefferson Machamer began as a staff artist on the Kansas City Star in the early 1920s, and soon moved to New York, where he secured work with the New York Tribune. He made his name with his cartoons of pretty girls in Judge magazine in the late 1920s. In 1932, his strip, Gags & Gals debuted in the New York Mirror. He continued to be active in both newspaper cartoons and magazine illustration throughout the 40s and 50s, and passed away in 1960.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

LOUIS EISELE

I don’t have any information on Louis Eislele. If anyone out there knows his biographical details, please post them to the comments below.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

CHARLES VOIGHT

Charles Voight was known as a “girl specialist” with illustrations and comics in the New York World and Life magazine in the early decades of the 20th century. His strips included Petey Dink and Betty. He passed away in 1947.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

ON THE WRITING OF CONTINUITY
By Al Capp

At the age of nine, Al Capp lost a leg in a streetcar accident. He became the youngest syndicated cartoonist in the country at age 19 with his strip, Colonel Gilfeather. He ghosted the strip Joe Palooka for Ham Fischer for a while, before striking out on his own with Li’l Abner in 1934. The strip was among the most popular of all time, entering the popular culture with Capp’s creations like "Sadie Hawkins Day", "Kickapoo Joy Juice" and "The Shmoo". Capp’s strip inspired a Broadway musical and feature film and ran until 1977. Capp died two years later.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

DETOUR GUIDE FOR AN ARMCHAIR MARCO POLO
By Milton Caniff

Milton Caniff was born in Ohio in 1907. He took a job as a staff artist with the Associated Press in 1932, and soon inherited Al Capp’s strip Colonel Gilfeather when Capp left the syndicate. In 1934, Caniff created the comic strip he is best known for, Terry and the Pirates. The series was hugely popular throughout the war years, but Caniff didn’t own the copyright- it belonged to The Chicago Tribune/New York Daily News. He left the comic behind to create a new one, Steve Canyon, which spawned a short-lived television series and ran until Caniff’s death in 1988.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

STUDYING THE COMICS PAGES

In this section, there are three articles on how to get fresh ideas, Byrnes goes through the newspaper analyzing the appeal of various comic strips, and Chic Young and Hal Foster are featured.

HOW TO GET IDEAS
By Dana Coty

I don’t have much information on Dana Coty (Dec. 19, 1901 – March 19, 1962) aside from the fact that he worked at Disney in the mid-30s, and was a story man at Famous Studios.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

J. N. Darling (Ding)
on EDITORIAL IDEAS

Ding DarlingDing Darling"Ding" Darling was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist for the Sioux City Journal, The Des Moines Register, the New York Herald Tribune and the New York Globe. His editorial cartoons dealing with conservation causes were a staple of the opinion sections of many papers for decades. He passed away in 1962.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

IDEAS FOR ADVERTISING CARTOONS
By Sam Cobean

Sam CobeanSam CobeanSam Cobean was an inbetweener on Snow White, barely surviving on $16 a week, when he joined the strikers fighting for the creation of the Screen Cartoonists Guild. After returning to work when the contract was settled, Sam realized that Disney was not the place for him and took a job as a copy boy at the Washington Post. There, he developed an interest in political cartoons. During the war, he worked in a unit producing training cartoons and pamphlets along with cartoonist Charles Addams. Addams introduced him to the editor of the New Yorker, and Cobean’s cartoons appeared there for many years afterwards. In 1950, he created a book of cartoons, titled "Cobean’s Naked Eye" which was a bestseller. He died in a car accident in 1951.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

STUDIES OF COMIC STRIPS

In this section, Gene Byrnes analyzes the style and appeal of various contemporary newspaper comics. The most interesting thing about the strips he features is the high level of draftsmanship, and the diverse variety of styles and approaches to the medium. Newpaper comics were once considered the pinnacle of cartooning… but today, they have plunged to its nadir. Comparing Prince Valiant to Drabble or Bringing Up Father to Cathy is a depressing task. It’s shameful that so great an artform has been allowed to deteriorate so far. I hope there are aspiring cartoonists out there who are willing to take up the difficult task of restoring the comics page to its rightful place in American culture again. This overview is a good place to start investigating the forgotten art of newspaper cartooning.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

SUNDAY PAGES
Featuring Chic Young & Hal Foster

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Chic YoungChic YoungChic Young was born in 1901 and began his career as a newspaper cartoonist in 1923. His first strip for King Features was Dumb Dora and in 1930, he created the strip, Blondie, one of the longest running newspaper comics of all time. He drew it until he passed away in 1973, and his son, Dean continues to write it to this day. Blondie was hugely successful and spawned film and TV adaptations.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Prince Valiant

Hal FosterHal FosterHal Foster was raised in the wilds of Halifax, Nova Scotia where he was an avid boater and outdoorsman. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and began a course of self education studying sketching and anatomy. He set art aside to become a hunting guide and gold prospector, but at age 28, he decided to devote his life to a career in art. He received classical training at the Chicago Art Institute, the National Academy of Design and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1927, he was contracted to do a comic strip adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. 1n 1937, Foster introduced an original property, Prince Valiant, the most successful adventure strip of all time. Foster produced the strip for over 40 years, passing away in 1982.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

Other artists featured in this section are Jimmy Hatlo, Otto Soglow, George McManus, Chester Gould and Frank King… all worthy of spending a few minutes Googling and reading up on.

Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning
Byrnes Complete Guide To Cartooning

The posts I present here at Animation Resources aren’t intended to be the last word on any subject, particularly one as large and multifaceted as the history of cartooning. My hope is that you use these posts as a springboard for your own investigation. Take the names and examples I present here and start searching the web for more… scour bookstores and flea markets… and expand your frame of reference beyond just what is presented here. I wish I had a source of "hot tips" like this when I was first starting out. Take advantage of this great resource we’re building.

Many thanks to Marc Crisafulli and David King 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.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Exhibit: CAPPtivating Heroes: Jack Jawbreaker and Fearless Fosdick Fight Crime!

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Today, I’m proud to bring you another entry in Mike Fontanelli’s important series of articles on Al Capp’s life and career. It’s not good enough to bounce through a few pages of these stories and glance at the pictures. You have to sit down and READ them to get the full impact. If you don’t have time right now, bookmark this page and come back later. I’m sure you’ll find these stories as mind-blowing as I do! -Stephen Worth

Capp’s writing was first-rate, his characterizations were multitudinous and superb, his artwork was stunning, his compositions clever and arresting. For pure humor he was unequalled, and he blithely produced some of the most devastating satire and parody in our history. What elevates Capp even further… is his unfailingly prescient comments on human nature. –Richard Marschall, Nemo Magazine, April 1986

[Capp] was far more an intellectual than he allowed the public to see. ‘Li’l Abner’ was his joke on the dismal world around him. His humor welled- up from the melancholy pits of a strapping kid made an amputee at age nine- just when the other boys were learning to kick a football, and scruff along scattering leaves on autumn afternoons. –Milton Caniff, 1985

Li’l Abner was a comic strip with fire in its belly and a brain in its head. –John Updike, 1991

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Nearly all comic strips, even today, are owned and controlled by syndicates, not their cartoonist creators. But in 1947 Al Capp brazenly defied his own syndicate, United Features. He sued them for $14 million, publicly embarrassed them in Li’l Abner, and successfully wrested back ownership and artistic control of his creation.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"Jack Jawbreaker Fights Crime!" (1947) may start out as an innocuous spoof of Superman, but don’t be fooled! It’s an angry and devastating satire of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s notorious exploitation by DC Comics…

Al Capp Lil Abner Jack Jawbreaker
Al Capp Lil Abner Jack Jawbreaker
Al Capp Lil Abner Jack Jawbreaker

Capp’s classic Dick Tracy parody, Fearless Fosdick, was in some ways his most significant creation- at least in terms of lasting influence. It was almost certainly Harvey Kurtzman’s major inspiration for creating his innovative, irreverent Mad magazine, which began as a comic book that specifically parodied other comics in 1952. That alone makes Fearless Fosdick, indirectly, one of the prime influences on postwar American popular culture.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Similarities between Li’l Abner and the early Mad are unmistakable: the incongruous use of Yiddish terms, the nose-thumbing disdain for pop cultural icons, the persistent "black" humor, and most unmistakably, the extremely broad visual styling. Even the trademark comic "signs" that clutter the backdrops of Will Elder’s panels would seem to have precedence in Li’l Abner- in the residence of Dogpatch entrepreneur Available Jones. Tellingly, Kurtzman resisted parodying either Li’l Abner or Dick Tracy in the comic book Mad, despite their prominence.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Sharp-eyed viewers of Warren Beatty’s big screen adaptation, Dick Tracy (1990) will have detected a direct, onscreen homage to Fearless Fosdick. The opera Tracy is attending when his 2-way wrist radio suddenly calls him to duty is titled "Die Schlmpf" on the concert program, after Elmer Schlmpf, the maniacal- albeit deceased- fiend from "The Poisoned Bean Case".

Like the Shmoo, Fosdick’s popularity would eventually rival that of the nominal star of the strip, Li’l Abner’s. So popular did Fosdick prove to be in his own right that he was licensed for use outside the strip, as a commercial pitchman for Wildroot Cream-Oil hair tonic. Fosdick’s image on tin signs and advertising displays became a prominent fixture in barbershops across America, as well as in animated TV commercials.

King Cole Trio

The Wildroot jingle- instantly familiar to radio listeners in the fifties- was performed by everyone from Bil Baird’s puppets to Nat King Cole, who once sang it on Woody Herman’s radio show. It went like this…

King Cole Trio: Wild Root Charlie
(AAC Audio File / 2 MB)

Get Wildroot Cream-Oil, Charlie!
It keeps your hair in trim
Y’see it’s non-alcoholic, Charlie,
It’s made with soothing lanolin!

You’d better get Wildroot Cream-Oil, Charlie!
Start using it today
You’ll find that you’ll have a tough time, Charlie
Keeping all those gals away!

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

A long-running series of comic strip-format ads appeared in newspapers, magazines and comic books, usually featuring Fosdick battling his arch-villain nemesis, "Anyface". Anyface was a murderous, shape-changing scoundrel whose plastic features could be molded into any identity. He was always given away by his telltale dandruff and messy hair, however. The Wildroot print ads joined Li’l Abner’s national ad campaigns for Cream of Wheat cereal and Procter & Gamble detergents- and later, Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat’s supermarket pitches for Kickapoo Joy Juice- when Capp’s volatile moonshine concoctio
n was licensed as a soft drink in 1965.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Here is an article from Pageant magazine from May of 1952 featuring a story on Fosdick’s father "Fearful Fosdick", and two of the more memorable run-ins with the mysterious Anyface…

Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick

In 1952, a puppet show based on Fearless Fosdick premiered on NBC on Sunday afternoons. Thirteen episodes were filmed featuring the Mary Chase marionettes. The TV show was presumed lost for decades, but vintage kinescopes have recently begun to resurface. According to publisher Denis Kitchen, there are currently efforts underway to release these exceedingly rare Fosdick episodes on a set of DVDs.

Our next story first appeared in 1948- before Monty Python, before Mad and Humbug, before Woody Allen’s classic stand-up routine about TV sets and elevators. Even years before Ernie Kovacs and "The Goon Show", Capp was already doing the kind of demented and surreal "sick" humor that would come into vogue just a few short years later.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

The classic story "The Case Of The Chippendale Chair" was certainly ahead of its time. It shows Al Capp in peak form and at fever pitch, hitting on all cylinders…

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick
Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless Fosdick

To be continued…

-Mike Fontanelli 2008

Be sure to let Mike know in the comments what you think of these articles. -Steve

Cartoonist Eddie Fitzgerald comments on this post at his blog, Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Al CappAl Capp

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit by Mike Fontanelli profiling the career of Al Capp.

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

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Exhibit: CAPPital Ideas: The Modus Operandi of Li’l Abner

Al Capp in Life

Al Capp in LifeAl Capp in Life
Al Capp in LifeAl Capp in Life
Al Capp in LifeAl Capp in Life
Al Capp in Life

"I think [Al Capp] had a lot of talent, no question. He was a good artist. He could capture the peak expression- what made something ultra-funny or ultra-nasty or ultra-cute. He was a very brilliant guy, although a little screwed up. But he was talented, no question. I think he was quite the artist." –Frank Frazetta, Comics Journal Feb. 1995

Al Capp Promo Brochure
Al Capp Promo Brochure

Al Capp Lil Abner PuzzleAl Capp Lil Abner PuzzleAl Capp had been the uncredited and underpaid ghost for Ham Fisher on Joe Palooka, an experience so unpleasant that he made it a point to value his own assistants. Some of them, like Andy Amato and Harvey Curtis, made whole careers with him. Capp’s key assistant staff received a generous incentive- ten percent of the profits the strip generated, on top of their regular salaries.

Beginning in 1954, a young Frank Frazetta was paid the then princely salary of $500 a week- primarily to pencil the Sunday sequences from Capp’s roughs. By his own account, Frazetta enjoyed a one-day work week for years, allowing him to play baseball the other four days! Capp eventually put a stop to Frazetta’s 8-hour work week by halving his salary. But Frazetta quit instead, in January of 1962.

Al Capp and Bob Lubbers Long Sam
Other artists, like Moe Leff and Bob Lubbers, who drew Long Sam, Capp’s alternate hillbilly comic strip (see above) were tapped to assist as well, especially on the extensive specialty, promotional and licensed commercial work. The Cream Of Wheat and Wildroot Cream Oil magazine ads alone numbered in the hundreds.

Al Capp in Life

Frazetta expert David Winiewicz has described the everyday working mode of operation of Li’l Abner from its golden period:

"By the time Frazetta began working on the strip, the work of producing Li’l Abner was too much for one person. Capp had a group of assistants who he taught to reproduce his distinctive individual style, working under his direct supervision. Actual production of the strip began with a rough layout in pencil done by Al Capp, from Capp’s script or a co-authored script, and the page would pass to Andy Amato and Walter Johnson. Amato would ink the figures, then Johnson added backgrounds and any mechanical objects. Harvey Curtis was responsible for the lettering and also shared inking duties with Amato… In order to make sure that the work stayed true to his style, the final touches would be added by Capp himself. He enjoyed adding a distinctive glint to an eye or an idiosyncratic contortion to a character’s face. The finished strip was truly an ensemble effort, a skillful blending of talents."

Al Capp in Life

Capp’s latter-day reputation for using assistants is ironic. Nearly every great comic strip artist (with the exception of Charles Schulz) utilized anonymous, behind-the-scenes assistants. But no other cartoonist engineered media coverage of them, complete with photographs, in a major national magazine piece. Capp did, in a November 1950 issue of Time magazine, when he insisted that the article also feature his colleagues Andy Amato and Walter Johnson. Publicizing one’s assistants was unheard of at the time, and is still considered highly irregular. As a direct result, Capp is often remembered today for not having worked on his own strip, a persistent myth that the assistant artists themselves refuted.

Al Capp in Time
Al Capp in TimeAl Capp in Time
Al Capp in TimeAl Capp in Time
Al Capp in TimeAl Capp in Time

The evidence indicates that Capp had the leading hand in the creation of Li’l Abner. Original strips I’ve seen have often included Capp’s pencil doodles on the back. They show his thought process clearly, and are the origin of the material on the other side. Many of Capp’s exploratory sketches survive in just this way, to show that Capp designed the characters carefully and thoughtfully himself.

Al Capp Lil Abner PuzzleAl Capp Lil Abner PuzzleThe only time Capp really gave an assistant a free hand visually was in an early (1954) Frazetta-penciled story. Capp was curious to see him bring a fresh look to the daily strip, especially in terms of more lavish and realistic Johnny Comet style inking. Frazetta was also allowed to design a lead villain- a self-caricature, even named "Frankie". (see below) When editors complained about the experimental stylistic departure, the Capp look was reinstated.

Al Capp Frank Frazetta

Capp orchestrated his assistant staff much like an animation director, according to their individual strengths. At the same time, he maintained creative control over every stage of production. Capp himself originated the stories, finalized the dialogue, designed the major characters, rough penciled the preliminary staging and action of each panel, oversaw the finished pencils, and inked the faces and hands of the characters- for 43 years. Yet to this day, Capp’s detractors still falsely claim that Capp "never touched the strip" in an inexplicable ongoing effort to discredit him.

Al Capp Lil Abner PuzzleAl Capp Lil Abner PuzzleAlthough a team effort production-wise, few comic strips were as uniquely personal a creation as Li’l Abner. The finished product reflected the singular personality of its creator- Al Capp. As any fool kin plainly see…

In these two sequences, Capp kids his fellow cartoonists- Mary Worth writer, Allen Saunders and longtime pal Milton Caniff (Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon) The pitch-perfect parody, Steve Cantor was scripted and laid out by Capp, penciled by Frazetta, probably inked by Amato and Johnson, and lettered by an actual assistant at the Caniff studio- probably Frank Engli– it all blends seamlessly to create a truly classic Sunday sequence from 1957…

Al Capp Mary Worm Steve Cantor
Al Capp Mary Worm Steve CantorAl Capp Mary Worm Steve Cantor
Al Capp Mary Worm Steve CantorAl Capp Mary Worm Steve Cantor
Al Capp Mary Worm Steve CantorAl Capp Mary Worm Steve Cantor

Even in the later years, Capp would occasionally knock one out of the park. The following hilarious continuity appeared in 1967, long after the strip’s nominal heyday. The jaw-dropping Lips Of Marcia Perkins is no less than Capp’s covert, satirical commentary on venereal disease! It could only have gotten past the censors because they didn’t understand it…

Al Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins
Al Capp Lips Of Marcia PerkinsAl Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins
Al Capp Lips Of Marcia PerkinsAl Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins
Al Capp Lips Of Marcia PerkinsAl Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins
Al Capp Lips Of Marcia PerkinsAl Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins
Al Capp Lips Of Marcia PerkinsAl Capp Lips Of Marcia Perkins




TO BE CONTINUED…

Special thanks to my pal, Atlanta-based animator Joe Suggs, for some 9th inning pinch-hit assistance on this article. -Mike Fontanelli, 2008

Many thanks to Mike for this wonderful series of articles.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Al CappAl Capp

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit by Mike Fontanelli profiling the career of Al Capp.

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