Archive for the ‘newspaper’ Category

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Exhibit: A CAPPital Offense- Fearless Fosdick and the Poisoned Bean

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"They always want me to say who is the best writer in America today, and I can’t think of any name but Al Capp… One of the symptoms or diagnostics of literature should be that it is read, that it amuses, moves, instructs, changes and criticizes people. And who in the world does that more than Capp? I think Capp may very possibly be the best writer in the world today." -John Steinbeck, 1953

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

PLAYBOY: John Steinbeck once described you as "possibly the best writer in the world today". What’s your reaction to that?

CAPP: I revere John Steinbeck far too deeply to question his literary judgment!" –Playboy Interview, 1965

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"Not many people know that I worked with Al Capp for a year at Terry-Toons on a cartoon adaptation of Fearless Fosdick. Capp is one of the great unsung heroes of comics. I’ve never heard anyone mention this, but Capp is 100% responsible for inspiring Harvey Kurtzman to create Mad magazine.

Just look at Fearless Fosdick- a brilliant parody of Dick Tracy with all those bullet holes and stuff. Then look at Mad’s "Teddy and the Pirates", "Superduperman" or even "Little Annie Fanny". Forget about it. Slam dunk. Not taking anything away from Kurtzman who was brilliant himself, but Capp was the source for that whole sense of satire in comics. Kurtzman carried that forward and passed it down to a whole new crop of cartoonists, myself included.

Capp was a genius. You wanna argue about it? I’ll fight ya, and I’ll win." -Ralph Bakshi, 2008

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Li’l Abner’s "ideel"- Fearless Fosdick- first made his bullet-riddled debut in 1942. As everyone knows, Capp’s famous strip-within-a-strip began as a direct parody of Chester Gould’s classic newspaper comic, Dick Tracy. But like all of Capp’s creations, it soon developed into a multi-leveled satire of contemporary American society at large.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Al Capp Fearless FosdickAl Capp Fearless FosdickFearless Fosdick provided a running commentary on, among other things, the lowly lives of policemen, the capriciousness of the general public, and the thankless role of society’s "heroes". With Capp, as with Chaplin, there’s always a social subtext to the fun, which in my opinion, separates the men from the boys in comedy. These themes are very much in evidence in our first Fosdick story pick, "The Poisoned Bean Case"…

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

"The Poisoned Bean Case" is, simply put, one of Capp’s masterpieces. It seems to be a special favorite with fans too, both for its astronomical body count and its sheer outrageousness. Believe it or not, this blood-drenched parody ran in family newspapers in the fifties, in Eisenhower’s America, on Sundays, no less!

In the following brilliantly demented pages, no one is spared Capp’s merciless needle. From the venality of the justice system to the crookedness of the media; from the corruption of big business to the fickleness and stupidity of a complacent populace. The diabolical plot, which concerns product tampering, presages the 1982 Tylenol case by some 30 years.

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

As a cautionary note to readers encountering this story for the first time: you are hereby warned. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the maelstrom of fury that’s about to be unleashed. "The Poisoned Bean Case" doesn’t so much unfold, as simply detonate! For comics fans who like their irony dark, raw and relentless- we proudly present Al Capp at or near the peak of his powers…

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

Fearless Fosdick in…

THE POISONED BEAN CASE

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TO BE CONTINUED…<

Let me know what you think of this article in the comments.

-Mike Fontanelli, 2008

Al Capp Fearless Fosdick

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.

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Exhibit: CAPPs Off- Li’l Abner Without Apologies

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Some comic artists are appreciated because of their antiquated charm, the musty perfume they carry from another age. But Capp strikes us more and more as timeless, priceless and ageless. -Richard Marschall, NEMO Magazine, April 1986

Today, we’re happy to be able to introduce a series of posts on one of the greatest cartoonists ever to grace the funny papers with his presence… Al Capp. Mike Fontanelli has been a fan of Li’l Abner since he was very small. He’s grown up to be a fine cartoonist and an authority on Capp’s life and work. He’s digging into his personal collection of "Cappiana" to illustrate these posts. Thanks, Mike!

Al Capp Li'l AbnerAl Capp Li'l Abner

CAPPS OFF!

Li’l Abner Without Apologies

Al Capp was an individual of no small complexity, and his intricate personality could be off-putting to say the least- or even downright contradictory. Two books on the artist published recently, The Enigma Of Al Capp (by Alexander Theroux) and Capp’s autobiographic book, My Well-Balanced Life On A Wooden Leg tell polar opposite stories.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Capp’s star seems to have fallen recently. Contemporary critics seem inclined to recall only his controversial later years, which were marked by divisive anger and a bitterness of the kind to which satirists seem particularly susceptible. Unfortunately, this oversimplification of Capp’s complicated persona has overshadowed his creation, invalidating his real legacy. The body of work Capp left behind tells another story, one that’s been neglected- or worse, suppressed- in recent years. Those who are aware of Capp’s true importance to the history of cartooning can’t help but feel a critical reassessment is long overdue.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

Revisiting the pages of Li’l Abner today, modern readers will be aghast at the still astonishing plotlines, highly original concepts, and vivid, hilariously ludicrous characterizations. As you’ll see in the examples we’ll be presenting over the next couple of months, Li’l Abner went where no other comic strip has ever dared to go before or since.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

By any modern standard, Li’l Abner must be reckoned an American masterpiece of cartoon satire. The best of Capp’s great body of work could arguably hold its own against any classic work of satire, from Candide to Gulliver’s Travels, from The Pirates Of Penzance to CATCH-22. While no less an authority than John Steinbeck once recommended Capp for the Nobel Prize in literature, (and he duly deserved a Pulitzer Prize before Gary Trudeau was even born) Capp’s rightful place as a modern American equal to Jonathan Swift has still to be recognized.

Al Capp Li'l Abner
Al Capp Li'l Abner

"With Li’l Abner," writes Richard Marschall, "Capp was calling society absurd, not just silly; human nature not simply misguided, but irredeemably and irreducibly corrupt. Unlike any other strip, and indeed unlike many other pieces of literature, Li’l Abner was more than a satire of the human condition. It was a commentary on human nature itself."

Al Capp Li'l Abner

While Al Capp presented himself to the world "warts and all", there’s been an effort of late to portray only the warts. We at Animation Resources are grateful for this opportunity to present the rest of the story.

To start out, here is one of the finest stories in the history of the strip, "Loverboynik, or Ketch A Critic By The Toe". It’s a timely spoof of two diametrically opposed pillars of mid-20th century manhood: Charles Atlas and Liberace. According to Capp, Liberace was “cut to the quick” when this story first appeared in 1956, and even threatened legal action.

Al Capp Li'l Abner

This superb example of Capp’s masterfully controlled plotting technique, breathlessly combines humor and suspense into a seamless whole. The tension doesn’t let up until the hilarious and characteristically bizarre resolution. It also showcases some of the most memorably harrowing aspects of the strip (gulp!) Sadie Hawkins Day, (gasp!) Nightmare Alice, and (shudder!) The Scraggs…

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TO BE CONTINUED…

Mike Fontanelli, 2008

Let Mike know in the comments what you think of his article!

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 10th, 2014

Newspaper Comics: Trog’s Rufus and Flook

Trog's Rufus and Flook

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookToday, I’m posting a complete story by a comic strip artist whose name won’t be familiar to you unless you grew up in England in the 50s and 60s… he went by the name of "Trog". The nickname, short for "Troglodyte", came from his days hunkered down in air raid shelters during WW2. His real name is Wally Fawkes, and he’s one of those artists who has had two equally noteworthy careers- one as a cartoonist and the other as a Jazz musician.

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookFawkes played clarinet in Humphrey Lyttleton’s jazz band in the 40s and 50s, and was one of the finest Jazz musicians in Britain. But in 1956, he launched a simultaneous career as a cartoonist, which brought him even more fame. “To cartoonists, I was always the one who played jazz. To musicians, I was always the one who drew cartoons.” he once said. But his talent for capturing personality through caricature was his strongest suit. Fellow artist, Nicholas Garland wrote of his political cartoons, "Very few artists can see a likeness the way he can, and catch it so completely. He doesn’t develop a hieroglyph for each politician and then simply reach for it each time it is needed. Every Trog caricature is carefully recrafted." You can see this in the story that follows in this post. Trog doesn’t simply copy the caricatured heads from panel to panel. He’s able to convey the essence of the caricature from a different angle in almost every frame.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

At age 21, Fawkes entered an art contest that was being judged by the Daily Mail cartoonist, Leslie Illingworth. Illingworth was impressed with Fawkes’ work and got the young artist a job at the Daily Mail. Using his nickname, Trog, Fawkes created a comic strip about an imaginary furry creature named "Flook". It became an instant hit and Trog became the toast of the town. At a reception soon after its launch the Daily Mail’s owner, Lady Rothermere asked him, "How is your lovely little furry thing?" Trog replied, "Fine thank you. How is yours?" The cartoonist had to beat a quick retreat after that quip, but admitted that he couldn’t help himself when presented with such a perfect setup.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

Trog worked with several writers on the strip over the years- Compton Mackenzie, George Melly and Humphrey Lyttleton among others- and the direction of the strip evolved from a light hearted fantasy for children to pointed political humor similar to Walt Kelly’s Pogo. But the stories aren’t the reason that Rufus and Flook are so interesting today- it’s the unique drawings.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

When I first ran across this strip, I admit that I really didn’t know what to think about it. The drawings of the main character Flook were dumbfoundingly ignorant. But the incidental characters were wonderfully observed, sharp caricatures of British society at the time. And the backgrounds often included perfectly thought out compositions with impeccable architectural perspective and beautiful stylization of folliage. At first, this sharp contrast between ignorance and genius can be jarring. But after reading a while, the direct, simplistic looseness of the main characters and the planned and observed structure of the rest of the drawings don’t clash because Trog’s stylish sense of fun makes it all work.

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookRufus and Flook continued in the Daily Mail for 40 years, until Trog’s jabs at Margaret Thatcher earned him the scorn of the paper’s conservative editorial staff. He never took censorship personally though. In 1977, when one of Trog’s political cartoons of Cyril Smith was rejected, and he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s their paper." After leaving the Daily Mail,Trog moved on to the Mirror and the Sunday Telegraph until his failing eyesight forced him to retire from his art career in 2005 and pick up the clarinet again.

Personally, I think it’s a shame Fawkes isn’t better known in the US. Perhaps the softspoken, rambling British tone of the stories and the topical nature of the satire doesn’t come across at all any more, but those drawings- wow!

Trog's Rufus and Flook

This story from early in the strip’s run comes from an extremely rare paperback compilation, titled simply Flook…

RUFUS & FLOOK in
ROMAN’ IN THE GLOAMIN’

Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook

Richard Warren has written an interesting article on Flook on his blog. Check it out. Let me know if you would like to see more by Trog in the comments.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

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