Archive for the ‘caricature’ Category

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Comic Books: Basil Wolverton On Cartoon Sounds

Basil Wolverton Lena the Hyena

Last week, Animation Resources supporter Marc Schirmeister stopped by with a stack of rare fanzines from the late 1960s and early 70s. Included among them were two great issues of Graphic Story Magazine devoted to the genius of Basil Wolverton.

Basil Wolverton

Here is an article Wolverton wrote in 1948 for the Daily Oregonian…

Basil Wolverton

ACOUSTICS IN THE COMICS
By Basil Wolverton

The so called comic strip on my drawing board showed a heavy horse stepping on a bozo’s bean. The horse was tramping on the guy’s head in a delicate way, of course, so the situation would be more entertaining than grusome- depending on the reader’s sense of humor. But, like an old silent movie, the cartoon needed something, and that something was sound. There had to be a heavily lettered word oozing out from the exact point of contact between the horse’s hoofs and the man’s head. Thus the reader, pronouncing that sound word to himself, would actually hear within his mind the excitingly comical noise that would eminate from such action.

Basil Wolverton

Summoning both brain cells hurriedly together, I tried desperately to imagine just what sort of sound would ensue if a nag were to step on someone’s skull. The word CRUNCH popped into my mind. Then CRONCH. Then CRANCH. I settled for CRANCH because somehow it seemed more refined. But before I could letter the word on the cartoon, I suddenly recalled my latest unhappy interview with the person who publishes my comic strips.

Basil Wolverton

“I want realism!” he had bellowed. “No more of this wild imaginitive stuff that’s causing some people to want to ban our comic books! From now on, get that realism in there, and your strips will be horribly funny! Then the readers will go into hysterics and laugh like crazy, and our books will be acclaimed the most laugh provoking on the stands!” That meant that an imaginative word like CRANCH was taboo. It was up to me to get the real sound word. I looked furtively about as a preposterous plan permeated my pate.

Basil WolvertonBasil WolvertonIt was easy to rent a horse. It wasn’t as easy to argue my brother in law into placing his pan on the pavement, and letting me ride the nag over his noggin. “Horses are so heavy!” he foolishly kept countering. “Besides, I have a cold sore.” As he waddled away, I realized my plan was hopeless- until he stumbled over something in the street. Before he could pull his chin out of the asphalt, I had steered the rented mare over him, and her hind hoof scored a bull’s eye on his bare bean.

The sound? It was far from CRANCH. The real thing turned out to be SLORNK. It was a sort of a slippery liquid sound. That was probably because my brother in law has oily skin and a thin skull. With the noxious noise fresh in mind, I streaked into my studio and feverishly lettered the word SLORNK boldly across the cartoon.

Basil Wolverton

Weeks later the fan mail began pouring in. They all said the same thing. In fact, both of them were worded the same. The first one read “I want to congratulate you on that completely true to life cartoon you drew of the horse stepping on a man’s head. The word SLORNK describing the sound was absolutely accurate. I know, because I am always getting my head stepped on by some careless nag.” The second letter was the same as the first, except for the signature. I figured when I wrote them that there should be some difference. Otherwise the publisher might get wise when I showed them to him.

He was dumbfounded when he saw them. After recovering, he slapped me on my sunburn and rammed one of his dollar cigars into my mush. Unfortunately, he stuck the wrong end into my mouth. Besides, he was smoking it. “Two fan letters in eleven years” he murmured incredulously. “My boy, you have arrived! It’s just like I predicted,” my publisher beamed, “your horribly realistic sound words are paying off!”

Basil Wolverton

I leaped on his desk. “Then I’m ripe for a raise?” I queried. peering so anxiously and closely into his red-rimmed readers that I could detect his wife’s fingernail scratches on his contact lenses. Anticipation was causing me to quiver like a rat terrier with radio-active fleas on a cold day. The suspense was terrible. Finally he opened his trap. He was grinning. This was the day for which I had waited eleven long years. “It does not!” he roared, brushing me off his desk. “I was merely feeling pleased that at last you may be worth almost as much as I’ve been paying you!”

While I gathered my teeth up off the floor, he pointed at me demandingly. “If you want a raise, every one of your sound effect words will have to be absolutely authentic! In other words, don’t draw a single sound word into your strips until you’ve actually staged the cartoon situation with real people and things!”

Basil Wolverton

(Incidentally, you readers should stop worrying about my brother in law. Ever since the day the horse stepped on his head, he has had nothing but good luck. Why shouldn’t he, what with a horseshoe embedded in the back of his bean? Furthermore, he’s the only living person who can slide his head inside those record-in-the-slot phonographs without crushing his ears.)

My publisher pointed at me demandingly. “If you want a raise, every one of your sound effect words will have to be absolutely authentic! In other words, don’t draw a single sound word into your strips until you’ve actually staged the cartoon situation with real people and things!”

As for my publisher’s demands, they resulted in my running out of friends and relatives within a week. Neighbors complained about howls and screams emanating from the studio. People su
ed. The ASPCA hounded me. My wife and fourteen kids swore sudden allegiance to the Progressive party, then fled to Siberia.

Basil Wolverton

Meanwhile, however, I managed to catalog hundreds of authentic sound words- enough to last me for a lifetime of cartooning, and enough I thought, to cover any and all comic situations, regardless of how terrible. I was so proud of my achievement that I showed the lengthy list to my publisher. Here are some of the more subtle sound words describing various clashings, crashings, slashings, bashings, hashings, mashings, etc. Read the situation, then voice the accompanying sound word to yourself, and note how vividly the picture then comes to your mind:

  • Pinheaded person pullingg pate out of a pop bottle: FOINK!
  • Glass eye falling into tomato soup: PLOOP!
  • Glass eye falling into a pitcher of thick syrup: PLOFF!
  • Man sitting on short tack: SQUINCH!
  • Man sitting on long tack: SQUONCH!
  • Uppers dropping in gob of putty: FLUP!

Basil Wolverton

  • Hungry cannibal filing eyetooth: FWATCH!
  • Man with calloused feet crossing rough linoleum: SKIRP! SKIRP!
  • Thumb gouging eye: SPOP!
  • Hot lava speweing on WCTU convention: FOOSK!
  • Hot lava spewing on Elks’ convention: SSSCRISH!
  • Person skidding on hot stove in bare feet: SCREESH!
  • Beaver biting into wooden leg: CRASP!
  • Car crashing into large vat of frogs’ eggs: SKWORP!
  • False teeth falling through skylight: TWUNK!
  • Sock in the face with Sears Roebuck catalog: PWOSH!
  • Sock in the face with Montgomery Ward catalog: PWASH!
  • Octopus slapping a tentacle on bald bean: SPOOP!

Basil Wolverton

  • Man dragging toenails over No.2 grade sandpaper: SKARP!
  • Man falling on face in a barrel of wet teabags: FROMP!
  • Sock in the kisser with a wet codfish: SCHALAMPF!
  • Person socking wet halibut with his kisser: SCHLOOF!
  • Lowers falling into a bucket of cup grease: UNPH!
  • Man with small head drowning in a glass of tomato juice: GOIK!
  • Woodpecker hammering on human head: DUD-DUD-DUD-DUD-DUD!
  • Cannon ball landing in mush of toothless man: FWOCK!
  • Two bald men colliding headon: KROCK!
  • Garter snapping on varicose vein: SCHWIPP!
  • Single BB shot landing on a cow’s udder: PWIP!
  • Person pulling ponderous pate through a puny porthole: SPOOCH!
  • Bear trap springing on human noggin: SPROCK!
  • Rat trap springing on person’s big toe: SPACK!
  • Man falling into a garbage can full of spoiled caviar: CROFF!
  • Surgeon tossing gallstones into empty garbage can: KRANG!
  • Man with one hair getting a haircut: WHICK!
  • Person being kicked in the neck: PFWUMPFPH!
  • Person getting kicked in snappers: PWACK!
  • Measle germ snapping at skin: SCHLOPP!

Basil Wolverton

If you’ve been able to struggle through the foregoing list of cartoon words, perhaps now your acoustical sense has been sharpened to the extent that you can readily guess a situation just by reading a sound word. To test your ability, hee is a list of cartoon words denoting various noises. If you can guess the action by which even one of them is produced, then your extremely something or other.

SNIKK / SPIRP / FAMP / SWORP / SPITCH / KANK / IKK / SPRATCH / PWOT / YOTCH / KZEEP / KLISH / FEEMP / SHZWOP / KOPYP

Basil Wolverton

Now check your definitions with the following list. Even if you missed defining all the words, it’s no reflection on your intelligence. Fact is, the more you miss, the brighter you probably are. On the other hand, the more you can guess, the better comic strip cartoonist you can become- unless, unfortunately, you’re already one.

  • SNIKK: The sound made by an African pygmy idly snapping his fingernail against his skull
  • SPIRP: Nose being caught in an orange juicer
  • FAMP: Corpulent person falling on back in a vat of peanut butter
  • SWORP: Meteor hitting obese dame on back of neck
  • SPITCH: Man sticking his head inside huge dynamo in action
  • KANK: Crazed horsefly crashing into dome of empty-headed man
  • IKK: Person with protruding eyeballs falling face down

Basil Wolverton

  • SPRATCH: Court plaster being yanked off polose chest
  • PWOT: Wet socks being tossed into the corner of the room
  • YOTCH: Post office pen forming the letter O
  • KZEEP: Man with rusty eyelid winking at gal
  • KLISH: Man falling on chin on thin crusted beetle
  • FEEMP: Mole (on chin) being hit with stray buckshot
  • SHZWOP: Obese dame’s girdle splitting out
  • KOPYP: Skin pore snapping shut on contact with cold air

Basil Wolverton

“Good work!” my publisher mumbled two days later, when he had finished reading the list. “Then I get the raise?” I gurgled hopefully. His brows knitted. (He was working on a pair of socks at the same time.) “Not until you complete that list by adding one more sound word! The word that’s missing is the one that describes the sound of a railway train running over a cartoonist’s conk!”

“That should be easy,” I chirped. “I’ll just-” Suddenly, the awful significance of his demand dawned on me. My publisher had conceived of this diabolical plan to prevent my getting a raise. But I would fool him.

A half hour later my noggin was resting uncomfortably on a railroad rail.

Basil Wolverton

They told me later at the hospital that it wasn’t too bad. Only 22 cars, plus the locomotive had been derailed. “The train crew wanted the day off anyway” my doctor said. “They will be up later to thank you.” While he poured glue in the cracks in my conk, I struggled to recall the exact sound of the locomotive passing over my pate. I became frantic at the thought that it had eluded me. Then I remembered. How could I forget something that had been so forcefully crammed into my mind?

I raced out of the hospital and downtown to my publisher’s office. When that man saw the Scotch tape on my skull, he blanched a little. “Did you find out what the sound of a train running over a cartoonist’s head is?” he asked. “I did.” I announced triumphantly. He leaned expectantly so far forward that his rear suspender buttons flew off, zipped out the window, and nailed a burglar who was ransacking a safe in an office across the street.

Basil Wolverton

“What is the sound?” he asked shakily.
“It is GJDRKZLXCBWQ.”
“GJDRKZLXCBWQ?” he queried doubtfully.
“No. It’s GJDRKZLXCBWQ. The L is silent.”

Basil Wolverton

My publisher is not emotional. I have never known him to be moved to tears. But now his lips quivered violently. Or perhaps he was just trying to get something out of his teeth. “Now I have heard everything!” he blubbered.

“The raise.” I reminded him. “How about it?” “The raise? Oh yes. To show my appreciation for collecting the most complete and authentic list of cartoonists’ sound words, I’m going to double your salary!” Whereupon he reached into his wallet and tossed me twice as much as I had been getting previously per week.

Basil Wolverton

Then I realized that my list of sound words wasn’t quite complete until that moment. In all my life I had never heard that lush, lovely sound. It was a mild, whispery sound, barely audible.

Here it is: FMNW!

It was the sound made by my new doubled salary- two $1.00 bills brushing lightly together.

Basil Wolverton

Thanks to Marc Schirmeister for sharing this with us.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Comic BooksComic Books

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Comic Books.
Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Magazine Cartoons: Jack Davis

Jack Davis Cartoon

A while back, Will Finn, in his excellent blog small room wrote about the decline in drawing quality of Chuck Jones’ later work for the animation art market. He offers an interesting theory that perhaps Jones’ strength lay in his depiction of personality in motion, and when he chose to focus on static images for the limited edition cel market, his work lost its energy. The fickle nature of the creative spirit is better discussed by artists than by archivists, so I’m not going to add to what Will has said. But I’m going to offer an example from the comic world of a similar nature… Jack Davis.

Please note that I’m focusing on Davis at his peak in this post. When Davis was “on” no one could top him for draftsmanship, composition or energy. If you are interested in looking into how his work occasionally runs hot and cold, see David Apatoff’s insightful article, Counting To Nine.

Jack Davis Cartoon

Jack Davis was a cartoonist from a very early age. His first published work appeared in Tip Top Comics in 1936. He was twelve years old at the time. In 1949, he packed up and moved from Atlanta to New York City, where he was hired by EC Comics to draw for The Vault of Horror and Two-Fisted Tales. At EC, Davis met Harvey Kurtzman, who liked his work and used him in Mad magazine. Kurtzman and Davis also worked together on Little Annie Fanny in Playboy.

Jack Davis Cartoon

Davis went on to become one of the most sought-after illustrators and caricaturists in America. His caricatures of public figures appeared on the covers of Time magazine and TV Guide, as well as record covers, movie posters and bubble gum cards. Davis is currently one of the best-known and recognizable cartoonists in the world.

Jack Davis Cartoon

Here is an early Davis story from Mad magazine that shows his immense talents at their absolute best. Every panel of this comic is drop-dead brilliant!

KANE KEEN
Mad Magazine 1953

Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon
Jack Davis Cartoon

Many thanks to the talented cartoonist, Amir Avni for contributing the copy of "Son of Mad" from which this great story was scanned. Also thanks to the stalwart archive supporter Eric Graf for lending us record covers from his extensive collection to digitize.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.

Jack Davis BookJack Davis BookJack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture: A Career Retrospective is a gigantic career-spanning retrospective, between whose hard covers resides the greatest collection— in terms of both quantity and quality— of Jack Davis’ work ever assembled! It includes work from every stage of his long and varied career. Much of the material has been scanned directly from original art, showing the painterly brush strokes and pen work. Many illustrations are accompanied by preliminary drawings that demonstrate the evolution of Davis’ drawing process. Recommended!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Exhibit: The Zim Course in Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

A few months ago, I stumbled across a "how to" book on cartooning by Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman. It was titled Zim’s Cartoons & Caricatures, Or Making The World Laugh. I happened to be speaking on the phone to Ralph Bakshi, and I mentioned the book. "Ooooohh! So you’ve discovered ZIM now! He’s one of my secrets…"

In 1967, right after he had resigned as the head of the Paramount cartoon studio, Ralph and his wife Liz were walking through Brooklyn when they saw a sign on an old house advertising an estate sale. They went inside, but it was late in the day and there wasn’t much left. Ralph glanced up at a tall bookcase and saw a pile of pamphlets stacked up on a high shelf. It was too high to reach, so he didn’t bother to look at them. As they were walking out the door, he got the feeling that he needed to go back and look at the pamphlets. It was a good hunch. The stack contained a nearly complete set of Zim’s correspondence course in cartooning. He asked the estate agent how much they cost, and was told $50. That was more than he and his wife had in their pockets, so Liz volunteered to run home and get the money. The Zim books were on his desk every day throughout the production of Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and especially Coonskin. This set is Ralph’s most prized possession, and now he is sharing them with Animation Resources.

The Zim Book on Cartooning

Zim’s correspondence course was the most highly regarded cartooning course of its day. Spanning 20 volumes, it covered a wide range of subjects, from practical homespun advice to lofty philosophy. Here are some examples of Zim’s genius from the pages of the four volumes we completed digitizing today…

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The course originally ran in 20 volumes. We have been able to find an earlier edition of the course to supplement and complete Ralph Bakshi’s set. There aren’t chapters or specific assignments. The books consist of page after page of individual nuggets of wisdom. Each book and each page stands on its own.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course
The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim’s course is much more than just a "how to draw" course. In short anecdotal paragraphs, Zim succeeds in conveying what it means to be a cartoonist… the history behind the artform… how to deal with everyday problems and setbacks… and how to live the life of an artist.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

There’s plenty of drawing lessons too. Zim’s masterful expressive line fills every page with perfect examples of the principles he is discussing.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim was the founder of the "grotesque" school of caricature, which formed the basis of what we now call "cartoony drawing". He provides lots of examples of caricatures drawn from life, with photos of his subjects alongside his caricature of the person.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim’s technical skill was unmatched. Just look at the amazing precision and expressiveness of this drawing as he takes it from rough sketch to ink to watercolor.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The book is full of amusing contrasts. A tip on not thinning your ink too much leads into a speculation on what Rembrandt would be doing if he lived in modern times.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

If you aren’t convinced yet that Zim is a drop dead genius, just click on this image!

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The most impressive illustrations in the course are the examples of Zim’s rough sketches. He had an uncanny knack for being able to express every nuance of his subject with a free flowing and loose pencil technique.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

He was capable of extreme exaggeration that captured the essence of the unique qualities of the personalities he chose to caricature.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

But the most amazing thing about Zim’s artistry was his ability to draw the viewer into his world and make them feel the way the characters in the drawings feel. Look at these sketches of dogs… They make you feel like a flea bitten hound!

If you would like to see more from the Zim course, let me know in the comments.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Eugene Zim ZimmermanEugene Zim Zimmerman

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit devoted to Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman.