Archive for the ‘cartoonist’ 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.

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Editorial Cartoons: America On The Brink of War 1916

Cartoons Magazine January 1916

Politics is on everyone’s mind today, so here are some more rare political cartoons. These three articles come from the January, 1916 issue of Cartoons magazine. They paint a vivid picture of the United States on the brink of entering a World War.

SEASON OPENS FOR PEACE DOVES

WWI Cartoons
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UNCLE SAM IN EUROPEAN CARICATURE

WWI Cartoons
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IN THE STORM CENTER OF EUROPE

WWI Cartoons
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Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Archive

Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

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

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Animation: Ralph Bakshi’s Phone Doodles

Ralph Bakshi

Today, I hope you’ll allow me to tell you about someone I have had the honor of working closely with. He’s my hero too. If anyone ever creates a Mount Rushmore of animation, his head should be right up front, grinning with a stub of a cigarette in his mouth– Ralph Bakshi.

Ralph Bakshi

I did a panel discussion with Ralph at the San Diego ComicCon a couple of years ago. You can find it linked in the article, Advice From Ralph Bakshi. The subject of our discussion was what it means to be an artist and cartoonist in today’s world. Whether you’re lucky enough to be able to make a living doodling, or if you still dream of being paid to create, you need to heed Ralph’s advice. He is the real deal.

If you’re an artist working in animation, whether you know it or not, Ralph Bakshi is the reason you’re here. Don’t believe me? Throw your mind back to 1970. Look at what the animation business had turned into… Disney was cranking out Robin Hood, a film without a single new idea. On TV, Filmation was lowering the bar so Hanna Barbera could play “quality limbo” with them. Animation was dying, animators were choosing retirement over flogging the dead carcass of the art form they loved, and it looked like it the situation would never get any better.

Ralph Bakshi

Enter Bakshi. With his first three films, he turned animation upside down. He showed that it wasn’t just a medium for big bears with Phil Harris’s voice and crappy sitcom characters in outer space. His films shocked and terrified people… they were crass and sloppy. They were made on a shoestring, and sometimes it showed. But they had something honest to say, and that got noticed. Ralph showed that animation- the most collaborative art form ever- could be an intensely personal medium.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph’s first three films- Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin- came totally out of the blue. They are the animation equivalent of Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives. Great old time animators like Irv Spence, Manny Perez, Ambi Paliwoda and Virgil Ross were offered the opportunity to cut loose and make films that weren’t just cats chasing mice and dogs chasing cats. These films dealt with what it meant to be an artist, the battle of the sexes, race relations, and the unsenimentalized realities of urban life. They were improvisational and had no rules.

Ralph Bakshi

These three films, made in the darkest of the dark ages of animation, offered a glint of hope for what animation could become. If all you’ve seen of Ralph’s work is Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice you don’t know what I’m talking about here. All of the adult targeted animation you see in the US today has its roots in Ralph’s example in these three films. They stirred up controversy and caused riots at screenings back in the day, but now they seem to us like they could have been made yesterday, not three decades ago- except for the fact that today’s world has trouble accepting brutal honesty when it comes to politically charged topics. Ralph has never been one to pull punches.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi

In the 1980s, Ralph did for television animation what he did for theatrical features, blowing the lid off of CBS’s Saturday morning schedule with Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Ralph took a chance on the ideas of a kid named John Kricfalusi, and set up the studio after the unit structure model used at Warners. Stories were written with storyboards again. Artists were cut loose to create cartoons. Without Mighty Mouse, there never would have been Ren & Stimpy or The Simpsons. The artists who worked on Mighty Mouse have gone on to lead the TV animation industry.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph is an absolute genius when it comes to spotting raw talent. He can take a kid straight out of school and turn him into a pro faster than anyone else. Every film had its "graduating class" of kids. Those kids now populate the animation business on every level, from the hotshots at Pixar and Disney to the creative sparks at Warners. I know of Bakshi alumni who are top dogs at Dreamworks and the CGI companies too.

Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi

As a filmmaker, Ralph is one-of-a-kind. He doesn’t make films for executives… he doesn’t even make films for a specific audience. He makes them for himself. You can count the number of animators capable of using this unweildy medium for personal expression on one hand and still have fingers left. Ralph is one of them.

Ralph Bakshi

But Ralph is not only the greatest living animation artist. He is the catylist that has more than once pulled the industry out of a hole so deep people had just about given up on cartoons. For that alone, he deserves the respect of any and all animators, whether they like his work or not.

Ralph Bakshi

If this business needs anything right now, it’s another go round with Bakshi. The era of shi-shi “distressed” animation desks complete with faux wormholes, and middle management producers driving Jaguars paid for by their bonus checks is over. That was great for the people lucky enough to hook up to the gravy train while it lasted. But times have changed. The people left standing will be the ones who REALLY CARE about the medium of animation.

Ralph Bakshi

You can take my word for the fact that no one loves cartoons more than Ralph. Sit down and ask him about Jim Tyer. (Ralph was Tyer’s assistant…) Listen to what he has to say about Spence or Maltese or any of the other old timers he brought in to work on his films. Ralph lives and breathes animation. His drawings are imbued with the whole history of the medium. He announces his retirement every once in a while, and swears off cartoons forever, but it’s in his blood. Just count the days till the bellowing voice out of the blue hollers “BAKSHI’S BACK, YOU BASTUHDS!” over the studio intercom again.

Ralph Bakshi
Ralph Bakshi

It’s time for Ralph to rent a warehouse, fill it full of kids with big dreams, raw talent and lots of ideas and crank out a film. It doesn’t even matter if it turns out fantastic or crappy. It’ll be a shot in the arm to the whole business, and it just might lead to something even better. I know I’d love to be a part of it. –Stephen Worth

Ralph Bakshi
Visit Ralph’s web page… RalphBakshi.com.

Buy Me At AmazonUNFILTERED: The Complete Ralph Bakshi isn’t one of those "art books" with postage stamp sized pictures floating in oceans of tasteful white space and huge text blocks of scholarly blather that crowds out the images. It’s just pictures, pictures and more pictures… along with just enough text to put them in context. The book is organized to show Ralph’s career from his earliest days at Terry-Toons, to his groundbreaking features, to his revolutionary TV work, to his most recent fine art paintings. Even if you think you know all there is to know about Bakshi, this book will grab you by the lapels and shake you and show you things you’ve never seen the likes of before. Click through the link to pick up the Bakshi book at Amazon.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources
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