Sunday, July 27, 2008

See You Soon

I'm away, teaching some cartoon classes in NY and dropping in on some cartoonists and hanging out at the old neighborhood (which includes saying hi to Alex & Mary at the Rocketship comic book store).

The blog will return late in the week.

Creig Flessel Round Up

Above: a caricature of Creig as The Sandman, by my friend and Berndt Toast Gang chair, Adrian Sinnott.

Here are a few unseen photos of Creig, as well as (at the bottom of the page) a round up of links saluting this artist of the Golden Age.

Creig Flessel drew comic books, comic strips, magazine illustration .... He was an active guy. Heck, he even went on camping trips with the kids and grandkids until he was 92 years old!

One of the many things that he did in addition to all of the above was to run the National Cartoonists Society Long Island chapter (the "Berndt Toast Gang"), a (non-paying, volunteer) job he only stopped doing when he moved to the West Coast to be nearer his grown children. (My late friend Bill Seay took over the Gang when he left, I chaired from 2003 to mid-2007, when Adrian Sinnott took over as ringleader.)

Above: a 1989 BTG visit to Mort Walker's Connecticut studio. I think that's Adrian there, behind Creig. Creig presents Mort with a BTG sweatshirt. Will it fit?

No problem, Creig.

I happened to find some photos from 1989, scanned in from an old album. Here are a few with Mr. Flessel. They are, so far as I know, unseen until now.

Above: Christmas 1989: Mrs. Gill, Creig Flessel, Tom Gill and photographer Jerry Jurman. Jerry took all of the photos (well, except this one, arguably).

Above: Creig in action at the Huntington Township Art League.

Creig drawing Jerry Jurman.

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OK, here's a round up of links:

Ger Apeldoorn shares some DAVID CRANE comic strips and much more art (more every week now).

Video: 2007 Sparky Award to Honor Creig Flessel
(hosted by Andrew Farago)

Interview in Marin County Journal from March 17, 2007

Andrew Farago Remembers Creig Flessel from The Comics Reporter

Michael Jantze Remembers Creig Flessel from The Comics Reporter.

Mark Evanier on the life of Creig Flessel.

Tom Spurgeon writes about Creig Flessel

The Comics Journal Journalista! on the passing of Creig Flessel

UPDATE: The Comics Journal has posted a career-encompassing interview conducted by Gary Groth online. This giant 2002 interview originally appeared in the print edition of TCJ #245. A big hat tip to Dirk Deppey for letting me know about this as soon as it was up. All my thanks, Dirk!

Drawing Cartoons with Stephanie Piro

"What does everyone love to do? Draw cartoons, right? Let’s get started. Got your pens and paper ready? First, what is the most important part of a cartoon? Believable characters. Your character must come alive for your readers. OK."

I loved Stephanie Piro's cartoon-filled entry about drawing cartoons at The Six Chix blog! (No permalink, but it's at the top of the blog queue now.) Stephanie hosts a popular local cartoon club for kids and just by looking at her entry, you can see why it's popular! So much FUN!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cartoonist Art Supplies

Self described "cartoonist, educator, hobo" Ben Towle asks Where Are The Cartoonist’s Supplies?

He details a surprising number of items that cartoonists would want to have that the leading online art supply store does not stock, with guidance where to get it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Yorker Cartoonist Dean Vietor 1931 -2007

Above: a Dean Vietor cartoon for a business publication.

Some late, sad news:

Cartoonist Dean Vietor, who contributed over 300 drawings to The New Yorker, passed away in Phoenix, AZ on August 20, 2007. He was 76. No cause of death specified.

Michael Maslin has much more here. And my thanks to Michael for letting me know of his passing.

Robert Walker on Getting In at Marvel Comics

The Voice of America 's reporter Paige Kollock interviews comic book artist Robert Walker, who draws O-MEN. The O-MEN is a superhero team book, but the difference here is that each hero is HIV positive.

Stay tuned to the video. At about 2:10, he tells about visiting Marvel Comics every day in search of a gig with the #1 comics company. He was getting nowhere until ... well, watch Robert tell the story:

WSJ Editorial: Batman Is President Bush

The Wall Street Journal says so (via HuffPo)!

H/t to Stacy!

BOBBY SOX by Marty Links

Marty Links drew the panel BOBBY SOX in a specific and graceful way from 1944 to 1979. In 1951, the strip changed its name to EMMY LOU, since the bobby sox fashion had gone the way of the previous generation's fur coat, straw hat and ukulele.

Here are a few samples of BOBBY SOX (subtitled THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EMMY LOU) from the Popular Library paperback collection. It's copyright 1954 and 1955 by Marty Links. She dedicates it, "To my own future teenagers: Alex, Elizabeth, Victoria."

Most of the gags are about concern Emmy Lou's obsessions for boys and shopping. Her boyfriend is Alvin, which is an on again, off again relationship.

Above: Link's simple use of black spotting draws our eye to look at Alvin, who has committed the sin of omission to poor gullible Emmy Lou.

Here's Don Markstein on Marty Links (born Martha Arguello in 1917):

"By the way, if you happen to be confused by the the given name of the cartoonist, you're not alone. So, apparently, was The National Cartoonists' Society, of which she was one of the first female members. Correspondence from the Society was addressed to 'Mr. Marty Links' even after she'd given birth to her first child. She offered to send them her bust size."

The thing to watch for, over and over, is the specificity of the clothes, the locations and the people. Just look at the awning in the above panel cartoon. It helps frame the picture, it tells us where we are, and Ms. Links adds that unique fringe to it. This all adds to the value of this unique world.

All of the kids in BOBBY SOX are lanky and energetic. Again: black spotting draws us to the speaker in the cartoon.

Another one of the cliches is the gulf of understanding between child and parent.

I liked seeing all that pen noodling to make the Christmas tree. Emmy Lou's parents do look a bit like her, but with a doughy addition of a few pounds.

The graceful folds in the drapery, the small candle on the table, with its specific holder -- all of these delicate touches add to the authenticity of place.

Above: another example of Links' mastery of composition and perspective. As you can see in the blow up of the above cartoon, there's a thin line around the left side of the picket fence and a thick line around the other. A subtle touch to get a feeling of depth that adds to the perspective.

In the MERCHANT OF DENNIS book, Hank Ketcham shows us his behind the scenes reference drawings of the interiors of the Mitchell and Wilson homes. These are specific of what the Mitchell doors look like, the Wilson's living room chairs, the kitchen, etc. I can't help but think that Marty Links must have done the same thing for BOBBY SOX.

When I bought this paperback collection, I didn't know what to expect. Sure, the jokes have not aged well, but the art is the opposite of the time-worn gags. There's a lot of skilled, knowledgeable drawing to admire in Ms. Links' cartoons.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Unseen TV Characters

Apologies. This is a complete time waster and not at all about cartoons, but it was fun to do.

There are a number of TV characters who are only known by what the other TV characters in the show say about them. These are the UNSEEN CHARACTERS OF TV. Within a short time, I came up with a list of unseen TV characters.

In no particular order:

Heather Sinclair, frequently trash talked girl at Degrassi TNG.

Lars Lindstrom, the dull, Swedish husband of Phyllis. This unseen character was killed off (off screen, of course) in the pilot of the PHYLLIS sitcom.

Sara & Juanita, the phone operator and diner waitress, respectively, in Mayberry. Juanita was the "go to girlfriend" if Barney's regular girl was not available. In one of the episodes, Barney recited a poem he had written to her (she is unseen, as he talks to her on the phone):

Juanita, Juanita,
Lovely, dear Juanita,
From your head down to your feet,
There's nothing half so sweet,
As Juanita, Juanita, Jua-neet.

Oh, there are things of wonder,
Of which men like to sing.
There are pretty sunsets and birds upon the wing,
But of the joys of nature,
None truly can compare,
With Juanita, Juanita, she of beauty beyond compare.
Juanita, Juanita, lovely dear Jua-neet.

Reverend Feltcher, who Archie would mistakenly call "Fletcher."

Edith (correcting him): Fletcher.

Archie: Whatever!

Charlie from CHARLIE'S ANGELS was not seen.

Maris, maybe the best unseen character.

Carlton Your Doorman

Sparky (M*A*S*H)

Belker's Mom from HILL STREET BLUES, who would always call when he was booking a suspect.

Orson (Mork & Mindy)

Now we get into a murkier sub-area. There are certain characters that referenced for years and sometimes in some shows, they eventually are cast with a real actor and come to life. For instance:

Johnny Paul Jason, a frequently referenced friend of Opie. The character finally appeared in a handful of episodes beginning 4 years into the series.

Mrs. Columbo was the pretty much always referenced wife of Lt. Columbo. While she never appeared on any of the Peter Falk-starring programs, there was a shortlived series titled MRS. COLUMBO (sans Falk).

Pickles was the memorable name of Buddy Sorrell's wife in THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW. She was eventually seen as the series went on.

And, of course, the Big Giant Head -- the frequently named leader in THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN, who finally showed up, played by the and only William Shatner. My favorite clip: Shatner & Lithgow first meet and reference the same TWILIGHT ZONE episode.

After playing this little game, I found this:

Wikipedia's Unseen Characters page.

Oh well! It was more fun to come up with these on my own. If you have any to add, or if I made mistake, please comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

J.K. Rowling Harvard Commencement Speech

Above: a screen capture of J.K. Rowling from her Harvard commencement speech.

Last month. J.K. Rowling gave a graduation speech at Harvard. Part of that speech was about failing. We all know, thanks to the HARRY POTTER books, the movies, the toys -- that Ms. Rowling is not a failure. She has touched people's lives by persevering and not letting rejection make her stop. As many know, there was a time when she was a single parent, "as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless."

"Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it.

"... Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

"So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

"You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.

"Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies."

Text is copyright Ms. Rowling.

I remember reading somewhere that one of the first criticisms of her HARRY POTTER manuscript was that it was set in a school and kids do not like school, therefore the market dictates that children will not buy a book set in a school.

No Hogwarts? Egads!

There must have been hundreds of moments when it was easier to set her writing aside -- put it in a drawer or in the fire -- and try for a regular, workaday life.

Making a living by your wits isn't easy, and the struggle to achieve it is not a "fairy tale." It's hard work, and there is, as Ms. Rowling puts it, no light at the end of the tunnel; just you and your ideas and your willingness to persist, persist, persist.

A big hat tip to my dear old Dad for the link -- and for standing by me, passing along advice, as I made mistakes, before finally achieving some success in what I wanted to do. Thanks, Dad!

DAVID CRANE by Creig Flessel

Just wanted to let everyone know that my old friend Ger Apeldoorn has been showcasing Creig Flessel's work for weeks. Above is a DAVID CRANE Sunday strip, but Ger has also unearthed many pieces of art, including some of his paintings. Please go take a look to get an idea of the breadth of this man's talent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Video: 2007 Sparky Award to Honor Creig Flessel

Here is some wonderful video of the 2007 Sparky Award ceremony, honoring the one and only Creig Flessel. The event was co-sponsored by the Charles M. Schulz Museum and the Cartoon Art Gallery. Andrew Farago, the curator at CAM, hosted this October 2007 event.

Below is the first of four videos where we'll see a slide show of some of his work, and then Andrew settles in to interview Creig about his career:

And here is the whole list of all of the parts:

Creig Flessel - Sparky Award Part 1 (above)
Creig Flessel - Sparky Award Part 2
Creig Flessel - Sparky Award Part 3
Creig Flessel - Sparky Award Part 4

My thanks to cartoonist Alexis E. Fajardo for posting these videos on YouTube.


Allan Holtz has a wonderful site titillatingly titled the Stripper's Guide. It's about comic strips.

He recently reviewed the new PRINCE VALIANT book titled THE PRINCE VALIANT PAGE, which features great art by the current artist, Gary Gianni.

"Gianni shows several of his early PV pages along with Murphy's comments and corrections. Murphy's corrections are heart-rending in their constant admonitions to Gianni to drop details and shading that would turn to mud in the printed form. If only these damn newspapers would give strips like Prince Valiant some space! What a glorious page Gianni could produce for us if only they'd give him some elbow room. As it is Gianni's work on Prince Valiant is terrific, but oh, what it could be!"

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes material, as well as several pull out gatefolds. This all comes as welcome news to me and I'm glad Allan has posted his review. Now I want it too!

The book has a foreword by Mike Mignola (the guy who created Hellboy) and an introduction by Robert Wagner (the guy who was PV in the movies).

Twitter Artist Interview

Everyone who's on Twitter knows about the "fail whale" image. The artist who drew that image is Yiying Lu. She drew the whale being supported by birds and licensed it to a stock house. Here's an interview with this award winning Australian designer from the Drawn! site.

First Thing This Morning

I did an impression of Dick Cheney sneering at the toast & coffee, and the cat got all puffed and ran under the couch in fear.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Comics Curmudgeon" on JEOPARDY! Game Show

Josh Fruhlinger is scheduled to be on the TV game show JEOPARDY tomorrow, July 22, 2008. Josh writes the highly trafficked, notoriously snarky Comics Curmudgeon blog.

H/t to E&P.


Here's an odd little 1962 paperback titled GREETINGS, DEARIE! (A CONNOISSEUR'S COLLECTION OF HUMOR FROM HALLMARK CONTEMPORARY CARDS), a collection Hallmark cards, produced and edited by Hallmark and copyright that same year by Hallmark.

The juxtaposition of the red cover and black ink makes it look crummy so far as my Canon scanner is concerned. In real life, the cover is very readable. The drawing in the upper right is of a nebbishy fellow in a top hat in a bubble bath perusing what looks like a greeting card. The column of text reads: "This being an [sic] truly timeless eternal utterly unforgettable (yes) collection of more that 100 and fifty of the absolutely funniest Hallmark Contemporary Cards, many of which have never been seen before (or since)." and, then, in small print in the bottom, right-hand corner is the word "Yes!"

Dean Norman in his book STUDIO CARDS: FUNNY GREETING CARDS AND PEOPLE WHO CREATED THEM is the only reference book I know of about this subject. All I knew about Hallmark's Contemporary Card line is that Paul Coker was the Art Director. Mr. Norman's book concurs.

Above: a card by Paul Coker, Jr.

I knew Coker's work from MAD Magazine, and I was always fascinated by his distinctive clean yet jerky coffee-nerves pen line.

Greeting cards that were funny was a new idea. Before these post-war funny cards, Hallmark's best selling card was this:

"Pansies always stand for thoughts
At least that's what folks say,
So this just comes to show my thoughts
Are there with you today"

Uh ... yeah. Squaresville, daddio.

Here's a snippet from a 2006 interview with Dean Norman by Pamela Zoslov from the Cleveland Free Times (and that's also where I snagged the pansies poem above):

"I never dreamed of doing greeting cards," says Norman, now 70 and retired from a 30-year career working for the two greeting-card giants, Hallmark and American Greetings. By the time he graduated from the University of Iowa in 1956, general-interest magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Look and Collier's were folding, and the once-lucrative market for freelance cartoons was drying up. Fortunately, executives at Hallmark spotted a cartoon series Norman drew for his college newspaper, and offered him a job. "I kept thinking someday I'd break into newspapers. I never did," he says, laughing.

Norman came into the industry at an interesting time. Greeting cards, once limited to sentiments like "Pansies always stand for thoughts/At least that's what folks say,/So this just comes to show my thoughts/Are there with you today" (one of Hallmark's all-time best-sellers) were beginning to reflect the subversive Cold War humor of the 1950s. Comedians like Mort Sahl, Bob Newhart, Ernie Kovacs and Lenny Bruce, and publications like Mad Magazine, were lampooning the uptight post-Sputnik culture with irreverent, sardonic humor. Hallmark, the very traditional Kansas City company that practically invented the greeting card, created its Studio department to tap into the emerging zeitgeist. They hired creative, offbeat artists and writers to produce funny cards with a modern twist.

These silly, raucous cards may have reflected a bit of the non-mainstream, pointed humor of Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce, but the fact is that they were being offered to the great Wonderbread heartland of America. And the heartland voted with its wallet.

Here's Mr. Norman from the introduction to his STUDIO CARDS book:

There were few funny greeting cards before 1946. OK, if you were born after 1946, that's ancient history. But, consider this -- in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, there were lots of funny radio shows, funny movies, funny books and funny cartoons in magazines and newspapers. So why was there so little good cartooning in greeting cards?

Mr. Coker, again, with another reminder of the time is how funny drinking was! Would these would sell today?!

Coker and Norman were both Midwestern boys, so maybe they knew, somewhere deep down, that America was ready for antisocial, hostile and shocking humor in its greeting cards.

From the GREETINGS, DEARIE! introduction:

Sentimentality is absent in these cards and in this humor. But sentiment is always present. Strong feelings about certain this -- including the right way to express one's feelings in greeting cards -- have made this style of humor almost as popular in some quarters as the funnies and cartoons are in others.

The introduction to GREETINGS, DEARIE! is credited to "The Editors of Hallmark Cards." Unfortunately, the editors do not give page by age credits to the writer(s) and artists(s) of the contents.

Above: another by Paul Coker. I love that pile of beer cans, all at different angles.

Coker graduated from the University of Kansas in 1951. He drew advertising cartoons for the paper, but never drew cartoons or comic strips for them. He didn't believe in doing free work. Advertisers paid, the student paper did not.

Above: Coker again, with a groaner. But I like this groaner. And it's funny if you never heard it.

I like the little puff of a zoom cloud below right as the patron zips away from the barstool, and the teary expression and waving of the dainty wash rag from the bartender just makes this one a terrific, characterful drawing!

There are a lot of cards reproduced in GREETINGS, DEARIE! and this is a small sample from one section that dealt with drinking as a funny topic, as if you didn't know by this point in the blog entry.

There's so much material in the book, and so much information that I didn't know, that I think I'll revisit the topic in future. I never considered the history of greeting cards.

Mr. Norman's book, without which I would have no context for these scans, is self-published. From the Amazon page:

Unable to find a publisher willing to even look at his manuscript, Norman decided to go the self-publishing route, investing his own money to have the book printed. "I figured even if I didn't sell any books, I can afford it; I'm retired now. I may lose [money], but no one else is going to write this book. And the people I write about are so pleased to have the stories told."
And check out this book COLLEGE CARTOONS, for more great self published cartoons by Dean Norman, Frank Interlandi and Richard A. Watson