Here is the "Comic Character Creator" from the Cartoonists' Exchange in Pleasant Hill, Ohio. It's Exclusive, Original and "It's Fun!"
This is just a fraction of the instructional materials produced by the Cartoonists' Exchange, one of the then-many cartooning correspondence schools around during the 20th century.
It's obvious that you spin the thing a certain number of times. There are 16 variations for each facial component (head, nose, ears, etc.). There must be a booklet that tells you what each element is. (Is head #2 football-shaped? Are ears #16 big and floppy? Are eyes #8 cross-eyed? And what is EX. 1 and EX. 2 and so on? ) This booklet is, unfortunately, missing.
One of my favorite items is the 1937 Cartoonists' Exchange Laugh Finder. Here's my copy of it:
This is an oversized (11" x 16") idea generator for those times when you need help. It opens up to a giant 22" x 32! I first blogged about this lovely item back in 2002 when I was the Andertoons guest blogger for a week, but the photos have been trashed. So, here it is again, with the photos restored:
OK, as you know, a question cartoonists are often asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" This fellow:
Esquire cartoonist Dan A. Runyan, figured out a way to answer that question and make a buck doing it. He developed the "Laugh Finder", a Depression-era "computer" for aspiring cartoonists I recently came across on eBay.
From the cover: "The Laugh Finder is a collection of the fundamental sources of humor that keep repeating themselves in cartoons.... With this comprehensive collection of cartoon fundamentals, the variety of combinations you can create from them is almost infinite. You simply spin for your combinations." Who needs to write gags? Who could resist?
It opens up like this ...
So, by following the directions, I have all the elements I need! Hmm. I spin the dial to get my characters (dinosaur, party guest), an accessory (door) and a "basics of humor" situation (embarassment):
A few related links showcasing Cartoonists' Exchange publications:
The Pocket Cartoon Course from Mike Lynch Cartoons
Lou Brooks' Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
-- This has been an edited edition of a 9/2/08 blog entry