Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cartoonists' Exchange

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 ...

... revealing long lists of characters, places, accessories -- and the spinner that you use to put all the elements together:

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):

So much fun!

A few related links showcasing Cartoonists' Exchange publications:

The Pocket Cartoon Course from Mike Lynch Cartoons

CARTOONING FOR PROFIT by David Rand, Section One, Lessons 1 thru 5 from the Supreme Being blog

CARTOONING FOR PROFIT by David Rand, Section Two, Lessons 6 thru 10
from the Supreme Being blog


Mark Anderson said...

You've raised the cool cartoony stuff bar once again! I'm gonna have to find that booklet...

Gregory Kogan said...

What do you think about an online version of the Laugh Finder, would it be a copyright violation?

richardcthompson said...

Shucks, and all this time I've used dousing for cartoon ideas. This looks much more useful, fun and scientific. And I'd love to see an online version!

Mike Lynch said...

Yeah,I'd love to see that booklet, Mark.

Greg, the most recent material I have from the Cartoonists' Exchange is from the 1940s, although I think it was around until the early 1960s. I don't know if it would violate a copyright since I don't know if the copyright holder is around any more.

Richard, show me your cartoon dowser and I'll show you my laugh finder!

Marek Bennett said...

Mike --

This is great! How about just printing the LAUGH FINDER in each comics page of every newspaper, and let the readers have all the work, er, I mean, FUN?

-- Marek

Mike Lynch said...

Well, I did get an email from someone (I won't mention his name, but he's. of course, free to out himself) that wants to put together an interactive cyber version of the Laugh Finder. That would be grand fun! More power to him!

huemulin comics said...

Hi, great page.Did you hear about Continental Schools ? they have a comic creator in spanish.

Jim K said...

I've got the complete set of seven books, (Lessons 1 through 34), the Laugh Finder, the Comic Character Creator spinner wheel and the booklet that goes with it and the Lesson Correction Portfolio. My father took the course from Cartoonists Exchange. There is also Part One and Two of "Professional Syndicate Cartooning for Greater Profits" by Paul Robinson and "Animated Movie and TV Cartooning" by the same author. I even have the original box they shipped it to him in back in 1963.

Unknown said...

My grandmother gave me her course from 1947

T.j.Williamson said...

That what I have the 1947 prints

Rick S said...

OMG! I took this course back in 1964/5. I only wish I held onto the books. Feeling very nostalgic. IMO, this was the most user friendly and fun cartoon course made available for correspondence.
Kudos to those who have the original materials.