Friday, February 04, 2011

"The Cardtooner" by Milt Hammer

"The New Way Cardtooner," copyright 1940 by Professional Publishers Inc., is a deck of oversized (4 1/2" x 5") playing cards by cartoonist Milt Hammer. Sure, you can make your money playing poker with these, or follow the instructions on each card about how to draw and make ZILLIONS by being a cartoonist!

Each card has a unique drawing lesson on it. Yes, every card has a

"... new and easy way to draw funny pictures ... you take a pencil and some paper, add lines step by step, and you create cartoons ... it's as simple as A, B, C."

I can understand the smiling fellow on the cover, but why is there a very upset one-toothed infant (just look at those tears, zipping away into the stratosphere) on the back cover of the package? Not so appealing!

Milt Hammer drew for comic books published by Dick Cole and Target. He looks like a product of one of those mail correspndence courses in cartooning like the Cartoonists Exchange. His Lambiek page has very little information -- not even a birthdate. Craig Yoe highlights a comic of Hammer's from a November 1948 issue of Target Comics here. And that's all the Web has to offer for now.

Like NBC TV used to say, if you missed the original airing, then the rerun is "new to you." The deck, which is missing a few cards after 71 years, is reprinted below in sequence, for the first time this century.

I've never seen or even heard of a "how to cartoon" instructions printed on playing cards. I wonder how many exist.

"Endeavor to express a certain emotion when drawing any of these features." Well, of course you should.

A good thing about the "Body" lesson on the two of clubs card is that Milt keeps all hands in view. Even with his "comic woman" he draws her right hand coming out a bit from the far side of her body. He's not hiding hands. A lot of beginners will stick hands behind backs and in pockets so they don't have to struggle with drawing them. A very bad habit!

One of the odder things about Milt Hammer's style is his habit of drawing eyes like inverted commas, like the swimmer figure in the left middle of the four of clubs above.

And the fellow in the upper left is Maurice Chevalier.

Those inverted comma-style eyes makes everyone look a bit cheesed off.

Note his use of shadows. For instance, with the car bumping along, unattached to its crosshatched shadow, such that the jalopy appears to be up in the air

These guys are scary looking.

Drawing animals can be hard. I really think Milt's remiss in not showing how to draw animal bodies.

Spats are what Chevalier would wear.

Is the fellow in the upper right above dead or stinky or both?

Lettering is becoming a lost art nowadays, which is a shame.

Above is one of my favorite cards. Milt was not afraid to draw expressive hands, a necessity when cartooning.

A big hat tip to my friend John Klossner for lending me this set. Thanks, John!


J. Lemon said...

Fantastic set. Thanks for posting... but missing the seven of hearts? My cardtooning skills must remain incomplete :-(

Mike Lynch said...

Sorry, JL -- there are a number of hearts cards missing. It's like they were playing "hearts" and someone walked off with a winning hand ...

Gianfranco Goria said...

Thank you! So I talked about you today at :-)