Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ludwig Bemelmans Art

Remembering one of my favorite illustrators, Ludwig Bemelmans, who died this month 56 years ago.

Born in Austria in 1898, his home was at his father's hotel in Gmunden. All was quiet until he was six years old. His father suddenly ran off with another woman. Ludwig and his pregnant mother left for Regensberg, Germany. His mother "held me close and wept almost the entire journey from Gmunden to Regensberg."

Ludwig grew up in Germany. He did not fit in. He only spoke French at first. After failing the same grade over and over, he was sent to boarding school. He was not a good student, but the Rothenberg boarding school tended to pass all of their paying students. The family then tried to get him to learn the hotel business from his uncle. Ludwig went, and "showed little promise." He was sent to several of the uncle's hotels, but each time it was the same. Ludwig Bemelmans was not able to do the job. The family gave him an ultimatum: either go into a correctional institution to go to America.
Christmas Eve 1914 he arrived in NYC. He eventually found a home at the Ritz-Carlton. After two years in the US Army during the Great War, he returned and worked his way up to assistant manager.

Here's John Bemelmans Marchiano, writing about his grandfather in BEMELMANS: THE LIFE AND ART OF MADELINE'S CREATOR (Viking, 1999):

"During his years at the Ritz, Bemelmans' desire to draw intensified, and the hotel provided many excellent models—kitchen workers and waiters, as well as clientele. Bemelmans dreamed of becoming a cartoonist, a career that he thought would allow him to draw and also earn a good living."

Ludwig Bemelmans himself picks up the story:

"An esteemed guest, who lived at the hotel, was a famous cartoonist. He was known for his generosity in tipping and for never looking at a bill. The entire staff from the maîtres d'hôtel to the chambermaids considered him a "gentleman par excellence." Spurred on by a waiter with whom I worked as a bus boy, I decided to become a cartoonist. By 1926, after years of work and countless disappointments, it seemed as if I had achieved my goal. I sat up in the cupola of the old World building with a group of funnymen: Webster, Milt Gross, Ernie Bushmiller, and Haenigsen. Walter Berndt, who drew 'Smitty' in the Daily News, helped me a great deal. There was constant laughter in that cupola.

"Unfortunately, there were so many complaints about my strip, which was called "Count Bric a Brac," that after six months, during which no syndicate had picked it up, I was fired. It was a bitter time, for I had to go back to the Ritz; and the old cashiers and the maîtres d'hôtel said, 'Ah, Monsieur Bemelmans, who felt himself too good for this dirty trade, is back again. Tiens, tiens [Well, well].'"

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

80th Anniversary: Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" Radio Drama Broadcast

If you have an hour tonight, you might want turn off the lights and stream the 1938 Mercury Theatre production of "War of the Worlds." The program, with such a small listenership that is did not have a sponsor, incited an hysteria over Martian armies invading New Jersey.

Based on the book by H.G. Wells, and presented as a series of radio bulletins by Orson Welles, "War of the Worlds" is infamous as the "radio broadcast that panicked America." Since the show did not have to have a commercial announcement in between each act (no sponsor = no commercials), it helped with the realism of the thing.

Although accounts vary, it's fun to think that many people listened and thought that the country was really being invaded. It was pretty easy to tune into other stations and see that they were NOT talking about Martians and death rays.

As for me, I got the record (above) when I was a kid. (Thanks, Dad!) I listened to it many times. I don't know if there was some big panic, but PBS has a new American Experience special that says so.

The record was my introduction to Welles and I still remember playing it when I was ten years old in my corner bedroom in Lawrence, KS while I drew pictures at my desk.

There was a book, and then a made for TV movie title "The Night That Panicked America" (1975). It starred a bunch of TV actors of the time (Meredith Baxter Birney, Tom Bosley, Will Geer, Casey Kasem, Eilen Brennan). Based on the book by Howard Koch, the story and screenplay was by Nicholas Meyer. As of now, you can find it on YouTube.

Watch a preview for the PBS American Experience "War of the Worlds" documentary online here.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Happy National Cat Day

Today is National Cat Day here in the States. I had no idea until someone on Facebook mentioned it. It's a day to bring attention to homeless cats. There are 4 homeless cats who live in my house. Well, formerly homeless. All were strays: discarded animals who wound up abandoned and unloved. All of them -- Sam, Fergus, Dexter and Dropcloth -- are the sweetest, gentlest cats. They are all beloved pets.

Here's the story of Dexter, who was rescued after many months, just before Christmas in 2009. 

And below are a few cat-oriented drawings I've done.

Bad kitty! The cat below looks like our sweet Rufus, a big orange homeless cat from Brooklyn that loved his life as a New England house cat when we traded our city apartment for a home in the foothills of the White Mountains. He is sorely missed, even 4 years after his death.

Dropcloth the cat, who follows me around like a sweet puppy.  He does have one ear that got chewed on in some way before I knew him.

The cartoon below appeared in Prospect Magazine. Some people "get" this cartoon, but others don't. I freehand drew that John Tenniel inspired Cheshire cat floating in the sky. 

A self-portrait of me and Dropcloth at my standing desk that I use for my business card:

I thought of another lovely orange cat named Opie when drawing this one:

Some sketches of a fat cat for the above "three calling birds, etc." cartoon. These are all exaggerated versions of Rufus the cat. He was hefty, but never this big:

And I even managed to stick three cats in to this cover of our Raconteur mini-comic:

An old cartoon that still resonates:

An unsold one from years ago that I had, until now, forgotten about:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Happy 60th Birthday, Smurfs!

Belgium celebrated the 60th anniversary of the creation of legendary cartoon characters – the Smurfs -- on October 23, 2018. Dozens dressed in blue attended the event. Veronique Culliford, daughter of Pierre Culliford, the creator of the Smurfs, attended the event in Brussels and said she was very happy that the characters remain popular. Cartoonist Pierre Culliford, who worked under the pseudonym "Peyo," died in 1992.

VIdeo: Ian Jones-Quartey Talks About his Cartoon Network Series "OK K.O.!" and SVA

Animator and SVA alumnus Ian Jones-Quartey talks about his Cartoon Network series, OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, the magic of cartoons and his experience at the School of Visual Arts.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Fall 2018 Studio Seminar with Lynda Barry!

Here's a bit from the the University of Wisconsin-Madison Fall 2018 studio seminar with Lynda Barry!

Video Discussion: Patrick McDonnell, Pénélope Bagieu, Tillie Walden and Ed Pisko Talk Graphic Novels at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival

From the Library of Congress: Patrick McDonnell discusses "The Mutts: Spring Diaries," Pénélope Bagieu presents "Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World," Tillie Walden presents "Spinning" and Ed Piskor discusses "X-Men: Grand Design" at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Video: "The Tick" Creator Ben Edlund at NYCC 2018

Podcast: Cartoonist Sandra Bell-Lundy

Cartoonist Sandra Bell-Lundy discusses her daily King Features comic strip "Between Friends," drawing comics as personal expression, and when to get serious. Comic Culture is directed and crewed by students at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Podcast: Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers Talks to the Pittsburgh Current

Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers talks with the Pittsburgh Current in this 50 minute profile.

All of the Spider-Man Spider Symbols

Designer Ricky Franklin has put together all of the Spider-Man symbols from all of the comics and other media from the Marvel Spider-verse. Wow!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Video: Editorial Cartoonist "Mr. Fish:" 'I got death threats from the left ... [and] right'

Editorial cartoonist Mr. Fish (his real name is Dwayne Booth) has been drawing cartoons for twenty years. Here's a good selection of the kinds of drawings that he does, and more about Mr. Fish, in his own words.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Video: Graphic Novelist Jason Lutes Talks BERLIN

The Vermont Book Shop hosts Jason Lutes, Vermont-based cartoonist of the graphic novel omnibus Berlin, a 20 year literary masterpiece of historical fiction about the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of fascist extremism in 1930s Germany in conversation with local author Jack Mayer, author of the award-winning Before the Court of Heaven, a fictional depiction of events as they unfolded in Germany and beyond. Recorded 10/17/18.

Background from The Nation: Jason Lutes’s ‘Berlin’ Sets a New Standard for Graphic Novels.

Hat tip to Dad for the link! Thanks, Dad!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Color Gag Cartoons 1936 - 1967

Here are some old, rare color gag cartoons from the collection of Dick Buchanan. Printing in color was rare back in the day due to the expense. I'm not used to seeing some of these gag cartoonists' work in color! Thanks, as ever, for sharing your clippings, Dick!


1936 – 1967
If you’re like me (and who isn’t?) you love to see gag cartoons in color. So, once again we delve into seemingly bottomless Cartoon Clip File and present some gag cartoons in glorious color . . .

1.  FRANK BEAVEN. Collier’s November 11, 1936.

2.  JAN & STANLEY BERENSTAIN. The Saturday Evening Post Liberty November 4, 1950.

3.  JARO FABRY.  Collier’s September 7, 1940.

4.  CORKA.  Collier’s June 10, 1950.

5.  STAN FINE.  Collier’s August 20.

6.  JAY IRVING. Collier’s January 8, 1938.

7.  JOHN BAILEY. The Saturday Evening Post February 21.

8.  MARY GIBSON.  Collier’s May 7, 1949.

9.  REAMER KELLER. Collier’s July 21, 1951.

10.  TED KEY.  Collier’s December 16, 1950

11. RODNEY de SARRO.  The Saturday Evening Post December 7, 1946.

12. KATHERIN (KATE) OSSAN. Collier’s October 21, 1950.

13.  A.F. WILES. Collier’s July 18, 1953.

14.  WILLIAM von RIEGEN. Collier’s July 18, 1955.

15.  SIDNEY HARRIS.  Laugh Parade May, 1967.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Comic Book Spinner Racks

I don’t own any of these marvelous comic book spinner racks, but I sure wouldn’t mind having one.

Friday, October 19, 2018

From the Sketchbook: True Story "50% Off"

I overheard this exchange at the Cabot Mill Antiques, a huge consignment shop housed in the old mill along the Androscoggin River Reservoir in Brunswick, ME. Every person that passed by this person's area was told "Fifty percent off." One fellow took this as an opportunity to joke around.