Tuesday, January 31, 2023

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Gag Cartoons by Comic Strip Cartoonists 1951 - 1964

Here is Professor Dick Buchanan with a spotlight on four syndicated newspaper cartoonists who began in the business by selling gag cartoons.

Drawing gag cartoons is haphazard way to live to say the least. You really live by your wits. Syndication, with its steady income and its syndicate salespeople doing the flogging of your comics on your behalf -- now THAT'S where it is. A syndicated cartoonist could make a good, steady living -- as long as their comic strip connected with readers, natch! Same with getting a contract with a comic book company. If you look at old magazine cartoons, you'll see some names that may be better known from their work in comic books and newspaper comic strips.

Of course, nowadays, with the decline of newspapers and editors cutting content, syndication is not as lucrative or as stable as it once was.



Today we dip into the Cartoon Clip File and look at the magazine cartoons by four cartoonists who began their careers as magazine gag cartoonist but eventually became most successful as the creators of some of the funniest comic strips of the last half of the 20th century -- Johnny Hart, Frank Ridgeway, Ralston Jones, and Frank O’Neal. Their work appeared in all the national magazines—Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Look, This Week, and True.

As always, these cartoons are in the same vein, subject wise, as most of the cartoons appearing in the national general interest magazines at the time. In other words, they were in every-which-way politically incorrect. Nonetheless, the wit and verve of these cartoonists is apparent.

JOHNNY HART ("B.C." and "The Wizard of Id”)

Hart was a Korean War veteran whose first cartoons appeared in Stars and Stripes. Upon separation in 1953, he began pursuing a freelance gag cartooning career. His comic strip, B.C. debuted February 17, 1958. B.C. was awarded the National Cartoonists Society Best Humor Strip in 1967. In 1960, Hart developed a new strip, “The Wizard of Id”, working with the cartoonist Brandt Parker. In 1968 he received the Society’s Reuben Award as the Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. Hart worked on his 'B.C.' comic strip up until the day he died in April 2007. The strip has continued, produced by a quartet of family members.

1. JOHNNY HART. Collier’s October 29, 1954.

2. JOHNNY HART. The Saturday Evening Post June 14, 1956.

3. JOHNNY HART. American Legion Magazine June, 1956.

4. JOHNNY HART. For Laughing Out Loud October - December, 1956.

 5. JOHNNY HART. American Legion Magazine July, 1958.

RALSTON “BUD” JONES. ("Mr. Abernathy")

Jones signed his gag cartoons Ralston. Together with fellow cartoonist Frank Ridgeway, he created the long running comic strip Mr. Abernathy, syndicated by King Features beginning October 14, 1957. A Sunday strip was added from 1959 to 1986. Jones drew the strip and Frank Ridgeway wrote the gags until 1980, when Jones retired and Ridgeway took over both chores

1. RALSTON JONES. 1000 Jokes Magazine December, 1955 - February, 1956.

 2. RALSTON JONES. 1000 Jokes Magazine June-August, 1959.

3. RALSTON JONES. The Saturday Evening Post April 6, 1957.

4. RALSTON JONES. The Saturday Evening Post August 17, 1957.

5. RALSTON JONES. 1000 Jokes Magazine December, 1955 – February, 1956. 

FRANK RIDGEWAY. ("Mr. Abernathy")

Frank Ridgeway studied at the Art Students League and the School of Visual Arts, in New York. He created the newspaper strip about multimillionaire 'Mr. Abernathy' with Ralston Jones in 1957. Ridgeway was the writer and Jones drew the strip. When Jones resigned in 1980 Ridgeway continued, writing and drawing the strip until his death in 1994. Ridgeway had also scripted the 'Lancelot' daily for artist Paul Coker, Jr. He was a teacher at the Famous Artists' School.

1. FRANK RIDGEWAY. The Saturday Evening Post February 20, 1954.

2. FRANK RIDGEWAY. True Magazine May, 1955.

3. FRANK RIDGEWAY. The Saturday Evening Post April 13, 1957.

4. FRANK RIDGEWAY. The Saturday Evening Post May 4, 1957.

5. FRANK RIDGEWAY. 1000 Jokes Magazine. June – August, 1964. 

FRANK O’NEAL. ("Short Ribs")

Frank O’Neal studied at the Jefferson Machamer School of Art, in Santa Monica, California. He sold his first magazine cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post in 1950. O’Neal’s Short Ribs, a gag-a day strip with a selection of characters, first appeared November 17, 1958. A Sunday strip was added in 1959. In 1964 O’Neal won National Cartoonists Society’s Division Award for Newspaper Strips: Humor. O’Neal drew the strip until 1973 when he handed the strip over to his assistant, Frank Hill.

1. FRANK O’NEAL. Collier’s May 26, 1951.

2. FRANK O’NEAL. Here! November, 1951.

3. FRANK O’NEAL. American Legion Magazine December, 1952.

4. FRANK O’NEAL. The Saturday Evening Post May 18, 1957.

5. FRANK O’NEAL. The Saturday Evening Post May 24, 1957. 

- Edited from an original blog entry of January 29, 2020.

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