Friday, March 29, 2024

Guns and People

The next town over has a new, big Sig Sauer gun factory. Everyone drives past it on the way to the grocery.

Tonight, a green hatchback was parked by it. It’s after 5pm, so the workers had gone home. An older gentleman stood next to the car with a handmade sign. He held it above his head and slowly moved back and forth, so all lanes could see. It read, “Stop Worshiping Guns.”

It’s disgusting how this gun manufacturer is now a big employer. They wouldn’t be if the damn guns weren’t selling.

It's a year later and guns are killing us. A year and a day ago, there was a mass shooting in Nashville.

From my blog entry titled "This is what will destroy us" published on March 29, 2023:


Yesterday was Tuesday and it was a day I teach class. I'm up and out of the house by 6:15am to commute to Manchester. This semester I'm teaching the History of Illustration at New England College to a dozen undergraduates. Before we got into the history of comic strips and comic books, our topic of the day, we talked about the shooting at the school in Nashville. It was like we all couldn't pretend to be cocooned at school. So we talked about it. And everyone was frustrated. 

Most of the students grew up having those "active shooter drills" as part of their normal school experience since they were in elementary school. They all agreed that there are pro-gun politicians who are making money by allowing automatic weapons to be bought. There are, as an editorial cartoon pointed out, more hoops you have to jump through to buy certain kinds of cold medication than buying a firearm.

I showed them Clay Jones' cartoon (above), as well as the photo of Nashville's congressman, Rep. Andy Ogle and his family, all holding guns. This was Ogle's Christmas card. 


It was the great Steve Brodner's The Greater Quiet substack for March 29th that really struck me. That was where I saw the quote by Tennessee representative Tim Burchett (R). 


Here's USA Today's first two paragraphs:

"Rep. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican, described the school shooting in his home state as 'a horrible, horrible situation,' but it's not something he thinks Congress needs to address.

"'We're not gonna fix it,' he told reporters Tuesday. 'Criminals are gonna be criminals.'"

When you are indifferent, when your only other advice to the "What can be done to protect our children from school shootings?" question is, as he said in that same article, "Home school" -- I see that this as absolute indifference to the suffering of fellow human beings. This is what will destroy us.

Elena Steier 1958 - 2024


Elena Steier passed peacefully, surrounded by her loving family on March1st. The cause was cancer. She was 66 years old.

From The Hartford Courant:

"An accomplished illustrator, author, and cartoonist, Steier created several comics and strips, such as The Ramp Rats (for the Detroit Metropolitan News), The Goth Scouts (for The South Shore Monthly Newspaper) and The Vampire Bed and Breakfast (a self-published comic book). Additional works have been published as locally as the West Hartford News and as far-reaching as ABC’s Monday Night Football. A longtime resident of West Hartford, she has taught art to generations of children as well as adults at the West Hartford Art League, and influenced innumerable young people through her work in the public schools. Her boundless enthusiasm, caring nature, bawdy humor, eccentric taste and deep wisdom will be profoundly missed by those who survive her, including her brother, Alex Vira; her children, Lydia Steier, Ted Steier, Andrew Steier and Julia Greer; and her grandchildren, Tilly Steier, Benton Greer, James Steier, and Landon Greer. Elena Steier was predeceased in 2022 by her loving husband of 45 years, Rodney Steier. She is loved and will be missed by family, friends and colleagues near and far.

"A memorial event for Elena Steier will be held at The Ahern Funeral Home, 111 Main St., Rt. 4 in Unionville, CT on April 6 from 1-3 pm. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center (visit To send online condolences to the family, please visit"


Cartoonist JP Trostle writes for the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists:

"Cartoonist Elena Steier died earlier this month after engaging in hand-to-hand combat with cancer for the past two years. She was 66. Elena was an outspoken, self-taught artist whose comic strips and editorial cartoons appeared in newspapers across Connecticut, and was syndicated for a time by DBR Media. She drew 'The Ramp Rats' for The Airport News, back when niche industry publications existed (and could afford to pay for cartoonists).

"She embraced webcomics early on with her 'Goth Scouts' and 'The Vampire Bed and Breakfast' strips, the latter of which won a Xeric Grant in 2003, and her work became increasingly political and critical of the Bush Administration (see her 2001 cartoon on Putin below). The Daily Cartoonist has more on Elena Steier’s career.

"Steier was a long-time member of the AAEC and a spirited and energetic presence at its annual gatherings. Cartoonist Ed Hall wrote on facebook, 'One of the first people I met when I joined the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Elena was truly one of a kind. Immense talent, rapier wit and an ink line that seemed to flow from a secret source. She was kind, giving and never afraid to speak her mind.' In another post, Clay Jones noted 'She was very talented and fun to hang out with. She once made fun of me for misspelling Connecticut.'

"The AAEC sends its condolences to her family and many, many cartoonist friends."


I knew Elena through our mutual friend, John Reynolds. She was very active in the National Cartoonists Society, and had invited him to the NCS Christmas party. This was in the 1990s. I was a temp, as was John. "Do you want to go to The Century Club, to the NCS Holiday party? Elena Steier invited me," he told me," and I asked her if I could ask you to come too and she said, sure." 

Of course, I said yes. I had read about these parties in the Cartoonist PROfiles magazine when I was younger. It was a great night. I remember being in awe at all of the cartoonists there. And the emcee was the one and only Arnold Roth -- who was very funny in person.

The first thing I noticed about Elena was her smile and the stains of ink on her thumb and finger. The mark of a REAL cartoonist! And her work was so terrific. So inky. So well drawn. 

The three of us got together a number of times when she came down to Manhattan from her home in West Hartford. We ate and drank into the wee hours. Maybe a little more drinking than eating. I remember one time crossing Second Avenue on a chilly night, probably going from one bar to another, and Elena suddenly saying, "You know who no one remembers today? Jack Kent! There's an amazing talent." I told her I knew who Jack Kent was. "He drew King Aroo," I said. We all remembered who Jack Kent was. (John Reynolds is no slouch.) We all loved good cartooning. And I knew I had to be around people who love cartoons and that I needed to work toward becoming a full-time freelance cartoonist. 

Within a couple of years, I had quit my temp job, and (after a lot of work) was selling cartoons to The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Harvard Business Review and other places. And, in 2000, I was permitted to join the NCS. I saw Elena at many events through those years -- the NCS Reubens weekend or a comic convention like SPX. She was the first person I knew to embrace Web comics. She was very active.

That NCS party in the 1990s really helped me decide that I had better go into cartooning. Without Elena's invitation to her friend John's friend (me, that is), I wonder where I would be now. 

I will miss her seeming boundless energy and sly humor and wonderful laugh. She was more of an influence in my life than she thought. To my fellow Czech, na zdravi!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Cheerful Fat Corporate Logos

Today's thought. It's just an observation with no conclusion, really, except there are a good number of hefty corporate character logos in this country. 

Not sure why, but they have been there for well over a century: round, imposing, generally cheerful bulbous types who are an integral part of the branding. They have been for generations. Heck, the Michelin Man has been around since 1898. 

There are small companies that use them.

And bigger companies like Frost King, which makes weatherizing products.


That Hamburger Helper hand, too, is rather husky and meaty.

The round, big and happy characters are all over. 

I don't know why a predilection for round, big, anthropomorphic cartoon characters are part of the Western canon of advertising, but they are. Even The Simpsons has its Lard Lad Donuts mascot



I tried to look for other tropes, like freckled kids (Alfred E. Neuman, Wendy of the Wendy's hamburger chain) or military titles (Cap'n Crunch, Captain Morgan rum), but they are not as prevalent as the well-fed, large logo characters. Not at all.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Short Animation: Snif & Snüf by Michael Ruocco

Via CartoonBrew:

"Michael Ruocco’s new short film, Snif & Snüf, debuted online over the weekend to well-deserved praise.

"Snif & Snüf is wonderfully charming. Its vintage cartoon action and one-of-a-kind soundtrack fuel a rivalry between two tremendously fun characters that make its roughly four-minute runtime feel almost too short. It’s incredible what Ruocco is able to do with some simple shapes, two 2d characters, and a limited color palette."


More about the short and Michael's impressive CV here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

KING KOJO with Illustrations by Marge Part Two

Some more rarely seen illustrations by LITTLE LULU's creator, Marge.

Here are another handful of scans from the out-of-print children's book KING KOJO.

Part one is here.

KING KOJO was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson, best known for continuing to write yearly installments of Frank Baum's OZ books after his death, with illustrations by Marge (Marjorie Henderson Buell), who created LITTLE LULU. The book is copyright 1938 by the David McKay Company.

KING KOJO is a nice guy; a good king, but a little bumbling ala McLean Stevenson's Colonel Blake in the TV series M*A*S*H.

In some but not all of the drawings, there's a little "M" somewhere at the bottom to let you know it was Marge Buell who drew these. Marge is the only cartoonist I know who can show you any expression without drawing a mouth. Case in point: the expression of the mouthless horseman above.

It wasn't until the third time I looked at the above illustration that I noticed that everyone's hand is a series of unclosed lines.

Some nice mastery of line to add value to the drawing. Our man in the lower right ("Pogo," the jester) has no mouth yet he looks pouty. A technique she used a lot with Lulu and Tubby.

OK, here's what I mean: here's a fellow who is obviously displeased to see his own mug on a "Wanted" poster. Who wouldn't be? And, as you already noticed, he has no mouth; just that pout-- and that's all we need to telegraph that he is pretty darned cheesed off!

Marge was a friend and a fan of author Ruth Plumly Thompson's since she was nine years old, according to the OzClub page on Thompson.

Marge was 34 years old when this book was published. These series of KOJO stories were first serialized in King Comics, which David McKay edited.

Here's a bit from her bio at the Harvard Web site:

While drawing "Little Lulu," Marge continued to draw other cartoons. In 1936, Ruth Plumly Thompson became the editor of King Features, which published monthly magazines of humorous stories and comic illustrations and strips; Marge often illustrated Thompson's stories published therein. A serial entitled "King Kojo," written by Thompson and illustrated by Marge, was first published in King Comics, then published as a book by David McKay in 1938. Thompson regularly wrote a humorous verse entitled "Sis Sez" for the back page of King Comics; Marge illustrated these as well. By 1943, however, Little Lulu's expanding horizons meant that Marge could focus only on her.

Lovely bit of shock on the guard's face here -- and notice how everything is drawn in a hurry. Even his buttons are drawn quickly, almost sloppily. I'm reminded of what veteran gag cartoonist Lo Linkert said about style:

"Work fast because speed gives you a distinct style. Slow lines look stiff."

Aside: I wrote more about Lo Linkert (1923-2002) during a guest blogging-stint at the Andertoons blog here.

I like how the King's whole body goes into a shocked take -- bent knees, hands frozen, body shaking.

Just look at those swishy action lines around the explaining hands. Deftly done.

Above: if you click on the image above, from the endpapers of the book, you get a nice Chip Kidd super close up effect. You can see the of drawing Kojo, the word DISCARDED at his feet, and a handwritten note above: "Edges mutilated." Yes, this was one well-loved volume.


Monday, March 25, 2024

KING KOJO with Illustrations by Marge Part One

Some years ago, I posted about this rare book.

Way back in the back of a local hardware store is a small area with maybe 1000 used books. Most of these were Reader's Digest Condensed Books, various editions of the old Time Life series of books, romance fiction, Babysitters' Club books, and so on. But on a pile of library discards there was the hardcover, well worn book below, KING KOJO.

KING KOJO was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson with illustrations by Marge (Marjorie Henderson Buell). The book is copyright 1938 by the David McKay Company.

This edition was a discard from the Rochester (NH) Public Library, and is well loved.

Ruth Plumly Thompson was a well known name. She wrote the WIZARD OF OZ series of books after Frank Baum passed away. She wrote an OZ book a year from 1921 to 1939.

Above: Ms. Thompson's generous dedication to all who helped create KOJO and all who read it.

Above: the warning label sewn into the binding by the Rochester Library reads:

DO NOT turn down the leaves of this book
— Use a bookmark

DO NOT mark or mutilate — Others want to read it

DO NOT stain with food

DO NOT expose this book to rain, snow or dust — Please wrap it



Of course, as you can see in these unretouched scans, the Trustees were ignored on all counts for over 80 years.


The illustrations are by Marge, who just three years earlier, in 1935, created the character of Little Lulu for the Saturday Evening Post. Not only was Marge one of the rare female cartoonists of her time, she also retained all rights to Lulu — rarer still for the time. I can only think of one other cartoonist of the 1930s (the one and only Percy Crosby) who did the same.

The book is about the benevolent but slightly inept King Kojo who rules the Kingdom of Oh-Go-Wan. If puns make you groan, the book is a groanfest. The stories feature the King's jester Pogo, as well as the usual assortment of knights, wizards, robbers in the woods, ogres and so on.

Above: the color really helps make the illustrations. I had no idea that Marge had ever done anything beyond Little Lulu!

Above: looks like a proto-Tubby chasing "The Girl Who Came Out of the Sea."

I wish the book was still in print. Once you get used to the way it's written ("Between Big Enuf Mountain and the Rolantic Ocean lies the long lovely kingdom of Oh-Go-Wan ...," etc.), it's a lot of fun. Besides, one look at these stained, well worn pages and you can see it was pretty popular.

ADDENDUM: I found a good photo of what the book looked like before all those little Rochester Library patrons got their grubby hands on it. Below is a scan from the Oak Knoll Press:

Need part two now? More Kojo here.

-- This blog posting originally appeared on August 18, 2008.

Friday, March 22, 2024

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Dog and Cat Cartoons 1949 - 1966

Dogs and cats. Living together. Mass hysteria!

Courtesy of gag cartoon collector extraordinaire Dick Buchanan, here are twenty magazine cartoons about cats and dogs that he culled from his vast Greenwich Village-based clip file. 


Thank you and take it away, Dick!


(1949 – 1966)

Dogs and cats play a big part of the lives of many Americans.  Some folks like cats while others like dogs.  Some like both.  For what it’s worth, the Cartoon Clip File’s office pet is our goldfish, Benchley.

We laugh at our pets.  We’re never quite sure whether or not they laugh at us.

This time it’s our turn to laugh at them.  Here are some cartoons about our animal friends, the dog and cat . . .


1.  HANK KETCHAM.  Collier’s, circa 1951.

2.  RAY HELLE.  The Saturday Evening Post  June 11, 1949.

3.  JACK TYRELL.  1000 Jokes Magazine  September – November, 1956.

4.  PHIL INTERANDI.  This Week Magazine  December 4, 1960.

5.  DICK SHAW.  Collier’s  May 20, 1950.

6.  BOB KRAUS.  1000 Jokes Magazine  Summer, 1951.

7.  JOHN GALLAGHER.  The Saturday Evening Post  March 30, 1957.

8.  VIRGIL PARTCH.  Collier’s  March 19, 1949.

9.  EDWIN LEPPER.  The Saturday Evening Post  November 2, 1963.

10.  VAHAN SHIRVANIAN.  The Saturday Evening Post  July 27, 1957.  


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

2.  GEORGE WOLFE.  American Magazine  August, 1950.

3.  BO BROWN. American Magazine  September, 1950.

4.  THE BERENSTAINS, JAN AND  STAN.  American Magazine  July, 1953.

5.  LARRY REYNOLDS.  Look Magazine  January 17, 1957.

6.  JOHN NORMENT.  The Saturday Evening Post  July 20, 1957.

7.  MORT WALKER.  The Saturday Evening Post  July 30, 1949.

8.  TOM HENDERSON.  The Saturday Evening Post  September 27, 1958.

9.  HERB GREEN.  The Saturday Evening Post  May 4, 1957.

10.  BILL HOEST.  The Saturday Evening Post  May 21, 1966.

  -- Edited from a blog entry that originally appeared on November 14, 2019.