Sunday, August 29, 2010


Indisputably in my opinion, the golden age of newspaper comics occurred in the two decades before WWI. It was an era before formulas became locked in,  when the field attracted first-rate artists like the one above (click to enlarge).  Hmmm...well maybe some formulas were locked in.  Editors couldn't get enough of Katzenjammer Kids-type stories where kids torment adults. 

Arists that weren't first rate made up for it by being downright weird (above).  Here the fruits and vegetables have a picnic, which is disrupted by a cow who eats them. 

Editorial cartoons were terrific in this period. How do you like this one (above) by Herriman? No wonder he was a favorite of Hearst.

Some of these pre-war cartoons were incredibly violent.  Here (above) a woman is threatened by a mugger and she sticks him with a pin.... in the stomach! Ouch! Good drawings, though. 

I love visual stories like this (above).  The storyteller was a continuing character, but the strips structure was loose enough to permit almost anything.  There was room for imagination. In later years regular characters in predictable situations dominated, and artists were expected to use the same setting, day after day after dreary day.

This is a sore point with me. I wish current editors wouldn't put so much emphasis on regular characters in rigidly defined situations.  Aren't you glad that Mad allowed the young Don Martin to draw whatever took his fancy, regular characters or not? Aren't you glad that he wasn't shoe-horned into a sitcom format?

I have a lot of tolerance for racial and ethnic humor when it's funny and not mean-spirited, but even I cringe at strips like the one above.  I include it here because it's so well drawn. 

More strips like these can be seen at Allan Holtz's "Stripper's Guide:"


RooniMan said...

An excellent find.

C said...

I love Aunt Amelia's design. You really can't get this kind of comic these days. Damn space restrictions!

C said...

Webcomicwise, there is Minus, which catches the weird spirit of these old gems.

Anonymous said...

These old comics are awesome, and that blog you linked too is just the same. I'm gonna eat up all the great art when I get home from school, unfortunately.

Why do you think that modern newspaper companies and ilk let people who can barely draw a scribble themselves draw comics now? That's a question that's been on my mind for a while, and it's been mind boggling me. I know it's been going on for decades now, but it still amazes me how people are willing to read absolute crap and not demand for a better product. People will read anything to entertain themselves it seems, no matter how bad it is, as long as it's out there in the mainstream.

Stephen Worth said...

Sydney B Griffin was a great cartoonist. He was on staff at Judge in its heyday of the 1890s along with Zim. I think I read that he died quite young.

Brubaker said...

Re: regular characters with specific settings.

I recall reading that Wiley Miller wanted to avoid that with his strip "Non Sequitur". He was worried that he'd run out of ideas if he was forced to stick to a specific setting, so what he does is there are recurring characters that he goes back to whenever he thinks of something useful for them, but also do one-shot comics for his other ideas.

"Non Sequitur" is still running in papers. If you haven't seen it, check it out. One of the beautifully drawn strips going on right now. Just a warning that it can be a little "soapboxy" for some people.

Kirk said...

A great era, indeed. Belle epoque!

takineko said...

Sorry to get off topic, but have you abandonned your youtube? I enjoyed your videos. ^^

Severin said...

"Went up like an insurance president's salary." Some things never change.

Also, I imagine that those rich white folks must now be very confused regarding just how black kids are born.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Brubaker: A nicely drawn strip! I'm really glad to hear that the syndicate allows him to deviate from formula.

Steve: Sydney Griiffen? I'll have to go back and check the signatures.

Takineko: I put on some weight and it made me self-conscious about appearing before camera, but I've been steadily losing it lately, so there's hope for more films.

Roberto: Few people change their minds after only one exposure to a superior idea. The new idea has to be in the air for a while before it can be seriously considered.

Jorge said...

I've been trying to lose weight, lately, too, Eddie. It's comforting to know other people feel like this.

Do you lift weights, Eddie?