Some of what I have to say here I've said before, but great truths bear repeating. Besides, this gives me an excuse to put up some killer drawings. All the artwork is from the period 1900-1910, my favorite decade for newspaper comics. Opper (above) did some of his best work then, and so did Herriman, Goldberg, F. W. Marriner, and Fenninger.
Some modern comics fans don't like Opper because they think his drawing style was primitive. That's an odd thing to say. Compared to what's around now (above), Opper was Michelangelo.
Besides, Opper was an important influence on artists like F. W. Marriner (above) who were indisputably killer draftsmen. How do you like Marriner's sketch of the teacher above?
The pre-Krazy Kat Herriman (above) flourished during this time. Why Herriman ever did Krazy Kat, I'll never know. It was a come-down for him.
Above, more Herriman. What a guy!
I wish I'd copied down the name of this strip (above) and the artist. Who drew it? Was it one of the Felix artists, Sullivan or Messmer? You can see how newspaper strips influenced animated cartoons. You can also see the Opper influence.
I love the weird, slapstick stories in the old newspaper strips. Here's one (above) of a vengeful goat who sells who sells his enemy's babies to a wandering Italian guy. The mother sees what's going on and delivers a big bear bite to the guy's side.
Once again, you can see the Opper influence.
I'm amazed that American newspapers were able to lure fine German artists like Lionel Fenninger (above) over here (actually Fenninger had a complicated lineage...see Norman's comment on this in the comments section). Germany had a wonderful crop of funny artists in this period, and we managed to bring a lot of them over here.
Maybe that brain drain was catastrophic for Germany. For comparison, imagine that another country like Japan managed to lure away all our great jazz musicians at the start of the Jazz Age. Imagine that China had lured away Elvis and Chuck Berry, and all the great Rock and Roll musicians when Rock and Roll was just starting.
Then again, Germany was in a mood to be serious in those times. If the funny artists stayed home they might have been ineffectual.
Milt Gross (above) was, of course, from the 30s. I include him here because he carried the cartoony, slapstick, anything-for-a-gag sensibility of the 1910s right into his own era, and he made it work. Don Martin had a lot of that sensibility.
Current newspaper cartoons are too introverted, too smug, too tiny, too politically correct. I wish they were more outgoing, more...more noisy.
BTW, most of the pictures here are from Allan Holtz's superb blog, "Stripper's Guide," link in the sidebar.