Saturday, January 10, 2009


It's amazing how many many good comic strips just never caught on with the public, maybe because  they didn't contain appealing regular characters. Sometimes it seems like people would rather see the blandest treatment of a regular character, than the most creative treatment of one they see only once.  I feel that way myself sometimes. I should be slapped for it, and so should the public. 

Anyway, here's some worthy strips that got the axe. All are from the indispensable "Stripper's Guide", which is on my list of links.

Hardy Hirah (above) is beaten up, first by a hen, then by her kids. Hiram's a bit grotesque but I still like him.

Slightly primitive drawing (above), but the artist has good ideas!

Early Herriman (above). Man, that guy could draw funny! How do you like the title?

The Bud Smith strip (above): can you believe how much work artists used to put in on these strips? And this was the day before syndication was widespread,  meaning the artist probably had to live on what he got from one just one newspaper!

Herriman did this strip (above)for the Shriners magazine. Good old Herriman, a real aristocrat of the cartoon world!

Mrs. Fret-Not (above): slightly primitive drawing but the figures are graphic and unrealistic, the way all good newspaper characters are. How do you like the body bend in the next to last panel?

One of Swinnerton's Embarrassing Moment cartoons (above): I like to see crowds in strip cartoons (but never in animation)!

Herriman again (above): Sigh! A genius at work!

Still more Herriman (above). 

The Boys' and Girls' Page (above). Why did something drawn this funny ever get nixed?

The weird strips (above) were among the first to go.

I threw this in just for fun. It's odd to see humans imitating the stance of cartoon characters!


Adam Tavares said...

Happy Hiram looks a lot like Alfred E. Newman in the first panel.

Anonymous said...

If any of these had made it they might still be drawn today.

The comics pages are probably the best example of why print is dying.

Except for a handful of strips like Dilbert there is nothing I can imagine anyone writing unironicaly

Anonymous said...

Great post, Eddie! These are going to my cartoon vault for sure.

By the way, on O. Heeza Boob the signature says HERRMAN, with no 'i'. I need to know what name to save it under. Are you sure it's Herriman?

Anonymous said...

HERRMANN, is actually what it says, sorry. Minus 'i' plus a second 'n'

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Darby: I spell it the way Stripper's Guide spells it..."Herriman," but maybe they're wrong. If the artist signs it differently, then that should settle it, but sometimes artists simplify their names. They want it to read like the way they want you to pronounce it. Or maybe he put the "i" in there to make it sound less German in WWI. I'll ask around.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see comics from that era that never got published because they were outright terrible. Bad writing is an artform

Kelly Toon said...

the first cartoon is REALLY NIFTY!

Anonymous said...

The umbrella comic is mind boggling!

I.D.R.C. said...

The best thing about old strips is that most of the time you don't even have to read them to get what the point is. Most of the time the main point is that it's fun to look at. Even a baby can register it. You don't have to understand cubicle slavery like you do to have any hope of laffing at Dilbert. You don't have to know who Hunter S. Thompson was like you do in order to understand Doonesbury. Chances are even if you understand it, you still won't laugh --you'll muse, whatever the hell musing is. As far as most modern cartooning goes, if somebody takes a sip of coffee, consider it a good day.

Lester Hunt said...

This is why I keep coming here. I love James Swinnerton! He eventually retired from cartooning and painted magnificent landscapes of the desert. There was one (showing smoke trees in the Mojave Desert) hanging in our living room when I was a kid, and there's another ("Meeting Place of the Navajo") hanging in my study right now. But Eddie is the only person, except for my father, who I've know to mention him.

There are a few samples of his work here.

He also painted the backgrounds for one Chuck Jones short, which I haven't seen.

Lester Hunt said...

I think Eddie is right about Herriman's, at least if you go by Wikipedia. Unrelated but interesting: Herriman was a light-skinned African-American, who manages to "pass" for white.

mike fontanelli said...

"I threw this in just for fun. It's odd to see humans imitating the stance of cartoon characters!"

Cart before the horse, Eddie - it was the other way 'round. I'm convinced that modern cartooning has its roots in American burlesque, the English music halls and the minstrel stage - also early silent comedies.

Just look at the theatrical staging, and the emphasis on Vaudevillian ethnic "types". The characters of the earliest cartoonists like Zim and Thos. Nast even wear traditional stage "slap shoes", which evolved into the classic "bigfoot" style of the Golden Age cartoonists and animators.

Although these strips "didn't make the cut", I can't help noticing that every one of them is technically better than what's in the newspaper today. Modern (i.e. post-1980) funnies ought to be called "The Saddies" instead.

BTW, it's "Herriman", of course:

Shawn Dickinson said...

These are great! There are so many great comic strips that most people have never had the chance to see, and the art in some of them are completely amazing. Much better than what we have today. I love the old dialogue used in those strips too.

Have you ever heard of an old Herriman strip called "The Family Upstairs"? It was REALLY funny!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Shawn: I LOVE "The Family Upstairs!" Somebody should publish the complete run!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Mike: Fascinating! I'll bet you're right, though I don't know enough about the period to argue it effectively.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Lester: Wow! Thanks for the link! I might send away for that print!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Interesting Gasoline Alley strip. it's not my taste exactly. it has heart and sincerity, but that's all it has.

Jenny Lerew said...

Mike is a genius--of course I think so because I was going to write exactly what be did.

Anyway he's correct. But, I suspect that while as far as I'm aware the cartoonists of this age certainly took their posing from popular performers, I'd bet that upon occasion the "look" of the comics' figures became idiosyncratic enough to reverse-influence comedians (perhaps the ones above given their backdrop) into pushing their stage stances that much further. Whaddya think?
As for the drawing, well...goes without saying. I can't look at comics pages anymore and I can't imagine anyone being inspired to draw by most of them. Then again the reproduction is so damned tiny what need the drawings matter? Think of the fantastic size of the old ones--gah--even in my own infancy they were over twice what they are now.

Kurdt said...

Wow! Sure makes Ziggy look like a pile of crap...wait, Ziggy already looks like a pile of crap.

Anonymous said...

I really didn't expect to find anything on a google search, but here's the answer from Strippers:

Anonymous said...

A question about syndication: if the work will be owned by the syndicate what's the benefit of the creator?

Anonymous said...

Without the creator there would be no franchise to begin with. In theory.

Adam Tavares said...

Most comics today don't play on the strength of the medium. Nearly all of the strips in this post use the drawings to primarily tell the story. Comic strips today either don't do any visual storytelling or it's so primitive that it can't hold its own without the text bubbles propping it up.

Without visual stories comic strips may as well be a snippit of dialoge from a bad play.

Is there that much difference between this and this?

JON: I wanted to accomplish something.
GARFIELD: I wanted tuna.
JON: My life isn't turning out like I planned.
GARFIELD: Mine either.
JON: Sigh

Anybody know the what's driving this trend? Is it just laziness artist's part?

Trevor Thompson said...

Is that bottom one by William W. Denslow? It kind of looks like his style.

That top one is a great example of funny drawing! Thanks for these, Eddie!

- trevor.

mike fontanelli said...

Hey Jenny,

A mutual cross-breeding of influences certainly took place between early cartoonists and baggypants stage comics in the early 20th century. Groucho once admitted that the Marx Bros. consciously tried to look like the brilliant caricatures that Hirschfeld created of them in the twenties. And Ray Bolger, who also worked in the clown tradition, admitted he always tried to emulate the cartoony silhouettes that Hirschfeld used in his drawings of Bolger. (Hirschfeld insisted he only captured what Bolger actually did onstage.)

The Marxes, who took their stage names from a cartoonist named Gus Mager, regularly hired newpaper cartoonists of the day to freelance gags for them - including S.J. Perelman, who became better known for his New Yorker prose pieces than his drawings. Oliver Hardy recalled an obscure comic strip called "Helpful Henry" as an early inspiration.

These are just the most well known instances - the examples could go on and on...

The burlesque tradition extended to old-time radio and early TV with Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason, Bert Lahr, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ed Wynn, etc... They ALL directly influenced animators. I think the dearth in subversive visual comedy from the seventies to the present day has arguably impacted the lack of visually compelling cartoon characters.

Except for Ren & Stimpy, that is.

Trevor Thompson said...

A question about syndication: if the work will be owned by the syndicate what's the benefit of the creator?

Today, in most cases, the creators own the copyright to their cartoons, and they also own the licensing rights.

The reason cartoonists join forces with the syndicates is because no reputable newspaper will hire you unless you're with a syndicate, preferably one of the big ones. This is also why we average only three new strips a year. Not a lot of room for artists who aren't 'established'.

In fact, I've heard it said that the best opportunity for work in the newspaper comics page these days is as a ghost artist.

But then again, Jim Davis' company is always hiring. After all, HE'S certainly not going to be drawing and writing the same tired comic strip week after week.... he's got a nine a.m. tee time, for chrissakes!!

- trevor.

Brubaker said...

There's about 5 syndicates around that distributes comic strips. Each year we get about a dozen new strips.

However, of the 12 or so strips introduced, only 1/3 of them will survive one year...maybe less.

And the ones that survived will eventually die out after few years. That was sadly the case with John Kovaleski's "Bo Nanas" and Matt Janz's "Out of the Gene Pool"

As far as modern strips go, I'm a fan of "Lio". I'm also a big fan of "Pearls Before Swine" although I doubt many of you would appreciate it, due to its rather primitive artwork (it was MUCH worse in the strip's first year, trust me).

I'm particulary fond of the 1970s comic strip "Conchy". What was notable was that the cartoonist syndicated it to papers himself. Unfortunately, the strip had a rather sad ending - the creator killed himself after a rather nasty divorce.

Anonymous said...

I love the humanity in those drawings. The problem with a lot of strips I see is that they lack humanity. Characters from decades ago stiffly talk about a joke that can be considered timeless, but it's uninteresting. And hard to relate to. That was what got a lot of people after Calvin and Hobbes--you could relate to it. You might not be the Calvin type, but you probably knew one. The strip also had a lot of humanity and warmth without resulting in bucketloads of sweetness that rivals Scottish Tablet. The parents clearly loved their kid even though he was a brat. The whole strip wasn't about parents complaining about their kid so much that you wonder why they had kids in the first place.

Modern strips with humanity:

Anonymous said...

There's always a market for imitation Edward Gorey/Charles Addams stuff, whether Tim Burton or any of his wannabe clones are working it. "Lio" is another example of that school. At least "For Better or Worse" is dead.

Vundakin said...

Uncle Eddie,

How do I get in touch with you?
Please email me at

Rich Mesquita

Anonymous said...

So in what year did comics get...what's the word...funny?