Topps #5: Heinz Edelmann and Yellow Submarine
It was late summer or early fall of 1968 when the Brooklyn-based Topps Chewing Gum sent me and Art Spiegelman into Manhattan to an advance screening of Yellow Submarine to determine if the company should do trading cards on the movie. Naturally, we found the film dazzling, and we both said yes. Why Topps decided otherwise, I don't know. In a similar fashion, there was no interest when we proposed Topps publish its own variation of psychedelic posters. Six months later, someone brought in Fleers' psychedelic posters (sold rolled, not folded) and asked why didn't we do something like that? We just looked at each other and laughed.
Heinz Edelmann (1968) As I recall, not long after Yellow Submarine opened that November, I saw animation cels being displayed and sold for the first time in New York. You could walk down the street and see one of the film's cels in the window of a bookstore with a handwritten sign giving an $80 price tag. It would be interesting to know how many were sold that way. (I know matted cels were sold in Disneyland-area gift shops during the 1950s.) According to Al Brodax, thousands of Yellow Submarine cels were thrown away. Here's Al Brodax on the pre-history of Yellow Submarine.
Heinz Edelmann died last week (7/21), and thus this scintillating selection of his artwork. In Joe Strike's 2005 interview, Edelmann talked about his role as the art director of Yellow Submarine and problems with the production:
At that time it was debated whether a non-Disney animated feature was possible at all. So the one intelligent thing I did that I didn’t tell anyone about was to make the film a set of interlinking shorts. I think the production was so chaotic that this decision really saved the day and I could control most of the picture through the design. I only think the film falls apart when they get to Pepperland and everything has already been designed. I lost control on the Pepperland sequences, which I think are pretty conventional. They’re okay, but the film somehow loses its special quality once they arrive... The production went its chaotic way as I stayed on. I resigned about every two weeks until nobody took it seriously. I think half of the film’s budget went into one pub — old-time animators always used to drink a fair amount. At the stroke of one o’clock everybody was down at the pub until three. Everybody returned to some kind of work and at six, shoop, they were all magically back down there. They hardly ate, they just drank. There was no script. So this was a bit unnerving. I had to do it all from the top of my head. I never could go back and redo anything. It just had to stand as it came out and this after a couple of weeks proved to be quite unnerving.
While there have been a few notable instances of graphic design supporting just and noble causes, its overall influence seems somewhat overrated. The world will not be saved by a single set of posters, however brilliant. Salvation takes a very long communal effort... Design is more complex than art. There is good-good design, bad-good design, good-bad design, and bad-bad design. Art is just art. Computer design, that looks like computer design is mercifully disappearing. The computer has become a perfectly normal design tool, unfortunately one that I am not intelligent enough to use, so I have to find smarter, younger people to operate it for me... At the end of the year, I will hang up my pencil-not quite the dramatic gesture that hanging up one's gun, saber or even monkey wrench would be. The poor old 2B is going to look pretty ridiculous up there.
Death of Newspapers #5: Barney Google
. In contrast to the miniature Albert's Candy Comics, let's approximate the way comics once looked in newspapers. Here's a Billy DeBeck strip from November 3, 1940, two years before DeBeck's death at the age of 52. Barney Google was introduced in 1919, and Snuffy Smith came along in 1934, although neither character appears in this particular episode. After DeBeck died, his assistant Fred Lasswell took over and began to create new characters for the strip. Lasswell was also one of the first cartoonists to experiment with computer lettering.
With an enlargement so each panel of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith almost fills the computer screen, we can attempt to recreate the excitement of Sunday mornings in the 1940s. In the mid-1940s, when I opened the Sunday comics section on a hardwood floor, it filled so much floor space that I would lie with my belly on top of the huge pages while reading the strips. I merged with the magic. Notice how the enlargement lets us examine relaxed ink lines, by DeBeck or Lasswell, we don't know. It also brings small details into focus, such as the pig next to the barrel and Jasper's hatchet with a red triangle, added without a black trap line for the color.
Maybe years after all the newspapers are gone, someone will say, "Hey! Why don't we print a giant-size comics section and distribute it every Sunday? We could even put some news items on the last page."
Click in the labels box below to read the earlier entries in the "Death of Newspapers" series. The mystery remains: Did newspapers hasten their demise by ignoring and diminishing and downsizing comic strips?
Below are some superb, fluid DeBeck sketches, possibly for a 1930s strip he never fully developed, one that might have been titled Continental Hotel. To see the full set of sketches, go to Rob Stolzer's Gallery.
Albert's Candy Comics I've had this little container of Albert's Candy Comics for 25 years, and I just decided to scan it. I bought it at a convenience store for maybe 15 cents in 1984 because I was curious. This product was like the polar opposite of the Whammo Giant Comics, which was printed in large "bedsheet" dimensions but displayed the strips inside at standard size. So obviously there was no reason for the book to be giant-size. The Albert company decided to print comic strips so tiny one could hardly see them. What's wrong with these people?
The container was designed to look like a miniature book, measuring about 1" x 1 1/2", and one opened the book to find candy and a comic strip. Unrecognizable cartoon characters were embossed on the cheap candy. The comic strips, folded with six panels on one side and six on the other, were apparently adapted from old Sunday strips and recolored on stats.
I enlarged the box and the opening panel to make them easy to see. I attempted to scan the five panels at bottom so if you click, the enlargement will approximate the actual printed size, which was just barely readable. Obviously, whoever devised this product had no interest in comic strips and gave no thought to a proper presentation. One could suck on the candy while looking at a strip format that sucked. Albert's Candy Comics can sometimes be found on eBay. Would you believe $99?
Ralph Reese #3: Screaming Metal
. Our Ralph Reese Festival continues. By the way, if you want to purchase Reese artwork directly from Ralph, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
"The Toughest Town West of Chicago" was scripted by Carl Sifakis and appeared in The Big Book of Hoaxes, published in 1996 by Paradox Press, Andy Helfer's imprint at DC Comics. Ralph also contributed to The Big Book of Freaks, The Big Book of Losers and The Big Book of Little Criminals. For a detailed listing of Ralph Reese stories, go to the Comic Book Database.
In Ralph's notes below, he recalls Matty Simmons, who was the publisher of the National Lampoon. He also mentions the French magazine Metal Hurlant ("screaming metal"). Heavy Metal was launched in 1977 as the American edition of Metal Hurlant. Ralph continues...
"An Afternoon Cocktail with Heather and Feather" was in Harpoon, a short-lived Lampoon clone. Dennis Lopez was the editor and also wrote the story. I did one more page, and then Matty Simmons called me and told me to cease and desist or else. I shoulda used a false name. The robot hooker painting was on the cover of Metal Hurlant. I originally did it for a portfolio of robosex drawings sponsored by Mark Rindner who used to run a comic art gallery. The Vampirella-Martians piece was a private commission by a Vampirella fan. The other story is from one of the DC Big Books... like The Big Book of Scams or something. They were like 150-page anthologies with stories illustrated by a hundred different artists and usually all written by the same author. Paul Kirchner wrote a couple of them. Kind of similar in theme to the other books that he's written since, all filled with weird facts.
Paul Kirchner comments: "The Big Book that I wrote most of was The Big Book of Losers, and Ralph's art on the story of Custer was stunning."
Recent Ralph Reese artwork (2009) resusitates the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents characters.
When I lived on West 12th Street during the 1960s, there was a garbage strike. On West 12th between Hudson and Greenwich, huge piles of trash bags stacked up just outside the nursing home facing Abingdon Park. The fetid odor increased daily, and I had to look alert when I walked by because large rats were crawling around inside the bags and suddenly darting out across the sidewalk. There was a rumor that the rats were multiplying, and the longer the garbage strike stretched out, an army of rats could take over the city, marching in a massive parade up Fifth Avenue. Some recalled Dick Gregory's warnings about covert government labs for the breeding of super-rats.
Once I went to an American-International Pictures press luncheon at Danny's Hideaway, where I asked James Nicholson if he would ever produce film adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft stories such as "The Rats in the Walls" to expand beyond what AIP had done with Poe. "No," said Nicholson, "because rats don't sell movies." (That was six years before Willard was released in 1971.)
Tom Sutton and Ralph Reese reigned as the rodent royalty of comic books, the Grand Vicars of Vermin, and Ralph was equally adept at fashioning festering panels with close-ups of cockroaches crawling into the foreground. Many who read his adaptation of Thomas Disch's "The Roaches" have never forgotten the story. I asked Ralph for some background on those memorable pages, and here's what he told me:
As a native New Yorker, I had a good deal of first-hand experience with cockroaches, garbage cans and urban blight. As a kid, my parents were the supers in an old tenement building, and we had a little apartment in the basement. My brother and I had to collect all the garbage from the building, pack it into cans and haul it upstairs onto the sidewalk before we went to school in the morning. So I grew up poor on the streets.
When I got into doing comics, I wanted to bring a little of that ashcan realism to my work. In the world of comics at the time, there was no trash on the streets, no bums sleeping it off in the gutter. Super heroes never had an attack of diarrhea or just felt too depressed and hung-over to go to work that day. Throughout my career I tended to shy away from super heroes in favor of stories that had more to do with real life. Perhaps this worked to my detriment in the end, since that sort of thing never attracted much of a fan base and now has pretty much ceased to exist. --Ralph Reese
Vox PopListen to Vox Tablet: Sara Ivry interviews Paul Buhle about Harvey Kurtzman. Buhle is the co-author with Denis Kitchen of The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics (Abrams, 2009). A senior lecturer in the American Civilization and History departments at Brown University, Buhle has written and edited 35 books, including Jews and American Comics.
A recent Ralph Reese page for DC's revived House of Mystery (May 2009).
The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. It creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life and a path back into the comics field. Since it launched in 2000, the Hero Initiative has benefited 40+ creators and their families with more than $400,000 worth of aid and assists.
Here's an excerpt from John Horn's article on the Hero Initiative in today's Los Angeles Times:
Gene Colan, a renowned artist best known for his work on Batman, Daredevil and The Tomb of Dracula, said that like many freelancers in comics he usually worked without insurance and retirement coverage. "There was very little support -- there was nothing in terms of benefits," Colan said from Brooklyn. "Artists have always been oblivious to this kind of stuff -- all we needed was enough to support our families." That changed, however, when Colan's health began failing 10 years ago. In addition to suffering a heart attack, the 83-year-old artist had glaucoma and then liver disease.
"I looked like a prisoner of war," he said of losing 40 pounds to his illnesses. He had some insurance, he said, "but it couldn't possibly cover what I needed." Gifts of several thousand dollars from Hero Initiative to Colan and his wife, Colan said, "helped pull the two of us out of a big mess."
Bill Messner-Loebs was in an even deeper hole. A writer and illustrator whose credits include The Flash and Wonder Woman, Messner-Loebs and his wife lost their home to foreclosure in 2001, and after another housing setback were moving from cheap motel room to cheap motel room. Soon thereafter, essentially homeless, the couple was living in various Michigan church shelters for weeks at a time.
"In the midst of all of this, I was contacted by the Hero Initiative, and they gave us money a couple of times to pay for some hotel stays and build up our savings," the 60-year-old Messner-Loebs said from Brighton, Mich. The organization was also able to drum up some work for Messner-Loebs, who said he is now working on a "secret project" for DC Comics. "We are doing much better than we were before," he said. "But I really can't imagine where I'd be without their help."
Ralph Reese, an illustrator for National Lampoon and Mad magazine and the Flash Gordon and Magnus, Robot Fighter comics, worked steadily until the comic book business consolidated in the 1990s. "I had nothing -- there was no retirement plan, no pension, no healthcare benefits. That's the life of a freelancer," the 60-year-old Reese said from Staten Island, N.Y. "After 30 years in the business, I couldn't get any work. I had a wife, a six-year-old daughter, and I eventually had to go out and drive trucks to make ends meet."
By 2005, Reese could no longer work because of a back injury, and his unemployment benefits didn't cover his medical bills. On welfare, Reese said he couldn't afford his prescription drugs or doctor visits. A $3,600 gift from Hero Initiative has allowed Reese to enroll in Medicaid. "I dedicated my life to something that ultimately didn't pay off and left me high and dry," Reese said. To supplement (and pay for) its grants to artists in need (Hero Initiative handed out some $40,000 in June alone, president McLauchlin said), the nonprofit conducts regular live and online auctions of donated artwork, some from the strapped artists needing help (there are works from Reese now for sale).
The organization also helps curate tribute books, for which active illustrators contribute artwork to honor a specific artist in financial distress. The next such book, focused on Green Arrow and Batman writer and artist Ed Hannigan, is due in December and its proceeds will go to the 58-year-old Hannigan, who has multiple sclerosis.
Roman Polanski's Cul-de-sac (1966) During the 1960s, when I had a job doing film acquisition and copyright research for Germany's Beta Film, I was told that Roman Polanski had approached Beta to finance his Samuel Beckett-like feature Cul-de-sac (1966). So the story went, the Beta execs asked to see a screenplay, and Polanski supposedly said, "Screenplay? Why do I need a screenplay. I have a castle!" And he did: Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland, England (where he later shot some scenes for Macbeth).
Back in 1963 at the first New York Film Festival, we were all transfixed by Polanski's Knife in the Water (1962), with its tensions and drama that bubbled to the surface as a cinematic influence over decades, even to the present day. With an okay from Polanski, filmmakers went to the Catskills to do an interpretation of Knife in the Water on dry land, the psychological thriller Kaaterskill Falls (2001).
Cul-de-sac was Polanski's third feature after Knife in the Water and Repulsion (1965), his first British film, He had hoped to adapt Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, but the notion evaporated when Beckett responded by saying he did not want to have his play adapted into a film. Polanski nevertheless set out to make his own Godot-like variation, reworking a 1963 screenplay titled When Katelbach Comes, with additional inspiration from his brief marriage to Polish film star Barbara Kwiatkowska. Like Godot, Katelbach never arrives. The name derives from actor Andre Katelbach, who appeared in Polanski's 1961 short, The Fat and the Lean.
The sister of Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, made a total of 20 films; she died seven months after the U.S. release of Cul-de-sac when her sports car flipped and burned near Nice, France.
Music by Krzysztof Komeda, who did the music for Rosemary's Baby (1968) and a dozen other Polanski films. Control-click title heading to hear Komeda's "Crazy Girl" track from Knife in the Water.
Eric Frank Russell and Hubert Rogers
. In the spring of 1950, I discovered Astounding Science Fiction, and during that summer I also began reading The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The first issue of Galaxy Science Fiction appeared on the newsstand just as I began the eighth grade. Keeping up with these magazines, plus Other Worlds and Imagination, took up a good deal of my time in the jr. high study hall. Near the end of that school year, I was sitting in a car parked at the high school football field, holding the June 1951 issue of Astounding, completely absorbed in Eric Frank Russell's ...And Then There Were None, while occasionally glancing at the Hubert Rogers cover illustration. Russell later expanded the novella into his novel The Great Explosion (1962).
...And Then There Were None
by Eric Frank Russell
The ambassador went silent as the ship closed in and the planet's day-side face rapidly expanded. Then followed the usual circling and photographing. A lot of villages and small towns were to be seen, also cultivated areas of large extent. It was obvious that this planet -- while by no means fully exploited -- was in the hands of colonists who were energetic and numerically strong.
Relieved that life was full, abundant and apparently free from alien disease, Grayder brought the ship down onto the first hard-standing he saw. Its enormous mass landed feather-like on a long, low hump amid well-tended fields. Again all the ports became filled with faces as everyone had a look at the new world.
The midway airlock opened, the gangway went down. As before, exit was made in strict order of precedence starting with the Ambassador and finishing with Sergeant Major Bidworthy. Grouping near the bottom of the gangway they spent the first few moments absorbing sunshine and fresh air.
His Excellency scuffled the thick turf under his feet, plucked a blade of it grunting as he stooped. He was so constructed that the effort came close to an athletic feat and gave him a crick in the belly.
"Earth-type grass. See that, Captain? Is it just a coincidence or did they bring seed with them?"
"Could be either. Several grassy worlds are known. And almost all colonists went away loaded with seeds."
"It's another touch of home, anyway. I think I'm going to like this place." The Ambassador gazed into the distance, doing it with pride of ownership. "Looks like there's someone working over there. He's using a little motor-cultivator with a pair of fat wheels. They can't be very backward, it seems.
Eric Frank Russell "H'm-m-m !" He rubbed a couple of chins. "Bring him here. We'll have a talk and find out where it's best to make a start."
"Very well." Captain Grayder turned to Colonel Shelton. "His Excellency wishes to speak to that farmer." He pointed to the faraway figure.
"That farmer," said Shelton to Major Hame. "His Excellency wants him at once."
"Bring that farmer here," Hame ordered Lieutenant Deacon. "Quickly."
"Go get that farmer," Deacon told Sergeant Major Bidworthy. "And hurry -- His Excellency is waiting."
Bidworthy sought around for a lesser rank, remembered that they were all inside, cleaning ship and not smoking, by his order. He, it seemed, was elected.
Tramping across four fields and coming within hailing distance of his objective, he performed a precise military halt, released a barracks square bellow of, "Hi, you!" and waved urgently. The farmer stopped his steady trudging behind the tiny cultivator, wiped his forehead, glanced casually around. His indifferent manner suggested that the mountainous bulk of the ship was a mirage such as are five a penny around these parts. Bidworthy waved again, making it an authoritative summons. Now suddenly aware of the sergeant major's existence, the farmer calmly waved back, resumed his work.
Bidworthy employed a brief but pungent expletive which -- when its flames had died out -- meant, "Dear me!" and marched fifty paces nearer. He could now see that the other was bushy-browed, leather-faced, tall and lean.
"Hi!" he bawled.
Stopping the cultivator again, the farmer leaned on one of of its shafts and idly picked his teeth.
Smitten by the ingenious thought that perhaps during the last few centuries the old Terran language had been abandoned in favour of some other lingo, Bidworthy approached to within normal talking distance and asked, "Can you understand me?"
"Can any person understand another?" inquired the farmer with clear diction.
Bidworthy found himself afflicted with a moment of confusion. Recovering, he informed hurriedly, "His Excellency the Earth Ambassador wishes to speak with you at once."
"Is that so?" The other eyed him speculatively, had another pick at his teeth. "And what makes him excellent?"
"He is a person of considerable importance," said Bidworthy, unable to decide whether the other was trying to be funny at this expense or alternatively was what is known as a character. A lot of these long-isolated pioneering types liked to think of themselves as characters.
"Of considerable importance," echoed the farmer, narrowing his eyes at the horizon. He appeared to be trying to grasp a completely alien concept. After a while, he inquired, "What will happen to your home world when this person dies?" "Nothing," Bidworthy admitted.
"It will roll on as before?"
"Round and round the sun?"
"Then," declared the farmer flatly, "if his existence or nonexistence makes no difference he cannot be important." with that, his little engine went chuff-chuff and the cultivator rolled forward.
1959 pilot for Lenny Bruce TV series
. Courtesy of the Jazz Video Guy, here's a clip from Lenny Bruce's 1959 TV show pilot, The World of Lenny Bruce, shown once on New York local television.
Lambert, Hendricks and Ross were a part of that pilot, so even though I've posted this link before, here's one of my favorite music clips, the Dave Lambert Quintet audition in 1964 after the breakup of LH&R. Clip (from D.A. Pennebaker's Lambert & Co.) shows Lambert, Mary Vonnie, Sarah Boatner, Leslie Dorsey and David Lucas.
Any possibility of a Lambert, Hendricks and Ross reunion came to an end two years later when Dave Lambert was killed by a truck backing up while he was changing a flat tire on the turnpike. There was a reunion around 1978 when Hendricks and Ross got together on Soundstage with Eddie Jefferson singing the Lambert parts.
Snow White: The Sequel
. This is the first installment of the eight-part Snow White: The Sequel (2007), a feature by Picha (Jean-Paul Walravens), who made Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle. Unreleased in the USA, this co-production (France, Belgium, Poland, UK) is narrated by Stephen Fry. The English dialogue was scripted by Tony Hendra (Lemmings, Spitting Image, National Lampoon, Spy). Sally Ann Marsh is the voice of Snow White, and British comedian Rik Mayall provides voices for the Seven Dwarves. The singing voice is Anaïs. Go to YouTube for all eight sections.
If you liked the Wally Wood/Paul Krassner Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster, then perhaps you'll find Picha's film amusing. Here's the Twitchfilm review.
Go Comics has been running vintage Mutt and Jeff strips with the copyright attributed to Pierre S. DeBeaumont. Who is Pierre S. DeBeaumont? The answer was revealed by a researcher for the now-defunct Google Answers:
The creator of Mutt & Jeff, cartoonist Harry Conway "Bud" Fisher (b.
1884 or 85; d. 1954), who had become very wealthy thanks to the
success of his comic strip, had married Countess Aedita DeBeaumont (b.
1889; d. 1985). Later they divorced, but Aedita DeBeaumont
nevertheless inherited the rights in the Mutt & Jeff comics after Bud
Fisher had died in 1954.
The United States Copyright Office database reflects this; in numerous
entries, ownership in the Mutt & Jeff cartoons is claimed by Edita S.
DaBeaumont [the typos derive from the database entries].
This recent (2005) online publication of Mutt & Jeff cartoons, on the
uComics.com website, bears the ownership notes "by Pierre S. De
Beaumont" and " 1993 Pierre S. De Beaumont".
It is only logical to assume that Pierre S. DeBeaumont, who very
obviously currently owns the rights in the cartoons, is a relative of
Aedita DeBeaumont and inherited the rights from her.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office lists a registered
trademark "Mutt & Jeff", relating to a 'cartoon strip, regularly
published in newspapers'. The trademark was renewed regularly (most
recently on 15 July 2000), and the owner is Pierre S. DeBeaumont.
This shows that the comic strip is indeed owned by Mr. DeBeaumont,
since otherwise he certainly would not bother to continue paying the