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
Labels: barney google, billy debeck, death of newspapers, google, snuffy smith, sunday strips