Sunday, January 30, 2011
First appearance of Popeye in 1929.

Above is Rick Baker's Popeye from Fire Wire's What If Cartoon Characters Were 
Real? Sort of reminds of Jack Kerouac speculating about what if the Three Stooges were real in Vanity of Dulouz. Also see The Wisdom of Popeye. In his recent autobiography, Jules Feiffer explains how he wrote his Popeye screenplay based on the 1936 E.C. Segar strips in Woody Gelman's 1971 Nostalgia Press Popeye the Sailor book.

Below is from Jeff Koons' Popeye Series. For more on Koons' Popeye Series, go here.

Here is Frederic Tuten's story about Popeye, "L'Odysee", first published in Jeff Koons: Popeye Series (London: Serpentine Gallery and Koenig Books, 2009). Tuten previously did a novelization of Tintin in Tintin in the New World (2005).

To read the rest of the story, go to Literarian.

"L'Odysee" by Frederic Tuten

Then I made me way into the tottering house itself and found it all in shambles. A clothesline freighted with frilly red underwear, not mine, and three pairs of long johns, not mine, stretched across the living room. The bathroom reeked of men’s after-shave and colognes – Brute – and was littered with gum stimulators, nose-hair scissors, moustache trimmers, nail cutters and other implements and toiletries that I never use.

The bedroom. The bedroom. It stabbed me heart. Men’s boots and shoes of various sizes and shapes, quality and age were lined along the wall. But not one pair of mine in the lot.

“What! That you?” She said, pulling down the edge of her slinky black negligee.

I was charged with great emotion, seeing her spread out there in our old bed, seeing her unchanged not a jot in all the years I had been gone. Not one wrinkle, not one gray hair, not one bump or wart or blemish. She was her old skinny self with a few new appealing curves, her tongue still as sharp as her pointy elbows.

Before I could answer her, Nestor with all the juice of his youth dried out of him, limped into the room – where was his forth leg? – and gave me a steady look and a short sniff. Sniff sniff, like a sneeze that had fallen asleep; then he turned about and limped out the door as if I were not there, had never lived there, would never again live there.

“Nestor,” I cried, “It’s me.” 

Not a glance me way. He may be deaf, I thought, seeing him slouch off like an old man with a missing leg, en plus. Age and loss. Twin themes I had thought would never visit me.

“Yes, it’s me come home,” I said, as she rose from the bed and wrapped about her a great green house coat which covered her from foot to neck – her head sticking out like a white bean squeezed from its pod.

“Returned home like the faithful sailor you are. Away for a thousand years and never a post card.”

“It’s a long and odd story, my dear, and one I’m eager to tell.”  

“The world may be all ears but I’m not,” she said. “Your berth’s been taken, sailor, so cast off.”

She was her same wonderful biting self but with a decidedly new and attractive twist. Her once long and sharp toe nails were now trim and shaded rose. Her feet, peeking out from under the train of her robe, usually rough and dry like barnacles, were presently smooth and, dare I say, creamy. Dare I say, fetching!

Continued at LiterarianAll of the above are close but no Segar. Here's the real deal:

Popeye lifts Elzie Segar.

Segar satirized cartoonists as seen in this reprint from Nemo #3 (October 1983). To read Bill Blackbeard on Segar in that issue, go Inside Jeff Overturf's Head.

After Segar died of liver disease in 1938 at age 43, his strip was continued by Tom Sims, Doc Winner, Bill Zaboly, Bud Sagendorf, Hy Eisman and Bobby London, who did the strip from 1986 until he was fired from King Features in 1992. London said, "Segar was, as far as my career, as far as making a decision to be a professional cartoonist, Segar was the seminal influence in my career."

Here's the controversial Bobby London finale with misunderstandings that ensued after Olive Oyl received a toy doll from the Home Shopping Network.

Popeye waves goodbye.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
  I was so much Elder (1921-2008) then; I'm younger than that now. #2

Kickstarter: Chicken Fat

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Friday, January 21, 2011
  Wood Chips 27: Voice of Wally Wood
Here is Matthew Hawes' 2006 video of The Voices of Marvel (1965). Scripting and delivery fell short, but Hawes gave it new life in a slick video production with a good selection of images nicely timed.

To read the entire "Flight into Fear" story (from Tower of Shadows #5), go to Pete Doree's Bronze Age. The splash was reworked for the cover of The Marvel Art of Wally Wood (Thumbtack Books, 1982), where it seems to lose some of its drama without the barred window and the monster mask. The original splash hinted that Wood was imprisoned at his drawing table.

"Of Swords and Sorcery" was published in Tower of Shadows #7 (September 1970). In a 1971 letter to me, Wood called this story "the Big One" and added, "I personally thought a little epic I did called "Of Swords and Sorcery" for Marvel was the best thing I've done in years." Trolkin, who "made the mistake of laughing at a wizard," is one of Wood's more imaginative character creations, so it's surprising he was given little dialogue. To read the entire story, go to Groovy Kind.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011
  Wood Chips 26: Candid Camerapix

Below is the Harvey Kurtzman/Wallace Wood parody of Candid Camera from Trump #1 (January 1957). Kurtzman seems to have focused on an aspect of Candid Camera that became evident if one watched a number of episodes: the people who were suckered were often elderly or somewhat feeble-minded. Did they just trash the footage of young people who didn't fall for the more obvious pranks? For each single episode, Allen Funt had his production crew film for 40 hours. The talking mailbox actually was one of the more memorable Candid Camera stunts of the 1950s.

Candid Camera began on radio in 1947 as Candid Microphone, inspired by Funt's WWII work in the Signal Corps when he realized he could record better interviews with servicemen by using a concealed microphone. In his first book, Eavesdropper at Large (1952), Funt detailed the numerous technical problems he had to conquer when he added hidden cameras. His earliest films were a series of theatrical movie shorts titled Candid Microphone. He did Candid Mike on ABC television (1947-49), and it finally evolved into Candid Camera on NBC in 1949.

During the mid-1960s, I went to a Candid Camera press party to kick off the new season. When Funt was introduced and began speaking in a slurred voice, it was evident that he was quite smashed and had nothing of real interest to say. His staff, of course, reacted as though nothing unusual was happening. It all seemed quite odd to me, since the purpose of the gathering was to create a good impression for the assembled journalists. But Funt's drunken behavior was the only memorable moment in the midst of a very boring non-event.

Thomas Blass wrote an interesting comparison of Allen Funt with Stanley Milgram, who conducted the infamous "Obedience to Authority" experiment. William Shatner portrayed a character based on Milgram in The Tenth Level. Funt's life also could make an interesting dramatic film (starring Paul Giamatti), but no one seems to have hit on that idea.

Beginning in 1965, Funt became a major collector of Lawrence Alma-Tadema paintings, acquired cheaply because the art world looked down on Alma-Tadema. Funt's accountant, Seymour Goldes, after embezzling more than $1,200,000 from Funt, committed suicide on the eve of his sentencing. In 1973, Funt's collection was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum, but because Funt needed money after the embezzlement, he sold all 35 paintings for $570,000. However, it was Funt who was responsible for renewed interest in Alma-Tadema, with the result that the Alma-Tadema paintings Funt sold in 1973 are now worth millions.

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Monday, January 17, 2011
  Facial recognition: Clifford McBride
With action scenes drawn in relaxed, flowing lines, Clifford McBride (1901-1951) was a terrific artist, putting expressive faces on his dog character Napoleon, an Irish Wolfhound. McBride's own dog, as seen in this 1928 photo, was a St. Bernard. Beginning in 1932, McBride drew the mostly pantomime strip for almost 20 years. I've attempted a restoration to eliminate yellowing paper and saved at a very large size, so we can get an approximation of how Napoleon might have looked in the Sunday comics section of December 5, 1937. Roger Armstrong continued the strip until 1961. For more McBride Napoleon strips, go to the I Love Comix Archive. For Dave Strickler's Index to Los Angeles Times Comics, go here.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011
  Farewell, Brenda
After a 70-year run, Brenda Starr came to an end January 2. Brenda had many adventures, but perhaps she wants us to remember her as she looked in this 1943 watercolor by her creator, Dale Messick.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011
  Wood Chips 25: Daniel Clowes, David Hajdu, Gil Ortiz
©2010 Gilbert Ortiz

Gil Ortiz describes the circumstances of this 1978 photo: "I was on my way to Boston, when I stopped off to visit Woody. It was a sunny day outside. In fact the foto of Wally outside with the cup of java is right outside this studio. From what I remember, that was the only door. When we got inside, Wally sat down on his daybed to write something on his typewriter. Observing this, I stood back and took this shot. Woody was not big on idle chit chat. If he had something to say, a lot of times he would type it out and send off a letter or a short note. I remember receiving quite a few 'Words from Wood.'"

At the Strand Bookstore, David Hajdu interviews Daniel Clowes, who talks about Wally Wood and the Gil Ortiz photo taken inside Wood's studio.

Daniel Clowes' Mr. Wonderful.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011
  Bring Me the Head of Philip K. Dick

The first robot head of Philip K. Dick vanished mysteriously. Better is this new one, built by Hanson Robotics and Dutch public broadcasters VPRO.

The text at the beginning is from a 1981 interview: "My books are forgeries. Nobody wrote them. I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel and story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation.

That is followed by this passage from Ubik:

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Monday, January 10, 2011
Betzwood Studio Toonerville films (1920-21)

(For print of above, go to Rosebud Archives.)

In a letter, Fontaine Fox described how the Pelham Manor Trolley in Pelham, New York inspired him to create The Toonerville Trolley:


Vero Beach, Florida

Dear Mr. Lewis:

I must thank you for the nice compliment you paid my work in your letter of November 28th. When you have your drawings out of the newspapers for six years, as mine have been, a complimentary reference to them is doubly appreciated.

You wish to know how the Toonerville Trolley got its name--"Toonerville". The way I happened to hit on this name might possibly be of interest.

Shortly after coming to New York I went out to visit my friend Charley Voight in Pelham and took a funny little Trolley Car at the R. R. Station to go to his house. The motorman was quite a character and seemed to know all his passengers personally. I asked him if he knew where a Mr. Charles Voight lived and he said he'd show me the house. He stopped the car and got off and beckoned to me. I followed him to a rise in the ground in a vacant lot. He pointed out "that bright yellow house-that's it".

The passengers waiting in the car didn't seem to think the proceedings anything out of the ordinary and nothing was said when he walked back to the car and started again.

I worked that night, after I got back to New York, to turn in six drawings. The sixth I made was a Trolley Car drawing. The original funny trolley car was in my home town Louisville, (Ky). I had made many drawings of the Brook St. trolley car before I left there. But I was in New York City now - my drawings were syndicated - widely sold - and could not be local in their appeal. But I said to myself here's another funny trolley car -- there may be enough of them around the country, so that I could use a trolley car cartoon. I called the first one The Chiggerbug Trolley.

I rolled up the drawings and started down to the engravers at the lower end of Manhattan. I got back to my apartment at 57th Street about one a.m.

But I was very much displeased with the name I had given the trolley car. "Chiggerbug"-- too ordinary. Too corny. I was undressed but I put on my clothes and started down once more again to the engravers.

All the way down in the subway I kept thinking of names, name, names for that doggone trolley. I don't know how it finally came--"Toonerville".

The Pelham car had met the train so when I got hold of the drawing at the engravers I scraped out "Chiggerbug" and wrote in the new title The Toonerville Trolley that Meets All The Trains. This new title would be part of the zinc etching and part of the mats that were sent out to the newspapers.

When I got back to 57th Street the sun was about to come up. Grantland Rice once told me that the Trolley Car title was a particularly good one "It has alliteration" he said "and it scans." If I remember correctly he said it was iambic pentameter.

I was telling Irving Cobb one time about my midnight title changing trip and he said there was no way of estimating how many thousands of dollars that trip to change the name had made for me down through the years.

Well, Mr. Lewis, you asked for it--and that's it! Please let me thank you once again for complimenting my work and believe me.

Very truly yours,

Fontaine Fox

For further info, visit the Historic Pelham site.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011
  Jack Kirby meets Jack Ruby
The Comic Book Council was something I launched in Castle of Frankenstein in imitation of the film ratings in Cahiers du Cinema. When alternative comics began to appear in 1967 and 1968, there were no reviews of comics, so I decided to bring together a team of critics who could contrast commercial comics with the emerging underground. The effort was short-lived, as I stopped editing the magazine in 1968.

The ratings chart below displays widely divergent opinions, and the many blank areas indicate everyone had different reading lists. The only near-consensus and the highest rating went to Gilbert Shelton's Wonder Warthog.

To explain a few items: Play with Your Cells was a single sheet distributed randomly by Art Spiegelman, Phoebe Zeitgeist was serialized in Evergreen Review and Sunshine Girl was Kim Deitch's weekly East Village Other strip. As I recall, Kim killed off Sunshine Girl, so maybe the low rating reflects that. I'm not sure what happened when.

At bottom, from Castle of Frankenstein #12, is my Comic Book Council review of Jack Kirby's powerful "48 Hours and 36 Minutes in the Life of Jack Ruby". Kirby's three-page graphic nonfiction, inked by Chic Stone, was published in Esquire (May 1967). One or two balloons have apparent last-minute lettering corrections. Note a balloon fell off panel one in the b/w copy at bottom. The Comic Book Council is discussed briefly in this 2005 interview with Clark Dimond,

The footnote citations refer to the Warren Commission Hearings, and they can be read here. For instance, the first citation ("15 H 80") is from the Warren Commission's interview with newspaperman Seth Kantor, and one can click on Volume 15 and then go to page 80 to see the source for the meeting of Ruby and Kantor as shown in panel four of the first page.

© Esquire, Inc.

© Esquire, Inc.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011
  Lucy in the Sky with Comic Strips
On December 31, Lucy Shelton Caswell retired as curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, which she founded in 1977 by knocking out a wall between two classrooms in Ohio State's Journalism Building. In the 33 years that followed, she amassed the world's largest library of comic art, a staggering collection that includes 450,000 original cartoons, 36,000 books and 2.5 million comic strip clippings and tear sheets. It incorporates the Bill Blackbeard collection. For her parting shot, she shows some of the Museum's collection in the excellent 15-minute video below. (Go to Vimeo to see in high definition.)

In 2011, Caswell moves on to her new job, co-editing (with Jared Gardner) a new Ohio State University Press book series, Studies in Comics and Cartoons, covering the history of comic art from editorial cartoons and early sequential comics of the 19th century to today's webcomics.

For four-minute video of Caswell discussing cartoonist Billy Ireland, go here.

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Saturday, January 01, 2011
  Satan oscillate my metallic sonatas
Here's part two of my 1979 interview with Stephen King as it appeared in the February 1980 issue of Heavy Metal. Rereading, I recall the surrounding events, fore and aft. In retrospect, it's a peculiar narrative of close encounters with some friendly and a few unfriendly people. To read part one of the interview, go here and scroll down.

When I was teaching Boston art students in the 1970s, I would sometimes be broke during the summer months and seek out freelance work, which would usually come through at the end of the summer just when it was time to teach again.

In the summer of 1979, I was dining from the vending machines in the Harvard Architectural Center. The building was cool, and I'd stop there as I walked through the heat from Somerville to Harvard Square. One day someone phoned and told me that Stephen King was soon due to arrive in Boston on a publicity tour promoting The Dead Zone. Around this time, Publishers Weekly was running an ad touting King as "the bestselling author in the world".

I phoned the Viking Press publicist, got on the list and later that week I interviewed King at the Ritz across from the Boston Public Garden. Back in Somerville, I phoned the arts editor of The Boston Globe and told her that I had taped an interview with Stephen King. She said, "Who's that?" I said, "Er... I think he's like the bestselling author in the world." She said, "Perhaps you should speak to our book editor."

She transferred the call, and I spoke to the Globe book editor, described what I had, and he replied in a somewhat condescending manner: "Oh, we don't do author interviews." I hung up, contemplating the next move. I phoned American Film and spoke to film critic-editor Hollis Alpert (1916-2007), who asked, "Has he been involved in the filming of The Shining?" I said, "He went to England, and they showed him around the set." Alpert said, "In that case, we'll have one of our people write something." That was it. Three strikes, and I was out. It sure seemed incredible. I had an interview with the world's bestselling author, yet no one was interested. I put the tapes aside, planning another tasty stopover at the vending machines.

A few days later, Heavy Metal editor Ted White phoned, said he wanted me to do a monthly film column for the magazine, gave me a two-week deadline and asked what I was going to write. "How about Stephen King?" I said. I sat at the IBM Selectric and immediately began transcribing the tapes in order to generate 2,000 words for the January 1980 issue. No more vending machines. Even Harlan Ellison once wrote that Heavy Metal paid better than his other markets. The rate was 25¢ a word. This meant if I typed "a", "of", "to" and "the", I had already made one dollar.

For the second column installment, I had a bit more time, so I added another interview by phoning art director Jim Plumeri at Signet. I decided I needed to give Heavy Metal a photo of a topiary to illustrate the column's discussion of topiaries and mazes. Disney World had a topiary, so I phoned the Disney World publicist. He said, yes, a topiary was there, and yes, he had a photo, but no, he would not send it to me. I phoned the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and spoke to a woman who said, "Yes, we have several topiary photos." I said, "I'll be right over."

I arrived across from Symphony Hall at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue where the Massachusetts Horticultural Society turned out to be nothing more than a single room of filing cabinets staffed by an attractive young woman, the only person there. She opened a file drawer and showed me a file folder with topiary photos. I said, "Wow! These are just what I was hoping for. Would it be possible to get copies?" She said, "You can have them. Take them." A refreshing attitude, I thought, but why? Was she getting her little bit of revenge for her Kafkaesque job situation, surrounded by filing cabinets and trapped alone in a room where few entered? Or was she simply leaving the job the next week? Or maybe she determined that 20 years might pass before anyone else would want a topiary photo. Whatever, it certainly counterbalanced the irritating refusal of the Disney publicist.

When I mailed in the second interview installment, Julie Simmons-Lynch read it and said to Ted White, "What's this? He only writes about Stephen King?"

After all that I went through to acquire a topiary picture, I was disappointed to see that Heavy Metal had reduced the photo, cropped it and covered it with a screen so dark that the image was obscured. A curious case where the photo credit is more visible than the photo, as you can see below.

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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