Tuesday, April 24, 2012
  Death of Newspapers #24: A George McManus Gallery

Note George McManus' signature initials on his cuff. Bringing Up Father had an 87-year run (January 12, 1913 - May 28, 2000). McManus and his assistant Zeke Zekley collaborated on the strip from 1935 to 1954, when McManus died. In 1941, McManus replaced his topper strip Rosie's Beau with Snookums. Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) is shown reading Snookums in the final episode of HBO's The Pacific (2010).

June 19, 1949

May 29, 1938

January 12, 1936

November 28, 1953






October 23, 1921

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Sunday, April 22, 2012
In this memorable Gasoline Alley sequence (March-April 1934), Frank King established a single setting for all three Sunday strips. Each page shows the passage of time in a single image. The characters are carefully calibrated to fit into each frame, yet he couldn't resist a playful subversion of his own design concept, as revealed by the double pairs of shoes in panel ten of the March 25 strip.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012
  "You poor creatures," she repeated, almost in a whisper.

Never Let Me Go excerpt

My name is Kathy H. I'm thirty-one years old, and I've been a carer now for over eleven years. That sounds long enough, I know, but actually they want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That'll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn't necessarily because they think I'm fantastic at what I do. There are some really good carers who've been told to stop after just two or three years. And I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space. So I'm not trying to boast. But then I do know for a fact they've been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. My donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as "agitated," even before fourth donation. Okay, maybe I am boasting now. But it means a lot to me, being able to do my work well, especially that bit about my donors staying "calm." I've developed a kind of instinct around donors. I know when to hang around and comfort them, when to leave them to themselves; when to listen to everything they have to say, and when just to shrug and tell them to snap out of it.
Anyway, I'm not making any big claims for myself. I know carers, working now, who are just as good and don't get half the credit. If you're one of them, I can understand how you might get resentful — about my bedsit, my car, above all, the way I get to pick and choose who I look after. And I'm a Hailsham student — which is enough by itself sometimes to get people's backs up. Kathy H., they say, she gets to pick and choose, and she always chooses her own kind: people from Hailsham, or one of the other privileged estates. No wonder she has a great record. I've heard it said enough, so I'm sure you've heard it plenty more, and maybe there's something in it. But I'm not the first to be allowed to pick and choose, and I doubt if I'll be the last. And anyway, I've done my share of looking after donors brought up in every kind of place. By the time I finish, remember, I'll have done twelve years of this, and it's only for the last six they've let me choose.
And why shouldn't they? Carers aren't machines. You try and do your best for every donor, but in the end, it wears you down. You don't have unlimited patience and energy. So when you get a chance to choose, of course, you choose your own kind. That's natural. There's no way I could have gone on for as long as I have if I'd stopped feeling for my donors every step of the way. And anyway, if I'd never started choosing, how would I ever have got close again to Ruth and Tommy after all those years?
But these days, of course, there are fewer and fewer donors left who I remember, and so in practice, I haven't been choosing that much. As I say, the work gets a lot harder when you don't have that deeper link with the donor, and though I'll miss being a carer, it feels just about right to be finishing at last come the end of the year.
Ruth, incidentally, was only the third or fourth donor I got to choose. She already had a carer assigned to her at the time, and I remember it taking a bit of nerve on my part. But in the end I managed it, and the instant I saw her again, at that recovery centre in Dover, all our differences — while they didn't exactly vanish — seemed not nearly as important as all the other things: like the fact that we'd grown up together at Hailsham, the fact that we knew and remembered things no one else did. It's ever since then, I suppose, I started seeking out for my donors people from the past, and whenever I could, people from Hailsham.
There have been times over the years when I've tried to leave Hailsham behind, when I've told myself I shouldn't look back so much. But then there came a point when I just stopped resisting. It had to do with this particular donor I had once, in my third year as a carer; it was his reaction when I mentioned I was from Hailsham. He'd just come through his third donation, it hadn't gone well, and he must have known he wasn't going to make it. He could hardly breathe, but he looked towards me and said: "Hailsham. I bet that was a beautiful place." Then the next morning, when I was making conversation to keep his mind off it all, and I asked where he'd grown up, he mentioned some place in Dorset and his face beneath the blotches went into a completely new kind of grimace. And I realised then how desperately he didn't want reminded. Instead, he wanted to hear about Hailsham.
So over the next five or six days, I told him whatever he wanted to know, and he'd lie there, all hooked up, a gentle smile breaking through. He'd ask me about the big things and the little things. About our guardians, about how we each had our own collection chests under our beds, the football, the rounders, the little path that took you all round the outside of the main house, round all its nooks and crannies, the duck pond, the food, the view from the Art Room over the fields on a foggy morning. Sometimes he'd make me say things over and over; things I'd told him only the day before, he'd ask about like I'd never told him. "Did you have a sports pavilion?" "Which guardian was your special favourite?" At first I thought this was just the drugs, but then I realised his mind was clear enough. What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. He knew he was close to completing and so that's what he was doing: getting me to describe things to him, so they'd really sink in, so that maybe during those sleepless nights, with the drugs and the pain and the exhaustion, the line would blur between what were my memories and what were his. That was when I first understood, really understood, just how lucky we'd been — Tommy, Ruth, me, all the rest of us.
© 2005 Random House

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
  James Avati
Stanley Meltzoff and Alexandra Avati posed for this James Avati painting.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012
  Tom Conroy #4: Movie Still Archives

This is the fourth in our series of Tom Conroy's memoirs. Here he tells the story behind his company, Movie Still Archives, which he has owned and operated since the 1960s, illustrated with jazzy artwork by Tom.

In the Stills of the Night

By Tom Conroy

The guy who turned me on to movie stills was the comic book cartoonist Doug Wildey. He drew The Outlaw Kid and other comics for Atlas/Timely back in the mid-1950s. When I was a teenager I used to go visit him at his home in Tucson, Arizona. This was in 1959 when he was drawing The Saint newspaper strip. In his studio he had movie stills stacked in the corners. He used them for swipes when he was drawing. He had bought them while living in New York City and told me about how you could buy them in old book stores.

So I went to New York in 1960 and started grabbing stills anywhere I could find them because I was also using them for swipes. Mostly war and Western stills plus any good fight scenes. When I was drawing up sample pages of comic art I always drew from photos. Movie stills were great. Stills were sold all over New York. A lot of stores in Times Square had boxes of stills for 10 to 25 cents each, and I bought up a nice little stack.

In 1965, I took over an apartment a friend after he moved out, and he left behind a stack of about 20 men’s magazines that he found in a garbage can. They were all published by Martin Goodman (Marvel). So I'm flipping through them, and I noticed that almost all the war stories were printing movie stills. They had a Korean War story with two pages of stills from Pork Chop Hill which starred Gregory Peck. I recognized them because I had a big pile of stills from that film. I also saw fight scenes that were stills.

So in the winter of 1965-66, I was hanging out in Greenwich Village doing my beatnik thing, and I met this guy Pat Williams. He did some LSD about a month earlier and had quit his job as a magazine editor and was now writing a book about the drug scene. When I asked him what magazine he said Man's World (I think), published by Magazine Management. I said, “Isn't that Martin Goodman?” and he was surprised that I knew that. When I asked him why they used movie stills he was really surprised that I knew about that also. He said that when they called for photos all these photo agencies would always send them the same 10 or 12 pictures. You can't keep using the same photos over and over, so they would stick in movie stills when they could get them. Now at this time I was selling comic books out of my apartment on East Sixth Street.

Pat hooks me up with a guy up at Martin Goodman and I call to see what kind of stills they wanted. He says, "Sex and violence, sexy babes, shoot outs, fights, hookers, strippers". I had been selling softcore sex stills to Bill Pearson for 50 cents each, and I still had a stack sitting in my place. I sent Carole up to the magazines with 200 photos, and they went nuts. She said the editors all came out of their offices and were going through the photos. They picked out 40 pix and gave Carole a check for $400, and I was now in the photo agency business. Any photos they used after that, they paid $15 each, and twice a month I would get a list of photos they wanted for each magazine. As I recall they had four monthly mags, four bi-monthly mags and a couple quarterly mags, plus sometimes they printed an annual.

My friend Mark Ricci at the Memory Shop had about 40 to 50 file cabinets of movie stills, plus boxes of stills in the basement. I was a drug addict at the time, and my drug of choice was speed. I would spend hours on end at Mark's place pulling out stills for the mags. The stuff I was taking was the crap that nobody else wanted. People that collect stills want pix of the stars, they don't want pix of fight scenes or car wrecks. Mark was getting stills from this guy in Times Square who did the displays for all the movie theaters in the area. He could take an 8 x 10 still and blow it up to three to four feet for display in front of the theaters. He did the Broadway shows, the softcore sex theaters and other places.

Every few months Mark would drive down with a cab that had the whole trunk filled with stills. All the sex pix went right up to Magazine Management. At $15 a still we were doing pretty good. We split the money 50/50. At this time Mark was selling stills in the shop for 75 cents each. The good thing was now I didn't have to try and make money drawing comic books. My checks came from the same place as a cartoonist working for Stan Lee. It was great. Being a speed freak I would spend days all wired up and do nothing but file stills. I had long hair, and it was best that I didn't show up at the office because Martin Goodman was this real straight conservative guy. Carole would take up the photos, and if she couldn't, I would send up some cute little hippie chick. One of the editors asked me if I had a harem. Later, when Martin's son Chip was running the place, it was okay for me to go up there.

When I got the want list every couple weeks it was always weird the type of pix they would ask for. Gangster and mob shootouts, massage parlors, bank robbers, lesbians, threesomes, lions eating people, sharks, alligators, Amazon women, hookers, nurses, headhunters, car chases and all those outlaw biker gang pix. I must of sold them hundreds of stills from all those bad biker movies that came out in the 1960s and 1970s. One list had a story about cheating housewives, "photos of women having sex with the milkman, mailman, plumber or any other guy while hubby was busy bringing home the bacon".

The stories were also in a class by themselves. “I Watched an Alligator Eat Out My Buddy's Guts”, and they used a pix of Tarzan fighting with a rubber alligator. They painted sunglasses and sideburns on Johnny Weissmuller. Some of the stories had titles like “Cheating Housewives and Their Private Sex Club”... “The Biker Gang from Hell That Stalked America”... “Call Girl Confessions”... “Vice Raid on Hooker Alley”... “Cops Raid Suburb Sex Orgy”... “Treasure Hunt for Nazi Gold”... “My Night of Terror with a Killer Grizzly”... “Nude Beach Nymphos of Pleasure Island”... “Turning Women on to Forbidden Sex”... “Yacht Club Wife Swappers”... “Pleasure Girls Who Roam Our Highways”... “Hell Raid of the Two Wheel Biker Brutes”... “Nevada's Two Girl Hooker Teams”.... “College Girls Who Prefer Blue Collar Lovers”... “Top Cop and His War with the Mafia”, and of course, the best story of all time, “I Pick Up Men In Bowling Alleys”.

So now I started to get out of the comic book business because the people I was selling to were a bunch of shitheads. I would do the comic and Star Trek conventions, but while selling I was also hustling up stills. I traded a lot of comics for stills. I came across an article in an old magazine that was about the guy who started Culver Pictures. That was when I started building up files of the big name stars and directors. I knew this thing with Magazine Management was not going to last forever. When the men's magazines went down, they went down hard. When I took up some pix in 1977-78, the whole damn hallway going into the offices was stacked with bundles of magazines as high as your armpits. They were all wrapped up and stacked. When I asked what was going on they told me these magazines just came back from Canada. They had been censored because they had nude girls on the covers. To sell in Canada the covers had to be folded over, and the magazine had to be wrapped in plastic. They sent them to the New York offices because that was the address printed on the inside front cover. What killed the men's mags was they were started to print full-color beaver pix. They lost all the supermarkets in California and other places. While mommy was shopping for Kool-Aid and cookies, little Johnny and Jimmy were looking at pictures of young girls with their legs spread apart. They lost the PX at Navy and Army posts. The subscriptions stopped coming in because each issue had at least three photo spreads of beaver shots. It all ended in 1978 or 1979. They became a girlie magazine rather than an adventure magazine, and now it was all over.

They called me one day to come and pick up all the photos me and Mark had sent up over the years. When they started using the pix I was sending them they had stopped using eight other photo agencies. That was how much they liked the stuff I was sending. When I went to California in 1966, Mark filled in for me while I was gone. So later both of us were sending them pix. I spent about three years debating about whether I should be a cartoonist or a businessman. I said fuck it and laid down the pen. I made the right choice.

I started Movie Still Archives in 1979. I spent two weeks on the phone calling every magazine in New York. I knew the "powers that be" were going to put Ronald Reagan and his goofball wife in office, so when Carole and her brother went to LA for a movie poster convention, I had her buy up every still of Reagan she could find in the all the stores that sold stills. She dug up about 100. My first big sale was to People. They printed four pages with a still from all 54 movies he made, and 20 stills came from me. They paid $75 each. For years I was sending out pix of good old Ronnie and his charming wife Nancy to all the magazines in New York. I made lots of money off those two dimwits. After two years I made my first sale to Life. The last pix I sold to Life they were paying $400 for 1/4 page. I sold stills to the biggest and best magazines out there. My best clients were Time Life Books, The New York Times, Penthouse, Omni and Readers Digest. But all that started to turn to shit. AOL bought out the whole Time Warner Turner group. Now six companies own everything. They fired the oldtimers working for them and hired all these stupid shits who knew nothing about running a photo department.

About half the photos Magazine Management used they would retouch the faces by painting on sunglasses or put a black square over the eyes or darken in the face. This was so nobody would notice that the person was a movie actor. On one of my visits when they were shutting down I asked if any readers ever recognized they were using movie stills and they said, "No, never". They did a story about sex in automobiles, and they handed me a letter a guy wrote to them wanting to know if the girl getting screwed in the back seat of a car was his girlfriend. The letter was addressed to Tom Conroy % Stag magazine since the photo credits in the back of the magazine gave me as the photographer. I guess the guy never thought that while his girl was getting slammed, she let someone take photos. The photos they asked for were really weird, so I had all these pix filed under all these different categories. You name it, and I had a folder for it. I had one folder titled Kitty Litter, Face Pushed In which the National Lampoon printed in the early 1980s. I had a photo of a guy screwing a chicken which the Lampoon also printed.
Note Jack Nicholson on right.
One time they wanted pix of all the softcore porn theaters in Times Square, so I sent Carole up to 42nd Street with a camera. She gave them the film, and they sent it to a photo lab and ended up using about a dozen pix in a two-page spread. Carole said that when she was taking the photos the guys coming out of the theaters would cover their faces. They were businessmen in suits. One time I got a call for a girl getting screwed on a merry-go-round. I had a file, and they paid my cab fare to deliver it to them.

After I moved over to Cooper Square two hot-looking chicks from the romance magazines came walking in. They were looking for a photo for a story titled, "My Sister Was Raped in Her Coffin". They were a little upset that I didn't have a picture. The secret to my success was that I had a good eye for photos and never filed a photo that looked posed. For the first couple years, all their want lists asked for pix of women in mini-skirts, so when I wasn't filling photos I was out on the street with my camera stalking women in mini-skirts, and they printed a lot of them (of course, with the black box over the faces).

The whole time this was going on I was high on speed. One of the editors that came on board was a guy who used to do Confidential magazine, and the magazines he edited had that type of look. Mario Puzo, who wrote The Godfather, was an editor and writer for Magazine Management. When each mag went to press I would get a billing notice which had a brief description of the photo used: Guy with Gun, Girl in Bra, Plane on Fire, German Tank, Sex Orgy, Cops Busting Hookers, Nazi with Girl, Nude Girls on Beach. I would send them a "bill for photo used", and every two weeks the checks were in my mailbox. For the last five years, Mark at the Memory Shop would send in the invoices because I had made a few trips to Frisco and would be out of New York for short periods of time. A couple times when I was gone, Paul Kirchner sent the photos up, but we both forgot the details of that. This whole venture was weird, but I was not into anything normal. I had fun doing it, the money was good. I could buy drugs and pay my rent, and I didn't have to go out and get a job. What a long weird trip it's been.

                                                                                               -- © 2012 Tom Conroy 
                                                                                                     Movie Still Archives

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012
  Jack Davis and Don Marquez

Above: EC letterhead by Jack Davis. Below: EC's Vault-Keeper, painted by Don Marquez in 2005.

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Monday, April 09, 2012
  Wood Chips #43: Jungle Jim
Here's another of the Jungle Jim stories I wrote for Wally Wood. His only suggestion for this story was to use a giant rat. Jim's feverish line "Rats... thousands of rats" is an allusion to the "Three Skeleton Key" episode of radio's Escape. Scroll down for more background info. Click on bottom label to see the other Jungle Jim stories.

Jungle Jim #22: Roughs to Finish

In 1966, King Features began a division to publish comic book adaptations of their more popular strips, including Mandrake the Magician, Beetle Bailey and Flash Gordon.

Juggling jobs and temporarily minus his regular assistant, Ralph Reese, Wally Wood faced a sudden two-week deadline on a Jungle Jim comic book for King Comics. Nothing had been done. His solution to the problem, I was told, began with me. I was to write three Jungle Jim stories in two days, he told me. In 15 minutes, he outlined how to do it: Draw roughs on typing paper, begin each story in the middle of an action situation, write as few captions as possible (so the pictures tell the story) and use conventional panel layouts rather than sprawling, tricky page designs.

With no time to research the original Alex Raymond characters, I resorted to a near-satiric approach based on a hazy, half-buried recollection of the early 1950s Johnny Weissmuller Jungle Jim film series. Wood made only a few changes, eliminating the more obvious satire in certain lines of dialogue, and then he immediately sent them to prolific letterer Bill Yoshida (1921-2005). I gathered that Yoshida had an assembly-line approach, constantly lettering while his children traveled around the city delivering and picking up pages.

“The Wizard of Dark Mountain” is obviously inspired by my memories of Dr. No (1962). Wood turned that one over to Steve Ditko, who followed my rough layouts with such precision that he carefully included every detail. I saw that he had made a few slight alterations and improvements. On page five, panel five, I had Jungle Jim holding Rima’s ass as he gave her a boost into the ventilating shaft; Ditko gave it a simple change to make it acceptable to the King editors. On page three, panel four, my rough of the trio rock climbing was awkward, and he easily solved the problem by repositioning the characters.

Wood gave “The Golden Goddess of Thalthor” to Tom Palmer, and I arrived at the West 74th Street studio while Wood was looking over Palmer’s penciled pages. Wood said, “His drawing looks like Archie, Betty and Veronica, but since he told all the kids in his neighborhood that he’s now a famous comic book artist, I can’t bring myself to reject this. I guess I’ll give him a chance to redraw some of it.”

A few nights later, I learned why Wood had expressed little concern for the tight deadline. Artists from all over the city converged like cockroaches to his two-room studio. Someone sat in every available inch. I walked over and said hello to Roger Brand (1943-1985), who looked up and said, “Hi! I’m drawing your story.” As he completed pages of “The Witch Doctor of Borges Island”, they were passed to Dom Sileo and other inkers—who were adding finishing touches to all three stories. Wood, at his drawing table, meticulously inked faces for a while and eventually vanished. He returned shortly with his wife, Tatjana, grinning as he showed her the white heat of activity, leading her into that maelstrom of streaming Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes and flowing India ink.

With a few phone calls, Wood had contrived to recreate the mood and atmosphere of a 1940s comics shop. It was an exhilarating evening, one that he obviously enjoyed manipulating as much as I enjoyed seeing panels springing to life exactly as I had designed them.

I had completed one more script when Wood phoned to explain that King Comics had decided to withdraw from publishing comic books and had passed all materials to Charlton. Wood dropped out, and Pat Boyette (1923-2000) took over the book, illustrating scripts by Joe Gill. My last Jungle Jim script was “The Black Blossoms of Death,” an attempt to do a Lovecraft-type tale. It was illustrated by Boyette in Jungle Jim #23.

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Sunday, April 08, 2012
As I've noted before, the British cartoonist Henry Mayo Bateman (1887-1970) was a major influence on Harvey Kurtzman. London's Cartoon Museum exhibition, H. M. Bateman: The Man Who Went Mad on Paper, opens April 11 and continues until July 22. Click label at bottom for more Bateman art.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012
  Roy Crane's Buz Sawyer

Buz Sawyer and Christy Jameson married on December 13, 1948. Their son, Pepper, was born in 1951. For more than 30 years, Buz Sawyer was scripted by Mississippi novelist Edwin Granberry, and Pepper Sawyer was named after Granberry's great nephew, William R. Chalker, aka Pepper Chalker.

To see the events during the month before the wedding, go to DailyINK and click each day through November and December. For my previous reviews of DailyINK, click on label at bottom.

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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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