The Old Dirty Snowball

February 3rd, 2019

 

Here is the fourth episode of Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons in “Raccoons On The Moon”. In the last episode, the Raccoons visited Mons Olympus crater on Mars and visited the lonely old lava, bubbling over with attempted jokes. In their search for the Meaning Of Life, Mons was very little help, so the Racc-it ship ventured over to Titan, one of the moons of Saturn and intercepted Halley’s Comet. The Old Dirty Snowball didn’t have any clues to the Meaning Of Life either, he didn’t take Life seriously enough to be helpful. He tosses the Raccoons another clue: the Meaning Of Life is known by the Windsongs of Neptune, on the Singing Plains of Neptune. So we leave the Silver Masked Tenors (Raccoons) on the Singing Plains until the concluding episode, next time. I love the drawing and delicate ink lines as Halley’s comet zooms through space, spats and all, and the Windsongs of Neptune speak in beautifully lettered words, resting on musical staffs. You can imagine the haunting sounds of their speech, as if in an astral echo chamber with John Cage tunes bouncing about.

Here’s Felix from 7-3 to 7-9-1933. Felix is still the mascot of Danny Dooit’s team, the Midget Giants, but the team keeps racking up goose eggs, sometimes in the form of donuts. Felix is convinced he’s a jinx and a flop as a mascot, so he tries to talk Bill the Goat into taking his place. But Bill refuses, saying “All the games are lost, now you want me to be the GOAT!” In the Sunday, Felix blows soap bubbles with Mr. Dooit’s pipe to amuse Danny’s baby brother. Felix barely manages to keep out of Papa’s way as he’s still blowing bubbles in the last panel. This strip could have been the basis for an animated cartoon story, lots of chances for bubble effects.

Myrtle is from 4-4 to 4-10-1949 this time. I like the continuity of the 4-4 through 4-6 dailies as Sampson tries to play his harmonica to amuse Myrtle’s Dad, Freddie. The 4-8 is a good gag with Bingo hitting up the Dog Pound for a snack, but the 4-9 is my favorite gag of the batch, as Myrtle puts on makeup for school and the teacher, Miss Flunkem is so impressed that instead of punishing Myrtle, she runs back to Susie’s house to ask Myrtle’s mom where she got the beautiful shade of lipstick! The Sunday has the usual inventive staging as Freddie tries to rescue Sampson’s kite from the top of a spindly tree. I like the little touch in the second panel as we just barely glimpse the neighbor’s shoe in the upper right corner, clinging to the roof.

Krazy’s dailies this week are from 9-6 to 9-13-1943. Garge was thinking of Kate Smith and her theme song (“When the Moon Comes Over The Mountain”) in the 9-6 to 9-8. I love the drawing of the Moon squeezing under the mountain in the 9-6. Garge gets a little obscure in the 9-10 and 9-11 strips as Ignatz mixes Krazy up with pronouns in the tree top and a little Scotty dog puts a lamp chimney over his pipe (for economy?).  The 9-13 strip, in which the Kat sings, from the old song “Father, Dear Father Come Home With Me Now”: “The Clog in the Stipple strikes ‘One'” shows Herriman’s technique of scratching into the ink in the last panel, to create the white line of Ignatz’s tail. The 9-14 is pretty obscure as Garge refers to Russian pianists, as Pupp refers to himself as “Jasha Puppsha” and then runs off exclaiming “Ooy, Tchin-Dee!!!”, frightened as Ignatz emerges from the top of the piano. In the 9-16, Krazy seems to speak “Ettskimmo”. In the 9-17 Ignatz plays the bars of his Jail cell like a harp, and in the 9-18, Krazy trips up over sound-alike words as he confuses “Cane” with “Kane”.

 

KURT KAUSLER R.I.P.  My readers and friends, it’s very hard to tell you that my younger brother, Kurt, passed away on January 24th, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri in front of his fireplace–his bulldog Gracie at his side. He lived to be 67. His dear girlfriend Linda discovered him there at about 8:30 AM, having left him at his house the previous evening at about 6PM. You can see by the photo above, taken about 1958, that Kurt and I were an odd couple of brothers. We may have been some of the “original geeks”–very fond of history, books, comic books and animated cartoons among many other things. We used to fight each other a lot as kids, inspired (to my Mother’s horror) by the Popeye cartoons shown on the local St. Louis TV program: “Cookie and the Captain”. Most of the fights ended when I sat on poor Kurt, being heavier than he was. Kurt was of a more serious turn of mind than I was. As you can tell from the photo. Look at his natty outfit, and look at my wrinkled, dirty pants with the soiled knees. I probably had Pinky Lee on my mind, with the pork pie hat, and Kurt may have had Clark Gable or Ronald Colman in mind with his neat hat with the little feather.

Kurt ended life as a scholar, treasured by the family of James Hilton. The Hiltons told Kurt that he knew more about the famous author of Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, than they did. Kurt spent years tracking down James Hilton’s early novels and arranging for them to be reprinted, and dug out just about every newspaper and magazine article Mr. Hilton ever wrote from library collections all over the USA and England. Even though Kurt was about three years younger than I, he was YEARS older in maturity, often giving me “fatherly” advice. He LOOKED older too, due to a case of childhood polio–which warped his spine just enough to put a small hump on his back. He often referred to himself as “Quasi”, and walked with a cane for years.

The little drawing below is one of Kurt’s. He did a long series of these, featuring his patented stick figure mouse characters. This was one of the last, drawn on a Christmas card envelope in 2017. The text reads: “You’re Kidding! There’s a model sheet? For US? Who else draws like this, Munro Leaf? And how come that idiot hunchback makes us look different every year? I DEMAND ANSWERS!…and an opposable thumb would Be Nice….” I think I drew a model sheet of “Mickey Mark” and wife for Kurt, sadly I don’t have a copy. (“Mickey Mark” was the name of the stick figure character and one of Kurt’s nicknames for me.)  I also did a gag bookplate for him in 2017, featuring his stick figure mouse and Freddy the Pig, who was one of Kurt’s favorite children’s book characters (reproduced below). “Munro Leaf” was another children’s book author, who illustrated his books with simple matchstick drawings of children. “Manners Can Be Fun” and “Safety Can Be Fun” by Mr. Leaf are still in print; he also wrote the famous “Ferdinand the Bull” story which he DIDN’T illustrate. Kurt loved to make fun of himself, so he calls himself “an idiot hunchback” who couldn’t draw his mice the same way twice. His comment “an opposable thumb would Be Nice…” is a slyly humorous admission that he couldn’t draw HANDS.

    Kurt was a very big part of my life. I already miss him more than I can ever convey, we shared so many likes and experiences. I will try to tell more anecdotes about Kurt in future posts, in the hope that the memories won’t completely disappear. Kurt was a “rock star” of a writer, as Linda Kraft (Kurt’s girlfriend) observed. He wrote beautiful English and did many articles about his heroes, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Colman, Clark Gable and especially James Hilton. In spite of many health challenges, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, polio, cancer of the neck and heart disease which required the installation of a defibrillator, Kurt kept as active as he could; doing yard work, and walking his bulldogs for miles. Rest in Peace my brother, I’m thinking of you and love you. There will be more stories about Kurt later, as the Catblog meows along.

(Remember, to see the pictures larger, right click on an image and click “Open in New Window”.  The images will appear in a different window, and by clicking on the image in the new window, you will see them larger.)

Marszy Christmas

December 5th, 2018

 

In honor of the recent landing of NASA’s InSight Lander on the Elysium Planitia on the planet Mars, the Catblog presents chapter three of “Raccoons on the Moon” as the Racc-it ship flies to Mons Olympus on Mars. Mons Olympus is a strange old man as Cathy Hill imagines him, who seems to have Alzheimer’s disease, and longs to hear a good joke that he won’t remember. I love Cathy’s beautiful inking on these pages, every pen line seems to echo the extreme heat inside the volcano, and also the depth of the crater. There is a strong directional feeling to all the shading and cross-hatching. I love the panels on page two, as Cathy uses foreshortening and perspective to show the raccoons’ descent into the heart of Mons Olympus. Mons has a humorous response to Virgil the Raccoon’s question: “What about the meaning of life, Mr. Mons?” To which Mons replies “How does it go? Just give me the first part….” I’ll have to find out about the joke about “Uncle Erf and the Rubber Tree” for next time, as the Mad Raccoons journey further into the solar system to find the meaning of life.

 

Felix is from 6-26 to 7-2-1933 for this post. He continues to best the other animals in the competition to be the mascot of Danny Dooit’s baseball team. I love Otto’s rabbit and goat in the 6-27 and 6-28. The joke in the 7-1 is about the card game of bridge, in which the players sometimes kick each other under the table to signal how to bid, or how to make a play, hence the shin guards that Danny’s father appropriates for the purpose. The Sunday page features a helpful Felix, as the brainy cat helps Danny with an addition problem in school.

Myrtle is from 3-28 to 4-3-1949. Dudley Fisher’s control of poses and rhythm in his through lines comes across in the 3-30 as Myrtle in a back view says “…I’m exotic!”, and in the 4-1 as she casually drops the telephone while luxuriating on the couch, as she tells Sampson, “No, I’m Busy!” Myrtle sometimes seems feminine beyond her years in strips like these. The Sunday page features Hyacinth the cat, curious about the contents of a purse that Myrtle has found on her family’s sidewalk. One of the neighbors comments about it: “There might be a little kitten in that bag! People do all sorts of things to get rid of little kittens!” Sad, but all too true. Don’t ever read Woody Guthrie’s “Bound For Glory” if you’re a cat lover, what they do to kittens in that book is a scandal to the catbirds.

Lots of puns and Kat Langwitch wordplay in the Krazy Kats from 8-23 to 9-4-1943. I like the 8-28, as Ignatz plants a candle under the Kat’s chair and Mrs. Kwakk-Wakk comments “Hot Foot” and Krazy answers “Sez You”. Herriman seldom uses exclamation points or periods in his word balloons, which gives a mysterious, hollow sound to the dialog. Offisa Pupp’s comment in the 8-31 about Ignatz: “Unbless his sour little soul…” has a poetic ring to it, and there is a Lewis Carroll feel to the Toad Stool joke in the 9-1.

For more on George Herriman, click  HERE.

 

Have a wondrous Holiday Season, and the old Catblog will be back soon with the next installment of “Raccoons on the Moon”!

The Lisping Asteroid

October 15th, 2018

Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons are back in Chapter two of “Raccoons On The Moon”, which I have titled: “The Lisping Asteroid”.  In paying an inadvertent visit to the asteroid’s surface in their Racc-it Ship, the masked space voyagers find that the asteroid is alive! Not only alive, but possessed of a long tongue which the Raccoons stand upon, causing the Asteroid to speak with an impediment.  The asteroid directs them to visit Olympus Mons on Mars to discover the meaning of life. The next chapter should tell us more. Cathy’s drawing of the asteroid’s face is full of character, cragginess and attitude. I love the many carefully placed ink lines she used to bring the space rock to life.

Felix, from 6-19 to 6-25, 1933, finds him in a joyous mood, as school is out and he can play with his best friend, Danny Dooit all day! Felix tries to play in Danny’s neighborhood baseball team, the “Midget Giants” but one of the boys tries to swat him with a bat. Danny suggests him for the team mascot, but the rest of the team all have favorite animals up for the job. So Felix makes a democracy out of it. In the Sunday, Felix hides from the family dog by smearing his body with shaving soap and disguising himself as a French poodle. By the way, if you want to see the strips larger, just right-click the picture and select, “Open Link in New Window”, and it will pop up. I would assume you can do something similar in Mac.

Myrtle, from 3-21 to 3-27-1949, is loaded with interesting ideas. Two favorites are the 3-22, as Myrtle is punished for talking to herself, only to find that her Mom is guilty of the same habit. The 3-25 has a touch of fantasy, as Bingo the dog tries to quiet Myrtle’s look-alike doll, who falls out of bed and comes to life, yelling “Waw!”. The Sunday page from 3-27 has a rare appearance by Hyacinth, the cat, as she sharpens her claws on the porch pillars as the rest of the cast try to hang a swing in a tree that hasn’t quite been planted yet.

Krazy is from 8-9 to 8-21-1943 and spends the first week on Brick gags and most of the second week doing variations on the old saying, “A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss”, which I believe was a moral in an Aesop fable. Two favorites are the 8-11, featuring one of Garge’s beloved Scotty dogs barking at the moon, and getting an attitudinal tongue stuck out at him from the astral stone. Somewhat similar in idea to the “Lisping Asteroid” above, eh? Garge slips us a little in-joke with the 8-21 strip. Krazy mixes up the words “comic” and “comet”, and turns the argument on its head by declaring that a “comic” is a Star with a Tail, meaning his/her self! She leaves Ignatz talking to his brick, calling it a “Dull, Unhumorous Dodo.” Now remember to open the strips in another window, and we’ll open the blinds for you again next time.

 

Racc-it Ship, si, Space-X, no!

September 18th, 2018

 

The Catblog presents an unpublished comic adventure of my wife Cathy Hill’s “Mad Raccoons”. It’s called “Raccoons On The Moon” and runs twenty pages. We’re running them four at a time off the pen and ink originals. Cathy liked to do these sitting on the floor bending over the large pages of Strathmore paper. I love the beautiful ink lines she did and her rascally and adventurous Raccoon characters. She pencilled the stories lightly, in graphite or blue pencil, then inked right over them. The “Mad Raccoons” comic book ran seven regular issues, plus a trade paperback collection of the first four. Mu Press put them out originally. If you search on Ebay, or better yet, at your local comics emporium, you will find them. Who needs Elon Musk when you’ve got Virgil Raccoon and his friends to take you to the moon and beyond!

In the Felix strips from 6-12 to 6-18-1933, Felix saves Pop’s pants, but confidentially, they shrink! Danny thinks he has total freedom when school is out for the summer, until Mom needs help cleaning house, and Felix poisons himself with bug spray. In the Sunday, Felix is homeless again, until an errant baseball strikes a big bully in the head. The little boy playing baseball runs home to Dad, but the big bully pursues him and bangs on Dad’s door until his hands are a bloody pulp. Dad, who is a Doctor, fixes the bully up and Felix has a new home!

Here’s Myrtle from 3-14 to 3-20-1949. A character with an unlikely name is off stage in the first two dailies. His handle? Lemme Kissue. Susie, Myrtle’s mom, soon puts a stop to the antics of this errant kid. The 3-18 is funny, as Myrtle’s doll receives a flea-ectomy from Sampson. The Sunday page is the usual delectable Dudley Fisher layout, as Freddie is drafted into the presidency of the Garden Club. Hyacinth is no where in sight this time.

Food gags abound in Krazy Kat from 7-26 to 7-31-1943. Krazy’s Kat Lang-witch is truly delicious, just read these aloud to get the true feeling in the dialog. I love them all, but the 7-28 is really charming as a cottage cheese gets “uppiddy all from a suddin” and becomes a “castle” cheese.

Again, most of the gags in Krazy Kat from 8-2 to 8-7, 1943 are food related. I love Krazy’s words, “Neg-tureen”, “Werra Jootzy” and “Potta Tib”. Is Krazy from Brooklyn or the Bronx? Tell me, New York readers! Sorry it’s been so long since the last post, maybe we’ll be more regular now that we have real, unpublished Raccoon comics to see.

Chovie Clipper Hoists Anchor

June 21st, 2018

Gosh, it’s been a long time since the Catblog was updated. Here’s a watercolor I did down in San Pedro at the old Ports O’ Call center. It was a charming place in those days, many quaint buildings, seafood restaurants and views of cargo and pleasure craft waiting at the docks. Several times, Cathy and I would start sketches of ships only to have them take off from the moorings half-way through the painting! The old Chovie Clipper didn’t disappoint me, she stuck around for her portrait and I had a good time painting her. The colors in the scan aren’t as pretty as the original. It’s 10″ by 14″, a little bit larger than I usually paint. If anybody wants it, just Paypal me fifty bucks with your address and I’ll send it to you. UPDATE: One of my wonderful readers has bought the “Chovie Clipper”! Thanks, Jenny!

 

Felix is from 6-5 to 6-11-1933. Felix gave Danny’s father’s pants to a hobo last time, containing the old man’s paycheck in the pocket. With the aid of a bulldog and a dinosaur bone, the intrepid little cat retrieves the dough and gets a big feast in the 6-10. Felix gets kicked, socked and pummeled as he bounces in and out of the house on an old bed spring in the Sunday page. This really feels animated to me, could have been a storyboard!

Myrtle is back! Originally appearing 3-7 to 3-13-1949, I love the Sunday page as the family gets their first television set. I remember our old black and white set from my childhood so well, in fact I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a set of some kind. Yes, there were a lot of fights on the air, but also some great old cartoons and comedies, and puppet shows! Mrs. Smaltz’s cat figures in the first three dailies, teasing poor Bingo. She looks a lot like Hyacinth, who appears in the Sunday, but is not the same cat. I like the feeling of sadness in the 3-12 daily, as Samson discovers the body of a dead rabbit in the bushes and they have a funeral for it. I’ve buried a couple of beloved cats and a poor dead bird or two, so this one has meaning for me.

 

A double helping of Kat, from 7-12 to 7-24-1943! Offissa Pupp standing behind one of Garge’s fat tree trunks has a pleasing design to it in the 7-15 to 7-17. The little touches of wood planks and potted plants  in the foreground of the 7-16 once again reveal that Garge considered the Coconino characters performers on a stage. The “Bam” and “Boo” talking tree gags of 7-22 and 7-23 are very silly, yet somehow still resonate in that offhand Herriman way. Who else could put over such jokes? 

We’ve been struggling a bit since the last post, with cast iron drain pipes from the upstairs bath tub developing a leak which stained the downstairs drywall with dirty wash water. The odor was not pleasant. I got tricked into paying more than 500 bucks for a company to do an evaluation of the water stained walls for asbestos content! What a rip, the guy who did the asbestos checking was here only a half an hour. He found no asbestos. A retaining wall near the patio outside collapsed (it was unreinforced), and we had to put up a new wall. Our wonderful handyman, Jaime Toscano did the work, he’s so good. The septic tank filled up with water, which turned out to be from a leaky galvanized pipe that was stuck in the middle of the tank. This pipe feeds a hose bib out back; what a lot of wasted water. My wife’s art gallery, the Tirage in Pasadena, is closing down after more than 35 years and we will soon be getting many of her paintings returned to us. The Tirage was a very good gallery, well run by hard-working folks, but there is a declining interest in fine art for purchase by the public. I’ll be posting a few images of Cathy’s paintings in future Catblog posts. Thanks for reading, don’t forget about us!