Starting Raccketty Ann and the Lost World!

June 23rd, 2019
Here they are! Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons in “Raccketty Ann and the Lost World”! Raccketty Ann is loosely based on Raggedy Ann, a character from old children’s books who was made into charming rag dolls the world over. Raccketty Ann is a real adventurer, she is fearless and remarkably adaptive to nearly any situation, dangerous or not. Her constant companion is “Bla-Bla” a long-suffering canine of indeterminate breed, who loves Raccketty Ann more than any other raccoon. Raccketty Ann’s stories in the community of raccoons were depicted in previously published issues of Mad Raccoons, published by MU Press. The raccoons look up to Raccketty Ann and hang on every word as she regales their imaginations with her tales of travel. In this episode she encounters a Preranodon, wait until you see the other prehistoric creatures she meets!
Felix is from 7-24 to 7-30-1933. Felix is forced to sleep outside by the hard-hearted farmer, and Danny tries to help find Felix a softer bed. The 7-24 strip recalls the story of “Babes In The Woods” as Felix leaves a trail of corn to mark Danny’s way through the woods. The Sunday has Felix trying to crash his way in to the circus, only to be slammed around by athletic trained mice who all look like Messmer’s “Skiddoo” the mouse.

Here’s Myrtle from 4-25 to 4-31-1949. I like the 4-29 and 4-30 dailies as Myrtle’s skirt and sweater are criticized by her mother, and Dad Freddie breaks Mom’s hand mirror as he spanks Myrtle with it. The Sunday page depicts the pioneering days of home TV sets as the neighbors put up makeshift antennas as status symbols even though they don’t yet have the sets to go with them!

Krazy is from 10-18 to 10-30-1943 this time. World War 2 enters the strip in a subtle way in the 10-21. Herriman was in a mood to cross-hatch in the 10-27 through 10-30 strips. The 10-27 takes on a mysterious feel in the last panel, due to the shading, giving the feel of twilight blanketing Krazy as she peacefully dozes under the gaze of Ignatz and Offissa Pupp. Krazy sings a hit song from “Oklahoma”, a hit musical of the early 1940s, as Ignatz hurls a brick at his head. Clocks play a big part in the 10-29 and 10-30 strips, a grandfather clock in the 10-29 and alarm clocks in the 10-30 as Krazy is once again wrapped in cross-hatched twilight in the last panel.

KURT’S CORNER In the corner this time are a collection of very rare stills from my brother’s Clark Gable collection. There are from November of 1937, when Clark was married to Carole Lombard. Gable loved horses and this was probably photographed on his ranch. I like the way he captioned the pictures as a film “Short”, labeling himself as a “Villain” and the Calf and Horse as the “Heroes”. I don’t know who Walt Cady was, who took the pictures. Maybe that’s Mr. Cady helping to brand the calf in the last photo. I have no idea how Kurt came by these rare pieces of Gableana, but aren’t they just fresh off the ranch? Look for more rare photos soon, as my tribute to my sadly missed brother continues.

Cathy Hill’s Racketty-Ann and The Lost World Previews!

June 6th, 2019

Hold on to your seats Folks! More spectacular, funny and heart-warming (not to mention timely) than Galaxy’s Edge! It’s Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons in “Racketty-Ann and The Lost World” stealing their way in to the old Catblog in our next post!

As a bonus, here are some of Cathy’s serio-comic dinosaurs in two pages of a book project that wasn’t completed, but you can see for the first time right here. If you like these and want to see more, drop us a line. Thanks for reading the Catblog!

Coming! Raccoons! Soon!

June 4th, 2019

This peculiar Raccoon (Mad variety) was beautifully drawn by Cathy Hill in 1997 to start a sort of “Weird Science” EC vibe in potential “Mad Raccoons” comics. Next post we will start the heretofore unpublished tale “Racketty-Ann and the Lost World”. It’s definitely weird, monstrous and strangely sweet. Watch for it next time!

Felix is from 7-17 to 7-23-1933 this time. Felix is on the farm in the dailies, including Messmer’s trademark cows in the 7-17, which were usually the symbol of sustenance for Felix. The Room and BOARD gag is pretty choice in the 7-18. I like the touch of pathos in the 7-23 Sunday as Felix tears up at Danny’s lack of funds to buy circus passes in the second panel.

Myrtle originally appeared 4-18 to 4-24-49. The dailies really explore Myrtle’s Tomboy side, especially when she loses her braids in the 4-20 and starts to look like a boy. In the 4-21, the boys of the Eager Beaver Patrol all don phony braids to make Myrtle feel included. I love the subtle Fisher touch in the 4-19 as Myrtle pounds the floor in frustration accompanied by her look-alike doll doing the same thing. Myrtle is finally allowed to join the Boy Scout patrol after she pitches a no-hit baseball game for the 3rd Grade team. In the Sunday, Hyacinth the cat makes a rare appearance on top of a fence as Minnie and Slug announce their engagement: Minnie got a job!

Krazy ran in Hearst and other papers from 10-4 to 10-16-1943.  Herriman makes a very soft-spoken comment on WW2 in the 10-5 as Krazy declares war on “no budda”. Thanks to Gerd Heinlein, we have one of Garge’s rare elephant strips in the 10-7. I love the drawings of the absent-minded pachyderm as they change proportions and size in each panel. The last panel with the elephant in front of a row of cat-tails is worthy of  framing by itself. The 10-18 is one of those incredibly corny puns that Herriman somehow turned into a quiet moment of “Kat” reflection. There’s also a touch of magic in the 10-14 strip as Krazy silently follows a firefly in the Coconino desert only to see it collapse into ashes on the sand.

KURT’S CORNER

My dear brother was a consummant collector of movie stills and memorabilia. He took over the Ronald Colman collection of the late George E. Schatz of Illinois and augmented it with beautiful original and rare material that he collected over more than 40 years. He also collected on Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, Vivien Leigh and many other actors. His huge collection was carefully tucked into loose-leaf three-ring binders, each one immense and thick. Every still was in special plastic punched sheets that make it easy to remove and replace the stills from each binder. Here are three very rare stills from the Colman files:

The lovely Benita Hume around 1926. She was doing a bit of acting in British cinema such as “The Happy Ending” (1925) in which she played “Miss Moon” and “The Lady Of The Lake”(1928) which gave her the title role. She became Mr. Colman’s second wife and co-starred with him on the Jack Benny Program and The Halls of Ivy on radio. In the Halls of Ivy, her character Victoria often does a bit of music hall singing and tap dancing. The Halls of Ivy ran from 1950 to 1952 and was written by Don Quinn who wrote for Jim and Marian Jordan and created the character of Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve on the old Fibber Magee and Molly radio show. The Halls of Ivy was very classy and incredibly gentle comedy, the theme song sounds a bit reverent, like the “Whiffenpoof Song”.

Here’s a rare still of Benita and Ronald Colman rehearsing with the radio maestro and Angel of Comedy, Jack Benny in April of 1948. Jack loved being the object of the Colman’s scorn, he constantly irritated them by borrowing every tool and kitchen appliance they had. Jack lived next door to the Colmans in “radio land”, and even borrowed Colman’s Oscar which R.C. won for “A Double Life” in 1947. Jack promptly was robbed of the Oscar on his way home with it by a gangster played by Eddie Marr (info provided by Don Yowp).

It’s hard to recognize Mr. Colman in 1921, when he first came to the United States from his native England to tour in the stage play “The Dauntless Three” and hadn’t yet grown his trademark mustache. He eventually used a grease paint mustache for early silent film parts, such as “The White Sister’ (1923),  before he grew his own. Ronald Colman’s speaking voice was just about my brother’s favorite sound in the world. Kurt prized wisdom and gentleness in actors and writers, such as Colman and James Hilton. The great Frank Capra picture “Lost Horizon” combined Colman and Hilton in one of my brother’s all-time favorite movies. Kurt’s incredible collection of stills is with me now, but will soon join the archives of the Margaret Herrick library at the Motion Picture Academy. Kurt and I often discussed his collection’s eventual “home” and soon they will be going there. Over the next several posts, Kurt’s Corner will feature more rare and unusual bits of cinematic curios. I hope you will look at them and celebrate the love of movies that was such a major part of my brother’s life and dear to his heart.

The Meaning of Life

April 15th, 2019

 

Here at last are the four concluding pages of “Raccoons On The Moon”, or, as the Windsongs of Jupiter prefer to call it: “The Raccoons Search For The Meaning Of Life”.  The Windsongs of Jupiter are real sticklers for accuracy, since the Raccoons spent only one page of their story on the Moon, the Windsongs want the story retitled so that “True Truth” will be proclaimed and the Raccoons will be worthy of knowing the Meaning of Life. The Windsongs’ definition of the Meaning of Life on page 19 is a real “Shaggy Raccoon” argument, leaving the masked Space Explorers dumbfounded. Note the mixture of expressions in page 19’s second panel as the Raccoons either stare at the reader, or furtively glance at each other.  I love Cathy’s timing as page 20 leads off with Virgil saying: “Well, THAT was FUN!” It adds irony to the story’s finish as the Raccoons return to the Moon’s surface.  I hope you liked Cathy Hill’s Mad Raccoons and that you will look forward to another one of their unpublished stories coming soon to the Catblog.

 

Felix this time originally appeared in newspapers from 7-10 through 7-16-1933. Felix and Danny conclude their “midget league” baseball season, and Danny’s family go off on a summer vacation without Felix. I love the poignant panels in the 7-14 as Felix contemplates a lonely summer without the family. Danny comes back home to pick up Felix and packs him in a bag to smuggle him in to the boarding house where the family is lodging.  The Sunday page features Danny and Felix watering an Elephant to earn Circus passes. The Elephant is dry as the Mojave and drinks the landscape to the sandy dregs. 

Here’s Dudley Fisher’s Myrtle from 4-11 to 4-17-1949. All the dailies are devoted to “Wilbur”, the family’s wacky goldfish. Wilbur doesn’t get along with anybody, not Sampson, Myrtle’s Pop, Slug or the local bird family. The 4-16 has the best Fisher timing of the week, since goldfish are “harder to give away than kittens”, Pop dumps poor Wilbur in the river. A panel later there is a knock at the door, and Wilbur comes bouncing in! The Sunday page is the usual visual feast as the family dusts the household carpet for spring cleaning.

The Kat this time is from 9-20 to 10-2-1943. The first batch is mostly odd gags, but the 9-24 and 9-25 refer to Brazil, which was a hot topic during World War Two, what with the Good Neighbor Policy being in effect and all. But what is that creature in the 9-25 with the head of Krazy Kat and the body of a spotted cat? It is a species of Brazilian wildcat called “Oncilla”, “tigrillo” or “tigrinas” depending on which part of the country they come from. They are smaller than a Margay, which is a pretty small wildcat. Garge must have been a student of cats worldwide, both wild and domesticated, to come up with a gag like this one. In the 9-27 to 10-2 batch, the gags are all about plants and flowers, such as a shrinking violet that throws stones at Krazy’s “bean” and a sunflower that rises and sets and says “Bong Swar” to Krazy. But the most obscure reference is to the tomato (or “to-mah-to”) as a “Love Apple”. “Love Apple” is derived from the Italian word for tomato, “pomodoro”, which the French freely translated as “pomme d’amour” or “Love Apple” in English. The “to-mah-to” is a reference to the Fred Astaire 1937 movie “Shall We Dance” and the song “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” (you say ‘tomato’ and I say ‘tomahto’). Maybe Garge liked that movie and built the 10-2 gag around the song?

KURT’S CORNER    Here’s another little remembrance of my dear brother Kurt, who passed away in January. That’s us in the faded and worn photograph of 1956. Probably taken in the backyard of our family house in Crestwood, Mo. 701 Hutchins Drive. The house is still there today, I wonder if that tree is still there? The Mickey Mouse Club TV show was a never-missed event every weekday afternoon, and we had all the gear, Mickey ears, shirts and Kurt is playing a Mouse Ge-Tar. The photo looks blue because it was faded nearly pink and I flipped the color so you could see it better. You can tell that Kurt had a very irreverent attitude from a very early age. He is obviously “Putting It On” as you can tell by the little sneer on his face and the sassy tilt to his head. Even his fingers have attitude as he strums a guitar that was really a wind-up music box. It seemed the entire neighborhood of kids came in to our living room each afternoon to watch the Mouse Club with us. We must have had one of the few TV sets, and poor Mom had to serve beverages and cookies to the hungry little Mouse Clubbers. We all loved Annette and thought that Jimmy Dodd was like a minister with his little aphorisms in song form. Of course they built Jimmy a REAL Mouse Ge-Tar full size! But my favorite feature of the Club was the old black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons. For some reason they fed in to Kurt’s and my fascination with everything “old” and “antique”. We were fascinated by the very primitive and bottle-nosed Mouse that was in the old cartoons. I guess the Disney Studio wasn’t concerned with the original dotted eyes Mickey appearing alongside the exceedingly cute and almost child like Mouse that headlined the Club TV shows each day. We used to have fights over which of our toys was the oldest, and sometimes even such things as spoons and salt shakers entered into the “antique” debate. Disney dominated our lives in the late 1950s, we both had Davy Crockett hats and Kurt and I were Civil War buffs so “The Great Locomotive Chase” really excited our imaginations. Fess Parker traded in his Crockett hat for an engineer’s cap in that one.

Last time I posted one of Kurt’s “Mickey Mark” cartoon drawings which I believed to be the last one he ever drew. I was wrong, the one reproduced here is really the last, he sent it with the 2018 Christmas card. It’s a celebration of Mickey’s 90th anniversary. I love Kurt’s caption as he refers to the Mouse being a “corporate symbol, a pawn of copyright extension (just look up the Sonny Bono Copyright Act), a union busting rodent (probably a reference to the Disney strike of 1941)”. I don’t know what the little female mouse means by “Sparta-Mouse”, although it might be a misspelling of “Spatha Mouse”, a special computer mouse for gamers. But “you have delusions of grandeur” was a favorite phrase of our Mother, whenever Kurt or I got too ambitious and dreamed too big for her taste. She probably got the phrase “delusions of grandeur” from a psychology book or newspaper article and took it to heart. For some reason, neither Kurt nor I ever forgot that phrase or Mom’s use of it at times when we could have used a word or two of encouragement. 

I wish I could have talked about Kurt’s last Mickey Mark cartoon with him, but what turned out to be our last telephone conversation was filled with the usual nonsense and Kurt’s sidesplitting and VERY irreverent imitations of Linda, his girlfriend of many years. Kurt really did love her, but he also loved to make fun of her, as he made endless fun of Mom and our Grandma Katie. I can’t begin to tell you how much I would give to hear him do his “fussy female” voice one more time.  Perhaps there will be more Kurt’s Corner features in our next edition. Many Meows until then.

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.)