Archive for June, 2008

Mangy’s Origin Story

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

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Hi Evvabody! Cathy and I are back from the San Clemente Plein Air Painting Event. It was very pleasant there, both for the weather and the many beautiful subjects for painting. We spent a couple of sessions at the Casa Romantica, which was the founder of San Clemente’s home in the 1920s. His name was Ole Hanson, a Swede who loved Spanish architecture. When he founded the town he created a city ordinance that restricted the style of building to Spanish. When he went broke in 1934, the city council changed that rule, but still the best and most beautiful buildings in town are all Spanish style. We actually got to paint INSIDE the Casa Romantica! Of course we had to put down tarps and make sure we stayed on them, but the view of the harbor and pier were nonpareil and the light in the spacious living room with its sunken tile fountain and arched doorways was gentle and lustrous. We enjoyed painting the reflections in the hardwood floor. On our last day, we came back and painted the front of the Casa from the parking lot. The entrance has a unique “keyhole” shaped doorway, and a lush rose garden on either side of the front door. You must come and visit, Ole would want it that way. On July 4th, they are having a gala celebration with the best view of fireworks in San Clemente.

The prizewinners in the Plein Air Competition were all very competent, but we liked our friend Ray Harris’s “Casa Romantica Interior” as well or better than any of them. He did a charming study of a museum lover examining some artifacts in the Casa’s anteroom. Ray made up the figure of a professorial type looking over some framed documents with indirect lighting. He got an honorable mention for his painting. Many fine painters were there, including Jason and Micheal Situ, Greg La Rock, Albert Tse and many others. It was a good way to escape the “triple digit” temperatures of the L.A. basin for awhile. Motels have gentrified quite a bit in San Clemente, it used to be 40 to 60 dollars for a room just a few years ago, now it’s 70 on the weekdays and close to 100 dollars on the weekends. A lot of artists just camp in their vans in the public parking lots all week, a practical approach to the high cost of motels. I’ve posted one of Cathy’s beautiful oils of the old Beachcomber Motel, a series of Spanish style bungalows overlooking the Pacific, with the Amtrak and Metrolink trains running between the motel and the sea. It’s a dream of ours to stay there some day, but at $200.00 plus a night, only a dream.

The comics this week are “The Legend of Mangy” from Cathy’s MAD RACCOONS comic book. She thought the readers might like to see how the character got started. This is not strictly new work, but it deserves reprinting. The story closely parallels the real Mangy’s life story, when we found her wandering through Cathy’s front yard in Sierra Madre and won her over with food. General Bullmoose tries cryogenics as a tactic in snagging Pappy Yokum’s copy of “Corporal Crock” #1 in this week’s strips from 4-23 to 4-28-1973. I wonder if Al Capp was thinking of all the rumors about how Walt Disney was supposed to have frozen himself, when he wrote this story? In MARVELOUS MIKE this week from 7-30 to 8-4-1956, Honeybear the cat eats like a horse and has some fillies, uh, kittens, much to Cliff Crump’s disgust. The charm of a bunch of cute kittens is lost on him. Also in the cat department, this is the Catblog after all, we have the next two pages of “There Auto Be A Law” from Felix #4. Tyer has a ball with the cop on page two, I love the cop’s enraged tantrum poses and his total collapse against the wall when Kitty double parks. I love being able to reprint these old comics, I hope you all enjoy them.

I got some response to the original Mangy comic I published a few weeks ago, this first is from my friend Milt Gray, who proposed I publish some new comics in the first place:

Congratulations to Cathy for her whimsical and stylish and observational comic strip, Mangy. I didn’t realize that you had already posted it, as I am often so focused on drawing my own cartoons that I sometimes procrastinate in surfing the Internet. I’m sorry that you haven’t gotten any comments yet, although people usually write only when they want to disagree about something. For the record, I wouldn’t describe myself as someone who is tired of the old classic comic strips — I love those strips, and I’m glad that you are making some of them accessible again. But I admit that I do advocate to my cartoonist friends that they should post their own work more, especially work that has never been publicly seen before. Hopefully that will attract an audience and we can begin to make at least modest livings (or better) from what we love. We should be promoting new talent — ourselves — at least as much as other people’s work from the past.

Best regards, Milt

Here are some words from Bill Warren on Cathy’s comic and other things:

Cathy drew a cartoon for me of our black cat Isadora (who tends to look a lot like Cathy’s drawings of Mangy) sort of haunted by images from 1950s science fiction movies.  That led me to ask Cathy to do the covers for the initial two volumes of my huge survey of those movies, KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES.  This was published in 1982 (vol 1) and 1984 (vol II), and were the first books from that company to have cover illustrations.  I insisted on it, however, and included a frontispiece in one volume similar to the covers.  Vol I covered 1950-1955; the front showed a little boy from behind watching a movie screen (or maybe the clouds of his imagination) illustrated with iconic images from that part of the 50s SF movies.  Vol II covered 1950-1962 (they didn’t stop making 1950s-type SF movies when the calendar changed), so the boy (now taller) is seen watching images from that chronological period.  Only time I’ve seen an illustration including a high of the Id Monster from FORBIDDEN PLANET and a goofy low of The Brain from Planet Arous.  The first volume also had a similar frontispiece by Cathy, only the boy is seen from the front–and it’s me.

     I am just finishing a rewrite of the entire thing; it’s now about a quarter of a million words in length.  And that’s before I do the index.  Someone else is doing the covers–the publisher wants color this time–but I’ll be including all of Cathy’s illustrations as interiors.  Along with some great semi-caricatures by Frank Dietz and a whole lot of photos.

    That Mangy and the Worm story reminded me of all this–no, this wasn’t just a blatant plug for myself–and that not long ago, someone discovered a black-and-white octopus in the waters just north of Australia that actually is an animal mimic.  There were photos of it looking like an upright fish, like a flatfish (a skate or flounder or something) and other sea critters too.  The world is full of wonders yet to be discovered.

Here’s another comment by Bill about Al Capp’s comics:

I still find 1950s Al Capp to be very funny, but the comic strip from that period that can still make me laugh about as much as I did when I first saw it is POGO.

    Of course, looking at it another way, PRISCILLA’S POP can still make me laugh about as much as it did originally–which was not at all.

Uh, oh! Now Al Vermeer’s fans are going to scream! Priscilla originally ran in newspapers from 1947 to 1983 outlasting Vermeer by a few months. The crictic Maurice Horn called “Prisilla’s Pop”, “impossibly sophomoric” and “trite”. Maybe I should reprint some of it!

My friend Larry Loc also wrote in: I did comment on Cathy’s page, (which I loved – more please) I just didn`t do so to you. I made my comment in the form of a blog posting telling people they really need to get over to you page and check out the cool stuff. I am very excited about your new animation. When can I see the pencil test work print? Here are my comments: http://www.agni-animation.com/blog/2008/06/mark-and-cathy-show.html Thanks Larry, to date, still no complete pencil test. I think we have one scene (#22) that is still unaccounted for. Maybe in a couple of weeks?

Remember, comments can be sent to molasses@earthlink.net.

Back to the “Old Stuff”

Friday, June 13th, 2008

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Whelp, I didn’t receive any comments on my wife’s “Mangy and the Worm” page. Those who wish to continue to see new or unpublished comics continue, please let me know at molasses@earthlink.net. Last Tuesday night, Jerry Beck did a show of “Pre-Code” (actually pre-code ENFORCEMENT) cartoons at the old Silent Movie Theater on Fairfax in West Hollywood.  I hadn’t been in this picture palace for over 30 years! The current management, “Cinefamily” has re-done her inside and out, with a new marquee (see photos above), new Simplex and Elmo projectors in the booth (including a (gulp) digital projector), new photos on the wall, new popcorn machine, in summary, a nice place to watch old movies in. The theater seats about 100, in brand-new seats with cushions (!) and a couple of soft huge leather couches in front. A Hammond organ and a baby grand piano are on either side of the screen for the real silent movie evenings. The Silent Movie is now a rep house, that’s why we could run sound cartoons last Tues. We ran THE BEER PARADE, SOUTHERN EXPOSURE and BETTY BOOP’S PENTHOUSE in 35mm and several early 1930s cartoons in 16mm as well, such as ROOM RUNNERS, I’LL BE GLAD WHEN YOU’RE DEAD YOU RASCAL YOU, BOOP OOP A DOOP, PLANE DUMB, BIMBO’S INITIATION, SINKIN’ IN THE BATHTUB, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOIN’ and finishing up with SWING WEDDING in color. There were so many people that they had to do a second show to accommodate the overflow crowd. The “overflows” had to wait more than two hours to see their show. The presentation was good, with good lumens and good sound. The audience reactions were very good, they laughed a lot,  applauded some of their favorite cartoons and didn’t gasp and cry at some of the racial sterotypes and comedy, like some contemporary audiences will do. Maybe the Silent Movie will host another cartoon program sometime featuring (maybe) SILENT CARTOONS! I think a good program could be created showing the influence of silent comedy on the animated cartoon, both silent and sound. Think about that, Jerry! (By the way, that’s J. Beck himself in the photo up there with the projectionist cutting 16mm reels together.) The Silent has come a long way since the hard wooden bleachers and the one old 16mm projector (under-lit) that I remember. It’s wonderful that the Cinefamily people have chosen to renovate the Silent Movie, rather than sell it for Condos. Come out and support them if you’re local!

This week’s comics are L’il Abner from 4/16/1973 to 4/21. Barney Oldgoat dies from too much partying, but reveals to Bullmoose that Pappy Yokum owns a copy of “Corporal Crock” number one! Wait ’til you see the General’s reaction to that! In MARVELOUS MIKE, from 7/23/1956 to 7/28, Mike and Merrie foil the “Adoption Racketeers”. I wonder if there really were such operators in the mid-1950s, anybody know? To finish up, we have the next two pages of “There Auto Be A Law” from Felix #4 by Jim Tyer. The jokes about women drivers seem lifted from Cap. Billy’s Whiz Bang, but the drawings are very funny. I love the splash panel with Kitty’s car chasing dogs, funny chickens and running pedestrians up a telephone pole. This story reminds me of the Popeye cartoon, “Women Hadn’t Oughta Drive”, which I believe Tyer DIDN’T work on. I’m posting early because Cathy and I will be plein air painting a lot next week in San Clemente and I won’t have time to blog. She has a “quick draw” (actually a quick PAINT) to do on Saturday the 14th, for which she is already keyed up. I love the ocean and am looking forward to being with her in the lovely town of San Clemente, near San Juan Capistrano. I’ll be bringing you more material both old and new (?) soon! 

The Return of Mangy

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

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Hi Readers! Cathy and I had a wonderful time on Catalina Island, painting the Casino, the Fish Shack, the Via Casino archway, cruise ships and cabin cruisers. A friendly seagull was attracted to the red oil paint on Cathy’s pallette and tried to eat it! All he got was a beak full of red paint. Jason Situ, the famous Chinese landscape painter was there, he went up on Wrigley Road, looked down on the bay and did some aerial studies. Of course, Walter and Martha McNall were there along with about 10 members of our Thursday Painting group. Weather was great, although Cathy and I nearly froze when an unexpected sea breeze came along one day and caught us without our coats! We hope to come back to Catalina in the fall, you can’t do too many paintings of the island.

“There Must Be Some Other Cat” (my next cartoon short) now has a completed film pencil test, up through Sc. 26! Greg Ford has been slaving away at Larry Q’s 35mm film test camera and figured out all my wonky pan mechanics, translating them into his own math. The results look good, now I have the last third of the cartoon in test form spliced together! We should have a completed test with sound ready very soon. I don’t expect any of you readers to get as excited about this as I am, but it’s been quite a long time getting to this point, so pardon my enthusiasm!

A reader of this blog, Milton Gray, animator and cartoon historian, likes my efforts, but is tired of reading all the old comics I reprint here. He wants to see NEW comics! I don’t draw many comics personally, although that could change. My wife, Cathy Hill, drew a comic book for Mu Press called “Mad Raccoons”. It lasted seven issues, many of which are still available through Mu, go to www.mupress.com/catalogpg08.html to see the covers and order them! Cathy did enough material to fill at least one more issue. She has kindly consented to let me publish these pages for the first time here! I’m starting with a one-page story with her cat character, Mangy. Mangy was a real black cat that Cathy rescued from the Sierra Madre wilds. She had a bad case of mange on her back, which we cured with some topical ointment that smelled like barbecue sauce! We both adored her, Mangy became a loving member of the family, she let Cathy carry her around like a  portfolio! The real Mangy is now playing by the Rainbow Bridge, but she lives on in comics. If you wish to comment on Mangy or anything here, write molasses@earthlink.net.

In the old comics this week, (L’il Abner, 4/9 to 4/14/73) Bullmoose hires Barney Oldgoat, the cartoonist who created “Corporal Crock” to re-create the first issue! Barney seems to be another sly slam at Ham Fisher, but that’s just a guess. Mike Fontanelli is enjoying “Corporal Crock”:

…Still laughing over the 1973 “Corporal Crock” strips!  They’re hilarious, thanks for posting them – I’d never seen them before.  LI’L ABNER is the only comic strip that can still make me laugh out loud after all these years. The Bullmoose stories are proof positive that Capp was an equal opportunity satirist – he let both sides have it, with relish!  I wonder why more people don’t remember that, or pretend not to remember it?
  
“Corporal Crock” flies in the face of the many, many Capp detractors who claim ABNER degenerated into a rightwing political screed after 1965.  Capp continues to get a raw deal, almost three decades after his death.  
BTW, I’m currently finishing the last of the Al Capp essays for ASIFA, (there are 12 in all, plus a bibliography/checklist.)  
There’s a late chapter titled “MAD CAPP: Li’l Abner In The Sixties,” in which I reference the Joanie Phoanie continuity, which to my knowledge has never been reprinted before you posted them last month.  Thanks again for that.
  
I make the point that Joan Baez herself forgave Capp decades ago, as she made clear in her memoirs from 1989.  Why can’t Capp’s critics let it go already?  That grudge has got whiskers, for chrissakes!

Make sure you go over to the ASIFA archives website and read Mike’s Capp pages, you’ll be glad you did, www.animationarchive.org/ . By the way, remember to click on the small comic images above, to see them at full size.

Bill Warren wrote that Corporal Crock looks like a caricature of Jack Webb to him. This could be, or maybe the stone face is a characteristic shared by both Webb and Crock. Also this week we have Marvelous Mike from 7/16 to 7/21/56; Mike and Merrie join forces to foil his phony “parents”.

“A Sample Assignment” from Felix #4 concludes and “There Auto Be A Law” commences. I love that spring neck “take” that Jim Tyer used in the last page of “A Sample Assignment”. It reminds me of Bosko’s spring neck in “Bosko, the Talk-Ink Kid”, Tyer was using 1920s style cartoon iconography in the 1960s and making it look contemporary! I love how he draws Kitty in the “Auto” story, she has such trim little ankles, and a beauty mark! Come back next week for more ancient panels, and maybe we will have some more unpublished pages from “Mad Raccoons” as well!

Joanie! You Back Again!?

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

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A little lesson in comparative panelology this week, dear readers. Cole Johnson, cartoonist and cartoon scholar has sent some interesting “Phoanie” strips, which we may compare with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch versions I have posted in weeks past. For the episode of 2/1/67, the color version is from the St. Louis paper, and the b/w is from the Washington Post. Note how the Washington Post chose to re-letter and re-center the dialog balloons in the first panel, and permitted the first line to remain. Cole sent the missing episode from 2/3/67, in two different versions, the first from the Los Angeles Times, the second from the Washington Post. The Times edited Joanie’s second panel speech quite a bit, and the Post let the two words “I’m paying..” seep back into the border-less balloon. Perhaps Joanie was saying:”I’m paying them $2.00 an hour..” or something to make her look like an exploiter of the poor. The episode of 2/9/67 which the Post-Dispatch edited with a ham-fist: “..14 songs of scorn…a hymn of hate…”, has been re-arranged by the Washington Post to read: “14 songs of scorn, and a hymn of hate!” I think the Post-Dispatch’s edits are a bit more honest, at least it’s obvious something’s been taken out. In the 2/11/67 strip, the Post-Dispatch let the ghost of a dialog balloon hover above Joanie’s head; meanwhile, the Washington Post took the offending dialog out, balloon and all! It seems that the liberal press was moved by the “Joanie” continuity to alter Capp’s dialog on a market by market basis. Maybe someday we’ll see these strips re-printed from the syndicate proofs. By the way, just look at that beautifully hand-decorated envelope in which Cole sent me the strips. The Spanish couple he drew remind me of an old George Herriman Philadelphia Sunday Press page from Dec. 8th, 1901 called: “A Yankee Romance in Old Madrid”: the first panel.

This week we also have the L’il Abner strips from 4/1/73 to 4/7/73. Capp satirizes fanatical comic book collectors in this story by introducing General Bullmoose’s ideel, Corporal Crock, an embryonic Neocon of the “Great War” period. What Crock does to those “tax the rich” liberals and the “votes for women” crowd makes him dear to the crusty old capitalist’s heart. MARVELOUS MIKE for 7/9/57 to 7/14/57 starts to heat up as Mike’s “real” parents show up to claim him! Mike is very cool under fire and refuses to get upset. Cole Johnson did some research and found that the Washington Post also started to run MARVELOUS MIKE from the beginning, but dropped the strip before May, so the Washington Post won’t be a good source of missing episodes. I’m proud of my home town paper, once they picked up a strip, they stuck with it!

From Felix #4, we have the next two pages from “A Sample Assignment” drawn and written (?) by that master of sweat drops, Jim Tyer. Look at Felix falling down the chute on page two, Tyer stages the fall as an x-ray cross section of the chute. He used the same x-ray staging in the Tom Terrific cartoon: “The Pill of Smartness” as Tom makes himself smaller and smaller to squeeze himself through the tubes in Queen Cleofatra’s tomb. Enjoy all the comics this week, and thanks to readers like Cole Johnson for contributing to my blog and the “science” of panelology!