Archive for October, 2009

A Dreadfully Hard Frost…

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

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Hi Loyal Readers, I have some very sad news which I’ll save until the last part of the post.  That way, all those who like only the comics can skip the text. Here’s a “special” to lead off, the Dec. 18, 1924 episode of “Us Husbands” with the topper strip, “Mistakes Will Happen”. There’s been a book collection promised about Herriman’s “people” strips, but it has not been published as yet. This is the only newsprint example of the “Us Husbands” feature I have. Along with “Stumble Inn”, “Baron Mooch”, “Major Ozone”, “Mary’s Home From College”, “The Family Upstairs”  and many more, Herriman did a lot of “family” and “eccentric character” strips.  I like “The Family Upstairs” and “Stumble Inn” best. “Us Husbands” seems to lack the offstage surrealism of “The Family Upstairs”, or the vivid portrait of an old wayside hotel that “Stumble Inn” provided.  “Us Husbands” reminds me most of “Polly and Her Pals”, even the topper resembles “And So They Got Married”, the “Polly” topper.  I love this example for the little details of 1920s domestic life, such as the lack of electrical outlets, and the relatively high cost of electricity. The newfangled electric toaster has to be plugged in to the light socket overhead, and the coffee is being perked on the stove top.

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Krazy Kat from 12-11 to 12-16-1939 concerns mostly Krazy’s encounters with “fitchs”.  In the 12-13 strip, Krazy talks to a Cuttle Fish and talks about “Bat” Fitchs and “Finnitch Hedda”, which is probably Finnan Haddie. Does anybody know what a “Bat” Fish refers to? Krazy’s puns and Yiddish accent do nothing but get the “fitchs” all riled up for the rest of the week.

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Marvelous Mike takes over Bill Bell’s “Madeline” strip in this batch, originally published from 7/22 to 7/27/1957.  Mike draws the strip, but can’t sharpen a pencil without his sister’s help. Of course, Mike is a superior cartoonist and turns in a strip to Bell’s editor that the editor declares to be Bell’s “Best Stuff”.  We’ll see what that stuff is next time.

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I found two Felix Sunday page Scans that fit in to the dates I’m centering on. The two Sundays are from 6-21 and 6-28-1936 and feature Felix in a circus environment with some Messmer elephants. Note the topper strip, “Bobby Dazzler”. Bobby looks like a close cousin of “Jerry on the Job”.  Messmer loved adventures of little characters, little boys, little girls, little dogs and little cats. “The cat was the one that clicked”, Messmer commented. The dailies are from 6/30 to 7/4/1936. 6/29 and 7/2 are missing, does anyone have copies they could send me? Felix continues to play tricks on Snobbs the butler with his magic wand. Of course Felix already exists in the fourth dimension anyway, so doesn’t really need a magic wand to transform matter and disappear, but maybe he’s just “playing” with the wand. Remember to click on any of the strips to see them larger, dear readers.

2009 has not been kind to my loved ones and friends. First my cat, Little Grey passed on, then my friend Vincent Davis, and now, it’s so hard to even think of it, my dear Mother, June Hoertel Kausler, has gone to join my Father and Grandparents. Mother died on the night of Oct. 7th, of complications from cancer, she was 90. I have so many memories of her, mostly little things. She started me on my love of books by reading Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” to me when I was very young. She read a chapter or so each night, doing all the voices and singing the songs. I followed along with her, and she pointed out many of the words. It wasn’t long before I could recognize a lot of them. One day, Mother paused in her busy schedule to let me read a battered-up copy of a Dell Felix the Cat comic to her. I was so happy and proud to be able to read something out loud to my Mother, after all the reading she did for me. Felix meant something to both of us. Mother was a very accomplished musician and singer in her own right. Her highest achievement professionally was singing at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis with Lauritz Melchior of the Metropolitan Opera. Here is an article about the event and picture of Mother in 1939, reprinted from the telephone company paper where she was employed:

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A story my mother told about that night, is that just before they went on the stage, Mother wished Lauritz Melchior “Good Luck”.  Mr. Melchior replied (in his Swiss-German accent), “My dear young lady, in the theater we do not wish our fellow performers ‘Good Luck’. You should instead wish me maybe a swift kick in the pants.” Mother never went on to Julliard or had higher education in music, her parents couldn’t afford to send her, even with a scholarship. Nevertheless, her Coloratura Soprano voice was magnificent. In the early 1930s she made many home recordings direct to disc of enormously complicated arias. My favorite is the “Hymn to the Sun God” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Le Cog D’Or” (The Golden Cockerel). She gives it just the right feeling of Arabian exotica, while maintaining her characteristic sweetness of sound. Instead of the Opera, Mother devoted her singing voice to church choir, often taking the solos at the Christmas concerts. She could do both versions of “The Lord’s Prayer” perfectly. My brother and I loved the song “No Candle was There and No Fire” which she sang with a touching sincerity that brings tears to my eyes as I write this. “I Wonder as I Wander” and “Because” were two more songs she sang magnificently.

Mother gave me a little record player when I must have been four years old. It had blue stars on the side of it, and turned at 78 RPM. She bought me a lot of Little Golden Records and Capitol children’s records to play. I must have driven her crazy as I played them over and over. I memorized a few of them, such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, and “The Whistler and His Dog”.  If Mother ever tired of hearing me recite “The Swing”, or “I Have a Little Shadow” as I stood next to her in the Kitchen as she washed dishes after supper, she never showed it. She got a lot of music appreciation records for me, such as “The Orchestra”, “Peer Gynt”, “Diana and the Golden Apples” and many more. I guess she was hoping I would fall in love with Classical Music as much as she had. I wound up mostly enamored of Bozo the Clown! I loved the story albums “Bozo Under the Sea”, “Bozo and His Rocket Ship” and “Honkety Hank”. Not exactly Chopin, or Percy Faith, either. I went from the cartooniness of old Capitol Kid’s records to the real cartoons shown on the local St. Louis program, “The Wrangler’s Cartoon Club”.  My favorites were the Clampett black and white Looney Tunes such as “Porky’s Hero Agency”, “Porky’s Movie Mystery” and especially “The Daffy Doc”, which KSD-TV played over and over again. I wanted to BE Daffy Duck, Betty Boop and of course, Popeye. I’m afraid my brother and I got into some fights because Popeye made fighting look like such fun. Poor Mother didn’t have much fun then. She used to say to me, “Cartoons, Cartoons, Cartoons! Mark, someday I’m afraid you’ll TURN IN TO a Cartoon!”

I can still feel the cold winter mornings in St. Louis, as Mother prepared hot Cream of Wheat as the radio played the Cream of Wheat jingle. Percy Faith’s record of “The Poor People of Paris” was in heavy rotation on KMOX, then, and I can’t hear it today without being thrust back into my Mother’s kitchen and that warm, safe feeling before I bolted out the door to catch the bus or walk to school.

When my brother and I refused to eat our vegetables, especially Brussels Sprouts, Mother had a way of making us feel sorry for them. “Oh, those cute little Cabbages,” she used to say, “go ahead and eat your cute little Cabbages.” It usually worked on me, I don’t remember if my brother Kurt ate them or not. No amount of psychology worked with Eggplant, however. We could never stand that, no matter how Mother prepared it.

I think one of the biggest disappointments that I handed my Mother was in not pursuing my musical studies and wanting to make cartoons instead. I took piano lessons for five years, but never learned to play with much facility. She did provide the space and art supplies for me to make cartoons in the basement, so I don’t think she entirely disapproved.

My brother lived at home with Mother, and to him fell the burden of caregiver these last 5 years. He made her as comfortable as he could at home, and at the nursing facility where she spent about the last 6 weeks of her life. She improved enough to come back to her house for the weekend of Oct. 3rd, but had a relapse from her operation and went back to nursing care. She couldn’t be operated on again so soon after her first major surgery, which hadn’t even completely healed yet. So on the evening of Oct. 7th, she passed on quietly with Kurt holding her hands. She never lost faith that she would be well and eventually come back to the house she loved. At her 90th birthday, she declared that she would live to be 100, and actually celebrated the day four times with four parties given by her friends at Church, and at the YWCA club. How I wish she had lived to be that old. Mother was a courageous, fine, lovely person, whom Kurt and I both loved dearly. Kurt’s love for her was the greatest of all, he did the hard work of caring for her and the house they both lived in. Kurt organized Mother’s service at the Kutis Funeral Home in St. Louis, which I attended. It was a very meaningful service, Kurt wrote a fine tribute to Mom, read by his girlfriend of many years, Linda Kraft. The organist played “No Candle was There and No Fire”, among many selections. Kurt even played a tape of my Mother singing a beautiful number, with my Grandpa playing accompaniment on the Pipe Organ. All that attended had tears in their eyes, remembering her. Strangely, even though I felt strong pangs of emotion at my Mother’s services and at the cemetery while I was in St. Louis, the enormity of her passing is only now beginning to dawn on me. Mother, I will miss you very much. You’ll be singing in my heart always.

Transferred to a New Post

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

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Hey All of Yez! In this week’s NIZE BABY, (5/26/1928) Morris gets a chiropractic treatment from two “experienced” chiropractors. Except they are really floor painters. Papa gets tied up like a pretzel. I love the “Banana Oil” topper, with “Ginsberg’s Seeds”. It’s nice to see the page in color, I only have two examples of the feature this way. This will be the last Nize Baby for awhile, I’m keeping one in reserve until later. Sorry about the shadow on this photo, the page was so big that I had a hard time getting even lighting on it.

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Krazy Kat from 12/4 to 12/9/1939 is really a “non-themed” week. My favorite strip in this batch is 12/8, with Krazy and the two worms. The scans of these aren’t as clear as usual, because this week of Kat strips proved especially rare and difficult to find.  Therefore, we takes what we can gets.

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In Marvelous Mike this time, from 7/15 to 7/20/1957, Cliff Crump introduces Mike to Bill Bell, the exhausted comic strip cartoonist. I love Bill’s reaction to meeting Mike in the 7/16 strip, “He’s like a character out of a comic strip!” Mike does word association on Bill and puts him to sleep, clearing the stage for Mike’s take-over of the “Madeline” strip. I wonder if the character of Bill Bell is a backhanded tribute to the Bell Syndicate, an independent distributor of comic strips in the mid Twentieth century. Maybe Kuwahara was trying to interest Bell in the Mike strip, United Features distribution of the feature was very low by this time.

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Felix the Cat this week, from 6/22 to 6/27/1936 (6/25 is missing), shows Messmer at his best, as Felix confronts the mysterious Swami.  Messmer is hard to beat at Gothic imagery, moody blacks, mysterious old houses and magic spells. Felix can now make himself disappear with the Swami’s magic wand, mystifying Snobbs the butler in the 6/27. I love the little marginal characters that pop on and off in the Felix strips, such as the dog peering around the corner of a building in the 6/24. 

Cathy and I have been out painting quite a lot lately, we spent a week painting in nearby Eagle Rock, Ca. The big rock that the town was named for, was actually in danger of being blasted out for condos. Our friend John Stillian formed CERB, the Committee for Eagle Rock Beautiful, and built a nature trail on the land surrounding the Eagle Rock, thus keeping the Rock from being torn down. The last two years, we plein air painters have gathered for a week in late Sept. to paint outdoor scenes in the town of Eagle Rock. We then sell, or try to sell them to patrons on the last weekend in the month. This year, the temperature climbed to 101 degrees on Saturday and then about the same on Sunday. Needless to say, it made the event most uncomfortable for everybody. One of the painters almost passed out from heat exhaustion, not from painting, but from standing around trying to sell her work to the few hardy souls who showed up. I managed to sell three of my watercolor paintings. It was pretty gratifying to have some total strangers buy my stuff for a change. This makes me feel that they really want the paintings because they like them, not because they are trying to please me. Of course, I don’t charge very high prices for them, either. On Thursday we managed to get all the way down to Laguna Beach and painted there for the afternoon. We were at a place called Heisler Park, near the beach. It’s a lovely spot, pink, lavender and burnt umber rocks define the edge of the land. We met a couple from Texas who almost bought a painting, but didn’t have enough cash on hand. They said they would write us later about the painting, but, it’s an impulse buy. See you again soon with more old comics.