Your Comics Page 3-29-2018

March 29th, 2018

Hi all you readers of the Catblog! Happy Easter! It’s been a long time between posts, I know, but my weekly Sunday Comics posts which are shared through Yahoo Groups really keeps me busy. I’m leading off with a 9  X 12 inch watercolor study I did of the Pasadena City Hall a few years ago.  It was a hazy, partly cloudy day, so my colors are just as they appeared to me that day, a bit muted. I used reds as shading in the trees, playing compliments against each other. The Pasadena City Hall finished construction in December, 1927, and was influenced by the 16th Century Italian architect, Andrea Palladio. The Lantern on top of the dome, is 206 feet from the ground. In this painting I don’t think I managed to represent the true scale of the building, but I condensed it slightly to fit the page.

In Felix, from 5-29 to 6-4-1933, Felix tries to ransom Danny’s clothes from a Tramp by plying him with grub stolen from Danny’s ice box, fished from a stream and waylaid from a restaurant delivery man. The Tramp is finally placated with a pair of Danny’s Dad’s trousers, which unfortunately contain the week’s salary. The Sunday has Felix back in 1933 again, helping out a little bicyclist by siccing an angry goat on to the neighborhood boys who puncture bicycle tires. Check out the Felix jigsaw puzzle and the play money given to the readers as a bonus next to the “Laura” topper!

Myrtle is from 2-28 to 3-6-1949 this time. I like the 3-4 daily as Bingo is shooed away from Susie’s bed, Freddie’s chair and his own doghouse. Winding up back on Susie’s bed, Bingo exclaims: “Now we’re ready to start all over!” Also funny is the 3-2, as Freddie strips a stuck sweater over Myrtle’s head and she irons out her mussed-up, ruffled hat. The Sunday page from 3-6-49 is beautifully laid out as Myrtle’s braids are once again clipped off. Dudley Fisher liked to “masculinize” Myrtle every so often, and she looks very much like a boy without her braids. Myrtle figures out how to instantly switch between boy and girl in the second panel.

Here’s two weeks of Krazy Dailies, from 6-14 to 6-26-1943. The first week is devoted to “heat” and “hot spots”. Ignatz pulls a Kat style pun in the 6-18 (Roam-Ants) and Krazy extends the pun a bit further by saying: “From Rome, Eh?” In the 6-16 and 6-19 strips, Garge shows the floorboards of the Coconino “stage”, along with Krazy heating a tea kettle over a “hot spot” in the 6-16. The second week is devoted to the 1940s dancing “Jive” craze. I like the “Jive Wire” joke in the 6-25 more than the other “Jive Jokes”. Garge draws one of his strangest Krazies in the 6-24. He attempts an all fours pose on the Kat as a couple of fleas do some “KooDoo Foodlin” on her back. She almost looks like a Scotty dog.  (Garge loved Scotch Terriers, and owned a pair of them.) The approach to the anatomy of the Kat’s front legs radically evolves as she grows shoulders in the change from the first to the second panel. There is good foreshortening in the third panel of the Kat’s front legs, so perhaps Garge was troubled with his arthritis when he drew the first panel.

    May you all have a wonderful and blessed Easter. Remember, Rabbits can’t lay eggs.

    Rest in Peace, Fred Crippen, veteran animator and director. And one heck of a drunken golfer!

Your Comics Page, 1-31-2018

January 31st, 2018

Welcome back! Here’s a watercolor sketch I made in Bishop, Ca. a few years ago. I love the mountains and the horse property around there, the ranges are called the “Whitney Portal”, because the range includes Mount Whitney, which is the highest summit in the continental U.S., at 14, 505 feet. Bishop is just a little bit East of Lone Pine, Ca., home of the Lone Pine Western Film Museum and the Alabama Hills, where Hopalong Cassidy, Death Valley Days, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and so many old time Western features and TV series were shot. I want to go on a horseback tour of the Alabama Hills some day.

Felix helps Danny Dooit play hooky in the strips from 5-22 to 5-28-1933.  Danny feels guilty and Felix has a hard time getting him into the spirit of a day of fishing and swimming, then they meet a hobo who wants a “feed”. In the jungle, Felix runs afoul of an elephant, an exotic bird with long legs and an ape, before he wakes up from his dream with the help of the barnyard animals and a pail of water.

Here’s Myrtle from 2-21 to 2-27-1949. In the dailies, Sampson sets up a wired telephone network in Myrtle’s house with painful results for Freddie. I like the fantasy in the 2-24, as Bingo the dog “wakes up” Myrtle’s sleeping look-alike doll. The Sunday is a dream fantasy, as the Sun runs a relay race in a Technicolor landscape of Freddie’s imagination. This is one of Dudley Fisher’s best panoramic pages!

In answer to reader Daryl Boman’s request, I’m presenting a double dose of Krazy, from 5-21 to 6-12-1943. My favorite daily in the first batch is the 6-5, as Krazy tries to figure out where he came from, and Ignatz produces an ink bottle and pen, saying: “Figure It Out Yourself”. Garge does a bit of wartime satire in the 6-7 to 6-12 strips. Especially striking is the 6-9, contributed to the Catblog by Gerd Heinlein, as Krazy loses 8.25 of his lives in a fight with a “Super-Patriot”. Evidently, there were Patriots and Super-Patriots in WW2. If you watch “The Best Years of Our Lives”, directed by William Wyler in 1946, you’ll see a sequence in the drug store where Dana Andrews punches Ray Teal’s character “Mr. Mollett”, so hard that he crashes into a glass display case. The cause of the argument is that Mr. Mollett is skeptical of the reasons that the United States is in the war and it makes Dana Andrews (ex-Navy pilot), mad. This is a little known aspect of the WW2 years that Garge is alluding to here: Ill-will between “Patriots”, who were a bit critical of the politics of the war, and the “Super-Patriots” who were for the war, no matter what. The popular image of WW2, is that after Pearl Harbor, there was little or no criticism of the War’s raison d’etre, but there was a wider range of opinion than that. The whole “One life to give for my country” quotation comes from Nathan Hale, a Revolutionary War soldier and spy. In the 6-11, “Esne” is old English for “Laborer among the lower classes”. I hope this will keep Daryl Boman happy.

A milestone has passed, which seems to be little noted in comics fandom, Yoe Books and IDW publishing have just put out Popeye #65, the last in their series reprinting ALL of Dell’s regularly numbered Popeye comics from the 1940s to 1962. After that, Gold Key started publishing Popeye in Giant editions. I happen to like Bud Sagendorf’s cartooning and his approach to Popeye, Olive, Wimpy, Swee’pea and cast is second-best to the Elzie Segar strips of the 1920s and 1930s. The adventure in the almost book-length stories of the first 10 52 page issues are especially exciting and funny. Yoe Books is also issuing the series in hard-cover book collections. It’s kind of sobering that I was the only person still buying the series at my local comic book store here in Glendale toward the end. My store, Legacy Comics, kept ordering the issues for me, since subscriptions were not available. Yoe Books should really be commended for this accomplishment, as they carried on with Popeye, despite low sales. Comic Books have swung over to a “traced from photographs” look in the artwork. There is very little good cartooning left in “funny books”. So again, a tip of the sailor hat to Yoe Books for hitting 65 issues of “Popeye”. Maybe another publisher will take a chance on the earlier “Four Color” Popeye books some of these evenings. Now let’s all stroll over to the gym and watch the fat men play handball!

Felix Navidad, prospero Ano Nuevo y Felicidad!

December 29th, 2017

 

Here’s a special Holiday greeting to all my readers from my dear wife, Cathy. She loves Felix and dabbles in studying Spanish, so the two interests got together and produced this delightful drawing, enhanced with watercolor. It was a big Christmas surprise for me, and I’m delighted to share the joy with all of you, and of course, Felix. Cathy thinks someone else must have used this pun, but for now we’ll say it’s her own invention.

Felix, from 5-15 to 5-21-1933, tries to help Danny in his arithmetic homework. Danny can only count to five, so this qualifies him to be a golf caddie, since no golfer wants more than 5 strokes a hole anyway. Felix is called a “black jinx” in the 5-18, and Danny is fired as a caddie in the 5-20 much to the delight of Felix, who was feeling neglected. In the Sunday, Felix throws a rock at an ape, thinking his head is a coconut. I like the shadows that Otto used in panel seven of this Sunday page.

Hyacinth the cat does a couple of bits in the Myrtle strip, from 2-14 to 2-20-1949. She appears in a mouse-hole gag in the 2-18, and pushing her kittens in a perambulator in the 2-20. I love Myrtle’s look-alike doll being pushed in a toy carriage by Sampson in the 2-20. Myrtle’s tomboy side emerges fully in the 2-19, as she is made to stand in the corner for showing prowess as a schoolyard fighter. If you had to pick a characteristic pose for Myrtle, it would be standing in a corner.

In Krazy, from 5-24 to 5-29-1943, an electric eel shocks Ignatz, who then harvests the eel’s electric output in the 5-24 and 5-25. In the 5-29, Offissa Pupp gets a hammerlock and a headlock on Ignatz before being beaned by a baseball that Krazy throws at his head. “Zup-Klup”!

 

As a late Christmas present, here’s another Story Book Record Company production, read by Walt Kelly. “The Three Bears” and “The Gingerbread Boy”. I put them up on Archive.org, so that you can hear them.  Here’s the link: https://archive.org/details/WaltKellyThreeBearsGingerbreadBoyComp . The records start abruptly and there is a repeating groove in the Gingerbread, but it’s so much fun being able to hear Mr. Kelly take all the parts and entertain us for a precious 2 minutes and 49 seconds. I hope we will have a happier New Year than 2017 has been, and that the repeal of net neutrality will not cut us off from each other, dear readers. See you soon, I hope, Itza and Mark

Merry C. From Itza, June and Me!

December 20th, 2017

Every Christmas since 1975 or so, I have received a delightful card from June Foray Donavan. This year I find myself missing her more than I thought I did. I don’t feel like going to the Lynwood Dunn theater where our Shorts branch had its screenings, because June won’t be there anymore. I’m sharing some of her Christmas cards to keep her memory with us just a little while longer. On the back of the 2010 card, June wrote: “What a magnificent painting, Cathy! Sorry about the fire. Wow! It would destroy me! I had a (my fault) accident trying to avoid an oncoming car and smacking into a parked car. My beautiful Jaguar GONE, but what is worse–the DMV took away my license and I’m so dependent on friends and family. Oh well, I’m still well and vertical. Hope your project is successful in 2011. Stay in good health and have a bountiful 2011–Love, June” I’ve forgotten just which of Cathy’s paintings June is referring to, but you can see in her note, the beginning of June’s loss of independence, which I’m sure hurt her terribly. Her 2011 note read: “Dear Mark–I miss seeing you, life has been frenetic judging shorts, features (live action and animation) nights on end and getting to bed after midnight. Thanks be that these Oscar screenings will be over in Jan. Hey, I’m still working! This photo was taken at a Warner cocktail party for me as Granny in a new theatrical short showing in theaters before “Happy Feet”. I’m glad that you both are still painting. Are you selling them on Ebay? Have a terrific 2012. Maybe we’ll see each other more often, Love, June”

2014 was the last card I received from June, she was very busy in 2015. She really loved her dogs, and was proud of the biographic video: “The One and Only June Foray” that she helped produce in 2013. I love her little rhymes, she was quite a poet. She published a book of her poetry called “Perverse, Adverse and Rotten Verse” in 2015, maybe that’s why she didn’t send out Christmas cards that year.  It was quite the sardonic tome, revealing a cynical, yet warm, side to June Foray, through her poetry. Perhaps if we all have more Christmases, I’ll reprint earlier cards from June, and she will be with us a bit longer.

Felix from 5-8 to 5-14-1933 takes on a Gus Edwards feel this time. Felix has to educate Danny by piling up multiplication tables, demonstrating punctuation with a bee sting and my favorite gag, confusing a cow bell with a school bell in the 5-13. Felix is in the stone age again in the Sunday, he teaches a caveman how to sharpen tools with a grindstone, then uses the grindstone for a unicycle.

Myrtle is back from 2-7 to 2-13-1949, the dailies are filled with Dudley Fisher’s imaginative use of Myrtle’s alter-ego, a doll that looks exactly like her in miniature. In the Sunday page, the doll does a line of dialog in a balloon. I love the old feeling of wintertime in “Send Out The St. Bernards”, with the newfangled tractor taking the place of the horses.

It’s interesting that in the later Krazy Kats (such as these from 5-17 to 5-22-1943), Garge soft pedals the actual brick contacts with the Kat’s “bean”. He can get as comical a feel by just showing Ignatz reaching for the brick like 5-22 or 5-20. Or he can vary the situation as in 5-21 as Ignatz buys a loaf of bread for Mrs. Coyote (?) and her 5 ninas and ninos, which Mrs. Kwakk-Wakk thinks is a brick. I like the empathetic feel in the 5-21, as the gossip Mrs. Kwakk-Wakk is overcome by her conscience and exits the last panel sheepishly.

My friend Tim Walker keeps requesting to see one of my watercolor landscape paintings, so here’s one of Crystal Cove State Park, near Laguna, Ca.  This was done just a few years ago, after the funky little houses that line the beach were taken over by the state and turned into a state park, which happened in 2006. The cottages used to be privately maintained, now they are for rent on a lottery basis. They probably go for plenty. Cathy and I used to go out to the Cove before the cottages became state property, and we had the pleasure of meeting Roger Armstrong, famous California watercolorist and cartoonist and his wife, Julie. Roger and Julie were living in one of the cottages, and Roger gave me a tour of their cottage and showed me a beautiful original of “Napoleon” which he drew in the style of Clifford McBride in the early 1950s. It was a real thrill to spend some time with him, he and his wife spotted us painting and took to us right off. That was a memorable and golden afternoon. Mr. Armstrong had a bold sense of color and design in his watercolors that look a lot like another cartoonist’s work: Hardie Gramatky. Roger sadly passed on in 2007, but I can still hear his voice and see his friendly smile in my mind. Have a great Christmas and New Year’s, gentle readers. See you very soon.

Rudy’s Apartment, Porky Pig 101 and Comics!

October 19th, 2017

In Myrtle this time, 1-31 to 2-06-1949, Dudley Fisher explores Women’s Psychology. In the 1-31, Sampson confides in Mr. Shmaltz on a New Year’s Eve park bench about Myrtle’s behavior. In the 2-5, Sampson is pulled in two directions as Myrtle starts behaving like a future wife, and Mrs. Schmaltz decides to order her son to run errands. Note how Myrtle’s doll serves as an echo of her mood in the 2-1 and the 2-5, sometimes taking on a personality of it’s own. In the Sunday, Gwendolyn, a regular “Alice Jolson” tries to impress Myrtle’s family and the neighborhood. Hyacinth the cat makes a rare appearance and comment. 

It’s Felix versus the new family cat, a white Persian, in the strips from 5-1 to 5-7-1933. Felix tries to keep out of the way by sleeping in the coal bin, in the attic (jig-saw puzzle style) and in the Umbrella stand. He allows his tail to be used as a razor strop and uses a balloon for a pillow.  Another reference to the “Jig-Saw Craze” is in the Sunday page, as Felix drops a stoneware jar, and the cave man can’t resist helping to piece it back together. 

In the Krazy Kats this time, from 5-10 to 5-15-1943 with 5-12 missing, Tigers, both lily and actual, dominate the action. Garge draws a terrific tiger, I think. I love the way he draws the nose, the stripes and the eyes. UPDATE: Thanks to Gerd Heinlein, we now have the missing 5-12, and it is an important strip for the tiger’s introduction into the story line.

Welcome to Rudy Ising’s apartment, circa 1936 to 1940, where he lived with his first wife, Maxine Jennings. It’s on 106 S. Kings Road, not far from Westwood. Here’s an ad: The development it was part of was called “Beverly Square” in those days. Here’s a view of the dining room of Rudy’s apartment, as it looks today: This lovely old building is unfortunately, schedded for demolition. The Office of Historic Resources of Los Angeles does NOT recognize Rudy Ising as an historic personage, and will not give Cultural Monument protection to the building based on his name. Doesn’t that sound like the fate of animators, once again? Consigned to the sub-basement of history, Hugh and Rudy were first-class, pioneering animators, yet they are forgotten today, since, they dared to compete against Walt Disney in the 1930s. In the digital age, just think of all the currently productive animators who will be nearly instantly forgotten as soon as the software changes and their technical edge disappears. ( UPDATE: ‘Scuse the rant! It looks good so far for Rudy’s apartment! Keep your pencils sharp!) I was lucky enough to be invited to Rudy Ising’s Benedict Canyon residence in the early 1970s. It was the biggest California Bungalow style house I’ve ever seen! It was an open floor plan in the enormous living room, with multiple levels to it, and the three little bedrooms were all grouped at one end of the house. The outdoor awnings all had Rudy’s initials sewn into them, and Hugh told me that they buried a lot of rare nitrate film in the back yard of Rudy’s house, including the negatives to the “Song-O-Reels” which they made in Kansas City. Rudy sold the property to Cher, not long after I saw the house, and she demolished it completely to build an Egyptian style edifice to herself. Rudy spent his final years in a nice little house in Laguna Beach with Cynthia, his lovely wife.  I visited Rudy there too, and we spent a long time looking over his great collection of books, many rare children’s volumes and first editions! I’ll never forget Hugh and Rudy, too bad their city has forgotten them.

I bought and watched all 5 DVDs (pressed!) from this new Warner Archives set, curated by Jerry Beck and George Feltenstein. It’s a lot of concentrated Pig, but these Looney Tunes have been a big part of my cranial soundtrack since the age of eight. Some of the music in these shorts just thrills me–like Carl Stalling’s use of “I’m Hatin’ This Waitin’ Around”, to open “Porky’s Super Service” (1937). The Warner 40 piece orchestra takes this little pop tune, originally recorded by Kay Keyser’s band, and makes a heroic urban statement  out of it, complete with auto horns and traffic sounds woven in to the score. “Porky and Gabby”, also from 1937, turns “Gee, But You’re Swell” into an ear-filling, tightly synced support to Gabby Goat’s attempt to swat a bee with a shovel. “Gee, But You’re Swell” also ends the cartoon as underscore to Gabby’s mocking laugh as he gets socked by a policeman and the “That’s All, Folks!” lettering unfurls across the screen to a mighty tympani crescendo. The score for “Porky’s Five and Ten” (1938) makes outstanding use of “Sing, You Son Of A Gun” (Johnny Mercer lyric), to back up a bit of Clampettian nonsense as a little fish, assigned to guard the escape hatch of Porky’s ship, catches the worm at the end of Porky’s fishing line with a miniature rod and reel of his own. The refrain of “Sing, You Son Of A Gun” is expanded and staggered musically by Carl Stalling as the worm struggles to free itself from the fish’s “worm-ing” tackle.

    A lot of cartoons are restored on this set that were censored on the old Guild Films TV negatives, like “Porky’s Road Race”, “Porky The Fireman”, “Christopher Columbus, Jr.” and “Porky’s Railroad”. Some, like “Fish Tales”(1936), still lack the shot of the little worm swimming into Porky’s nostrils, and the gag from “Porky’s Movie Mystery” involving a director, sitting in his chair on set is cut off as the scene abruptly cuts to the Phantom’s long coat as he ascends a spiral staircase.  I wonder if the “director” shot still survives on the original negative? We’ll probably never find out.

     Some of Bob Clampett’s funniest ideas are included in “Porky Pig 101′. The scene he animated for Tex Avery in “Porky’s Duck Hunt” of Daffy “exiting funny”, doing the Stan Laurel Jump (see “Putting Pants On Philip”), became a Looney Tune trademark–achieving perfection in “A Coy Decoy” as Daffy uses the Laurel jump to create a comedy pause and an anticipation for a wild chase with the bookstore wolf. Most of Clampett’s business, though screwball and silly in origin (see “The Daffy Doc”), seldom feels forced or imposed on the characters but seems to come from inside them. A few of Chuck Jones’s Looney Tunes such as Porky’s Cafe, are nicely animated (Ken Harris and Bob Cannon), but contain forced comedy, such as the cranky customer trying to blow the steam off his hot plate of soup, over and over again, and an attempt at mayhem as Porky wrecks all the tables in the Cafe as he tries to balance a tower of food trays running backwards. The horse in “Porky’s Prize Pony” is an appealing equine creation–but his attempts to get Jockey Porky’s attention while continually tripping over paddock obstacles, flying through the air and getting all four feet stuck in a bucket, are tours de force of animation, but at best “flypaper sequence” business, more typical of Disney than Looney Tunes, more Harry Reeves than Michael Maltese or Warren Foster.

    There are a few flaws in the DVD set, like the main title music from “Porky’s Tire Trouble” pressed into service over and over again to cover several missing title music soundtracks. I wonder why they didn’t just go to the 16mm Guild prints, which have most of the original main and end title soundtracks. Maybe fidelity issues? There is some interlaced video, but for the most part, I found that the transfers were film frame-by-frame with no loss of clarity and no obvious DVNR. This set is highly recommended, a rare chance to see all the black and white Porkys (and two color ones), mostly un-cut. This may never happen again!

The Catblog is restored! Comments Now Possible! Thanks to Internet Maestro Dwijadas Dey! If you have ANY problems fixing stubborn software, like I did with WordPress, a very talented guy named Dwijadas Dey, can help you fix it. You can contact him as a freelancer through www.upwork.com.

He lives in India, just what part of the country I do not know, but I will personally vouch for him. Thanks to Mr. Dey, the Catblog is back. He is very easy to work with, his base salary is $15.00 an hour, and he is a Linux specialist, among many computer skills. Go to UPWORK and get in touch with him, I’m sure you will be impressed as I was.

Calling GERD HEINLEIN! Can you help with my missing Krazy Kat daily? From 5-12-43? Maybe you can be the first to leave a comment here on the Catblog? UPDATE: Thanks, Gerd, for all your help!