Month: December 2012
Â More letters to Bob Balser from Duane Crowther, Part Six! The letter from 7-29-53 has some salty words, shows how far back common cuss words go! Those contemporary screen writers who constantly pepper their dialog with the “Universal Adjective” and various synonyms for scatology, may think they are being current, but the stuff they think is so contemporary was pretty tired even in 1953! I love the Joan Miro style doodles that Duane drew on the back of the envelope, the bird with the obelisk for a head at the bottom of the envelope feels like a Calder wire sculpture. In the 7-29Â letter, Bob Balser’s draft status prevents him from joining Duane at UPA New York, and a Famous Studios employee fills the gap. If you read Duane’s letter of 10-7-53, you’ll find out that the Famous Studios guy screwed up the spots he was working on for the Tuberculosis Society, and left the UPA studio. I typed the 10-7 letter, as the original was written in light blue pencil and wouldn’t have scanned well. You’ll also read an account of a vacation trip that Duane made through the southeast to visit an Army buddy in Miami, Florida. He liked it so much there that he missed his plane going back to New York! Duane took in PORGY AND BESS featuring Cab Calloway, WONDERFUL TOWN and the movie version of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, which he liked better than the book. He refers to a “Mr. Babet” in his 10-7 letter, but I’m not sure if that’s Art Babbitt or not. It could be, since Art was working for UPA in those days, but on the West Coast. In the 7-29 letter, Grim Natwick leaves the UPA New York studio for the West, and Duane refers to him as “that grand and good man”. I’ll never forget the respect and admiration for Grim that Duane had for him when Grim turned 100, evidently that respect went back to 1953. Stay tuned into the New Year, for the further New York adventures of Mr. Duane Crowther.
Â Dudley Fisher’s Myrtle strips from 5-19 to 5-24-1947 are funny! I like the 5-21 as Myrtle tosses Pop’s pipe cleaner over the fence and a robin cusses as he mistakes it for a worm. The 5-22 is pretty rich as Myrtle beats Aunt Minnie’s time in the living room with her boyfriend Slug. Myrtle’s character is so energetic and mischievous in these 1940s strips. She lets Slug have it with her slingshot in the 5-24 strip, and Slug thinks that Aunt Minnie is getting fresh! Ever reflect on how many famous comic strip cartoonists were named Fisher? Besides our Dudley, there’s Bud, Ham, Dave, Dean, Edwin, Jack and Thornton, to name a few. You might want to throw in Al Smith, Bud Fisher’s ghost for so long, as an unofficial Fisher. (Smith was pretty good at signing Fisher’s name to his artwork.) Happy New Year!
Â This is a special Christmas card that Duane printed from a linoleum block in 1954. It was designed to be folded out, with Santa on the front of the card. The recipient unfolded it and found a very Gerald-like little boy up late on Christmas eve watching TV. I’m not printing the next two letters that Duane wrote to Bob Balser in this post, because the language is a bit unexpurgated for Christmas, but I’ll run them soon!
Â Here’s more of the Moldy Figs! Flintstones Sundays from 12-23, 12-2, 12-9 and 12-30. These are 1/3rd page versions, to see the 1/2 page versions go over to Yowp’s blog, (click on the link in the blogroll on the right side of this page) he has the 12-16 episode as well. I like the image of Fred’s sleigh pulled by 8 huge brontosaurs. The names might have been an in-joke. Like Yowp, I like the multiple Freds in the 12-9 as he reacts to a cave woman. This looks like the work of Dick Bickenbach to me.
Â Felix from 10-14 to 10-20-1935, continues his adventures aboard ship, trying to hide Danny’s diamond from the sailors. I like Felix’s expression as he feigns sleep in the second panel of the 10-15 and Felix’s pleased expression with the “oo” mouth in the third panel of the 10-18. In the Sunday, Felix turns magnetic energy against the chemist he’s living with. I like the drawings of Felix and the chemist being pulled back by the magnet.
Â Krazy from 8-25 to 8-30-1941, centers on Krazy’s conversation with Mr. Bum Bill and other Bees. Including “Witamin ‘B'”. I love Krazy’s expression of schock in panel 4 of the 8-26 as Bum Bill Bee confuses him. The series winds up enigmatically as Ignatz overhears Bum Bill Bee explaining that both he and Vitamin ‘B’ are full of “pep, vigor and vitality”. In the last panel of the 8-30, Ignatz is outside a drug store, either full of anticipation of the vitamin B he’s going to get, or pepped up from the vitamin B he has just taken, the drawing can be interpreted at least two ways. ThisÂ quixotic quality is what makes Krazy Kat loved and also disliked by Herriman’s readers.
Speaking of readers, thanks to all you readers for sticking with me through 5 years of this blogging madness. Stay with me for more arcane bits of comicana through the coming year, I couldn’t do it without you! Merry Christmas, from Duane Crowther and me.
Â Here at last are the L.A. Junior Times comics from March, 1927. I ran a few comics from junior cartoonists who DIDN’T go on to fame as animators or strip cartoonists, but did some pretty good stuff anyway. I like Berk Anthony’s drawing about the Artist’s Meetings, especially when he does jokes about his fellow cartoonists such as Bob Wickersham (” ‘Wicky’ looking for an idea”) I like the “Karikaturist at work” surrounded by curious juniors.
Â Here’s a prize winning cover by “Wicky” from 3-20-1927 and a Times Junior Club promo by future animator Phil De Lara. Phil stayed with the Junior Times into 1930, producing a lot of strips and filler drawings, such as the three episodes of “Hezy Tate” below and his panel feature “Pearl Handle”.
Â Here you will also find drawings and strips by Morey Reden, Bill Zaboly and I. Ellis doing a strip about “Willyum Tell” for his occasional feature, “Incidents in the Lives of Famous Characters”. I also threw in a couple of panels illustrating “Variations on a Single Theme”, by Scott Crosby and Bob Phillipi, showingÂ Boy Cartoonists struggling to get an idea for the Junior Times. I know nothing about these two guys, but maybe Bob Philippi was some relation to Charlie Philippi, the Walt Disney art director in the 1930s.
Â Myrtle is from 5-12 to 5-17-1947 this time. I especially like the 5-14; Freddie sits on a chair his wife has just decorated with a few flower paintings and tries to hide the wet paint on his clothes by standing in Myrtle’s “time-out” corner. The 4th panel of the 5-16 has a funny drawing of Junior with his stomach bloated by golf balls he’s swallowed, and the 5-17 has a subtle gag, a conspiracy between Mom and Myrtle to get Freddie to wash the dishes by giving Mom a manicure just after dinner. Watch this blog for a little Christmas post coming soon.
Duane Crowther was quite a droll comedian in his letters to Bob and Cima Balser of 5-11 and 6-25-1953. He makes a lot of teasing remarks to Cima and alludes to Bob’s employment status being affected by his draft status (Korean war era). He again tries to get a print of Flora Mock’s film out of the UCLA film department. (He refers to her as “unbalanced”.) Bill Shull was one of Duane’s instructors at UCLA, in the 6-26 letter, Duane refers to him as the “world’s number one shrewdie when it comes to matters financial.” Duane often spoke of Bill Shull fondly in later years, evidently Shull had a lot of influence in both Duane’s and Bob Balser’s lives. It’s funny to read Duane’s opinions of the stuff he was working on at UPA New York, such as the Howdy (ugh) Doody film. In the 6-26 letter, Duane reports that Steve Bosustow took a great interest in the Howdy Doody project, mostly because it would cost half the usual price, due to it’s being a glorified “pose reel”. Duane really tried hard to find a print of “Howdy Doody and the Magic Hat” in the years I knew him, mostly to see if it was as bad as he remembered. It finally turned up in the Library of Congress, alas, too late for Duane to see. I think it is still around the ‘Net somewhere. I love Duane’s tips on getting a job at UPA, which he lists as “What Every Young Man Named Balser Who Would Like to Get a Lot of Money Out of UPA Should Know….”.Â I wonder what Duane meant by stating that “Poor Gene (Deitch) ran into his brother’s head…and had to stay away for a week or so.” While Gene was away, Duane had to turn out an Ivory Soap commercial practically single handed, including all the ink and paint! He put in 40 hours of overtime in two weeks making the commercial. No wonder Duane didn’t think a lot of late nights and weekends weren’t unusual when we used to work on commercials together.
Â Â Â These are great letters that shed a lot of light on Duane’s life in New York, and what the atmosphere in the business was like at the time. Thanks again to Bob Balser and Cathy Karol-Crowther for letting me publish them.
Â Here’s some more stuff that Duane would have called “moldy fig”, Harvey Eisenberg’s Yogi Bear Sunday pages from December, 1962. I am missing Dec. 16th’s strip, which you can find if you click on Yowp’s website link over to your right. I like the Christmas strip, and the science-fiction 12-30 strip with the bubble gum machine from outer space. This idea would have made an interesting TV cartoon, but Yogi seldom ventured into outer space except when he stowed away on Army rocket ships. At any rate, Yogi and Huck worked better with robots and aliens than the FLINTSTONES did! “Great Gazoo”, anyone?
Â Hi Readers! I’m experimenting with a little different look to the Krazys and Felixes. I’m joining them together to make a column, like I’ve been doing with the Myrtle strips. Let me know if you like the format. In the Krazy strip from 8-18 to 8-23-41, our Kat adopts a Cuckoo egg and intends to put the offspring in a Cuckoo Clock. The hatch-ling flies away in the 8-19, so the hapless Kat substitutes with a Sparrow, an Owl, an Ostrich and finally himself as the biggest Cuckoo of all.
Â In Felix for 10/7 to 10/13/1935, we find Felix still aboard ship, trying to hide Danny’s precious Diamond found on the Ape’s Island from the cut-throat sailors and the Chinese cook. They almost burn the diamond in the stove in the 10/22 but Felix saves it. In the Sunday, Felix is still hanging out with the Professor, who invents a youth serum. When Felix refuses to be a lab animal, the Prof. takes the serum himself and reverts to babyhood. Felix has to babysit him! Otto loved to do stories about chemical formulas and the effects they had on Felix and the denizens of “Messmer land”, such as the story for the cartoon “Germ Mania” in 1927. This one features “Golf Germs”, which cause the Golfer’s mania and “Love Germs”, well, you can guess what they do.
Â Myrtle this time is from 5-5 to 5-10-1947. I love the 5/10, especially when Pop eats a spring onion and Myrtle goes out of her way to avoid criticizing his breath, retreating to the top of Pop’s chair with binoculars to read the paper over his shoulder. I also love the long single panel (rare for those days) of 5/9 with Myrtle and Sampson walking their dolls in a baby carriage accompanied by Bingo, Junior and Hyacinth. What a charming drawing with a lot of appeal, a quality rarely achieved in the current vogue for irony and ugliness in comic strips. I hope you enjoyed your comics page for this time.