Category: Personal

I Love Cartoons! Show on May 19th at TAG Hulett Hall!!

Come to the first of a series (?) of screenings at the Hulett Hall at the Animation Guild’s building at 1105 N. Hollywood Way in Burbank, CA 91505. The program is called “I Love Cartoons” and features cartoon 16mm films that are especially beloved by me and hopefully, all of you. I’m presenting two stills from some of the cartoons we’re running, I’m sure you can guess the first one, the second one is from a Cigar TV commercial, animated by a great animator who should be more famous than he is.
The show will be about two hours in length and starts at 6:30 PM, ends about 9:30 PM or so. It’s in four half-hour installments, “Newsreel Theatre, or Cartoons At Random”, four cartoons picked off the shelf that I love, “Eastern and Western European Favorites”, these include such cartoons as the Soyuzmultfilm production: “The Four Friends”, “Tup-Tup” Nedeljko Dragic’s Zagreb masterpiece and a Halas and Batchelor “Barnaby” cartoon, adapted from the Crockett Johnson comic strip. The third half-hour is devoted to 1950s Television cartooning, featuring a whole reel of our mystery animator’s work, a Tom Terrific serial called “Snowy Picture”, with animation by Jim Tyer and directed by Gene Deitch, plus a reel devoted to the Ford Dog campaign of the late 1950s, animated principally by Bill Littlejohn for Playhouse Pictures. The fourth and last half-hour is devoted to the “Cartoon Western”, animated versions of the typical B-Western plots. These may have been shown at “The Hitching Post”, a legendary Hollywood theater devoted to Westerns back in the 1940s and 1950s. This program promises to be fun and as lecture-free as possible. Come and enjoy beloved cartoons with an audience!
Krazy this time is from 4-19 to 4-24-1943, the 4-23 strip is courtesy of Gerd Heinlein, the man with 20,000 comic strips in his collection. Thanks for this one, Gerd! Herriman spins three days of comedy out of a play on words involving “Abalone” and “A Baloney”, and also features a piece of “Mekka Roni” and “Spigetty” passing through each other on a Coconino highway.
Myrtle is from 1-10 to 1-16-1949. I want to point out the 1-11 as Myrtle and Sampson have a spat, and wind up with free ice cream cones; it pays to fight? I also love the little pose in the 1-12 as Myrtle grabs the sides of her hat and pulls them down over her head. The Sunday page is great fun as Myrtle’s family is visited by the FBI, no, not Jim Comey.
Felix is from 4-9 to 4-15-1933. In the 4-9 Sunday page, Felix starts a dream journey to prehistoric times, in the dailies, Felix is still a little jealous of Danny Dooit’s fame and all the fan letters and press he seems to be getting. I like the 4-15 as Felix hides in a box to escape a bulldog and Danny thinks Felix is a gift!
Thanks for reading my blog, if you want to write to me, my address is I’m sorry the comments continue to be disabled, I can’t figure out how to restore the blog to full capacity, so have to settle for what I have. Maybe I’ll see you at the “I Love Cartoons” show at 6:30 PM, Friday, May 19th, at the Animation Guild’s Hulett Hall, 1105 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank Ca 91505.

Mangy’s Origin Story

June 25, 2008

Al Capp, Comic Strips, Personal

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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: 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?

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The Return of Mangy

June 8, 2008

Comic Strips, Personal

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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 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

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, . 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!

“I’m gonna have CAT…fish.”


Howdy folks, here’s the 10-7-1938 to 10-13 Kats. This week we have the finish of the Kolin Kelly phone-in story line and the beginning of a somnambulistic story. Ignatz and Offissa Pupp are so ingrained in their respective mod-ii that they can do it in their sleep! I like the “speed lines” in 10-13 as Ignatz does an animation style zip-out in the last panel.

It’s been a good week, Cathy and I got over to the Pasadena City Hall on Thurs. morning to paint the tower and stately dome of the City Hall with our group. Cathy painted a beautiful oil with a limited palette of yellow ochres for the City Hall dome and violets and greens for the foliage in front of it. I did a watercolor basically imitating Cathy’s colors. She suggested that I make the shapes of the clumps of tree leaves in the foreground darker and to connect the shapes. I think I did one of my more successful trees because she cared enough to give me some advice. Painting trees is a balancing act between trying to draw the branches and leaves realistically, and abstracting the tree at the same time so that it looks like light is filtering through the leaves and there is good contrast between light and dark shapes.

If you are near Pasadena,  California through August 11-26th, come to the Pasadena Museum of History on 470 Walnut St. There you will see a beautiful new show of paintings called “Contemporary Masters”, consisting of local scenes of Pasadena in all media. Look for an oil called: “South Pasadena Farmers’ Market”, it is by my favorite Contemporary Master: Cathy Hill! We go to that Farmers’ Market almost every week, and Cathy was inspired to do a study of the produce stands and the customers. It’s a great honor to be in this show, you will see a lot of good work in it. Please come if you are able!

I am now on the last third of the first run-though of Sc. 26 on my new Cat cartoon. In this part of the scene, the cat flies through the air and lands on a cactus which “kisses” him. It’s another “high-mileage” shot, but I will keep at it.

I broke down and bought the new Woody Woodpecker DVD set. I am a lifelong Walter Lantz fan, I started with his 1930s Oswalds on TV and then got hooked on the Woody Woodpecker show sponsored by Kellogg’s in the mid 1950s. Despite a lot of censorship and editing of the old cartoons, Woody’s spirit came through and has endeared him to me forever. This new collection has all the Woodys from 1941 to 1953(?) in order and almost fully restored (Banquet Busters does not have the original UA titles, for instance). All the cut scenes have been put back, such as the alphabet soup gag in The Reckless Driver and all the ration book dialog from Ration Bored. The revelation for me was to see most of the 1948-49 releases with the original United Artists credits restored! The cartoons start out with no logo, but go immediately to the tree trunk that Woody bursts out of and that great “over the seats” truck in to a painting of Andy Panda on stage. Can you imagine how good these must have looked in the theaters with the curtains timed just right to finish opening as the main titles came on? Scrappy Birthday has a title card that I’ve never seen before!

I helped Jerry Beck pick some of the cartoons for the set, such as the Oswald titles “Hell’s Heels” and “Spooks”. “Hell’s Heels” is a take-off on “The Three Godfathers”, I love that loose walk that Bill Nolan animated as the baby boy drags Oswald along by the hand through the desert. Bill Nolan also animated the “I am the Queen of the May” song that Kitty sings in “Spooks” with the record player strapped to her back. Lantz’s studio was a haven for the highly individual approach to animating characters practiced by Alex Lovy, Emery Hawkins, Bill Nolan, Ed Love, Fred Moore, Don Patterson and Les Klein among many others. In The Merry Old Soul (1933), La Verne Harding put her comic strip charater, Cynical Susie into a scene as an incidental courtier, I never noticed that before until I got this set. The Walter Lantz animation “talks” from the Woody Woodpecker show are here, six of them, and all interesting. The prints on these are a bit faded and beat-up, but where else do you get to see Alex Lovy, Paul Smith and Homer Brightman jamming on story sessions with a trombone?

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, one of the first studios I tried to get a job with was Walter Lantz. His studio was on Seward Street then, and I’ll never forget the conference room with two beautiful Fred Brunish oil paintings of Woody and Andy hanging on the far wall. (Fred Brunish should be mentioned in the same breath as Hardy Gramatky and Phil Dike as a great American watercolorist.) I was always turned away, though. Usually they would tell me, “You’re gonna have to wait til these guys DIE before we’d ever hire YOU!” I thought to myself, how wonderful to have a boss like Walter Lantz who was so loyal to his employees that he would give them lifetime jobs! I later found out that he kept Paul Smith employed even though by the early 1970s he was legally blind! (His daughter helped him to make out the exposure sheets.)

At the second Annie Awards banquet, they gave one Annie only, this time to Walter Lantz. I was the projectionist at that affair, and I put together a special reel using some cartoons borrowed from the Lantz collection. I had to bring them back to the studio the next day, and I really was looking forward to getting to speak with Lantz one-on-one. I waited in the lobby with fannish trepidation! Walter came through a wooden door on the far side of the room, in my mind’s eye it was almost like Woody himself had popped through that wooden door! I tried to say something, I think it came out like “I’ve always loved your cartoons…” or words to that effect. Lantz just took the 16mm prints from my hands, looked me in the eye and said: “Just let the old man get back to his spaghetti, will ya?” He turned on his heel, walked back through the door and slammed it shut! Evidently, he was having lunch. End of meeting.

Years later, I heard the transcript of a lecture Lantz gave at a theater retrospective of his cartoons. One of his remarks was a classic: “I’m just a little old cartoonist, tryin’ to make a buck.”

I finally got to pick up a job from the Walter Lantz studio, AFTER it closed down! By this time, Abe Levitow and Milt Schaffer had opened a little commercial studio on the second floor and I picked up a scene on a Count Chocula spot from them. It was a thrill to enter that building again, the wood panelling looked as beautiful as ever. (No Fred Brunish oils around anymore, though.) Abe and Milt were very cordial and fun to work with, too bad the Count  Chocula spots were so tough to work on! The agency art director was a bear for on-model drawing, and didn’t like ANY squash and stretch or “drag” on his characters. I won’t mention his name, but he was arrested one time by the LA police for urinating in public! (He was no Thomas Kinkade, YUK YUK!)

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