Your Comics Page-Herb Gardner Tribute Continues


nebbishes-1-25-59.jpg Here are the next two weeks of “The Nebbishes” by Herb Gardner (called “Hy” or “H” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Herb tends to go for big emotional displays followed by a sarcastic understatement that renders those displays moot. I love the Devil’s big show of confidence as he tries to barter for Seymour and Irving’s souls in the 1-18-59 strip and how Irving goes on a binge of artistic blather in the 1-25-59 as Seymour paints his house (“..creating truth, beauty and other nice things.”) There is a bit of parallel with Max Shulman’s writing on “Dobie Gillis” (just starting on TV in 1959), as Dobie often waxes poetic and seeks truth and beauty. Maybe Gardner and Shulman knew each other or drew from the same wellspring of comedy. I’ll look around for more of these old “Nebbishes”. When I was a kid I didn’t know from Jewish comedians or Yiddish expressions or anything of the kind, but somehow I really dug the comedy of Herb Gardner. The 1-18 page had to be pieced together for this blog, it’s pretty fragile, but well loved.

krazy-10-27-to-11-1-41.jpg There are two “echo” gags and two gags using the word “solo” in the Krazy Kat week of 10-27 to 11-1-1941. I especially favor the 10-31 strip as Offissa Pupp and Ignatz Mice shake hands as they realize that their animosity is a main driver of the strip in which they live. This idea takes a little of the sting out of all the Jail time that the Mice has had to put up with “for a number of years”.

felix-12-16-to-12-22-35.jpg Felix, this time from 12-16 to 12-22-1935, has the Cat in hot pursuit of Fooy Tu Yu. Felix obviously disposed of all that water he swallowed in the previous week’s strips. Fooy Tu Yu is blackjacked by another Chinese who takes the diamond away and gives it to Okey Joe who hides it on a “junk”. See the next post for the conclusion of the 1935 dailies. The Sunday page continues the science fiction aspect of Felix as he experiments with a pair of glasses that enable him to see into the future.

myrtle-7-21-to-7-26-47.jpg In Myrtle this time from 7-21 to 7-26-1947, Fisher shows a mastery of comic strip timing. The strip for 7-22 has a terrific “all you can drink” lemonade gag that dispenses with Pop’s reaction to tasting Myrtle and Sampson’s citrus quencher and just skips to the last panel. Fisher also uses timing to advantage as Sampson goes to his mother’s house to wash his neck and just leaves Myrtle hanging on a tree. In the last panel we find that Sampson used a guest towel to wipe his neck and is banished to a corner. The 7-26 continues the idea that Bingo the dog is good at opening doors; this time he gets a lump on the head for opening the wrong one. We are now into the spate of Myrtle strips culled from Newspaper so the quality is only fair.

     The cartoon short that Greg Ford and I made called “There Must Be Some Other Cat” has been selected by a film festival to screen in September. I can’t say which one, but we are thrilled to be accepted.

     I recently read “Al Capp, A Life the the Contrary” by Denis Kitchen and Michael Schumacher” a new biography of one of the USA’s greatest comic strip creators. Elsewhere in this blog, you can find a few “L’il Abner” strip continuities reprinted, including the infamous “Joanie Phonie” story. I’ve been a fan of Al Capp’s strip all my life, I loved reading the strip each night in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and when my father didn’t bring home the evening paper, it was hard to hide my disappointment. I always liked the little fantastic characters in the strip, the Schmoos, natcherly, and the Kigmys, the little flying hot-dog shaped creatures of the planet Pincus #7, the Adorable Snowman, the Bald Iggle, and many others. I got a kick out of Big Barnsmell, the head man at the Skonk Works, and of course, Moonbeam McSwine and the gorgeous Daisy Mae. It’s said that Al Capp really didn’t like any of his characters very much. It’s lucky for him that somehow they were sympathetic to his readers. I always felt sorry for the dumb but lovable L’il Abner, and worried about his cliffhanger predicaments enough to want to keep reading about him. In reading about Capp’s sexual misadventures in the 1960s on college campuses, including his mistreatment of Goldie Hawn, Mark Evanier (world’s champeen blogger) feels uncomfortable even reading old L’il Abner stories knowing that Al Capp could be a pervert. I can’t defend Capp, but I look at his creation as a satirical fantasy unlike any other comic strip and will always enjoy it. Al Capp’s depression era background and his loss of a leg as a boy certainly colored his world view and his strip. He lived life as if he always had something to prove, and he’d do it by hook or crook. (Wait until you read how he got through art school!) “Li’l Abner” was an unapologetic bold slash of a comic strip, blending fantasy with satire. The drawing was both serenely slapstick and delicately sensuous, drawn with beautiful pen lines. Mark Evanier even got to MEET Al Capp, something I would have loved to have done. This book is a very thorough biography, I learned a great deal from it. Some of the most interesting stuff is in the notes at the back of the book. I’ve always wondered from where Capp’s comic book company, “Toby Press” got it’s name. The notes informed me that “Toby” was the name of one of Elliot Caplin’s daughters. Elliot Caplin was one of Al Capp’s brothers and wrote many comic strips, including “The Heart of Juliet Jones” and “Long Sam”, both strips about beautiful women. Toby eventually took over the writing on “The Heart of Juliet Jones” after Elliot retired. Too bad they didn’t put the story of how Felix the Cat and Otto Messmer got picked up by Toby Press after their Dell Comics run. Again, this book is highly recommended, even though it may sour some fans on Al Capp, like it did for Mark Evanier. Now, won’t some brave soul step up and reprint the rest of “L’il Abner” through the final strip? I would love to read all the “conservative” strips that caused so many newspapers to drop Abner. Let’s get Roger Ailes to do something meaningful with his life and foot the bill for reprinting these strips!

8 Responses to “Your Comics Page-Herb Gardner Tribute Continues”

  1. “The cartoon short that Greg Ford and I made called “There Must Be Some Other Cat” has been selected by a film festival to screen in September. I can’t say which one, but we are thrilled to be accepted.”

    Wow! Congratulations to you, Mark! With the amount of work and passion you put into this blog and anything else that you’ve done, you have clearly deserved it. I am still 18, but can’t wait to try to break into storyboarding one day after I get done with school and learning a trade.

    I had no idea there was even such a thing as a “conservative” comic strip or a “liberal” comic strip. What do you mean exactly by that term? All the strips you posted here are great, BTW and the Nebbishes look pretty cool too.

  2. Mark says:

    Thanks Roberto,
    I hope you can realize your dream of breaking into storyboarding one day. It requires a very non-fragile ego to succeed. In other words, if all your ideas are rejected and you have to re-do all your drawings, don’t be discouraged, it’s part of the job. As a contemporary example, a “conservative” strip (politically that is) would be “Mallard Fillmore”, a “liberal” strip would be “Doonesbury”. L’il Abner managed the rare feat of being a politically liberal strip in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and a conservative strip in the late 1960s and 1970s. When Al Capp started making sport of Joan Baez as “Joanie Phoanie”, and made fun of college student protesters by calling them S.W.I.N.E. (Students Wildy Indignant About Nearly Everything), you knew he had joined the William F. Buckley crowd.

  3. Thanks Mark. That’s pretty much why after I get done with my gap year, I will most likely try to learn some kind of engineering or at least end up taking some welding classes at a votech school next summer in addition to my college education. Animation itself sounds like a medium where you either succeed or you don’t and comes with plenty of booms and busts. I’m fortunate to have gotten so much great drawing advice from various professionals working in the industry, and names that you recognize very well too actually, saying that my own work is very lively and full of energy. If I still had my blog up, I would certainly show them to you and I have a bunch that I uploaded on my computer if you ever want to see those via email or something like that.

    Don’t worry. I don’t feel that I have too much of an ego at all. I kind of critical of my own work all the time and that’s a driving factor in all the constant studying and practicing that I’ve done over the years. I’ve come quite a long way too in learning how to draw solidly and be able to draw in literally any style that I want to.

  4. In addition to my comment, I would like to clarify that it’s most likely going to be mechanical engineering with a possible geology minor. Originally, I had considered electrical engineering, but IT is becoming more and more outsourced to other countries these days, so it didn’t seem like a good idea to go into it. There aren’t any easy answers to the difficult situation that my generation is currently in with a plummeting labor force participation rate and the student loan problems. Sometimes I think I should completely not care about what my family would think and just completely just go for a technical school certificate, but I also like the idea of combining that with college.

    If it ends up that I get a really good internship or employment during college, then I’ll just drop out and go from there and eventually try to have enough income to move to New York or California. What do you think?

  5. Mark says:

    Hi Roberto,
    I cannot begin to tell you how you should spend your life or what kind of an education you will need to do what you want to do. It seems the only real good jobs left that can’t be outsourced are in the Medical support professions, or home care, such as plumbing, electrical (your interest), roofing, landscaping and carpentry. Since these jobs are learnable by apprenticeship, you may not need college training. It can be rough learning these trades at first, but not so high cost as college. Of all the professions, I think plumbing is the most essential and the most overlooked. Here in Southern California, a bilingual (English/Spanish) skilled plumber, should be able to make a living. Animation as I lived it for almost all my life, is now completely changed. I love to animate, make the characters move and come to life. I love to draw, not work at computers. My great fear for the current generations of computer and iphone, blackberry and ipad users, is that they are being exposed to dangerous quantities of electromagnetic radiation. The increased incidence of cancers and auto-immune diseases in young people do not come from nowhere. I point the finger of suspicion at computers and especially wireless devices held close to the head. If you don’t mind drawing on a Cintiq (I don’t want to), you might get jobs doing fast storyboards or especially, become a storyboard revisionist. It’s actually much steadier work to be a revisionist, because most films these days are not made as much as they are re-made. At any rate, you sound like a wise young man and should be able to get along fine.

  6. Roberto Severino says:

    Speaking of drawings, my good friend Joshua still has a post with some samples I did about a year ago. I draw much better now than when I did then, but you’ll get the idea of what I love to do. Drawings with a lot of life, fun and energy. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Mr. Kausler.

    Current drawings above.

    Old ones from a year ago. Cheers!

  7. Good luck on the film festivals, Mark! Hope the cartoon does well!

    Another “conservative” strip that’s in papers is “Prickly City” by Scott Stantis, who is already working as a political cartoonist over at Chicago Tribune. I talked to Scott a few times on the phone when I was trying to get into editorial cartooning. Nice man and very informative.

  8. Martin Juneau says:

    Bests of lucks for the film festival and your new cartoon short.

    The Nebbishes strip with the painting house you posting is really strong for the many commentary about the beauty of art reminds my drawing teacher which trying harder to explain me how called it art back years ago when i having no skills and didn’t know nothing about anything in art. That was back in 2006. I changing since then and i came always interested to made lifes to the characters which in my drawing class i join, it was non-existant, but sometimes i regret to ignoring the importance of art before know about cartooning.

Leave a Reply