Saturday, September 8, 2012

Some Great NONSENSE from George Swanson (1928)

I'm throwing a bunch of nonsense your way today. More specifically, some great examples of $alesman $am's creator, George O. Swanson's daily panel, Nonsense (1928-37).

Another cartoonist, Lee Stanley, began Nonsense in 1927 for the Central Press Association syndicate, which also handled Swanson's High Pressure Pete. In 1930, King Features purchased the Central Press Association syndicate, and that is how Swanson wound up working for Heast. Swanson took over the panel in 1928 and drew it until the series ended, in 1937.

Astute observers will note that the examples below, from January, 1928, are signed both by Swan and possibly someone else with the initials "C.P." ATtthis time, the CP signature is a mystery.

The basic concept of Nonsense is very similar to Rube Goldberg's Phoney Films series, which ran sporadically from 1914-1921. The basic idea is to show a scene which is exactly the opposite of a typical human reaction. Here's a couple of undated examples of Phoney Films, circa 1915, scanned from my paper collection:

Phoney Films - a daily panel by Rube Goldberg circa 1915
As you can see in the example above, the scene is anything but true to life, with the kids wanting to stay in school and study arithmetic! Rube's panel simultaneously satirized real life and "reel" life - pointing out how manufactured the reality of movies seemed to him.

Phoney Films - a daily panel by Rube Goldberg circa 1915.
This example is a typical play on Rube Goldberg's  famous theme of over-complicated inventions.

Whether Rube Goldberg's Phoney Films panel series had a direct influence on Nonsense, they certainly appear to be cut from the same cloth. Here's a couple on the subject of kid behavior so atypical they are, of course, pure nonsense:

Jan 5, 1928

Jan 10, 1928

Many (but not all) of the gags appear to have been submitted by readers. Here's Swan on the war between men and women:

Jan 3, 1928

Jan 9, 1928

The predictable reactionary behavior of businessmen is ripe for comic reversal in the Nonsense series, as well:

Jan 6, 1928

Jan 7, 1928

As he did in his $alesman $am and High Pressure Pete comics, Swan toss in extra "bonus" gags. Check out the name of the unlikely boxing match winner in this example:

Jan 2, 1928
One of the things I treasure about George Swan's comics is the occasional foray into TOTAL screwball nonsense, as shown in the next example, my personal favorite of today's selections: 

Jan 4, 1928

Thanks to Elaine at Hcollectibles for supplying the Nonsense panels. Be sure to check out their website, if you are looking for old comics:

Hope you enjoyed this nonsense. I'll be back Monday with a new Milt Gross Monday comic!


I recently stumbled across another panel cartoon with the same mysterious "CP" signature:

Since this panel also has a prominent signature by the artist, and it has no other indication of which syndicate handled the comic, I think that the CP mark indicates "Central Press" syndicate, which distributed George Swanson's Nonsense. Mystery solved!

ScrewbALL the Best,
Paul Tumey

1 comment:

  1. Nonsense was also probably influenced by Bughouse Fables (notably by Billy DeBeck / King Features, but others also drew it over the years). It had almost the same concept: people saying and doing the opposite of what you'd expect them to.