Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Double Your Fun With This 1927 Rube Goldberg Boob McNutt

From 1907, when he created the Irish-Jewish twins Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), Rube Goldberg had a thing for depicting doppelgangers in his comics. Below you will find an excellent example of this obsession from 1927 -- but first, a bit of news for all you Rube Goldberg fans.

Since August of 2012, I've been working with Rube Goldberg's granddaughter, Jennifer George, on The Art of Rube Goldberg: A)Inventive B) Cartoon C) Genius, the ultimate art book on Rube, forthcoming in November from Abrams ComicArts books. You can pre-order the book at an astonishingly good discount here

My pal and fellow comics historian Carl Linich has also been heavily involved in this project, doing a heroic job of scanning and providing numerous goodies from his private collection. The book will feature essays by Carl, Pete Maresca (the talented Sunday Press publisher), famous comics historian Brian Walker, and famous cartoonist Al Jaffe. The book will have an introduction by Adam Gopnik.  The book is edited by Charlie Kochman (ComicArts is his imprint, and he's also the editor of the bestselling Wimpy Kid books, which I love). I'm officially credited as "co-editor" but I'm not sure that I have done enough to earn that generous appellation. On the other hand, I hear the Appellations are quite lovely to visit, although I am not a fan of mountain-climbing. 

I have spent the last six months rounding up artwork, scanning, researching, digging, and writing. In August of last year, I sojourned to New York City (from Seattle) for an intense week on this book with Jennifer George, Carl Linich, and Charlie Kochman. I'll share some stories about that in the months to come. Everyone is still working furiously hard on the book, especially Charlie Kochman and the book's talented designer, Sara Edward Corbett. I'm sure we are all (cough, cough) seeing double from this hard work -- !

August 2012: Working with Carl Linich (left) on The Art of Rube Goldberg.
Yes, that's a pile of rare Goldberg photos and artwork you see in front of us!

I'll be sharing more details of the book in the months to come.  For now, to celebrate all the progress, here's a choice Boob McNutt Sunday page I ran across in my art selection process (one that will not be included in the book) and threw on the smoking scanner to share with my fellow screwball comics fans. This page, originally published May 7, 1927, comes from a story arc in which Boob is trying to locate twin brothers. Rube has a lot of fun drawing doubles (also a thematic obsession of Jack Cole's work). 

Goldberg would later create a "Boob's Ark" topper panel in which he invented bizarre nonsense animals and drew them promenading two-by-two. And, of course, Rube created his first set of twins, Mike and Ike (They Look Alike), from 1907 to 1908 for his first Sunday funnies page, The Look-A-Like Boys, distributed by World Color Printing (later revived from 1913 to 1914 as Mike and Ike (They Look Alike).

This particular page is a standout, however, because it offers two extra large rectangular panoramic panels, a rare occurrence in the Boob McNutt Sundays, which were usually grids of 15 and then later 12 square panels. Not only that, but one panel is an "x-ray" image of the previous panel! As usual, Rube finds a way to weave his penchant for wacky technology into his work.

Boob McNutt by Rube Goldberg - May 7, 1927
(collection of Paul Tumey)

We also get to see Boob's outspoken Siberian Cheesehound, Bertha, in this episode. Rube had a flair for inventing nonsense words, and with Bertha, he truly excelled at creating DOGgerel!

Doubling Down on Baloney Avenue,
Screwball Paul

All text copyright 2013 Paul Tumey
All art copyright respective holders, including Abrams Books and Rube Goldberg, Inc.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

More Screwball Dinky Dinkerton and Art Huhta

Hmmm... studying the panel at left, one wonders what the "surprise" is in the pocket of world famous detective Dinky Dinkerton's rotund, loyal woman-chasing assistant Sniffy.

Presenting... another dose of high-octane screwball from the pen of Art Huhta, including a nice selection of Dinky Dinkerton dailies, as reprinted in the pages of Heroic Comics. Dinkerton is a fun screwball comic parody of Sherlock Holmes that ran as a daily and Sunday from 1939-1944). It was distributed by the Jones Syndicate, The name comes from "Pinkerton," a famous detective agency that operated in the early 20th century. The strip is filled with visual and verbal humor. Even though the concept is not new (see Gus Mager's Sherlocko the Monk here), Huhta's sense of play is refreshing and, as with many 1930s and 40s screwball comics masters, you get a super high GSI (gags per square inch). I consider this strip to be a lost screwball gem.

For more on Dinky and the career of screwball master Art Huhta, see my earlier article: Art Huhta and Dinky Dinkerton.

Be sure to stop by Ger Apeldoorn's Fabulous Fifities blog for a nice big scan of a great, zany Dinky Dinkerton Sunday strip. Here's a juicy panel:

A panel from the high-octane screwball Dinky Dinkerton Sunday
recently posted at Ger Apeldoorn's blog.

Before we dish out your delightful daily dose of Dinky dailies, here's a dazzling dollop of Art Huhta art from later in his career that I ran across in my microfilm mining:

As far as I can tell, this piece was a reprint from a magazine called Practical Builder. In any case, Huhta's delight in compressing as much as he can into his cartoons that we see in Dinky Dinketon is certainly evident in this dense cartoon. There's some pretty good gags built in:

And while I'm pulling out some recent finds, here's a 1941 Simp O'Dill ghosted by Art Huhta:

Simp O'Dill ghosted by Art Huhta in 1941

And now, drum roll please. 

Here's a selection of Dinky dailies from the pages of Heroic Comics #1 (August, 1940). This issue featured the debut of Bill Everett's Hydro Man. I'm not sure, but I think this sequence could be a reprinting of the very first Dinky Dinkerton daily strips. The opening episode is a nice introduction to the characters, which is how strips of this era often debuted. In any case, it's a pretty wonderful adventure as Dinky and Sniffy madly pursue the "dinky" mystery of a telephone call...

And, of course, the call turns out to be nothing more than a cat knocking the receiver off the hook. Never mind that Dinky has destroyed half the city and called out the militia in a mad race to trace the call! Great stuff!

By the way --- if you like this blog, please plug it -- your support makes a difference!

Yours in Screwball Excellence,
Paul Tumey

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ed Carey's Lunatic Dictionary Jaques - The Roots of Screwball (1913)

Ed Carey (1870-1928), a master of early American comic strip art, specialized in comic portrayals of idiots. Once seen, his grotesque faces and anatomy are hard to forget. 

His most well-known strip was Simon Simple (1902-1909) from the New York World.  The strip featured a gleeful pointy-hatted idiot prankster who could be Zippy The Pinhead's great grandfather. 

Ed Carey's Simon Simple, 1904
An example of Simon Simple can be found in the Crumbling Paper section of Steven Stwalley's blog

Carey’s 25 or so other strips include Brainy Bowers and Drowsy Duggan (created in 1901, and continued by many others until 1915), Professor Hypnotiser (1903-1905), Dad in Kidland (1911-1912), and today's offering, The Troubles of Dictionary Jaques (1912-1913).

Both his exaggerated cartooning style and approach to comedy have a screwball bent. His concepts are subversive, with social order breaking down and chaos ensuing.

Carey also helped define the comedy of miscommunication with The Troubles of Dictionary Jaques (1912-1913) in which a well-meaning French-speaking man employs an English dictionary to function and winds up disrupting everything around him. This character is similar to Ernie Kovacs' Eugene and Andy Kaufman's "Foreign Man." Carey's playfulness with language is another key screwball element, anticipating some of the Marx Brother routines in which Chico takes Groucho way too literally.

This sort of humor seems to be particular to America's "melting pot" heritage. Our early newspaper comics made fun of African-Americans, Jews, the Irish, Asians, Indians and Germans... so why not Frenchmen?

The following 1913 strips are all scanned from my own pile of rapidly deteriorating old newspaper comics. Despite the ragged condition of these hairy Careys, they are still quite readable and entertaining. This stuff is wonderfully wacky -- HEN-joy!

In the strip above, I love the fourth panel - "I wonder if his dictionary told him to jump around like a lunatic?"

More Ed Carey comics can be found at John Adcock's great blog, Yesterday's Papers.

~ Catch you later -- (right after I find my baseball glove),
   Paul Tumey