Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Jane Arden and the Vanished Princess

In 2021, with the coronavirus still haunting people's thoughts, I went to just one very small comic book convention, I think. It actually happened in the driveway and garage of a comic book dealer and college professor. I bought only a few things, but I wanted to show this little treasure, a Better Little Book called Jane Arden and the Vanished Princess by Monte Barrett and Russell Ross (1938). It appears here at about original size.

The writer, Monte Barrett, was Percy Montgomery Barrett. Born on June 19, 1897, in Mitchell, Indiana, he was a journalist and novelist with historical novels and mysteries to his credit. He died on October 8, 1949, in New York City.

Jane Arden began in the comics on November 26, 1928. Frank Ellis was the original artist, but he was replaced by Russell E. Ross in 1933. Ross continued with the strip for twenty years. After appearing in movies and comic books, as well as having her own radio drama, Jane reached her end in 1968. This Better Little Book was just another one of her multimedia appearances--a word that of course didn't exist at the time.

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 26, 2022

Buffleheads by J.N. "Ding" Darling

The bufflehead is one of my favorite species of duck. I wrote about buffleheads in 2019 and showed a piece of art by Mac Heaton (1925-2002), a wildlife artist who worked for a long time with the Indiana Department of Conservation. You can see that picture by clicking here. Now I have another picture of buffleheads, this one by Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling (1876-1962). (Those are ruddy ducks on the right.) Although he was better known as a political and editorial cartoonist, Darling was also a conservationist and wildlife artist. The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, is named in his honor. The illustration below is from a full-page feature called "Don't Shoot These Ducks! Uncle Sam's Laws Protect Them," from the Sunday Des Moines Register, November 1, 1936.

Darling was born in Norwood, Michigan. His very slim connection to Indiana was by way of living in the Hoosier State for a brief time when he was young.

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 25, 2022

His First Christmas by Worth Brehm

"His First Christmas," a piece of advertising art by Indiana illustrator Worth Brehm (1883-1928). If you look closely, you will see Raggedy Ann and Andy, created by another Indiana artist, Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938), peaking out from under the Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas from Indiana Illustrators &

Hoosier Cartoonists!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Abe Martin in Verse

Last time I showed a poem about the Toonerville Trolley That Meets All Trains. This time I have a poem about Abe Martin, another cartoon creation by another adopted Hoosier, Kin Hubbard (1868-1930), originally of Bellefontaine, Ohio, later of Indianapolis and Brown County, Indiana. The poem is "Abe Martin," composed by James Whitcomb Riley (1949-1916) of Greenfield, Indiana, and illustrated by Will Vawter (1871-1941), yet another transplant to the Hoosier State. (He was born in West Virginia.) The images below are from Riley Songs of Friendship (1915).

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Toonerville Trolley in Verse

"Toonerville Folks," also called "The Toonerville Trolley" or "The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All Trains," was a one-of-a-kind feature and one of the greatest of American newspaper comics, from their inception in the nineteenth century until today. Drawn by Fontaine Fox (1884-1964), it was read and loved by millions from early in its run until reaching the end of the line in 1955. Born near Louisville, Kentucky, Fox matriculated at Indiana University, and though he didn't complete his degree, Fox's vast collection is now at Lilly Library in Bloomington.

As a measure of the high regard in which Fox and his very funny and enduring creations were held, Don Marquis (1888-1937) composed a poem called "The Toonerville Trolley" and dedicated it to Fontaine Fox. From Cartoons Magazine, October 1916 (page 634):

Don Marquis had his own Indiana connection: he was married to actress and Indianapolis native Marjorie Vonnegut (1892-1936).

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Harry A. Davis, Jr., in Traces Magazine

Harry Allen Davis, Jr., was a Hoosier artist. Born in Hillsboro, Indiana, on May 21, 1914, he grew up in Brownsburg and studied at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis. He received his bachelor of fine arts in 1938 and studied in Rome in 1938-1940. In 1942, Davis joined the U.S. Army and returned to Italy where he soon became a combat artist. He taught at Herron after the war, retiring in 1983. Davis was married to another artist, Lois Peterson. He died on February 9, 2006, at age ninety-one.

Early this year, Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, the magazine of the Indiana Historical Society, featured Davis in a cover story entitled "Soldier and Artist: Harry A. Davis Jr. at War." The author is Ray E. Boomhower, editor of the magazine. You can read about Davis and see many of his paintings and drawings in the Winter 2022 issue of Traces.

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Gray Morrow in Funky Winkerbean

It isn't often that a Hoosier cartoonist is named in a present-day newspaper comic strip, but that happened this summer. Read on . . .

The first comic strip about comic strips was probably Sam's Strip by Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas, syndicated in the nation's newspapers from 1961 to 1963. They didn't have fancy words back then. Now we call them metacomics--comics about comics. Metacomics have become increasingly common. It's rare now that a week or a month goes by in the comics in which there isn't a reference made in a comic strip to another comic strip.

The comic strip Funky Winkerbean has been around for a long time. An Ohioan named Tom Batiuk puts his name to the strip, but I have a feeling that at least some of the continuities are the work of a ghostwriter. And I have a feeling that I talked to that ghostwriter one day on the mezzanine of a hotel in Columbus, Ohio.

A long time ago, I was a regular reader of Funky Winkerbean. That's when it was about high school students. At some point it made a giant leap into the present. Now those students are old. One of the characters in the current Funky Winkerbean is a cartoonist. This summer, there was a sequence in which that cartoonist reminisced about his tryout to succeed Harold Foster (1892-1982) on the Sunday adventure strip Prince Valiant. The search for a new artist really happened. That was in 1970. Real-life tryout artists were Gray Morrow (1934-2001), Wally Wood (1927-1981), and John Cullen Murphy (1919-2004). Murphy got the job and drew Prince Valiant from 1971 to 2004.

Gray Morrow was a Hoosier. Born on March 7, 1934, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, he enjoyed a long and varied career as a cartoonist, comic book artist, and illustrator. I like to think about how Prince Valiant would have looked had he become the regular artist. (Wally Wood, too.) There were other artists at that time who would have been well qualified to continue the adventures of Hal Foster's characters. The name John Severin (1921-2012) comes to mind.

In this summer's sequence, the cartoonist in Funky Winkerbean remembers his fictional (or perhaps only fictionalized) tryout for Prince Valiant and names the other artists who really did participate. The problem is that he misidentifies Gray Morrow as Gary Morrow. Funky Winkerbean is hand lettered, or appears to be. It may be that the letterer transposed two letters in Gray Morrow's name and turned him into Gary. It may be also that the scriptwriter made the error. In any case, if anybody should look out for cartoonists, it should be other cartoonists. In this case, that didn't happen. I don't know whether Tom Batiuk and his team ever issued a correction. And I guess there's a third possibility. See the caption below.

Funky Winkerbean by Tom Batiuk, July 19, 2022, a metacomic of a kind that mentions other cartoonists, Wally Wood, Gray Morrow--his name misspelled as Gary--and "a third artist whose last name started with 'M'," who was of course John Cullen Murphy. I sense that someone--either real or fictional--doesn't like very much that Murphy won the tryout and became the regular artist on Prince Valiant. Whatever the case may be, there's no reason why Morrow's name should be misspelled. Or maybe that's part of the gag, the fact that the cartoonist's memory is fading? I don't know. All I know is that I like and greatly admire Gray Morrow's work. He has been gone for some time now, but we shouldn't forget him. We should instead remember him and pay proper respect in remembering him.

Text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley