Thursday, December 31, 2020

Pictures for a Year's End-No. 5

I'll close this series and the year with two illustrations for children's books, plus a magazine gag cartoon.

Kokomo native Norman Bridwell (1928-2014) may be renowned for his many books about Clifford the Big Red Dog, but he also illustrated this one featuring a small brown dog. The book is How to Care for Your Dog (1964), and the author is Jean Bethell. 

Jared Lee (b. 1943) is another well-loved children's book illustrator. He was born in Van Buren, Indiana, and now lives in Ohio. The picture shown here is from Monster Manners by Joanna Cole. It was published in 1985.

Finally, a drawing by Clyde Lamb (1913-1966) from the cartoon collection The Jokeswagon Book (1966), published during the Volkswagon craze of the 1960s. Lamb wasn't born in Indiana, nor did he go to school here or teach here or work here. Instead he was incarcerated in the Hoosier State in the 1930s and '40s. After gaining his freedom, he drew gag cartoons and created full-color illustrations for calendars published by Brown and Bigelow of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pictures for a Year's End-No. 4

I was happy to find this book recently at a secondhand store in Indianapolis. It's called The Hook Book . . . The ABC's of Drug Abuse (1973), and it's by Tom Floyd. A native of Gary, Thomas W. Floyd, Sr. (1928-2011) was a newspaper cartoonist and commercial artist who ran his own firm called Tom Floyd Visuals. He also contributed cartoons to Jet magazine. I hate drugs and drug use and am happy to have shared those feelings with the late Mr. Floyd, who wrote in his introduction, addressed to young people: "Don't ever start. Don't let anyone, under any circumstances, 'con' you into trying something that is so life destroying as drugs and the abuse of alcohol." By the way, The ABC's of Drug Abuse was printed by Cornelius Printing Company of Indianapolis, at one time the printer of Weird Tales magazine.

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, December 28, 2020

Pictures for a Year's End-No. 3

Rob Day of Indianapolis provided the cover illustration for Maphead By Lesley Howarth (1994). You can find Mr. Day's website by clicking here.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Pictures for a Year's End-No. 2

Born in Mound City, Illinois, William Sandeson (1913-2003) drew editorial cartoons for the Fort Wayne News Sentinel for thirty-seven years before retiring in 1987. Before that he had worked in New Orleans and St. Louis. Sandeson illustrated Voice of the Turtle by John Ankenbruck (1925-2017). The book was published in 1974 with an introduction by Chris Schenkel (1923-2005), a native of Bippus, Indiana.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Pictures for a Year's End-No. 1

Time has run out for me this year. Before I go, I would like to show a few illustrations by fellow Hoosiers. I would also like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year. May the coming year be better than the one now ending. Or as John Lennon sang, it couldn't get much worse.

Denzil Omer "Salty" Seamon (1911-1997) of Gibson County, Evansville, Terre Haute, and Rosedale illustrated Wings Beyond, a book of poetry by C. David Hay, a dentist and poet, also of Rosedale. The book was published in 1995.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, August 8, 2020

John Laska (1918-2009)

Jon Joseph Laska, later John Laska, was born on November 25, 1918, in Portchester, New York. His parents, Isadore Laska and Marya Wojtanoska, were both Polish natives. John Laska's father died when he was five years old and he became a ward of the state. As a young man, John Laska studied at the Art Students League and the New American Artists School in New York. He was a student of Raphael Soyer (1899-1987). Laska served in the U.S. Army during World War II. His unit, the 104th Infantry Division, nicknamed the Timberwolves, fought in France, Belgium, and Germany and helped to liberate the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp at Nordhausen. After the war, he earned a master of fine arts degree at the Art Institute of Chicago and entered a teaching career that would carry on for the rest of his working life. He taught art at University High School in Champaign, Illinois, for three years. From 1954 until his retirement in 1981, he taught at Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana State University, and State High School or Laboratory High School in Terre Haute, Indiana. Laska died on April 21, 2009, at the age of ninety.

John Laska is an artist new to me. I found a reproduction of his painting Flood Scene, West Terre Haute in a book called Prize Winning Paintings, Representational and Abstract, published in 1962. The painting won an award at the Hoosier Salon in 1960. Judge Irving Shapiro (1927-1994) said of it:
In regard to Mr. John Laska's prize-winning painting in the 1960 Hoosier Salon show, it not only was the finest work in the show, but it is one of the finest oils that I have ever had the good fortune to pass judgment on. I was particularly impressed with the strength and vigor with which it was handled. [. . .] The power, simplicity and honesty of statement with which it was presented made "Flood Scene, West Terre Haute" a painting I will certainly remember for a long time to come.
Another judge, Paul Strisik (1918-1998), remarked: "This painting conveyed a tense dramatic situation very successfully without falling into mere illustration." I don't think we should take that as a swipe at the field of illustration but rather as an attempt to lay down a line between illustration and fine art. The artist himself wrote: "The flood scene is a descriptive kind of work. I do not always paint this way. Most of my more recent production might well be classified as more abstract."

Laska was something of an activist. He was a charter member of the Eugene V. Debs Foundation and the designer of the Eugene V. Debs Award, a large plaque that has been handed out every year but two since 1965. (Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. [1922-2007] won the award in 1981.) Laska's art also adorns the interior walls of the Eugene V. Debs Home in Terre Haute. I won't show any of that art here, as it depicts some of the hateful figures and symbols of a hateful and murderous system responsible for the deaths of countless millions of people, including compatriots of Laska's parents. Instead I will just show his painting, which is, I think, remarkable for its almost abstract handling and composition of a scene that might otherwise be considered a genre painting.

Flood Scene, West Terre Haute, an oil painting by Indiana artist John Laska (1918-2009), purchased in 1960 by Indiana University for its student union. Dimensions 36 x 26 inches.

Original text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Black Hoosiers in Animation

Ours is a cancel culture in which art is permitted to serve a political purpose or none at all. In other words, any art that is not propaganda is to be censored, bowdlerized, suppressed, cancelled, eliminated, or destroyed. Right now it is statuary that is bearing the brunt of the anti-art, anti-history, and anti-culture movement in the West. Once the destroyers are done with sculpture, they are certain to move on to other forms. Museums and libraries are likely targets. The nation's cultural and educational institutions should probably start thinking about how they're going to protect their collections. After all, it's a lot easier for a single destroyer to slip into the stacks and burn everything there is about Andrew Jackson or Christopher Columbus than it is to topple a statue. The act might not be as public or ostentatious, but it would be effective nonetheless. If the goal is to destroy the past and all knowledge of the past, then words and images must go into the memory hole in the same way that statues are decapitated, burned, dumped into lakes, or dragged through city streets like an American serviceman in Mogadishu.

Movies, too, are being cancelled. Gone with the Wind (1939) has joined Song of the South (1946) on the list of forbidden works. Never mind that it includes a performance by Hattie McDaniel, the first by a black actor to win an Academy Award. We cannot be permitted to see it. Other movies and television shows can't be far behind.

Animated film hasn't escaped the wrath of the cancelers and destroyers. Hank Azaria, an American of Sephardic Jewish extraction, can now no longer provide the voice for the South-Asian character Apu on The Simpsons. Instead, Apu and other characters in animated series will have "race"-appropriate actors speak in their voices. It is one of the absurdities of our age that actors, who are in the business of pretending to be something they are not, will not be permitted to pretend to be something they are not.

One of the cancelled film performances is by James Baskett, a chemist, chiropodist, mortician, and newspaper columnist who was of course best known as an actor. He won a special Oscar for his performance in Song of the South, making him only the second black actor and the first black man to win the the award. In Song of the South, he played opposite the first black woman to win an Oscar. By my estimate, Song of the South was the first movie to feature two black Oscar winners. (Mr. Baskett's winning the award was of course still in the future when the movie was being filmed.) Nevertheless, we cannot see his or her performance.

In addition to appearing in the live-action sequences of Song of the South, Mr. Baskett provided the voice of Brer Fox in the animated parts. He had previously been the voice of Fats Crow in Dumbo, released in 1941. As far as I know, he was the first black Hoosier to appear in animation or to provide the voice for an animated character. I don't know of any black Hoosier artist to have worked behind the scenes as a storyboard artist or animator. 

James Franklin Baskett was born on February 16, 1904, in Indianapolis, Indiana, the son of John S. Baskett (1869-1921) and Elizabeth Baskett (1879-1961). The death of his older sister in her infancy (before he was born) left him an only child. His parents, both native Kentuckians, lived close to downtown Indianapolis, including on Douglass Street, the same street on which members of my dad's family once lived. Douglass Street is no longer in existence. It was cleared to make way for the Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis campus, possibly also for the Lockefield Gardens Apartments. Mr. Baskett grew up in Indianapolis, but he left his native city in the 1920s to work on the Broadway stage, then in Hollywood. He appeared in fewer than a dozen movies, with Song of the South being his last. James Baskett, also known as Jimmie Baskett, died on today's date in 1948 and was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis with his father. His mother was also buried at Crown Hill. May he and they rest in peace. The image above is from Uncle Remus Brer Rabbit Stories, published by Golden Press of New York in 1977.

In 1968, the Hong Kong flu ravaged the world. A couple of years later, a kung fu craze swept across America like a contagion. Combine the two and you might have the beginnings of Hong Kong Phooey, an animated TV series produced by Hanna-Barbera and broadcast from 1974 to 1976. The title character, as any culturally literate person knows, is a dog who knows kung fu and sings scat for his title song. That's convenient because the voice of Hong Kong Phooey was done by none other than Scatman Crothers.

Born on May 23, 1910, in Terre Haute, Indiana, Benjamin Sherman Crothers was a singer and actor who appeared in movies and TV shows from 1950 until his death in 1986. His parents were Benjamin Crothers (1873-1938) and Fredonia (Lewis) Crothers (1871-1937), both of whose families had come from the South. Scatman Crother's paternal grandfather at least, named Abe Carothers or Caruthers (ca. 1844-1907), was born a slave.

Scatman Crothers performed on the radio in Ohio during the 1930s. In 1937, he married and moved to California. He continued to sing and play guitar in front of live audiences, on radio, and on records. As a member of the group The Ramparts, he recorded "The Death of Emmett Till" in 1955. By then he had made his movie debut. Two years later, in 1957, he made his first appearance in a television series, in an episode of The Adventures of Jim Bowie entitled, strangely enough, "Quarantine." The Adventures of Jim Bowie, by the way, was based on a  book by a fellow Hoosier, Monte Barrett (1897-1949) of Mitchell, Indiana. Barrett also created and wrote the script for the long-running newspaper comic strip Jane Arden.

Although there were only sixteen episodes of Hong Kong Phooey, the character proved very popular. There were Hong Kong Phooey children's books, comic books (above), lunch boxes, and other merchandise. A few years back there was talk of a Hong Kong Phooey movie. I'm not sure how good it--or anything else--could be without the participation of Scatman Crothers. He died on November 22, 1986, in Van Nuys, California.

Scatman Crothers also did the voice of Meadowlark Lemon on The Harlem Globetrotters cartoon series produced by Hanna-Barbera and shown on Saturday morning television from 1970 to 1973. Like Hong Kong PhooeyThe Harlem Globetrotters was a very popular  show and spawned its own line of merchandise, including the stickers shown above, which, if you were lucky, you would have found in boxes of General Mills cereal in 1970.

The Jackson 5 were also from Indiana. They were Jackie (b. 1951), Tito (b. 1953), Jermaine (b. 1954),  Marlon (b. 1957), and Michael (1958-2009). All are natives of the city of Gary, the largest American city founded in the twentieth century. Like The Beatles before them, they were immensely popular. Like The Beatles, too, they had their own Saturday morning cartoon series, The Jackson 5ive, produced by Rankin-Bass and Motown Productions and broadcast in 1971-1972. The brothers didn't do their own voices except in the songs on the soundtrack. Voice actors took their place, including Edmund Sylvers, later of the group The Sylvers.

If you don't have to be born in, work in, or live in Indiana to be considered a Hoosier, then maybe we can still call people imprisoned within the state Hoosiers. Cartoonist Clyde Lamb (1913-1966), for example, a native Montanan, served time in Michigan City. Upon his release, he became a magazine gag cartoonist, then had his work syndicated in American newspapers. It seems pretty likely to me that Mike Tyson would rather just forget about his Indiana years. My including him here might be in pretty bad taste. But I would like to consider him a Hoosier, too. Since being released from an Indiana prison in 1995, Mr. Tyson has had his ups and downs. I would like to think that he considers the animated television series Mike Tyson Mysteries, in which he plays himself, one of the ups. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it has been on the Cartoon Network Adult Swim since 2014. Because of it, Mr. Tyson's form and image have been turned into an action figure (above), which is really just a miniature statue. I dare anyone to knock this one down.

Vivica Fox (b. 1964) of South Bend has done voice acting in Unstable Fables: Tortoise vs. Hare (2008), Scooby-Doo! Stage Fright (2013), and The Sky Princess (2018). The still above is from Sofia the First: Carol of the Arrow, from 2015.

Born in Evansville, Indiana, Ron Glass (1945-2016) did voice work on Superman: The Animated Series and All Grown Up! His most prominent voice-acting role was as Randy Carmichael on the Nickelodeon series Rugrats.

Finally, Kenneth Brian Edmonds (b. 1959), a native of Indianapolis and better known as Babyface, was a producer on the music soundtrack of The Prince of Egypt, released in 1998. Ironically, The Prince of Egypt was banned in several countries, including of all places Egypt. As always, the non-artists of the world, the intolerant and the iconoclastic, the haters and destroyers, the oppressors and censors, seek to deny us a look at any art they deem inappropriate. When will it ever end? How will it end? Not as the destroyers expect, I think, because the true artist possesses an irrepressible and indomitable spirit.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Gray Morrow (1934-2001)

The police are in the news. Or they were. Now it's people against the police who are getting all of the attention. A couple of years ago, I found an old comic book drawn by one of my favorite comic book artists, Gray Morrow. I had planned at the time to feature it in this space, but that little project slipped away from me. Now the time seems right . . . or wrong, depending on how you look at things. From one angle, you can see Gray Morrow's comic book The Super Cops as a piece of 1970s pop culture: a little cheesy, a little exploitative, but nothing at all serious. Some people will no doubt see it differently. That won't stop me from showing it, as I think Gray Morrow's cover for The Super Cops, published forty-six years ago this month, is a beautifully done piece of comic book art.

The Super Cops, published by Red Circle Comics in July 1974, was based on a movie of the same name released in March of that year. The Super Cops was directed by Gordon Parks (1912-2006), a man of extraordinary accomplishment who had previously directed Shaft (1971), now considered one of the first movies in the genre known as blaxploitationBy the way, Gordon Parks' second wife was the daughter of a cartoonist, E. Simms Campbell (1906-1971).

In 1975, American International Pictures released Friday Foster with Pam Grier in the title role playing an intrepid magazine photographer. She was supported by Yaphet Kotto, Eartha Kitt, Scatman Crothers, and Carl Weathers. (During his long and varied career, Gordon Parks was also a magazine photographer.) Friday Foster is considered a blaxploitation film. It was based on a comic strip, the first of the postwar era and the first widely syndicated comic strip with a black woman as its title character. (It was preceded by Torchy Brown in "Dixie to Harlem", which was drawn by Jackie Ormes [1911-1985] and syndicated in 1937-1938.) Friday Foster began on January 18, 1970, with Jim Lawrence as writer and Jorge LongarĂ³n (1933-2019) as artist. LongarĂ³n was with the strip for most of its run. Gray Morrow took over on December 24, 1973, and carried it through to its end on February 17, 1974. Below is an image of the daily from January 29, 1974. Note the artist's inscription under the last panel.

Dwight Graydon Morrow was born on March 7, 1934, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He attended North Side High School in his hometown and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he received the sum total of his formal art training in just three months under Jerry Warshaw (1929-2007). Recognizing Morrow's talent, Warshaw told his young student, "Pack your bags and get started," and that's what Morrow did.* In 1954, he moved to New York City and found enough work to keep himself from starving. Not long after arriving in the city, he decided to look up political cartoonist Eugene Craig (1916-1984), formerly of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel but by then with the Brooklyn Eagle. Craig took Morrow to a meeting of the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) and introduced him to giants, including Hal Foster (Prince Valiant), and future giants, including Wally Wood (1927-1981). Morrow went on to work with Wood, as well as with Al Williamson (1931-2010) and Angelo Torres (b. 1932). That made his start as one of the great American cartoonists, comic book artists, and science fiction illustrators of the 1950s and after.

In 1956, Morrow got caught in the draft and spent two years in the U.S. Army, including service in South Korea. He returned to civilian life and his career as an artist in 1958. In the 1960s, he drew comic book stories for Classics Illustrated. In The Illustrated Story of Whaling, a title in the World Around Us series (#W28, Dec. 1960), Morrow depicted in his original artwork a number of black whalers in an attempt at historical accuracy. He later told of how his publisher, Roberta Strauss Feuerlight, made him change their features so as to avoid controversy. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy of this comic book or any images of Morrow's artwork to show you.

In the mid-1960s, Morrow illustrated children's biographies of famous black Americans, Crispus Attucks: Black Leader of Colonial Patriots by Dharathula H. Millender (1965) and Frederick Douglass: Freedom Fighter by Lillie Patterson (1965). I have two images from these books:

An illustration by Morrow from Crispus Attucks: Black Leader of Colonial Patriots by Dharathula H. Millender (1965). Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, Dharathula H. "Dolly" Millender (1920-2015) was an author, educator, librarian, and local historian known as "Gary's Historian" for the northern Indiana city where she made her home. I should point out that Crispus Attacks was also at one time a whaler: in this case, Morrow was right in his research and in his art, and there should have been no controversy at all when he drew his comic book story for Whaling. Instead his art was bowdlerized. Today, with all of the smashing of statues, we see the same thing happening, though in a far worse way. What are artists and lovers of art to do in this age of violent, ruthless, aggressive iconoclasm, destructiveness, and culture of cancellation?

An illustration by Morrow from Frederick Douglass: Freedom Fighter by Lillie Patterson, a Discovery Book published by Garrard Publishing Company of Champaign, Illinois, in 1965. Lillie Griselda Patterson (1917-1999) was an author of children's books and a librarian in the Baltimore Public Schools. She also wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Booker T. Washington, and Francis Scott Key, whose statue was knocked down recently in San Francisco. I wonder what Ms. Patterson, who was black and a creator and an educator, would have thought of that.

Update (July 6, 2020): Now comes word that a statue of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York, has also been toppled. The date was July 5, 2020, the 168th anniversary of his famous speech, "What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?" At this point, the question must be: what statue in America will stand?

You can read more about Gray Morrow on the Internet and in magazines and books, including Gray Morrow: Visionary, published in 2001 by Insight Studios Group. His work is characterized by flawless draftsmanship, an extraordinary ability to handle the human face and form, great skill at composition, and an excellent sense of color. His sense of aesthetics placed him above most comic book artists of his time and ours. Mr. Morrow died on November 6, 2001, in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania. May he rest in peace.

Dharathula H. Millender's biography of Crispus Attacks is part of the Childhood of Famous Americans series, originally published by Bobbs-Merrill of Indianapolis. The image above is from the Aladdin edition of 1986. The cover artwork was not by Gray Morrow, but his interior illustrations remained.

On this Independence Day, we should all remember Crispus Attucks and the men and women who sacrificed so much so that we might have and enjoy our freedoms. We should also hold in contempt the people who want to take all of that away from us. And we should remember people like Gray Morrow, who sought the universal in the particular and looked past surfaces to see the truth in things, as good and great artists do.

Happy Independence Day, America!

*After leaving art school, Morrow worked for a Chicago art studio. He also met a fellow Hoosier, Allen Saunders (1899-1986), famed author of Mary WorthBig Chief Wahoo, and Steve Roper, who encouraged him to get into the field of syndicated comic strips. Morrow gave it a try, but only later did he find success as a not-always-credited artist on such strips as Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Rip Kirby, and Tarzan.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Some Drawings by Women Artists-No. 4

Last in this series is Lucille Webster Holling (1900-1989) of Valparaiso and Bloomfield, Indiana. Lucille was a wonderfully good artist, as you can see in the drawings below, taken from Kimo by Alice Cooper Bailey (1928). You can read more about Lucille Webster Holling and see more of her artwork by clicking on the tab in her name at the right and on this link.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Some Drawings by Women Artists-No. 3

Though born in New Jersey, Ursula Koering (1921-1976) was the daughter of a Hoosier and spent part of her childhood in Indiana. She started selling her illustrations when she was in her early twenties. The illustrations shown below are from Tom Stetson on the Trail of the Lost Tribe by John Henry Cutler, published by Whitman in 1948 when she was just twenty-seven. It was the second in a series of three juvenile novels about the character Tom Stetson. You can read my full article on Ursula Koering by clicking here.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Some Drawings by Women Artists-No. 2

Next up in this series is Florence Sarah Winship (1900-1987) of Elkhart, Indiana. I have written about her before. Click here to find out more about her and to see more of her art. The front and back cover illustrations here are from Fifty Famous Fairy Tales, published by Whitman in 1954 and 1956.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Some Drawings by Women Artists-No. 1

It's fair to say, I think, that we have all fallen behind in everything. I have anyway, so I would like to catch up a little by posting four brief entries showing drawings made by women artists of Indiana. The first is Betty Betz (1920-2010) of Hammond, Indiana. I could go on for months showing her very cute and charming drawings of teen life in the 1940s and '50s. Instead I'll just show three from The Betty Betz Party Book: The Teen-Age Guide to Social Success (1947). These are from my own collection. My copy of her party book is a library edition and so the cover is a little grungy. I'll start with the front endpaper, which shows a photograph of the author herself, then a full-color illustration, lastly a two-color illustration from the interior.

Text copyright 2020 Terence E. Hanley