Saturday, August 12, 2017

Comic Caper, Chapter Drei

For this week's Sleuthback Saturday feature, I dredge up the November installments of a comic strip I drew for the UW-Parkside Ranger back in 1983-84. "The Funny Paper Caper" told the story of  the murder investigation of one Rufus T. Pornapple, who was also the victim of an unreported burglary, and romantically linked with more than one comic strip female. As we rejoin the story, the investigation turns to a little lady whose name was McGill, and who called herself Lil, but everyone knew her by another name.


One characteristic of "Nancy" in those days was that cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller avoided use of any and all punctuation, save for the occasional dash or unavoidable question mark. It may have been part of Bushmiller's minimalist approach to cartooning overall. He put nothing in the cartoon that wasn't essential to the gag du jour. I like Wally Wood's observation about the strip that "By the time you decided not to read it, you already had."

This tenth installment, however, requires considerably more commitment.

There's an inside joke in the first panel of strip #11. John Kovalic was a cartoonist colleague at the Ranger that year, drawing a comic strip which appeared just below mine every week. Carson the Muskrat in his current "Dork Tower" is a survivor of his earlier "Wild Life."
As promised earlier this week, Dick Tracy — er, Thelma — has entered the story line. After reading Tuesday's post here, Dave Brousseau reminded me that Dick Locher continued to script Dick Tracy's story line for two years after he stopped drawing the strip in 2009, which I did not explain on Tuesday. He also noted that there was talk on some message boards that perhaps Locher was still drawing some of the strip after 2009. I can't venture an opinion on that; there are signs of Parkinson's impairing his ability to draw in his late editorial cartoons, but comic strips such as Dick Tracy employ support staff (such as Locher himself, early in his career) to polish up, ink, and letter what may only be rudimentary sketches from the person whose name is attached to the cartoon.

You can compare, for example, the rough look of Doonesbury when Garry Trudeau was a student at Yale to its slick production values once the cartoon became a marketing juggernaut a few years later.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Q Toon: Soda Jerk

When I was drawing this cartoon this past Sunday, my chief concern was that before anyone would have a chance to read the cartoon, its subject, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, would become the latest Trump administration official to go down in history as having had the shortest tenure of anyone in his position.

By Tuesday, that concern was replaced by the prospect of nuclear war breaking out first.

I can't help but be distressed by Mr. Sessions's decree that his Justice Department will not defend the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens; but if Messrs. Trump and Kim goad each other into turning millions of human beings into radioactive ash, civil rights for anyone becomes a largely moot point.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Aug 10, 2017

As for this cartoon, however, I made the conscious decision to keep most of the image in black-and-white, since I associate the pre-civil rights era with black-and-white photography. Googling and checking Time and Life coffee table books for images of Woolworth's lunch counters, my results were almost entirely limited to finding photos of sit-ins or empty counters. Several of the latter were color photos of counters now in museums or in long-closed Woolworth stores now converted to other purposes.

In no photo did I find Woolworth employees behind the counter.

Fifty years after the sit-ins, New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Bill Minor explained why:
"The people working behind the counter at Woolworth's were afraid to serve anybody," Minor says. "They just let them sit there. They wouldn't serve them. That's what they were ordered to do--not serve any blacks."
It may soon be equally difficult to find photos of  Justice Department officials on the job.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dick Locher's Presidents

Dick Locher, a long-time editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, passed away this past Sunday at his home in Naperville, Illinois, at the age of 88. In a career stretching from 1972 to 2013, he won the Pulitzer Prize (1983), Fischetti Award (1987), Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award (1982 and 1983) and Sigma Delta Chi Award (1982).
"Shhhh! ... I Think I Hear Someone Coming" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1974
In honor of Mr. Locher, here is a quick sampling of his cartoons of American presidents during his career.
"Bug Spray" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1974
I had wanted to share here a September, 1974 cartoon showing a Chicago road crew filling potholes on the expressway with "marshmallow fluff." It is what I'm referring to with the term "pothole cartoon," meaning an evergreen idea that a cartoonist could leave with an editor for release during the cartoonist's vacation or family emergency. It's a hilarious image that I used to have on my bedroom wall before moving it into a scrapbook. Unfortunately, when I did so, I used rubber cement, which has since seeped through the newsprint, creating dark brown stains that I just can't Photoshop out.
"After All Those Promises You Made" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, February, 1978
Instead of any of Locher's editorial cartoons from the Reagan era, here is an episode of Dick Tracy in which the Gipper makes an appearance. Locher worked as an assistant to Dick Tracy's creator, Chet Gould, from 1957 to 1961, and returned after the death of Rick Fletcher to draw the strip with Max Collins from 1981 to 2009.
"Dick Tracy" by Dick Locher and Max Collins, 1983
Locher's son John also assisted in the drawing of Dick Tracy until the younger Locher's untimely death in 1986 at the age of 25. For the next 30 years, Dick Locher and his wife, Mary, have been at the helm of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' John Locher Memorial Award for college cartoonists. Eligibility for the award was expanded in 2015 to include graphic journalists and web cartoonists age 17-25.
"But His Lips Aren't Moving" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1990
If you ever find yourself in Naperville, look for the statue of Dick Tracy, down by the river at South Webster Street.
"I'm Here to Arrest Mumbles" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 1993
Current Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis writes:
"In this world of snapchat vulgarity Dick was that rare breed: a courtly gentleman. When I was lucky enough to be named editorial cartoonist here at the Chicago Tribune one of the very first people to reach out and congratulate me was Dick Locher. I first met Dick years earlier at an Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention. As a wet-behind-the-ears cartoonist I was in awe of this giant of our industry but, like a true gentleman, he put me at ease and we became fast friends. Dick has always been a font of encouragement, advice and good humor."
Read more encomiums of Dick Locher from his fellow cartoonists here. Then look up the word "encomium."
"We're Going to Hand Him His Lunch" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 2002
Parkinson's disease persuaded Locher to retire from cartooning in 2013. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary; a daughter, Jan Evans; a son, Stephen, a brother, Bob; a sister, Carolyn Holubar; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
"Obama Care" by Dick Locher for Tribune Media Services, 2012
P.S.: Totally by coincidence, I've got more Dick Tracy coming here this Saturday. Do tune in.

Monday, August 7, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

I may be accused
Of being confused,
But I'm average weight for my height.
My philosophy,
Like color TV,
Is all there in black and white.
-- Neil Innes, "Protest Song"

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Comic Caper, Part Dos

Stripback Saturday returns to an old comic strip I drew about a murder mystery in the funny pages. I drew The Funny Paper Caper over the course of the 1983-84 school year for the UW-Parkside Ranger (that's four years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit... but I'm not actively considering suing Disney Corporation at this point in time).

When we left our story, our police lieutenant narrator had begun his investigation of the murder of Rufus T. Pornapple. Having just talked to Mrs. Pornapple, who thought he had arrived to take report of a burglary at their home, our intrepid detective is about to meet the neighbors.
In addition to the occasional picture on the wall of some bit of cartoon history, I mimicked the balloons and printing of the cartoon characters. I somehow failed to incorporate a gargantuan sandwich or a bathtub into this part of the story line, however.
I'm going to need to explain here the inside joke that Strollin Bowlin' was a mascot who appeared in UW-P Ranger advertisements for the campus bowling alley.

Mimicking their cartoonists' lettering, it was so much easier to cram a lot of dialogue into Kathy's balloons than Mr. Dumpstead's.


How the Stephen Millers of the 19th Century Regarded Your Forebears

If I hadn't set the ball rolling on this Comic Caper nostalgia last week, I should probably have taken Trump's announcement of his No-Wretched-Refuse-Allowed immigration bill to present a more scholarly look back at 19th-Century editorial cartoons that warned against allowing your immigrant ancestors into the United States.

It's been done before, however. Here's an example that takes on almost every immigrant nationality, anyway (plus First Nations) (and even Canadians); and consider this your trigger warning that it's rather offensive.
"Please, Ma'am, May We Come In?" by Grant E. Hamilton in  Judge, 1893.