Pam’s Pictorama Post: This great little book was a thoughtful gift of our friends Tony and Sue Eastman who know of my love of all things black cat. An initial search of the author and artist, John Rosol, turned up surprisingly little. (I am very spoiled and have gotten used to information on even the most obscure topics turning up with ease, I admit.) To start with however, the comics in this book were all published in the Saturday Evening Post and all feature his cat, Tommy.
As per the dust cover, Tommy was a stray who strolled into Mr. Rosol’s Philadelphia studio and calmly seated himself on the drawing board. Rosol got Tommy’s idea immediately and went to work. In exchange for small steaks, liver, cream and catnip (no wonder he was a fat cat!) Tommy consented to stay for a while and be Caterer Rosol’s idea man…When he finally took his leave – destination unknown – he had trained Mr. Rosol so well that not even an expert can tell where Tommy left off and John began…P.S. Mr. Rosol hopes if this little books happens to come under the eye of Tommy, he will drop into the studio and turn off the light which is always burning for him. I, of course, teared up at the idea of the disappearance of Tommy. While my edition dates from 1944, the first printing appears to go back to 1934.
The cartoons are simple and cheerfully fun. The idea that he turned one cat into a consistent five identical twins brings certain very busy cats to mind. I have had several who had such a penchant for trouble that you would swear that there was more than one cat underfoot. (Cookie!) The gags are mostly of the kind assigned to cats – attempts to obtain fish and milk and to chase mice for food. Most notably the Tommy quints are patriotic during these WWII years and even turn their fat cat noses up at crab meat when they realize it was shipped from Japan, abandon their mouse chase when reminded to embrace a “meatless day”, round up dogs for service, and even help a female soldier who is afraid of mice.
A fellow blogger over at Comics Kingdom has the scoop on Rosol’s two brief syndicated strips, The Boy and the Cat (1939-1941) and Here and There (1941). Comics Kingdom offers some samples of Here and There and the black cat/s are tucked into these as well. In the style of earlier comics these are large single panel tableaus, with a different strip (about the cat) running occasionally up one side. This entry, combined with his obit, add the following facts: Rosol was trained as a commercial artist at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, which later became the Philadelphia College of Art. His full name was John Rolosowicz and he died at the age of 85, still living in Philadelphia. In addition to his comics which were syndicated to numerous papers across the country, and his work for the Saturday Evening Post, he also worked for Bazooka bubblegum. He published a children’s book The Cat’s Meow which I can find no evidence of online and evidently was working up until his death.
So I salute John Rosol, a cat loving cartoonist, barely saved from disappearing entirely from view by the internet and this popular volume.