Comics

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today my mind is on comics – the ones of my childhood. Recently I realized that oddly enough, I have a distinct memory of my father reading me Peanuts, but no other strip – surely he didn’t literally only read that one and let the others go begging, but that is what I remember. I assume it started when I was very small and couldn’t read at all, but I do recall that as my nascent skills evolved, I was able to read along with him. Peanuts was a pretty easy read, although Nancy, as we all know, was the easiest and the first you could puzzle out on your own – often no words at all. (The miracle of story telling solely through pictures – the silent film of comics.)

However, for all of that, it is Peanuts that I associate with my Dad and Sunday morning childhood. (Saturday morning was Roadrunner cartoons, but we will discuss that another time perhaps.) I have chosen a Sunday strip from 1970 below, which would have put me at age six. It is one featuring Snoopy and Lucy and somehow I remember those as the ones he was partial to.

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As a career long cameraman for ABC News, my father traveled constantly and often for long periods, so I know it certainly wasn’t something we did every Sunday and, although I certainly remember my mother and father both reading me bedtime stories, I never remember Mom reading me comics from the paper, nor did I ask her to. Presumably my sister Loren was right in there as well, although I don’t remember that either, and perhaps with a two year age difference between us it mostly really was me alone, sitting on my Dad’s lap and looking at the comics. (Apologies to my brother Edward, but at almost seven years younger he was not yet in the picture.) Dad would read the strips and we would have a good chuckle. Perhaps at my insistence, in homage to the strip our first cat, a cow-spotty black and white one, was christened Snoopy.

Many years later, when I was launched into my first job at the Metropolitan Museum and living a commuting distance away from home, fax machines were suddenly in vogue. My father developed the habit of faxing me the strip Mutts. I had briefly met Patrick McDonnell in the mid-90’s (as well as the cat and dog who appear to have inspired the strip) and he seemed like an extraordinarily nice person. I loved the strip which was in its infancy. It did remind me just a bit of Peanuts and it was easy to see why it appealed to my father too, although I don’t think we ever discussed that aspect of it. I did not get a daily paper with comics and so, out of the blue, my father initiated a comprehensive campaign of faxing them to me, several on a page, a couple of times a week. I bought a few of the compilations and shared those with Dad, but I think he liked the dailiness of finding them in the paper and the self-appointed task of sending them.

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I was reminded of all of this recently when, on my trip to London in February, I found myself warming up and drying off in a comic book store near Leicester Square. After tending to the family business of checking on the Kim Deitch selection (yes, I do that in comic book stores Kim – you probably didn’t know that, but you do now) I found some Mutts and Peanuts compilations and was briefly tempted to buy one for Dad. After coming to my senses and realizing that they were of course more easily bought at home without stuffing them into and already bursting suitcase, I did not. However for a lovely moment I was transported back to those years of sharing comics with Dad.

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It’s Clint Flynn – on Spark Plug

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I am pleased to present something I consider to be a rarity, even among the rarified world of people posing with, or on, comic characters or stuffed cats. I could be wrong, but I figure I am probably one the largest (if not the very largest – only?) collector of such photos. Go figure, right? Anyway, many years ago I saw a photo of someone posed with Spark Plug. If memory serves, Spark Plug was more of a stuffed affair and furthermore, that it was from either New Zealand or Australia. (A bit less surprising than you think – about a quarter of my photos hail from that part of the world, such as the one in the post Echo Point, Katoomba.) That was in an online auction, Hake’s I believe, and I had a large but not large enough bid on it, and was bitterly disappointed when I lost it. Like a fool, I did not keep a scan.

Compulsive collecting behavior being what it is, I added it to my occasional searches for photos. If I didn’t want to look at automotive parts and endless Barney Google merchandise (not to mention that Google has adopted a very different meaning online than it had in about 1925) of which there is a plethora, I had to perfect that search a bit which I did over time. I did see some very nice stuffed versions of Spark Plug over the years as a result and was even tempted to buy one occasionally. I have not (yet at least), but after what may easily be a decade of looking I ran across this photo the other day while drinking my morning coffee, predawn and dawdling before getting ready for work. It is postcard, but on thin paper which I can’t imagine holding up in the mail. This one was never sent and even with that appears a bit ragged. After pushing a few buttons, happily I found it in my mail about 48 hours later.

The person who sold it, had an interesting bit of local history attached to it. Our man Clint Flynn was a resident of Flynn’s Cove, Cumberland County, Tennessee. Son of William L. Flynn and grandson of Richard “Red Fox” Flynn of Civil War note. Seems Red was a famous Union Scout and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Also mentioned is that Red lost his brother, John to Confederate Guerillas so this family gave a lot to the cause of the Union in the Civil War. Clearly the town mentioned is named for the family. Just because I find it a bit interesting, I include a photo of Clint’s sister Rebecca below, shown with the man she ultimately marries, Walter Reed. (He does not appear to be the Walter Reed of scientific or other fame, nor is he Walter Reade of theater fame, although my eBay historian friend implies that he too is notable without detail.) It is also up for sale on eBay as this goes to press.

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Photo of sister, Rebecca Flynn, and Walter Reed. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

 

Clint Flynn did not seem to make his way into local lore so we do not know anything about him except that in roughly 1923 (according to the seller who must have calculated this from the album it came from) he perched atop of Spark Plug while at Hardie’s Casino, Miami Beach, Florida and had his photo taken by H. H. Duncker, cameraman, as per the back of this photo. I like his bravado – embracing the situation for all it is worth and creating a sense of movement on this very stationary version of Spark Plug. Go Sparky, go! Spark Plug appears to be made mostly, or entirely, of wood, tail standing straight up in back like a frowsy flag. I also draw your attention to the strange little figure, chased by an alligator in the bottom right which I did not see until purchasing the photo and studied it, next to him a tiny and almost unreadable sign, Miami Beach, Florida. (This photo has also been enhanced by the Photoshop magic of Mr. Kim Deitch.)

Strangely, this is the first photo of this kind taken in the United States to enter my collection. While this was a common photo opportunity offered at seaside and other resorts in Great Britain, Australia and even New Zealand, I have never found or purchased one from our own shores. (I believe the best I have done is people posing with nominally outsized Mickey’s or Mickey Mouse knockoffs.) Now that I own this little gem, I am of course anxious to acquire additional ones. And you, my Pictorama readers, will be the first to know.

 

Felix in Translation

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This was such an odd card I decided I had to purchase it. At the top – I hope you’ll keep on loving – it’s good for me!” is the strange declaration, and then the next line translates as Not for you, for my little cat Felix. One can’t help, but wonder if the translation to English was terribly inadequate and they were aiming for a slightly different sentiment? This little girl appears to be holding a bizarre tiny Felix and is placing a bowl of milk down for this other, larger Felix. In addition, she’s in this sort of frame like she is bursting out of something. The little Felix appears to have a very long (un-Felix-like) tail as well, that hangs below her arm. (If I’m being picky, I might also point out that the little girl is actually a bit longer in the body than she should be, about a third longer really.) Both Felix-es are smiling and evidently appear happy about what is transpiring – whatever that is. Honestly, it is like something out of a Kim Deitch story! (Hmm, size shifting cartoon cats mixing with humans – I think we were actually discussing that yesterday morning in bed.)

Personally, I don’t really think about Felix as a milk drinking cat – although perhaps there’s a cartoon or two where he reaches for a bottle of the white stuff. In those early days you were more likely to expect him to be guzzling a bottle of hooch than milk though. Early in my Felix toy collecting career, I thought France and Germany would be the hotbeds of early Felix activity, but England easily tops all, with the US in second – odd but true. France and Germany are way behind. One finds the occasional French item, German even more rare and really it is only Schuco that comes to mind. (Steiff of course being a German American company.)

I do not believe I own a single French Felix item, and if they felt the need to pose with a large, stuffed character from the comics, I have not seen one to date, nor know what character they prefer. A great auction loss I have never gotten over was an Australian photo of people posing with a life size Spark Plug from Barney Goggle. I have never seen on before or since. (My photos of people posing with giant Felix dolls seem to have only come from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Even the Americans did not seem to embrace that practice. For new readers these photo posts abound in the Pams-Pictorama.com archive.)

The card was never mailed, although someone has written across the back, shown below. Between it being French, the hand writing, and the amount of it I have not attempted to Google translate it – but for anyone who can execute a quick translation I would love to know the general idea. For now I offer this odd little image for your consideration – and I hope you’ll keep on loving – it’s good for me!

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Sandy Finds a Home

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: The birthday tale continues. I left off with our very superior visit to the newly discovered Antique Toy Shop New York behind us. Pig toy safely tucked in my bag, we armed ourselves with our soaking umbrellas and went back out into the downpour. Somehow it had actually gotten worse and the effect, even with boots and umbrella, was a bit like being blasted with a fire hose, and us blocks from the subway we needed. Somehow, splashing into the street, we hailed a cab and took it east to my next birthday destination in the East Village, to a shop I discovered on my birthday last year which was recommended to me by someone who knew of my predilections who I met at a con or exhibit opening, Oddities and Obscura. (Can be found at obscuraantiques.com)

At this emporium last year I purchased, among other things, a lovely pile of photographs. Some of those were featured in the posts The Crimson and A Page of Life. I was disappointed that the photos hadn’t been much restocked, but almost immediately upon walking in I noticed this very nice oil cloth Sandy doll. I knew he was coming home with us, but didn’t say anything while I looked around further. (Kim said later he wondered why I didn’t pounce immediately.) It was an enjoyable hunting spot to while away the time, the rain continuing it’s monsoon pounding outside.

I started reading the Little Orphan Annie strips from the beginning awhile back. I got off track at some point and did not finish the volume I have, but do plan to get back to it as I did enjoy it immensely. As some readers may know, when reading comics, I decidedly prefer the daily strips and I have read all the Popeye’s and Krazy Kats, but only the dailies. (I started Dick Tracy but there was a long pause on the second volume and I wandered off before I could purchase it.) I also vastly prefer to start at the very beginning. This last bit mystifies Kim, he will often tell me I should pick something up further in, but I am stubborn on this point.

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As it happens, Kim recently pulled out the Little Orphan Annie volume and added it to his reading pile. (He’s deep into Gasoline Alley at the moment and sounds like it would be worth my while as well.) I am partial dailies because they have a different pacing and a wonderful evocative sense of time. Holidays are given a passing nod, as are the seasons and the flow of some long lost year has a brief breathe of life pumped back into it. Days and months pile up and slip by. I just love it. Somehow the splashiness of the big Sunday pages just never appealed the same way, the story lines interrupted and robbed of their workaday charm. Dailies are a little slice of time travel to me and I tend to turn to volumes of them during times of extreme stress in my life. (For that matter, many years ago, I retired to my bed with all the Kim Deitch comic books that would some day make up Boulevard of Broken Dreams after the tragic death of a friend. This was several years before Mr. Deitch and I began dating, although we had met.)

I own virtually no Little Orphan Annie merchandise, although an almost dizzying amount exists. Kim purchased this interesting partial item below on a trip to the west coast several years ago and before Sandy it was the sole item in my collection. I like her even in this broken and incomplete state and she sits happily on a shelf in the living room. If you look closely at the shot of her back you can see a tiny Harold Gray printed at the bottom for copyright. I have pulled an image of the complete toy and added it below as well. How it actually worked is a bit confusing to me, but somehow I gather she got over the jumprope.

 

 

Given the wide prevalence of old and worn oil cloth toys I do nonetheless wonder at their appeal for small children. Yes, they wiped off clean easily which made mom happy, but they do not strike me as especially cuddly. Can I see taking Sandy off to bed with me? Not sure. I have frequently seen early photos of children holding them, and he is much loved and handled, showing his ninety plus years of age this way. His seams are a bit split in places and he sports worn patches. He is a sweet fellow and I can easily imagine him being a favorite really. A quick search has turned up a rather nice Annie which must have gone with it. We will have to see about that. Meanwhile, I believe this brings this year’s birthday adventures to a close.

 

 

 

 

Big Band Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Bonus Post: Happy Valentine’s Day! Those of you who have known us for a bit know that it is an annual tradition here at Deitch Studio that a very special Valentine is produced each year in honor of the combined Valentine’s Day and Queen of Catland (my) birthday – as recently noted in Sunday’s post A Happy Birthday to Me. It has grown into a several week project – the conceiving of which often germinates weeks, if not months. in advance.

This year Kim has outdone himself with this rendition of the Jazz at Lincoln Center band, all as anthropomorphic cats of course, each one nodding to the actual gentleman who owns that seat in the orchestra. I don’t know how Wynton, Carlos, Sherman, Walter , Marcus and the rest will ultimately feel about their cat edition selves, but I hope they love them as much as I do! Kim and I are in our garb from the upcoming Reincarnation Stories book and I especially like what I call my Queen of Catland regalia. We are of course at the soon-to-be famous toy cat museum, of which I am the proprietress, featured in the latter pages of the same story. Kim is busy with the appendix of that book now which means it is slowly crossing the finish line!

The great rendition of a Feed the Kitty is on the floor – more a nod to my fundraising responsibilities than anything else. Kim also made the drawing below at my request recently. I will imagine the money and see it – and it will come!

Wonderful Waldo

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This simply amazing item comes via Facebook friend Roy Conolly appearing unexpectedly in the mail the other day. I am stunned by the Waldo wonderfulness of it in numerous ways – the first being that it is a crocheted doll that looks like Waldo! Amazing! How fabulous, thoughtful and most of all impressively clever it is for someone to have done. I freely admit that I come at it from the perspective of someone who has tried, but is utterly incapable of effectively knitting or crocheting a stitch. People have tried to teach me over the years, but to say I am all thumbs would be a true understatement. It is just a path that my eyes and hands cannot or will not merge into a coherent methodology.

Awhile back I wrote about the existence of pattern kits for the knitting of large Felix the cat dolls in my post Homemade Mickey where also I opine on my lack of ability in this area. While our crocheted friend is a somewhat less enormous project, he was of course conceived of without the benefit of a pattern, making it impressive indeed. In my mind he possesses a lovely similarity to the very first Felix I ever purchased at a flea market in London. (Shown below.) I believe this Felix was a prize to be won at a fair – for winning at knockdown dolls or something similar. Our new Waldo doll hails from that part of the world as well and I like the implied symmetry. Roy tells me that his friend Nita made it so I am giving a shout out to her as well. Yay Nita! Yay Roy! Thank you so much!

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My first Felix, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

To my knowledge, this crocheted fellow brings the total of three-dimensional Waldo renditions in the world to three. One, executed by the master Mr. Deitch himself, executed in Sculpey many years ago, wandered back to us recently after many years. There is also a really extraordinary cotton felt Waldo made by our friends Tony and Sue Eastman, a number of years ago now, which sits on a shelf near where I write now. Those both fascinating tales of their own which I will share at a future time. (And of course for those of you up on your Deitch-ian lore there are those Waldo dolls which spewed out of that volcanic explosion in the South Seas back in Stuff of Dreams #1, eventually collected in Alias the Cat. We’re still looking for evidence of those! The $1k offer stands…)

Meanwhile, I will be returning to the scene of that and other flea market crimes later this month when I travel briefly to London with the gentlemen of my beloved Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra. Tales of early morning flea market finds will hopefully follow. Although Paris may rival London for some in flea markets (and I picked up a thing or two in Berlin once admittedly) having once lived in London and made many subsequent trips there (albeit not for more than a decade now) the flea markets of London are a beloved and well worn path for me and decidedly my favorite treat of this kind in the world. The above Felix came from a splendid market in south London called Bermondsey. If I remember correctly, I arrived at that market shortly after stumbling off an overnight plane trip, with my friend Elyse, for a long weekend flea market and museum attack many years ago. Felix was sitting on a table among unrelated items and I, a fan of the silent cartoons, purchased him up immediately. He is, in fact, my very first Felix.

When I brought Felix home Kim said he looked like someone had killed and skinned a demon and reacted with mock horror when I installed him at the foot of the bed, where several antique stuffed cats of more generic nature already resided. It took me a number of years to get Kim to accept that this is indeed Felix and we argued amicably about it ongoing. It wasn’t until other grinning, demonic renditions of Felix started to appear in the house, and pile up on the bedroom shelves, that the pattern emerged I guess. As you know, the rest is Pictorama collecting history.

 

Good Cats and Bad Cats

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Okay, still rounding up the last of what was a Pictorama perfect holiday season with more magnificent gifts than I could have imagined! (We are indeed fortunate over here at Pictorama!) This entry is an extraordinarily thoughtful gift from a colleague at Jazz who clearly understands the Pictorama ethos. I am just mad about this little volume, the likes of which I have not seen before. For those of you who are wildly jealous (you will be) I will tell you that a less charming reprint seems to be available, but this original version seems far less easy to obtain.

In case the book itself was not perfect enough, the inscription, in pencil and dated Christmas, 1911, takes it over the top. It reads, To my good Kitten (and then in tiny script underneath which is hard to read) who is sometimes just a wee bit bad. Who wouldn’t love that? The volume, published by Frederick A. Stokes Company (September 1911 so this was hot off the press at the time) is author dedicated thus, To FUZZY WUZZY a Perfectly Good Cat Except WHEN SHE IS BAD or (as is usually the case) UTTERLY INDIFFERENT.

What follows are these wonderful cat illustrations and a volume that is one part children’s book, written entirely in rhyme, describing first a good kitty and then the naughty bad kitty:

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But at times it becomes an actual comic strip:

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There are also these sort of splendid full pages that seem to be something all their own:

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Alas, while we all aspire to being a good kitty, who among us does not as frequently identify with the bad?

Finding information about author/artist Frederick White tested my amateur sleuthing skills mightily and just about when I was ready to turn the question over to you, my erudite readers, I teased out some information from Mr. Google at last by searching his name and 1911 under comics. Born in Queens on December 4, 1869 he seemed to be a journeyman cartoonist, although the artistic trail sort of peters out as you will see below. The real information I found comes from the excellent work of fellow blogger Allan Holtz over at Strippers Guide. I quote from him and link to him below (all these links in color from his blog work) where further information can be found:

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said White did The Gol-I-Fings, from May 5 to June 9, 1901, for the McClure Syndicate. His Gol-I-Fing ran in the San Francisco Chronicle from October 12 to November 2, 1902. 

The Christian Register, January 2, 1908, reprinted White’s verse, Bill, a Cheerful Dog. Apparently it was the basis for the 1908 book from Holiday Publishing. The book was well received by The Presbyterian Banner and American Motherhood.

White created Good and Bad Cats for the News Syndicate which ran it from November 6, 1910 to March 19, 1911. The material was compiled in a book by the Frederick A. Stokes Company in 1911. For the NEA, White produced Kute Karols for Kitty Kats which debuted January 1, 1912. The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois) printed White’s Nine Lives of Kitty Kat from February 5 to 14, 1912. The Boston Globe published White’s Edie and Eddie from August 22, 1915 to March 19, 1916. Edie and Eddie also appeared on the inside back covers of Everyland magazine in the 1920 issues for JanuaryFebruaryMarch and May.

An interesting aside I enjoyed further is that the last home listed is with his sisters at 45 East 85th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues) a few short blocks west from the perch where I write from right now here on 86th Street, near York Avenue.

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Ad for The Nine Lives of Kitty Kat! in the Daily Day Book.