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.

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A Pip of a Pip

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It’s been quite a stretch without a toy post – mostly because I have not acquired any since my adventures in Shanghai, and that was more about the trip than the toy. I have written on the subject of the (now obscure) British comicstrip which emerged post-WWI, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. My post Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform, based on a postcard purchase, examines the strip in depth and my more recent Close Quarters which kicks off with my acquisition lust for a piece of furniture based on one of these characters.

Nonetheless, it was a splendid Pip toy that lead me to discover the strip in the first place, although I was unable to purchase him. Subsequently, I have bid on numerous versions of this toy and to my surprise I won this one and for a quite reasonable price. Pip is in such good shape I think buyers might have wondered if he was a re-issue of some sort. (The same seller is in fact selling a knitted version which may very well be newer – much to my shock patterns were sold for such things. I cover this strange DIY opportunity in a post here Homemade Mickey. Kim assures me, after having a sniff, that he does indeed have the smell of nostalgia.) Pip has a vaguely, early Felix-y air here, I believe.

Before we get too far into this post let me outline the comic strip for you a bit. Published in Britain’s Daily Mirror, written by Bertram Lamb (and signed as Uncle Dick) and elegantly drawn by A.B. (Austin Bowen) Payne, it is the ongoing story of Pip the dog dad, Squeak the penguin mom, and Wilfred the bunny boy-child, who form a family and live in a magnificent mansion called The Grange. (Where they are theoretically cared for by the aforementioned Uncle Dick, and a human housekeeper Angeline.) Pip was said to have been purchased for a half-crown from a dog’s home, where he was sent after being “arrested” for begging on the Embankment; Squeak was found in the London Zoological Garden although hatched in South Africa; and Wilfred who was found and adopted by them. (There are other characters and I am especially fond of Auntie penguin who is a bit frowzy with age and who has a penchant for money schemes.) Launched in 1919 one can easily imagine why a fatigued post-war England would embrace these characters and their whacky and low-key ongoing tales. It ran until 1959, although with the death of Lamb in ’38 and the subsequent defection of Payne in ’39 the heyday ends there.

I supply a sample strip from the ’30 annual below.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection, from a 1930 Annual

 

For the few (really guys, two or three) people who read the earlier Pip, Squeak and Wilfred post you know that it has been a long held desire to have (at a minimum, let’s be realistic) one each of these stuffed toys. I have achieved two out of three for now with the acquisition of Pip. I have made many attempts at purchasing a Squeak which have yet to bear fruit – stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, I share a photo below my then recently acquired Wilfred rabbit during my recovery from foot surgery a few years ago. (Hence the large, red cast in the background – that’s me.) He is perched on one of my nice annuals – more on those below.

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Wilfred rabbit toy, recently arrived. Blackie and toy shelf in background!

 

While I have labored to no effect to work up much interest in this strip they were, in their day in Britain, as big as Mickey Mouse – spawning early merchandise which included not just stuffed toys and various figurines, but postcards, furniture, recreations of The Grange, records of songs, as well as annual competitions and gatherings across Britain. (My previous posts above include some Youtube footage of a parade and a short on the making of the strip.) Here I include a photo of the badge from their fan club, the GUGNUNCs below. WWI medals were also issued in the names of each of the pet family. The club was in existence until fading with Britain’s entrance into WWII.

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Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fan club pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I have collected several of the annuals, my 1930 one below. I read them while trapped in bed, doped up with pain meds, after foot surgery a few years back. Still, to know me is to know that I have a tremendous capacity for enjoying juvenile literary fare – take my posts on Honey Bunch and Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls and the Moving Picture Girls Novels. It is a great avenue of relaxation for me. Kim began his vacation last week, so I am playing catch up and trying to quickly free my mind from my new job and responsibilities during this week running into Labor Day weekend – the most vacation I could manage with the new gig. Re-reading some of these seems like it might just do the trick and help relax my work-addled brain

For those of you who would like a bit more background on them, you might try Forgotten Comic Charaters; Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, an excellent online article. In addition, many of the strips are available online. I say perfect for these last, lazy days of summer.

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1930 Annual, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

And What a Party We Had!

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Pam’s Pictorama Post-Valentine Special: I am going to let you in on a secret. One of the really great things about being married to Kim Deitch is that whenever I want, I toss the dull, day-to-day world aside and enter the vastly more entertaining Deitchian world of anthropomorphic animals, demons in cat bodies and slightly sinister cartoon landscapes. This circus is going on right here – all the time! Yep, the front door of Deitch Studio is the portal to an amazing world of delight and fright – the rabbit hole you climb down every time you pick up one of Kim’s stories and that I come home to after a day out in the world. And once a year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Kim pulls back the curtain and reveals a behind-the-scenes glimpse for everyone who has wondered and as a testimonial to the love and joy of our corner of the universe. To that end, I share this year’s Valentine.

While recent prior years focused on King Kitty and his dominion over the toys – especially the mice – starting in 2015, Kim picked up the theme of a glorious cat toy museum run by me, the Queen of Catland, as the nexus. I think it is fair to say that in this third year, the Valentine intersects squarely and gloriously with the final chapter of Reincarnation Stories, his latest book – as some of you who have been following that progress on Facebook know. The phenomenal cat toy museum revealed at last!

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And what will future years bring? You will have to stay tuned each February. Meanwhile, sure stop by Deitch Studio sometime, but remember you could get sucked down the rabbit hole too.

Big Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card almost slipped through my fingers due to an email that went astray with the seller, but I am ever so glad it did not! This surreal image of a giant cat (a tuxedo cat no less) dragging this man and woman along as they clutch his (or her) leash is splendid and bizarre indeed. It falls soundly into the category of I have never seen another like it – although I would love to see more if anyone can send me in that direction. This card was mailed on December 23 (8 AM) Sierra Mac, CAL, 1920. It was mailed to Mr. & Mrs. H.H. Wear (?) & Family, 431-14th Street, San Bernadino, CA. I was tempted to save this until the end of the year and do a seasonally appropriate post, but who could resist sharing this sooner? Not to mention that it is not really a very Christmas-y holiday card.

For me what this card brings to mind is chalk talks. For any of you who haven’t encountered these before, it is an act where a cartoonist very quickly draws a drawing, or series of drawings, in front of an audience – stunning them with skill and speed. It took hold as early as the late 1800’s, had a hot five minutes first during vaudeville, then early film and finally once again in early television. (There is also an interesting tributary of bible chalk talks – the Methodists claim to have founded the practice.)

Kim was giving me some tips and tales earlier about it – some folks sketching in outlines that couldn’t be seen by the audience as a bit of a cheat, that sort of thing. Windsor McCay is one of the most famous practitioners of the chalk talk (think Gertie the Dinosaur) and when I think of it I tend to think of folks like him in the teens and twenties, but there are legions of others. Here is a link to The Enchanted Drawing from an Edison short in 1900 showing J. Stuart Blackton at work.

As I stumbled and bumbled around researching this, Kim also gave me an interesting lead – he met chalk talk (lightening cartoonist) Ernie McGee decades ago at a comic book convention here in NYC. Kim was carrying copies of Gothic Blimp Works and he gave Ernie a copy featuring his then strip – evidently an Uncle Ed strip gave the man a chuckle of approval, much to the surprise of a young Kim Deitch. Ernie McGee seems to have had his heyday in vaudeville. Cole Johnson gives a thumbnail blog post history of Ernie here at Stripper’s Guide 4/19/09 including the photo (look at all those bound volumes!) and strip drawn by Ernie below. Spoiler alert – it’s a bit of a sad tale ending with a down and out Ernie living in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, drinking too much and doing his act in his bathrobe at a lectern, in front of rows of chairs in his apartment, for his sole visitor.

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Ernie McGee strips, not in my collection

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Photo of Ernie McGee, not in my collection

West coast buddy Bruce Simon also did a strip about Ernie, published in Siegel and Simon’s Party Comics shown in a 2009 re-issue below. In an online write-up about the re-issue Bruce says, Party Comics came out in July, 1980 and the UG scene was just about moribund by then. We printed 5,000 copies and maybe sold half of them, about what a Vertigo book sells now…I screwed up on the color sep and the devil’s hands came out pink instead of red, too cheap to pull a proof. The cover character was based on a real 1930’s era ‘chalk-talk’ cartoonist named Ernie McGee who I had met in New York in 1971. Why I thought anyone would know what a ‘chalk-talk’ cartoonist was in 1980 is anyone’s guess.  

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Party Comics by Bruce Simon, not in my collection

Kim tells me that he thinks the drawing of Ernie here is from his business card which he remembers fondly – he once had a copy, but couldn’t put his hands on it if he does indeed still possess it.

I have once again strayed somewhat from my cat material, but their plenty of fun in ’21 may very well have included seeing Ernie or maybe even Windsor McCay.

 

Periquito, the Spanish Felix of Chocolate Cards

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: I considered these quite a find. There were at least another three, but they went high and this was as many as (perhaps more than!) I could afford. It is evident that these were chocolate cards – sort of the Spanish version of Felix meet Bazooka Joe of the 1920’s, and needless to say (all due respect Joe) a heck of a lot better. This Felix doppelganger is pretty charming in his own right, even if he is an knock off. I can only find a passing reference to this series of cards. (Admittedly, I might do better if I read Spanish.) Each one is numbered and the back seems to say there are 25 cards in the series. The one reference I found said there was a total of 48 images. As you can see, I have numbers 9, 13 and 21. I am especially partial to #9 where Faux Felix makes a nice little hammock for himself after seeing the human enjoying one. However, all of them are very charming indeed.

Each card has an explanation of the comic on the back – for those who can’t get the joke on their own I guess. The cat’s name translates to something along the line of Parakeet or Budgie the Mischief Cat. I can’t quite figure out where the bird element comes in, but it may be the limitations of the Google translation. I invite Spanish readers to enlighten me on any of these points.

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Below is a useful thumbnail history from a Spanish site, Tebeosfera, and translated by our friend, Mr. Google:

Series of comic strips featuring the cat “Periquito”, which included translations (probably unlicensed), copies and imitations of the famous character of animation “Felix the Cat” (Felix the Cat) made by several Spanish authors of the Editorial Marco as Regúlez in his own head parakeet (1927) and other publications of the house asRin-tin-tin by authors such as Juan Martinez and Castillo Osete. Subsequently, these cartoons also appear in La Risa in 1950.

In the twenties several collections of character trading cards as dumb cartoons were cartoons, advertising various chocolatiers on the back, as they were also published as Adventures Budgie Cat by Tinez and New Adventures of Periquito Cat by Bofarull.

The name “Jack Budgie” was the most common translation in Spain the popular Felix the cat in the animated short films released in cinemas in the mid-twenties of the twentieth century, which also went on to become the usual nickname followers football club Espanyol (still in force), thanks to the jokes Castanys for satirical football weekly the Xut (1922) and others like the sports Whip (1930), where fans of that team is parodied, calling them ” four cats”. [This piece mystifies me a bit.]

Black Cat editorial also published a similar character named “Jack Periquín” in the Children ‘s Joy (1930).

The site above also has this page of comics which is a much clearer Felix rip off of sorts, sample below. After looking carefully however, it seems that just the logo is the rip-off Felix and the comic is a real one in translation.

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Not in my collection, found at Tebeosfara.com

I have also found this nifty book on Google images which would have held your collection of Periquito cards below.The cards can be found for sale on some Spanish auction sites. I love the fact that he is a bit tubby and he has that extra long tail. He’s like the good living, European cousin of our man.

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Periquito Card Book, not in my collection

I am not sure I understand entirely, but I think the term Gato Periquito is still in use to describe mischievous kitties and therefore if you search on this you will also get a lot of Spanish cat videos and photos of cats getting into all sorts of trouble. As for me, having discovered this kissin’ cousin of my man Felix, you know I will be looking for Gato Periquito toys and other items.

Snowy

 

 

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My Snowy at home

 

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I am, frankly, a bit weak on the Tintin comics in general. I believe Tintin in Tibet might be the only one I have read – and as a traveler to Tibet I enjoyed it greatly. It hit as many of the highlights of Tibet travel as I could have hoped from a comic book and then some. (The Dalai Lama even liked it enough to present it with the Light of Truth award.) In addition, I almost never buy new toys, so it is a bit surprising that while traveling at a mad pace through the South of France on business recently I stopped dead in my tracks over a stuffed Snowy in the window of a store. However, my responsibilities of the moment did not allow for me to break off long enough to go in and investigate, but this is where living in the internet age is a great benefit. I tucked this image into my mind and upon my return home I found him online and Kim, being the very best husband in the world, purchased him for me as an anniversary gift. Snowy took his own good time getting here however and I present him to you now. Don’t you agree that he was worth the trouble?

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Seems that Snowy was on the scene from the first, appearing in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets in January 1921. He was a wry, wise-cracking sidekick with his own balloons of chatter for many years, evidently he gets demoted later in the strip and then only Tintin can read his thoughts. I read that he was inspired by a Fox Terrier at a cafe Hergé frequented, and named (Milou in the French) for his first girlfriend – despite the fact that Snowy is a boy dog and the translation – if that – is a bit mystical. Snowy, although an utterly dependable companion was, like most dogs has an extreme weakness for bones. (Who doesn’t have their Achilles heel?) In addition, I understand that he suffers from arachnophobia – I would prefer my dog (and cat) defend me against multi-legged intruders, but again, no one is perfect and if a dog constantly rescued me from all sorts of peril, saved my life and defended us against enemies many times his size, I could be forgiving on these points. I read that Snowy was known to frequently have a good snort and really tie one on too.

Somehow this toy seems to have the unusual characteristic of really embodying the drawing it is from. I find that is rarely the case – when it comes to Felix I enjoy the wildly off-model nature of the early British ones – but with many toys derived from comics I find it just annoying, especially in contemporary toys. Things are called Krazy Kat that bear no resemblance to even the film version of the character. There is a general disregard for the design of characters – so to find one that has the right spirit and appears to be well made alerted my radar.

Westerns have brought Tintin to Tibet in a big way and his image graces everything from bars to t-shirts, existing in high contrast to things like the Potala. (Until recently Kim was wearing one of these machine embroidered t-shirts with Tintin and Snowy, drawn somewhat free hand, that I brought back years ago.) It goes almost without saying that your average Tibetan has absolutely no idea who or what Tintin is (let alone Snowy), and I have wondered what they make of this persistent symbol of the West, lurking from far beyond their mountain home.

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Potala Palace, Lhasa

Sticky Wicket?

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Pam Photo Post: These bizarre Felix photos are like catnip to me and I went to the wall to acquire this one recently, despite its damage. It appears to have been glued into an album (Felix’s family album perhaps?) and somewhat rudely peeled away. It has left it somewhat crinkly. It is a wonderful trick of the camera’s focus (and a tiny croquette set) that makes Felix appear to be human-sized. It was in fact advertised as a child in a Felix costume. I am pretty sure I recognize (and own) the model toy here. (He was featured in the post Toy Hospital earlier this year.)

It is a fascinating photo – it is not a postcard, although it is roughly that size, a bit bigger. It sets my imagination ablaze – what exactly did the photographer have in mind and how did it end up in an album? Who had the doll-sized croquet set if my assumptions are correct? It would have been taken by a canny photographer which, as I mention above, created the illusion. Or am I wrong and it is an extra-large size Felix? It  does remind me of the utterly extraordinary larger-than-life Felixes in my post Greetings from Felix in Kuala Lumpur where he appears to be directing traffic or something along those lines on the streets of the city.

As for croquet – it was well established in the United States by the late 1860’s, although its origin is in Britain. Some folks might be surprised to know that Central Park has long been a permanent home to croquet and lawn bowling societies. Although a very long-standing feature of the Park, I doubt an original one dubbed by Olmsted who preferred only seasonal entertainments and no permanent playgrounds or facilities in his original design. Still, there is something distinctly British about our American man Felix here. As we know, the Brits embraced Felix even more deeply than we in his homeland and indeed, this photograph was wrested from a dealer in Great Britain.

I will seek some advice from friends who restore photos at the Met to see if there is anything to be done for this little beauty – or at least the best way to frame and preserve it from further damage. If we make any significant improvement I promise to a follow up post.