In our collection of original comic-strip art, my wife and I already have several Miss Peach dailies by Mell Lazarus (see here, here, and here), but my personal grail has long been a Sunday strip from the 1960s, when Mell’s drawings of his cartoon kids were at their most expressive and his wit was always razor sharp. Well, my quest is finally complete! Because yesterday I won an ebay auction for a big, beautiful original Miss Peach Sunday strip dated 12-2-1962 with a great gag featuring Francine and Arthur. (And at a good price, which is important, because our budget for original art is currently stretched to the max!) I don’t have the artwork in hand yet, but here’s the image from the ebay auction, and though it looks pieced together from smaller scans, it is probably as good as or better than anything I could possibly produce with our little scanner/printer:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
The strip is a whopping 24 inches wide by 18 1/2 inches high, and it comes with a tissue paper overlay roughly festooned with Mell’s crayon colour notes, intended as a guide for the printer:
And you know what? At this moment I feel like I never need to buy another Miss Peach original. I have what I wanted. I’m happy. And I’m done.
From our curious collection of comic art, old and new, here are a pair of scans of the original art for two comic strips by Mell Lazarus, “Miss Peach” and “Momma”; both strips are dated 8-24-2001, and both have been personalized by the artist with a greeting and signature in red marking pen:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
If you are a fan of Mell Lazarus’s work, but have never seen his originals in person, you might be interested to know that the strips from 2001 are drawn on lightweight sheets of paper trimmed to a mere 11 inches wide by 4.25 inches high while the strips from 1958 and 1961 are on much heavier sheets that are a whopping 18.5 by 6.06 inches!
Likewise, if you click to enlarge the scans posted above, you’ll find that both strips — which Mell drew some forty-four years after “Miss Peach” debuted in 1957 — are drawn on pre-printed templates that include the name of the strip and the author’s name, the syndicate name and Web address, the author’s copyright notice, an empty box in proportion to the size of the finished art, and underlined spaces — unused — for the specification of “% BLACK” and “LINES PER INCH.”
My guess is that Mell moved to the smaller size and lighter weight paper in part because he appreciated the convenience of being able to create custom templates for his strips that he could edit at any time and output on a standard home printer and in part because, at some point, as the Internet revolution took hold, he needed to be able to scan his artwork himself — “in house,” as it were — for electronic submission to his syndicate.
At some point, Mell also ditched his dip pen and bottles of ink and began drawing with a fine-point, fiber-tipped pen or “fineliner,” e.g., a Pilot, a Micron, or some such. The 2001 originals were drawn with a fiber-tipped pen, and though I like them well enough, I have to say, if you want to add a daily or two by Mell Lazarus to your comic-art collection, you definitely will want to get hold of one of the large “Miss Peach” originals from back in the day. The drawings are confident, amusing, and expressive — fiber-tipped “archival” fineliners may be convenient and easy to control, but paired with the right kind of paper, dip-pen nibs make beautiful lines — and the gags are often laugh-out-loud funny. And if by chance you find yourself the proud owner of a “Miss Peach” Sunday strip from the 1960s (see below), you definitely will be the envy of at least one other comic-art collector: me!
As you can see here and here, Mell initially drew his daily strips — “Miss Peach” started out this way — as wide single-panel cartoons, and he clearly understood how to parcel out the characters and the dialogue to make that format work. But he was not rigidly committed to the single-panel ideal. Rather, he never hesitated to make changes to his template to allow for more precise control of the timing of his gags. In the “Miss Peach” strip posted above, for instance, Mell has divided the large pre-printed panel in two with a single inked line, thereby establishing a strong pause between the wordy setup and the one-word punchline. And in the “Momma” strip, he has gone much farther, briskly brushing whiteout over sections of the pre-printed lines to open up the second panel right the way along the bottom and at the corners of the word balloon along the top and taking a moment to establish a gutter/pause between the third and fourth panels with two hand-drawn lines and a couple of touches of whiteout. Because even though his cartoon style is simple, and has been the subject of ridicule by some, Mell has always taken seriously the craft of writing dialogue and staging interactions that make people laugh.
Mell Lazarus retired his “Miss Peach” strip in 2002, but he has continued to draw “Momma” right up to the present day. He will celebrate his 85th birthday on 03 May 2012.
Just for fun, here are the first five pages of “Miss Peach” strips reprinted in the paperback collection, Miss Peach of the Kelly School (New York: Tempo Books, 1972):
Not that anyone should care, but I got a good deal on each of the above items on eBay this week; what’s more, I purchased all four of the books from the same seller, who agreed to ship them to me all in one package for one low price. I bought Small Wonders because I don’t have it and the “Buy It Now” price was $8.99 and I’m enough of a Frazetta fan that I couldn’t resist. I bought the two paperbacks because they have covers with art by Jeffrey Jones, and yes, I will scan and post them later on RCN. I bought The Illustrated Comic Art Workshop, Vol. #2: Penciling because I ordered a copy when I was a teenager but never received the book and I’m sort of curious to see what I missed! And I bought the Captain Beefheart t-shirt because I like to buy clothes for my son that I would have loved to have worn myself at his age.
Here’s the coolest t-shirt I ever bought for my son:
I bought the black one. Wish I were young enough to wear it myself. But middle-aged guys in graphic t-shirts always look slightly ridiculous to me. I refuse to be one of those guys.
When Frank O’Neal created “Short Ribs” in 1958, his idea was to write and draw a comic strip without a set cast of characters or a single historical or geographical setting. Once he settled into the routine of actually producing the strip, however, O’Neal quickly found he could not resist returning to certain stock situations and periods — the old West, for instance, or Medieval Europe — bringing back certain characters, and indulging in short bursts of continuity. When he retired from the strip in 1973 to concentrate on advertising work, O’Neal generously handed “Short Ribs” over to his assistant, Frank Hill, who managed to wring another nine years out of the concept. Truth be told, I’m not really a big fan of “Short Ribs,” but when the following pair of amusing and attractive strips from 1980 came up for sale recently at a low, low price, I couldn’t resist:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
Frank Hill’s final “Short Ribs” strip appeared Sunday 02 May 1982. Did anyone notice when the strip ended? You might think not, but my experience reading and arguing about comics on the Web tells me that every comic strip, “Short Ribs” included, is (or was) somebody’s favourite.
I don’t usually like to buy stuff for myself this close to Christmas, but when Lewis Wayne Gallery announced a series of auctions with starting bids of a penny each, I had to take a look, and among the various offerings of art and photographs, I found two items I thought I’d like to own, if the price was right. And much to my surprise, earlier today, I won them both, and now I’m here to share them with you.
First up is a newspaper strip by John Dirks, the son of Rudolph Dirks, creator of the famous strip, The Katzenjammer Kids, which according to Wikipedia “debuted December 12, 1897 in the American Humorist, the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.” The strip we now own isn’t a Katzenjammer Kids strip but rather is a Sunday instalment, dated 20 April 1969, of The Captain and the Kids, a strip that Rudolph Dirks created for the rival Pulizer newspapers after he had a falling out with the Hearst newspaper syndicate in 1914 over his desire to take some time off; the legal settlement allowed Dirks to continue to use the characters he created in the Katzenjammer Kids, but since it also allowed the Katzenjammer Kids to continue at Hearst without him, Dirks was forced to come up with a new name for his version of the strip. At first, he settled on the title Hans und Fritz, in deference to the ethnicity of the main characters, but when the United States entered World War I, the German moniker was quickly replaced with an English one, The Captain and the Kids. The final auction price for the artwork was US$27.00 plus shipping, and here it is:
[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
Currently, the cheapest “Captain and the Kids” strips available from Lewis Wayne Gallery outside of the recently concluded penny-start auctions can be had for the “Buy It Now!” price US$89.95 plus shipping; meanwhile, the most expensive are US$295.00 plus shipping. So, I definitely feel like we got a deal.
The second newspaper strip that we have just added to our collection is a terrific Archie daily by Bob Montana from 29 July 1969:
[CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
I love Bob Montana’s artwork here; I love the contrast between Jughead’s old-fashioned suit and tie and slicked-down hair and the trendy ’60s clothing and hairstyles of the other characters (although Archie is stuck with his usual do); and I love the gag! The final auction price for the strip was a mere US$58.57 plus shipping. And I love that, too! Because out of the pair of strips I had decided to bid on, the “Archie” strip was the one I wanted the most to win, and if the price had soared too high — my final bid was significantly higher than what I actually ended up paying — I would’ve had to allow the “Captain and the Kids” strip to slip through my fingers. How fortunate for me, then, that the auction for the “Archie” strip ended first!
Funny thing is, even though we bought the above strip from a different seller than the other two, and we had to outbid another person to get it — it wasn’t a “Buy It Now” listing — the final price, shipping included, came to US$55.00 even, almost exactly what we paid for each of the other two strips.
Not sure we’ll buy many more “Miss Peach” dailies after this, but I’d sure love to own a Sunday strip or two.
Mell “The Ladies’ Man” Lazarus visits the Sun-Times public service lounge on 09 April 1962:
Yesterday, I won an ebay auction for 12 items with art by Jeffrey Jones, some of which I already own, but the majority of which I don’t. Here’s the list that was provided by the seller, followed by the auction images (although, of course, I intend to post better scans once I have the items in hand):
8 paperback books with Jeffrey Jones cover paintings
The Planet Wizard by John Jakes
Day of Beasts by John Muller
The Dirdir by Jack Vance
Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber
Dark Planet by Hunter
Uncharted Stars by Andre Norton
Sargasso of Space by Andre Norton
Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
The paperbacks vary in condition. Most are decent. Some have surface wear, and corner bumps. [….]
The two tabloid issues of ART SHOW from 1977 and 1978. #1 has Jones art inside and #2 has the DARK MANSION OF FORBIDDEN LOVE cover printed from the original art. This is what the painting actually looks like. The color was added photographically for the printed comic book.
Jeff Jones postcard from a privately printed set from around 1974 which included Frank Frazetta, STEVE HARPER, Mike Nally, and Norman Lindsay.
COLOUR YOUR DREAMS — with Jones covers and one image inside. Also inside are drawings by Kaluta, Wrightson (a very early Frankenstein piece), Barry Smith, Fujitake, Dave Cochrum, Roy Krenkel, and others. Nice portfolio — 32 pages. Published in 1972.
YOU NEED NOT BOTHER CLICKING THE IMAGES BELOW; THEY’RE ALREADY DISPLAYED AT FULL SIZE. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET.
Regular visitors to RCN may recall that I already own and have posted scans of four out of eight of the paperbacks pictured above; the other four, however, will be new to this site, assuming they are in good enough condition to produce a decent scan. But that being said, the main reason I bid on the lot is to get the postcard, the two issues of Art Show, and the Colour Your Dreams portfolio publication.
All of which is to say: Jones fans, you have something to look forward to here at RCN in a couple of weeks!
The following “Toodles” daily, with art by Rod Ruth, is from 2-19-58:
I recently purchased the strip to go with the daily from 2-20-58, which my wife and I already own. I posted a scan of 2-20-58 previously, but here it is again:
In part because they come one after the other in the ’58 continuity, and in part because of good fortune and careful selection on my part, the two strips read very nicely as a self-contained vignette and will look great matted together in a single frame!
To view all four of the “Toodles” strips in our art collection, and learn a little bit about Rod Ruth, click here.
The following ebay wins are so recent, I haven’t even received the items yet:
As I intend to explain in slightly more detail in a later post, it’s not the oddly composed cover of Archie’s Pal Jughead #103 that caused me to buy it — nose meet pocket; pocket, nose — but the interior art. Can you guess why?
Rod Ruth is by no means a well-known figure in the history of comic strips, but I, for one, find his work terrifically appealing. Ruth’s character designs are distinctive, and the expressions always appropriate to the action: look, for instance, at the way Ann’s expression changes from panel to panel in the first strip as she struggles to stand up for the man she loves in the face of her parents’ stern expressions of disapproval, and then retreats into sullen silence as her mother pointedly puts her father in his place. Ruth’s staging of the action is also first rate: in the first strip, notice how he changes from a three shot in the first panel, with the father on the left, facing right, to a closer two shot of mother and daughter, back out to a three-shot, with the father close on the right, facing left — which, taken together with the first two panels, I read as a sign that the father has been pacing back and forth while the women have been talking — and then ends with a lovely low reverse angle that not only maintains spacial continuity between the three but also places the now visibly weary Ann, both compositionally and symbolically, right in the line of fire between her domineering mother and her stuffed-shirt father; and I especially like the bits of business the artist gives to Ann in the second strip — panel one, she files her nails; panel two, she pumps a bit of moisturizer into her palm; and panel three, she absently rubs the moisturizer into her hands as she wistfully contemplates lost love. Finally, Ruth’s handling of clothing, furniture, props, etc., is always economical and convincing: notice, for instance, the way he uses little dabs and checkmarks of ink to give dimension to the quilting on Ann’s jacket in the second strip, or the way he suggests the folds on the nurse’s overcoat with a few deft strokes of the brush.
To see all three of the “Toodles” strips I’ve posted so far, click here.