Your Comics Page 8-1-2015

August 1st, 2015

felix-10-1-to-10-7-34.jpg Here’s Felix, 10-1 to 10-7-1934. The homeless puss manages to get into a vacant hotel room, order room service and escape from the hotel dicks unscathed! In the Sunday, Messmer uses a tried and true Felix formula, he is chased by angry sailors who are convinced he is a jinx, then he manages to plug a leak in the ship with the body of an escaping mouse (Skidoo?). Felix is once again “in good” with the sailors.

myrtle-7-5-to-7-11-48.jpg Myrtle is from 7-5 to 7-11-1948 and Dudley Fisher’s special timing is most in evidence in the 7-5 as Freddie is in the “doghouse” with Susie after scolding Bingo and making him cry. I like the wordless final panel. I also like Freddie’s struggle with nicotine addiction in the 7-7 after he throws his cigarette out the window and lives to regret it, and the Sunday page is fun with the boys away at a business convention and the wives and girlfriends at home playing cards, which so many people did as a past-time in the early twentieth century.

krazy-10-12-to-10-17-42.jpg Krazy was originally published from 10-12 to 10-17-1942 and the strips seem a bit trimmed around the edges, don’t they? I love the 10-17 as Krazy and Ignatz trip over puns and Kat Langwidge. “Harmony”, “Hominy” and “Quantidy”, as Krazy interprets Hominy as “How Many?” Garge comments on his own work as Ignatz says “Corn” and Offissa Pupp says “..and in more ways than one, Corn is right.”

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yogi-8-22-65.jpgyogi-8-29-65.jpg Here’s Yogi from the month of August, 1965. I’m missing the 8-8 Sunday page, so perhaps old dog buddy Yowp at http://yowpyowp.blogspot.com will dig it up. These appear to be Iwao Takomoto’s work once again. He does an attractive job of designing these pages, I especially like the 8-1 as Iwao handles the trees and landscape that Yogi and the ram inhabit as a little island surrounded by blue sky. The kid with a huge baseball bat up to bunt in the 8-22 seems like an old Percy Crosby “Skippy” baseball joke, reworked for Yogi.  Ranger Smith pops up in the 8-29 along with Iwao’s personal brand of cute squirrels. Again, there is something essentially flat in his character design, especially in the last panel as the squirrels catch the falling walnuts. Harvey would have drawn them rounder and cuter, making them look more like the squirrels in the Barney Bear cartoons “The Uninvited Pest” and “Sleepy-Time Squirrel”. This post got side-tracked for awhile; the power supply on my computer was knocked out by a Glendale power outage on Tuesday night. Evidently the old power supply couldn’t handle the surge when the lights came on again after two hours down. Thanks to Robert Karsian of Jewel City Computers, the old Dell Demension 4550 is now operational and works a little better. Robert restored a “dead” computer back to life with a rebuilt power supply. He even makes house calls! If you are local here in Glendale, CA or surrounding communities, give him a call at 818-457-1207 or email him with your problems at Robert@JewelCityComputers.com . He really knows his stuff!

Your Comics Page 7-21-2015

July 20th, 2015

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Felix, as written and drawn by Otto Messmer, continues from 9-24 to 9-30-1934.  I love the first panel of the 9-28, Felix is in despair; “Nobody wants me.” This panel should be plastered in every animal shelter where homeless cats wait for their forever homes, and by extension, should be plastered on the fences of all the skid rows in all the world. Felix is adopted in the 9-28 by a henpecked husband who uses Felix as a detector for his wife’s rolling pin. I hope the homeless Felix can do better. In the Sunday, Felix lands on still another ship and interferes with a treasure hunt.

myrtle-6-28-to-7-4-48.jpg In Myrtle, 6-28 to 7-4-1948 you’ll see many examples of Dudley Fisher’s unique gag timing. My favorite is the 7-3 daily, as Bingo appears in the master bedroom complete with his sleeping bag in the last panel. Hyacinth the cat appears in the Sunday called, “Love Letters”. Myrtle is deviously selling her parents’ old love letters to the neighbors to earn a few dimes, sounds like real kid behaviour to me.

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 Here’s Krazy, 10-5 to 10-10-1942. However, we are missing the 10-6-42 episode. Perhaps the “Kat” man, G. Heinlein himself, can supply it? (UPDATE! Gerd Heinlein has come through! Thanks, Gerd for the missing 10-6-1942 strip! You are the official “Kat” man forever.) I’m somewhat mystified by the 10-5. Does Krazy’s tortilla look like a chuck steak to Offissa Pupp? And what’s the gag here? I like the 10-10 strip the best this week, it’s funny to see a fire dog misinterpret Krazy’s yell and watch Ignatz get soused. We’ll have another post very soon, see you then.

Your Comics Page 7-1-2015

June 30th, 2015

felix-9-17-to-9-23-34.jpg Here’s Felix, from 9-17 to 9-23-1934. Felix is still searching for a loving home, but instead gets spooked by some mice, gets set up to be chased by a dog, gets ignored by a man in training for night watchman duty and gets poked and prodded by a musician’s bow and trombone. Felix longs to be free as a bird, then meets a caged parrot! In the Sunday, Felix fends off the ape he met last week by accidentally giving him a hornet’s nest instead of a coconut. The intrepid cat then sets off to sea in the shell casing.

myrtle-6-21-to-6-27-48.jpg Myrtle is from 6-21 to 6-27-1948 this post. In the dailies, Freddie starts out the week by trying to wash his golf balls. That turns into a treatise on being absent-minded, until Myrtle really loses her mind in the 6-26. Reminds me of the ending of Tex Avery’s “Happy-G0-Nutty”:”You think you’re Napoleon, but you’re not! I AM!”  In the Sunday, Freddie gets a call from “Toodles”, an old sweetheart, and Susie is a bit concerned. But Toodles has gained a lot of weight since she last saw Freddie, to everyone’s relief including Bingo.

krazy-9-28-to-10-3-42.jpg Here’s Krazy, from 9-28 to 10-3-1942. Much ado about a “Cat O’Nine Tails” this week, in the 9-28, the Nine-tailed wonder turns out to be a fake, and in the 10-2, the W.C. Fields-type dog claims to have known a TEN-tailed feline. I like Offissa Pupp speaking of himself in the third person as a “Kop”. He tries to beef up his ego, but Ignatz escapes in a bottomless garbage can before his story can be continued….in Jail.

yogi-7-4-65.jpg I do believe we have come to the final Harvey Eisenberg Yogi Bear Sunday page, from 7-4-65, and Yogi finds himself lassoed to a rocket ship, going from a mare to the air. (Hey-Hey!)

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yogi-7-25-65.jpg These next three, 7-11, 7-18 and 7-25-1965, appear to me to be mostly the work of Gene Hazelton, who is a bit more of a graphic artist than Harvey; he drew a little flatter, Yogi seems a bit less rotund with Gene. Huck Hound makes a rare appearance in the 7-11 with a little boy scout that looks like a Hazelton design. Click to enlarge the 7-18 strip, and you will see an unusual episode giving Yogi credit for the Wright Brothers successful aircraft! The last Sunday page for the month has an ingenious use of a friendly porcupine as Yogi spears some forbidden apples. If you keep in touch with Yowp’s blog, www.yowpyowp.blogspot.com, you will find more complete versions of the third-page strips I have loaded here, in black and white. The “Tab” format Sundays with the “Yogi Bear” logo, two of which I’ve included in this post, are only missing one panel that was in the half-page format. You’re missing very little on these if you just read them here. Have a crazy Fourth of July, enjoy all your illegal fireworks and learn not to burn (Hey-Hey-Hey!).

A Gentle Touch

June 12th, 2015

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charlotte-and-fitz-in-the-litter-box.jpg The Catblog presents actual cat pictures! This week it’s a cat named Fitz being petted and visited by little Charlotte. Charlotte is the great-granddaughter of our dear neighbor, Belle. Charlotte’s just a little over one year old now, and seems to be a budding cat fan. Her other cat friend, Scout, should be familiar to you; she’s appeared a few times on the Catblog. I just love how gently Charlotte’s small hand brushes against Fitz’s soft fur in the first picture. Fitz is a rescued cat, and is very friendly and well-socialized. Belle just loves these pictures and thought that you would enjoy them too!

felix-9-10-to-9-16-34.jpg Felix continues to try and be adopted in the strips from 9-10 to 9-16-1934, but runs afoul of a nearsighted man who can’t read the reminder note from his wife to feed Felix. Felix leaves the house in disgust when the nearsighted man can’t even look down to see him. Suspense is set up by the 9-15 strip as Felix finds what seems to be an abandoned house to live in. The Sunday page continues Felix’s expedition in the artillery shell as he drifts to another island inhabited by a coconut hurling ape. This looks like a friendship in the making, we’ll see.

myrtle-6-14-to-6-20-48.jpg Myrtle is from 6-14 to 6-20-1948 this time. The gags are charming and some have the Dudley Fisher timing I’ve spoken so often about. The cookie jar gag in the 6-18 and the shower curtain for the birdbath joke in the 6-19 are good examples of the Fisher timing. The Sunday entitled “Cool off, Freddie”, showcases one of the early whole-office air conditioning units. These were no doubt a novelty in the immediate post-war years and this one seems to work very well. Even the birds talk about being part penguin, they take to the cool temperatures so rapidly. Would this have been a Trane unit, a GE or a Lennox?

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 The Krazy strips this time are from 9-21 to 9-26-1942 with the strip from 9-25-42 missing. Does anybody have this one?

Our faithful reader Gerd Heinlein has supplied the 9-25-42 strip! He’s come to the rescue before and we really appreciate it! Thanks, Gerd!

The 9-21 addresses the rubber shortage as Krazy starts to call a passerby a “Rubba..(neck)” and the rest of the cast shout, “Where?” In the 9-25, Garge draws the “Carats” as if they were turnips! The 9-26 uses gas masks as proto-Halloween get-up. Krazy and Ignatz scare each other away when they try them on.  Garge draws them almost as if they are old-fashioned stereoptican slide holders. The gas mask was a holdover from the World War One years. Well, that’s our blog for this time, see you soon.

Red Skelton DVD Review and Your Comics Page!

May 29th, 2015

krazy-9-14-to-9-19-42.jpg Your Comics Page begins with Krazy from 9-14 to 9-19-1942 this time. You’ll note that the first three dailies are about Pouter pigeons, which Krazy thinks are “Powder” pigeons and might explode (wartime flavored gag). The next two dailies address the old poem “The North Wind Doth Blow” or “The Robin”. No one remembers who wrote the old English Nursery Rhyme, which no doubt dates back hundreds of years. My mother used to recite it to me, and I memorized it. But what is the poem Krazy is reciting in the 9-19? Is it from “Julius Caesar” by Shakespeare, or “The Martyr of the Catacombs”? If anyone can solve this Kat puzzler, a lifetime subscription to this blog is your reward!

My esteemed brother and retired Calculus tutor, Kurt, says: “The quote in the Krazy strip is from ‘Supposed Recitation of Regulus’, a popular ‘recitation’ piece of  the period by Elijah Kellogg.  You can find it complete if you google it.  The actual quote is ‘Calm and unmoved as the marble walls around him, stood Regulus, the Roman!’  Pretty gripping stuff, huh?”

Not only gripping, but winning! Thanks Oh Mighty Tutor, you now have a lifetime subscription to the Catblog!

felix-9-3-to-9-9-34.jpg Felix is from 9-3 to 9-9-1934 this time. He escapes from the evil scientist by punching him out after receiving an injection of Gorilla serum. Felix is less trusting of future homes, as he rejects a maker of dog kennels, a fat lady on a diet and a beginning saxophone player. In the Sunday 9-9 episode, Felix does a quick escape from the cannibal island by turning the shell casing into a sort of canoe. We’ll see if he gets home from there next time.

myrtle-6-7-to-6-13-48.jpg Dudley Fisher’s Myrtle is from 6-7 to 6-13-1948 for this post. My favorite daily is the 6-8. Myrtle takes a gag photo of Bingo dressed up in Freddie’s hat and pipe, resulting in Bingo eating his meals with a spoon! Fisher lets the reader fill in the gaps here, as Bingo makes the leap up the anthropomorphic ladder from wearing hats and smoking pipes to eating his meals with a human utensil. I also love the 6-10, as Myrtle asks for a piece of bread and jelly and restricted to “just one” by Susie, Myrtle slices the bread length ways (you got your bread unsliced in 1948) and chows down on a cinemascope slice. The Sunday, 6-13 is called “First Flight”. Hyacinth the cat is fastened securely in Bingo’s doghouse as a baby robin takes it’s first test hop out of the nest into Myrtle’s hat.

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yogi-6-27-65.jpg The Yogi Bear Sundays from June, 1965 are here, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Harvey Eisenberg’s legacy continues for now, but in the July episodes other hands start carrying the load. The 6-6 episode is a beautiful drawing job, as Yogi baby sits for a Charles Addams type couple who seem to be the missing links between Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist and The Gruesomes. The 6-13 is OK, but the last panel seems to drop the ball a little as Yogi and Boo-Boo skate away from the Jellystone General Store with a pillow somewhat awkwardly placed near their rear ends! Yogi’s rhyme is rather lazy here too, he matches “right” with “right”! The 6-20 has some good Eisenberg staging in it as Yogi tries to get a tattoo artist to draw an arrow correctly. The concept is a bit weak here, Yogi doesn’t have human skin, so a tattoo on his fur would disappear almost immediately. The 6-27, once again drawn by Eisenberg, seems to reprise an earlier Indian gag, as Yogi seems to be doing a tribal dance, when actually the gyrations are caused by sitting on an ant hill. I’m sure that Yowp will come up with more complete copies of these Sundays in his blog soon, so keep checking in at www.yowpyowp.blogspot.com .

red-skelton-disc-one.jpg I just finished (after 5 months) watching this historic DVD set of Red Skelton shows published by The Shout Factory. Here is my review:

Red Skelton Show, The Early Years Shout Factory 11 Disc Set

The name “Red Skelton” is fading away in the 21stCentury, but way back in the 20th, he was a beloved and well-known comedian. In our family home when my brother and I were little, Red “visited” us by TV nearly every week. Our Grandma Katie just adored Red, although she seldom laughed at his actual comedy. She loved his shy little four-fingered wave to the audience as he came on to the stage, the dimples in his smile, and his show-closing phrase: “Good night and may God bless!” This is the Red Skelton that is best remembered today, the “old people’s” Skelton.

The Skelton in this 11 disc DVD set released by The Shout Factory, is not for the most part, the “old folks” Skelton. The earliest TV shows Red did are visual extensions of his radio program. Red’s radio programs from the 1940 to 1944 and the 1945 to 1954 seasons were his true legacy. Like Joe Penner before him, Red had the capacity to be both inside and outside of his material at the same time. His most endearing character from his radio days was the “Mean Widdle Kid”. “Junior” was wise beyond his years, one of the craftiest rascals on radio. He played off Harriet Hilliard as his mother on the early shows, but the funniest Junior scripts featured Verna Felton as his “Namma”. She often spoke to Junior with that “Hairbrush tone” in her voice. There were no “time outs” in Junior’s lexicon, just extreme corporal punishment. Junior made “I dood it” and “He don’t know me very well, do he”, beloved catch phrases, but Red’s outstanding achievement with the character was making such a brat seem somehow endearing. Junior’s influence on cartoons of the 1940s and 1950s was in every Wise Guy hero, from Bugs Bunny to Tweety, Woody Woodpecker, Skrewy Squirrel: every character that broke the 4thwall and had no respect for authority owed their existence to Red Skelton’s radio program and his head writer and first wife, Edna Stillwell. Skelton’s other radio characters, such as Clem Kadiddlehopper were imitated by Tex Avery (”The Hick Chick”) and by Bill Scott as Bullwinkle Moose, “Deadeye”’s “Aw, Come On Horse, WHOA!” became components of Yosemite Sam and Quick Draw McGraw–Mike Maltese, who wrote for these characters, was imbued with Red’s comic bad guys.

The first Skelton TV shows tried to do a visual version of the radio program. Ironically, although Red looked hilarious as Clem Kadiddlehopper with his crossed eyes and receding chin, and Cauliflower McPugg with his broken down prizefighter’s facial ticks and catch phrases such as “a flock of ‘em flew over that time”, or “Deadeye”’s crummy mustache and even crummier marksmanship–all these characters were just as vivid on the radio without the makeup. The listener could easily imagine what they looked like and the attempts by the makeup men to make them visible comes off a little cheesy. It’s significant that Red made almost no attempt to recreate “Junior” visually for TV. He used the “Junior” voice and turned his fedora upside down to simulate being a Fauntleroy type kid, but turned the character into a parody of his own son, Richard. Red was a big guy over six feet, and he wisely decided against performing as Junior alongside Verna Felton or Lurene Tuttle. “Junior” on the radio was a tiny, scampering, atomic powered bundle of mischief, so Red’s stature was all wrong for the character.

Having said all that, these TV shows have their own rewarding qualities. Edna Skelton was still the head writer (even though she and Red were divorced) and the characters that she and Red created could coast on their energy. Red loved to make fun and criticize the writing as he performed it, (”now there’s a brilliant line”, “I’m proud o’that, it ain’t written here”). He would often break up on camera as he went along, and sometimes threw off the timing of his supporting cast in doing so. An early member of that cast, Lucille Knoch, is a standout in these 1950s kinescopes. She’s petite, blonde and very cute, Jeff to Red’s Mutt, and really seems to be enjoying Red’s comedy, mistakes and all. It’s a delight to watch her break up along with Red. Jack Benny was very critical of Red’s unprofessionalism, laughing at himself. Yet somehow breaking up became an integral part of his routine and bridged less-than-perfect comedy writing. Red would comment: “I gotta laugh, ‘cause I know what’s comin’” and “I only just got the joke.”

What’s the value of this SHOUT FACTORY DVD set to a collector of television shows of the 1950s? Invaluable. Red Skelton held the rights to all his television kinescopes, and how fortunate we are that he did hold them and didn’t syndicate the programs. Part of the reason Red didn’t want his early programs seen during his lifetime might have been that his son Richard, who was the subject of many of his father’s comedy routines, died of leukemia before he turned 10, and his second wife Georgia, mother of Red’s two children and featured in several of the Christmas Skelton shows, shot herself to death in 1976. Red was probably too saddened by the loss of Georgia and Richard to look at his old shows. He continued to make new ones until 1971; he preferred to go on and not to look back.

The first season, 1951-52 , has the most manic energy–Red had to change costumes several times in each episode, and there are no “God bless” endings here–Red is usually dragged under the curtain at the end of the show in mid-sentence by a stage hand! Cauliflower McPugg, Clem Kadiddlehopper and Willie Lump-Lump are the featured characters. The show was as big a hit as Red’s radio program and he won two Emmys for his TV program and for being an outstanding comedian. Unfortunately, the first episode from 9/30/1951 is not included in the set, perhaps the print went vinegar–it’s a miracle that so many of these episodes have survived at all, Red must have had good film storage. In the 1952-53 series, they tried to make it easier on Red by filming the performances on a sound stage with mostly canned laughter. The show really suffered without a live audience and Red’s comedy was enhanced by real laughter–so the filmed shows lasted only one season. Being shot on 35mm, they look great.

NBC dropped the Red Skelton show in 1953, due to low ratings, and CBS picked it up, running it on a sustaining basis at first. More shows were one-character per episode affairs and there were many singing/dancing interludes by the “Red-dettes” to give Red some breathing room. It’s a real treat to see these CBS kinescopes. The network had a terrible track record on film storage and most of their early kinescopes were destroyed. We owe Red our gratitude in preserving so much of his television legacy for us to see today.

About this time in the show’s history, a new character began to dominate the programs, a hobo named Freddy the Freeloader. Skelton used his father’s clown makeup for Freddy’s face. In the early appearances Freddy spoke quite a lot, but in the later 1950s and 60s he became largely a pantomime character. He was a gentle soul, but was rather coarse in his manners, I remember an episode that featured Greer Garson, whom Freddy addressed as a “broad”. Red’s skill at acting and comedy without using words make him worthy of study by animators and actors today. He had absolute control over his face and body and could become an old man, a little boy, a drunkard, a haughty dowager or two seagulls just by changing his posture or wearing his hat differently.

There are many Skelton legends that aren’t included in the biography documentary on the bonus disc. Tales such as Red in his dotage responding to unexpected visitors ringing the bell at his Bel-Aire home by running out on to the driveway clad only in a bathrobe and brandishing a rifle! Red supposedly wouldn’t let anyone near the vault rooms in his mansion where all the film was stored, reportedly he refused to show the old kinescopes to people, including himself. Red was a right-wing God and Country type guy in his later years and accused CBS of persecuting him for his politics when they cancelled his show in 1970, still at the top of the ratings.

Shout Factory has cut nearly all the commercials out of Red’s prints but have left the filmed spots he did for Tide Detergent in the first season shows. The ads are funny and painless, nearly devoid of plugs until the last minute of the skit. You won’t find any of the Pet Milk or Johnson’s Wax ads in the later shows, however. Maybe they couldn’t clear the rights.

I give this set the highest rating a film collector can give it–4 Reels! There are so many interesting episodes including guests like Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre and Vampira and a filmed rehearsal for a 1953 NBC episode featuring “Deadeye From Mars” which lets us in on Red’s freewheeling and irreverent attitude towards his comedy. He cracked up when the elaborate space bicycle prop fails to take off at the end of the sketch. It’s always fun to watch Red just take flubs and fluffs in his stride and make them “funnier than what’s written here”.

By all means get this set and savor it slowly, there are 92 shows included and you’ll be sorry when you’ve used up all the episodes!