Good morning welcome to focus five eighty this is our number to the program. My name’s David Inge. Glad to have you with us. The producers for our show Harriet Williamson Martha deal Jason Croft is at the controls. In this hour the show will be having another visit with author and cartoon historian Bob Harvey he has been a magazine Carson cartoonist himself. He’s also published in comic strip editorial cartoon and the comic book genres. He has authored a number of books including The art of the funniest and the art of the comic book he has a website or see Harvey dot com where there’s a lot of information about what is happening in the world of comic art. He is also the author of a new biography that will be talking spending some time talking about this morning. A biography of milk can if the man who created the comic strips Steve Canyon and Terry and the pirates and who is within the history of cartooning certainly a very important figure in and of himself and also important for having. I’m inspired. And then toward a lot of other comic artists as well. The book has just recently been published and he in fact will be doing a signing at pages for all ages bookstore this week and Saturday at two o’clock and he’ll be doing a short talk to before. So if you’re interested in comic art you might want to stop by and you can certainly take a look at the book. We’ll talk a little bit about that this morning and other questions about comic art whether we’re talking about comic books or newspaper comic strips or graphic novels any of that is certainly welcome because I know that Bob spends a lot of time keeping up with developments in this area. Three three three nine four five five is the number for Champaign Urbana. We do also have a toll free line that’s good anywhere that you can hear us that’s eight hundred two two two nine four five five. So if you have a question you are certainly welcome to go. Welcome back. Thank you very much it’s good to be back. You know something that I thought I didn’t mention this before but something I thought I might ask you to do is to talk a little bit about Doug Marlette. OK The artist he was an editorial cartoonist and also did a comic strip regular strip and sadly enough he just passed away just last week.
Yes He he was killed and he was a passenger in a pickup truck wouldn’t you know what I mean.
He grew up in North Carolina and his comic strip is about a teenager growing up in the south in the world of pickup trucks and wouldn’t you know it would be a passenger in a pickup truck a friend was taking him from the Memphis Airport to Oxford Mississippi to witness a high school production of a musical that he co-wrote based on the comic strip clubs to his comic strip. And it had been raining and they they skidded off the rain slick highway and hit a tree and that was the end. The driver survived and apparently was not seriously hurt. But man it was probably killed instantly. He started cartooning as an editorial cartoonist almost the minute he graduated from college she graduated in one thousand seventy two if I remember this right and started working for The Charlotte Observer as an editorial cartoonist .
And then in one thousand nine hundred eighty one he had the idea for the comic strip kudzu kudzu is the name of a pernicious weed as Marlette described it which was imported into the South during the Depression as a. A way of stopping erosion. Well kudzu pretty soon took over the entire south and it grew as it said it would it would grow a foot a day there you couldn’t kill it. It grew up it covered barns and bridges and highways and slow moving children it would just take everything over and I’ve said you know that probably kudzu is a greater threat to the American societies and terrorists coming and it will probably take everything over a given enough time. And he named his comic strip and the teenager all of that because the teenagers grow fast like kudzu. But the character that he invented in this comic strip that. What was the most popular was a televangelist preacher named will be done who is about as grasping and self centered and as you could imagine it was a blatant satire on the Jerry Falwell’s of the world and of course the strip appeared right about the time that the moral majority assumed political significance in the early eighty’s with the coming of the Reagan administration and surprisingly as I said even in the south will be done was the favorite character of many people and he virtually took over the comic strip.
One of the reprints of his scripts featuring will be done is called There’s No Business Like Soul business.
But he was also born it was also a fierce editorial cartoonist he was surprisingly again a social liberal. Even if he was a fiscal conservative but a social liberal coming from the south was an unusual manifestation and he worked for several other papers he went from the Charlotte Observer to the Atlantic constitution and then to Newsday and then to the Tallahassee Democrat I believe is the name of it but he left for the Tallahassee Democrat he went back to his hometown Hillsborough North Carolina and he cartoon by email and then he got a job with the Tulsa World which is where he was working at the time he was killed. But he’s also written two novels both of which have. Serious autobiographical elements in them the first one is called The Bridge and the other one is called The Magic. I don’t know the magic fairy or something . It just came out this year.
The bridge came out about two three years ago. Very talented guy.
And highly regarded is a professional editorial cartoonist that gave suggest an opportunity just also talk about something else that we have talked about before and that is the the vanishing editorial cartoonist. I was really struck a couple of things about that. The fact that here this fairly recently I think also maybe with about the last week or ten days there was the meeting of the Association of American editorial cartoonists and they have their own group and in fact it was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the group. And one of the things that they spent a lot of time talking about was the decline in the number of cartoonists at least the number of cartoonists that are employed by papers. And one of the stories that I read about it there was a quote here that says that lettuce over as compared if you compare today to one thousand nine hundred fifty seven there is roughly a quarter of the staff positions that they were at that time so. So three quarters of the editorial cartoonists that were regularly employed on staff by newspapers are gone. Right.
They say. Incidentally I am a member of that group and I was at that convention talking about it and one of the big topics of course was what are we going to do about this and there isn’t anything you can do about it. Newspapers are the home of the editorial cartoonist and newspapers are in a difficulty that is they’re in difficulty with Wall Street they’re not actually in difficulty. Newspapers have generally run a profit margin of twenty to twenty five percent which is greater than any other industry in the country. But that’s a steady income and Wall Street investors like increasing income. So the only way to get increasing income for a newspaper is to reduce its operating expense. Newspapers are declining in circulation and their advertising revenue is declining. So there’s not much hope that they’re going to increase the profit margin by increasing their income. But they can improve the bottom line by eliminating the expenses and one of the most obvious places to begin is with an editorial with a staff editorial cartoonist because they can get syndicated editorial cartoonist like the news because it does need to dress up their editorial page and that’s what’s been happening. There are major newspapers for example the Chicago Tribune has not had an in-house staff editorial cartoonist since the death of Jeff McNally In two thousand which is a long time. They keep saying they’re still looking for somebody but there I’m I’m convinced that that is a posture that they assume in order to quiet the multitude So they really are quite happy using syndicated material . A lot of the editorial cartoons have turned to the Internet and are doing animated editorial cartoons on the Internet .
Pretty much if you’re going to go to the Internet you’re going to have to be animating otherwise there’s probably not much reason to look at it. The newspaper business however I think is going to. Come back into its own before the editorial cartoonists are ever going to decide what they could do instead. And once the newspapers start coming back they will start hiring editorial cartoonists again. I wrote a piece about this one time .
Well actually I just finished writing it for my website it’s not been posted yet but the point of an article written in one thousand and fifty seven which prompted the formation of this group fifty years ago was that the quality of American editorial cartooning was in decline and the person who wrote this article was a college professor of journalism.
I recall the turn of the century. That is one thousand eight hundred when editorial when we had three thousand daily newspapers and almost all of them had an editorial cartoon on the front page. Why. Well that’s how you created excitement. You got people angry. You got them excited to buy newspapers. Find out what the heck’s going on here and the whole point was to be opinionated and to stir up the multitude. Well no this paper editor today wants to stir anybody up because stirred up people might stop buying the paper and most newspapers are subscription circulated now they’re not. Newsstand sales like that used to be so and most of them are the only newspaper in town. They’re not competing with another paper. Editors and publishers tend to want things to be quiet and the thing that will upset a newspaper reader. Almost as much as getting as the paper publishing the crossword incorrectly or dropping a comic strip from the comic strip line up is an editorial cartoonist drawing something nasty about a local politician or local government. That’s where the real power in editorial cartooning lies.
It’s also the thing that immediately starts readers phoning the paper and distracting editors from their normal work so they’re not really fond of editorial cartooning on local issues. Which plays right into the syndicated business because syndicated cartoons are never about local issues are always about national issues. If you draw a cartoon about the mayor in champagne or a banner you’re going to get a nasty cartoon you get a phone call from the mayor’s office but you can draw all the nasty cartoons about Bush that you want you’ll never get a phone call from the White House.
Pretty much yeah. Well that’s that’s interesting as I can certainly imagine a lot of editors saying well why should I why should I have a staff editorial cartoonist when I can buy my cartoons after all what we have on the comic page. They’re not drawn here. We buy them from us and I did too and I wanna buy all my cartoons from a syndicate that just it’s a lot more cost effective.
Well of course it is in a way that you usually get a package so you have a selection every day of cartoons if you have a staff cartoonist you have to do what he does or you have to choose from one or two ruffs that he preside provides with but I staff cartoonist gives you gives your paper a connection to the community that syndicated cartoonist never has and most staff cartoonists are personalities in the communities that they work in a staff editorial cartoonists.
Nobody in all of this business that the danger to editorial cartooning is a profession arises entirely from these financial considerations it doesn’t come from the absence of quality in their work in fact the quality the power and they and the artistry of artistry of editorial cartooning today is is much better than it ever has been. The power of editorial cartooning the biggest most compelling testimony to that is what happened in the wake of nine eleven and it’s or a cartoonist of course drew on Tuesday and Wednesday of that terrible occasion and it or cartoons about it. And most papers were flooded immediately by requests from readers wanting prints of those cartoons and newspapers customarily printed them off and sold them for ten bucks apiece and took the money and gave it to charity funds being raised for the victims. But to my knowledge no newspaper was ever flooded with requests for prints of photographs of nine eleven at the pub. But the editorial cartoons were extremely popular.
I suppose that there the cartoonist has the advantage of operating on a very short timeline so it’s possible to respond to some current event much more quickly than maybe other kinds of artists or journalists or writers.
Yeah and if you’re on staff you can you can even turn around completely. Famous story one of the most famous editorial cartoons in recent years is Bill Muldoon’s drawing that he produced on the day of Kennedy’s assassination. He drew a picture of the statue of Lincoln and Lincoln Memorial Lincoln was bent forward with his head in his hands. No words. It was drawn in forty five minutes on Friday afternoon. Malden was at a lunch that day and the luncheon speaker never showed up or never made a speech because they heard about the Kennedy assassination in Malden who had already drawn his cartoon for that day’s paper. Went back to the office. Grief stricken about this and Drew that cartoon him forty five minutes it was printed full size on the back page of The Sun Times and most news dealers displayed that cartoon at their newsstand they didn’t display front page.
Yeah yeah that’s I think it’s interesting to think about cartoons as something that can in a very rapid flexible way reflect popular culture and thinking not just in fact about the mood after nine eleven and I reminded particularly of one cartoon appeared in New Yorker it was cartoony it was set in a bar and here’s a man and a woman sitting there and the guys wearing just the most horrible sport coat you ever saw and the and the caption is the woman says to him you know I never thought I’d laugh again and then I saw your jacket.
Yes that was the that was the the turnaround cartoon I think it appeared the week in issue after nine eleven not the first issue but the next issue and of course the big concern at the New Yorker everywhere David Letterman and so on was when can we start laughing again and it was a perfect cartoon. Absolutely perfect for the occasion. I can’t remember who did it it was either Shanahan or the O. column.
It’s one of those two and I don’t I mean I know the artist I know his work when I see it.
Yeah but I it was one of those where I could not tell you some of the cartoonist in The New Yorker I could actually I know who they are I have people like Bob Mankoff and Roz Chast but that particular one I don’t but I certainly do remember the cartoon and we have somebody here would like to talk when we do that let me also very quickly just say again our guest for this hour of focus five eighty is author cartoon historian Bob Harvey has written a number of books about the aesthetics of cartoons Comic Strip including the art of the funnies in the art of the comic book and he has a new book out that we will talk about I promise it is a biography of the artist Milt can ask the man who created the comic strips. Terry and the pirates and Steve Canyon and he will be doing that is Bob will be doing a book signing of this book coming up this weekend Saturday two in the afternoon pages for all ages. We have color here tell me some of the talk within Champaign.
That’s one number one and I’m just calling for verification. I’ve been listening to the pro. Over him and I heard something about that. There’s going to be a turn around or something. Newspapers that’s that’s my prediction and I don’t think it’s written anywhere. I mean I don’t know I would love for it to happen.
Yeah I think I think what’s going to happen is of course the newspaper people which I by which I mean journalists are perfectly conscious of their medium haven’t been taken over by Wall Street investors and there are now various newspapers that are being purchased by consortiums of billionaires who are not Wall Street investors and who are interested in putting the daily journalism back in the hands of journalists. I’m trying to think. I think one of the Philadelphia newspapers been purchased by one of them and maybe the Chicago Tribune and there’s been a good deal of conversation along those lines and I’m I’m what I’m doing and when I said that was predicting a turnaround rather than based on these instances I referred to. But it’s not anything that is frozen in in marble or anything.
Well I’ll record the you know the time in a day. And you know I keep referring back you know I would do the very sad and as you mentioned my background was business and marketing stuff and I mean that’s how I margins I mean my goodness I mean.
And and in the newspaper industry and for Wall Street and that’s what it is they want the greed the more money so. Anyway yeah good show.
I’m well thanks for the call and certainly other questions comments related to comics and comics art are certainly welcome. Three three three nine four five five toll free eight hundred two two two nine four five five.
You know when we were talking about editorial cartoons and the the impact that they have on readers the way that they engage in the course of the term leads me to leap right into milk and have whose great connection with readership occurred in the during World War two when he sent his character Terry in the lead character in turn the pirates into what was then called the Air Corps which became the Air Force and the. So the intensity with which readers watched Terry in the piracy adventures of this fictional character on the comics pages there were wives who clipped the strip regularly and sent it to their husbands who were in the service overseas and husbands who posted these on their company bulletin boards of the units that they were serving in so that people could keep up to up to date. It wasn’t just Terry and the pirates that was so passionately followed by newspaper readers all comic strips had had a devoted readership in the twenty’s and thirty’s and through the forty’s. That is to imagine what it is like you have to imagine every newspaper reader is like a fan like a dedicated fan of Seinfeld or friends or something you know. Television has given us now that that kind of viewer or audience engagement that comic strips used to have in newspapers. And so it wasn’t just tearing the Pirates but it can if because he attempted to produce a realistic story the characters had to be real the pictures that he drew had to be pictures of actual things not imagine things. If you drew a character holding a pistol it looked like a pistol it didn’t look like a blob. And he would get criticisms or letters from readers. And during World War two It was from servicemen who would say well you have the chaplain’s collar device on upside down or you know that the extent of detailed observation by people who are dedicated readers of this strip. And because he was so in touch with the lives of servicemen serving on the line so to speak he enjoyed an enormous readership during that time and became one of the most well known comic strip artist cartoonists in the country at the time because of that. He was also a personable and gifted public persona. He had a way of presenting himself and his profession that brought dignity to both on a personal level he could make you feel it easy in an instant . You never felt the first time I met him. He said something to me that immediately put me at ease it was maybe something like. Good to see something that was completely ordinary and mundane but it made you feel that well you know I’m meeting an old friend here if this isn’t my first encounter with this person it’s like we’ve got back together after a long absence or something like that and he had a gift to do that and everybody who ever met him speaks of exactly this thing.
We have another call her talk with when we do that this is someone in loving to non-self on line one. Hello.
I’ll make my question like oh my goodness woman editorial question or comment. I’ve noticed that even the editorials are generally national now and I just made the comment that if you write a cartoon they call someone locally you get a bunch of phone calls and I’ve noticed that that seems to be happening a lot. Well the way that you know somebody will give a reporter a hard time for writing the truth as they saw it and I just wondered if that is a recent phenomenon that’s always gone on that people after all the reporters in the newspaper directly for what.
Well and I think that’s probably always been true probably more so fifty years ago than now simply because people are more engaged as readers of newspapers than they now are. The average age of newspaper readers newspaper subscribers has been steadily increasing over the years as I mean neither of my children who are in their thirty’s now subscribes to a daily newspaper and that describes a whole lot of people in that generation. But fifty sixty seventy years ago newspapers were one of the principal sources of news information and entertainment. And you go back to the one nine hundred twenty S. before radio was national and before anybody had even heard of television . Newspapers were the only thing that came into the house that brought our borer information and entertainment so readers were much more engaged then. Well let me put it this way the theory there gauge the engagement of an audience was more widespread than it is now and readers tended to pick on just tiny things but if you read letters to the editors in newspapers in the thirties you find them talking about really minuscule matters that they object to in either a news story or a comic strip or something so that it’s not a new phenomenon. I suspect that the kinds of objections that are being made now are somewhat more sophisticated in probably the editing that results in the selection of the new letters to the editor they’re being printed is also a little bit more selective than it used to be the right questions are welcome We’re talking this morning with author comic historian Bob Harvey.
Three three three nine four five five toll free eight hundred two two two nine four five five. Again if he seemed to be somebody who liked to draw starting from a very young age and people seem to think that he had talent and he continued to draw all the way he drew in high school and college before he went and did that for a living. So it seemed like this was a guy who was born to be an artist of some kind and I was really impressed in in the book that you have some examples of not only his cartooning and how that style evolved over time but some of the.
A bit of the commercial art work that he did and he also not only was he a very accomplished cartoonist he also did was very good with caricature and he was a very good portrait. I just I was really you could really see that this man really could draw and it could work in various kinds of styles equally well.
Yeah he went from he went to college at a higher State University in Columbus Ohio and worked his way through college on the Columbus Dispatch and his drawing assignments were varied and many. And he worked from late in the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. He also managed to work in a career in the local theater. Sometimes he would work till seven o’clock and then he’d have a piece in a local play across the street and go over there and do his peace come back at ten o’clock and finish. But the kinds of work he was doing were ordinary cartoon work and then. I’m portraits of local dignitaries of theatrical personalities who back in the twenty’s and early thirty’s were traveling around the country a good bit and there was a theater in Columbus that was part of a road show itinerary so he saw a lot of that. When he first left Columbus and went to New York he went to work for Associated Press and one of his first jobs was drawing all of the presidential candidates potential presidential candidates in the spring of one nine hundred thirty two and there were eighteen of them or some huge number like that. And he drew a pen and ink and pebble using pebble board which permits you to add a great tone by using a crayon to shade the drawing. And that’s what he did and he always joked that the two drawings he made that he was least happy with were Hoover and Franklin Delano Roosevelt who ended up being the final candidates. And the pictures were used all over the country because they were circulated by the Associated Press to every place. But he was an accomplished artist and. You didn’t say this David but your next sentence could have been as opposed to many of today’s cartoonists who are not accomplished. Yes well I have to agree that’s that’s true there are very few artists of the caliber of kind if working in newspapers today. The fellow that draws Gary Giani that draws Prince Valiant is of that caliber. There are very few of the serious storytelling strips of the kind that can if did and almost none of the adventure genre which he became so adept at. In fact what he did. One of his signal accomplishments as a cartoonist in the history of the medium was to to show how you could take the old adventurous trip formula of a hero coming in and doing wonderful deeds and rescuing the damsel in distress and so on. How you could enhance the suspense in the sense of enjoyment that a reader would experience by introducing character development into this aged formula so you as a reader were not concerned not only with what was going to happen but how the characters were going to change or if they would change would they improve or they get worse. And this was something that nobody was doing before can if get it. He’s often credited in the cartooning fraternity with developing a style of drawing called chiaroscuro in which you suggest shapes and you do your modeling of shapes and so on with black shadow rather than by drawing every wrinkle in that in the shoe in the clothing for example. But his in my and he did that I mean there’s no question that he has his use of that technique was widely imitated but his his real skill his great talent was in storytelling and that is inimitable. People don’t you either have the gift or you don’t. And he had the gift.
Well it’s someone else have color in the Joliet line for toll free line . Hello good morning.
Just two quick things Mike. You’re talking about editorial cartoons and my favorite was to do the first or second election of Bush with Dan Quayle and the issue of his draft dodging came up. Dan Quayle I think it took the picture if you will remember this one. The girl who’s back with silver may policy are back with Bernie and she’s running toward the camera naked in Vietnam and the villages in flames in the background and the cartoon that and then the quail often frame left with a bag of golf clubs and a question and if I play through. Right which happens to me I mean I can remember that was good ten twelve years ago.
Well it was a powerful use of have a horrifying image to to castigate the apparently trivial attention span of Vice President Quayle The one comment that I remember I think it was a cartoon that the Tribune said this is the worst violation of an editorial content cartoon cartoonist sent to propriety and then he paused he said however it was most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen.
On this question I have for you I’m sixteen now and so I have long since stopped reading cartoon only because of lack of interest but when I was a kid it seemed like there was. Number of cartoons that featured the idea of a secret identity like the Phantom for example a man in which he was always at the cut you know at the edge of being revealed. And for some reason for myself and many of my friends and obviously nationwide it seemed to hold this fascination that suddenly this person real identity would be revealed do you have any thought about that I don’t see that anymore I don’t see that.
I don’t you know you’re talking about essentially comic book characters because very few comic strips dealt with that single event and I remember that well and I don’t think anybody really worried about who this secret identity of the Phantom was. He rarely appeared without his mask and his costume and when he did he was referred to as Mr Walker and he wore dark glasses in an overcoat pulled up around his neck and if he took his hat and dark glasses off there was the mask on the hood the same phantom costume but the comic book your character’s secret identity thing was became a convention in fact it still is a convention in most comic books about superheroes.
So I think that the essential mechanism. I once wrote a long piece about the psychology of the secret identity and what that really was masking for all of us but there’s there’s something quite simple that’s happening and that is that young people are among the most abused of humanity and they they always feel they’re being put upon and taken advantage of by adults and if the adults if they had only had a secret identity as an all powerful superhero they could get even with these oppressors and I’m sure that that’s the principal psychological mechanism that made them so attractive to two young readers. One of the one of the great ones of course was Captain Marvel who.
Put in an appearance when this newsboy teenage newsboy named Billy Batson shouted Salman it was a bolt of lightning and he was transformed into a muscular adult and people have struggled for years trying to figure out whether whether Captain Marvel was a different being or he was just a physically improved Billy Batson and sometimes Captain Marvel behaved like a teenager he was really he was very awkward around women for example are particularly good looking women and exactly as you would expect adolescent to be so it was always fascinating in that the big thing that always happened to Billy Batson was somebody figured out that they had to not only tie him up a gag him so that he couldn’t escape he was always being gagged and he was figuring out ways to snake the gag on the cog wheel of a piece of dangerous machinery and that would rip the gag off and he would say she’s am and what do you do there you’d be like yes well that’s what it contains just as the notion of writer’s craft if you buy a novel of your particular author you read it either sitting down to three days you read it or it might take a month.
But anyway you’re reading an enormous amount of information and it kind of fills your psychic life you think of it. You dream of a lot of pressure to talk about it with people and then you go to calm it down again. I remember that as a kid not anymore but being absolutely fascinated with these two or three fine. Things that might not have more than three or four sentences in them and yet the continuity of preoccupation was there from day to day to day you know month after month year after year and yet when you added the whole thing up you might only end up after two years you might only have one hundred. Yeah but what’s the trick there.
A trick is the pictures.
Well yeah yeah I mean human beings have always been intrigued with pictures as long as we find caves with pictures drawn on the wall.
The visual element illustration drawing whatever it may be has always held an attraction for people and they’ll look at pictures before they’ll read words I think.
And I suspect that that’s that’s what you’re quite right I mean if you if you were to take a just add up or around all the sentences in the speech balloons in a year’s comics you wouldn’t get a very long book on its own. But but what’s missing is the descriptions of scenes in the description of the character’s expressions and things of that nature what they’re wearing. All of those descriptive things are handled by the pictures. So that’s why they do the words don’t take much room by then but the pictures are are serving another fulfilling another function .
Thank you very much I want to thank you. Well since we’re here sort of on the subject of cartoon comic superheroes I am prompted to ask you about the death of Captain America. This I’m not sure exactly when this happened fairly recently in the. They killed the character and there was all and in popular media there was lots of commentary about what it meant why they did it would Captain America come back Is this just basically something to get a little bit of attention for this trip and so that was. Yes Yes Yeah. So then some time later he can it’s a little bit more than that .
The incident the death of Captain America occurred during a.
A complicated into Grinner interrelated series of comic books from Marvel Comics that we’re all dealing with what they call the Civil War and what they did was to imagine a circumstance in which for reasons that I won’t go into the government the United States government said to the superheroes that populated the country. You must register your secret identities or you will be outlaws. Well some of the superheroes said this is an invasion of privacy. It is an encroachment on my rights as a human being . Others said it’s my patriotic duty to do what the government tells me to do. Now you can see the conflict that is established here this is exactly the conflict that has been taking place in real life ever since the Patriot Act was passed in two thousand and one and the Marvel Comics people put it into their comic book. Captain Mar Captain America represented those he was the champion of those super heroes who believe that their rights were being infringed upon by this government regulation and he fought against it. Finally he was persuaded to go along and he went to the courthouse to in effect surrender his secret identity.
And that’s where he was killed. Now if you’re fond of analogies and metaphors you can find in the death of America Captain America The death of those things about America that many people value namely personal liberty and privacy.
We have about ten minutes left in this part of focus five A.D. with author cartoon historian Bob Harvey. He has a website R.C. Harvie dot com where he has post about what’s going on in the world of comic art. He’s offered a number of books including The art of the funnies and the art of the comic book and I’m sure you can find those at the bookstore and the new one which is a biography of milk and if the creator of Terry and the pirates and Steve Canyon this book has just been published offend to graphics books is the publisher and he will be doing a book signing at pages for all ages this weekend Saturday at two in the afternoon and will do a short talk beforehand so if you like to meet him like to pick up a copy of the book I like to hear more about Milton if you can stop by there and of course here questions are welcome to three three three nine four five five toll free eight hundred two two two nine four five five one things I thought was interesting and about can have and I don’t know if other artists did this he did use some live models to create characters and then also to work on the composition and posing of figures and so forth. Did other artists do that.
Anytime you see a picture or a photograph we can if drawing from a live model it is a circumstance that has been deliberately staged for the benefit of the photographer whose picture will be published in the newspaper giving publicity to Mel and whichever newspaper comic strip the present he actually didn’t really need it. OK We almost never do that I should say that there were times when he was having difficulty deciding how the wrinkles in a particular garment would fall and he’d ask his wife or his studio assistant to put on a trench coat and sit in a chair in front of him.
But as a general rule he drew from images in his head he didn’t draw from models for many of the characters that he invented were based upon real people but the real people were not models they didn’t appear before can have to be drawn and a lot of cartoonists who draw realistically do the same things that I’ve just described and if it’s doing there’s a new book coming out this fall in let’s say November and it’s a book about Alex Raymond who grew Flash Gordon Secret Agent X. nine jungle gym and Rip Kirby and he was a stunningly beautiful Illustrator a master of black pen and ink and he did the same thing connected here. If you see a picture of Alex Raymond drawing from a model it’s been staged for the purpose. But he also occasionally hired a model just to keep his hand in. So that well as one cartoonist said you have to do some life drawing every once in a while or you find yourself repeating the same cliches visual cliches that you become accustomed to sort of throw yourself out of that you should draw from a live model every once in a while and Raymond did that but many of its characters were based on on real people. The most famous one during World War two was based on a Philip Cochran who was a fighter pilot during World War two and can if based a character that he invented called Flip Corkin on Philip Cochran and he did he didn’t know at the beginning. He started to go and visit Cochran’s training camp and watch how he was running other pilots through their drill and so forth just to get a feel for what this was really like and then he realized what a character Cochran was. I mean Cochran was just he carried the records for a squadron his back pocket you know and he’d everybody called him flip. So he was the character he had very little inventing to do. You just the character walked into the strip. Kind of frequently used characters in the movies who are popular as models either for the personalities or sometimes for the physical appearance. One of his most unsavory characters was based on Charles Laughton for example. He always said that the dragon lady which was his most famous creation in tearing the pirates was based on Joan Crawford but I don’t think so . In fact I think that that was one of those things that he invented after the fact I think his invention of the dragon lady was entirely independent from Joan Crawford and then he saw her in a movie and she was wearing a costume that he subsequently appropriated for the dragon lady to wear. And at that point Joan Crawford became the model for the dragon but I don’t think she was originally and there were numerous characters throughout the history of both carrying the pirates and Steve Canyon that were based on real real people and they were and sometimes actual people appeared in the strip. Bob Hope showed up on time and.
He did it. He does a sequence one time with John Wayne who was a fraternity brother of can if not in the same college but they were Sigma Chi together. Appearing as world as a Revolutionary War hero.
Mad Anthony Wayne a general and he drew John Wayne as the as the character. He did it he said in order he thought John Wayne would get a kick out of seeing him self in the funnies and when it’s a big fan. Unfortunately this sequence appeared after just after Wayne died of cancer.
Something else that really strikes me about the strip is that there seems to be a lot of oh well OK let me just bring you a little more other bull in here just real quick.
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It’s it strikes me there’s a lot of sex in this strip you know to the extent that you could put it into a newspaper at the time and it strikes me that that might be something that would set it apart you know there are other comic strips where there are families there are married couples they have children but you can’t quite imagine them doing anything to get those children. But the people in in Terry and the Pirates they were pretty randy . Was was there.
Well well by comparison I just I guess I just wonder whether whether anybody ever criticize the strip for for being too racy not turning the pirates during World War two through a comic strip for circulation among the military. A unit newspapers it was called mail call and it was it came out once a week and it was not about any tearing the pirates’ character the central character or the central figure was a woman named Miss Lace who always wore a very tight fitting strapless evening gown she was as could have said the figure the central figure because she had one . And this newspaper this strip was circulated was printed in over three thousand newspapers at one time or another they were all military papers. The greatest circulation of any newspaper of any comic strip but the sex was always hovering in the background of the mail call strip and nothing blatant Do you know I would look at it today is fairly tame stuff but after he got out of after the World War two was over and Kenneth gave up during the pirates and started Steve Canyon. He was persuaded somehow that because his readers would now consist would now include a lot of the extra guys who had read mail call that he could get away in Steve Canyon with more sexual content. Then he had thought it would be possible the content in this case was just sexier drawings of some of his female characters and after he had done a little bit of that he started to get objection to it and so he pulled back on it. But there were two characters in turn the pirates the dragon lady and Burma was another one who was based on. The character of Satie Thompson in Vaughan Somerset moms play rain I think it was in the movie Rain and people always thought that. Someone once described these two characters the dragon lady and Burma that you could imagine that spending a night with Burma and that she would please your every fantasy and if you spent a night with a dragon lady she would please only herself.
The real quick I think one of the things that’s really noteworthy about this guy does have to do with Steve Canyon and that it’s a fact that that was his strip and it was not the case. Very very few artists own their work they they and their work are owned by the syndicates that employ them and for him to have broken out after he said I’m not going to Terry in the pirates anymore. He had the opportunity to to create another strip and make some good money and and essentially own the product which was very rare even I guess still Now that’s very well is today it is more customary.
Most many of the new cartoonists own their strip or they own something about the strip. The usual arrangement is that the copyright is owned by the syndicate but it reverts to the cartoonist if he decides to leave the syndicate at the end of a contract period or if the strip is retired and he has other uses for it. One of the fascinating things about can if if I have another minute is not so much his function as a cartoonist although being a cartoonist was his life but he lived. He led a gifted. I mean his his life sort of enacted the American dream. He worked hard he had talent he achieved great fame and great success and his greatest fame was achieved in the name of patriotism during World War two he continued in that same fashion and when the Vietnam War came along that very thing destroyed him the patriotism that you could find in Steve Canyon was exactly the thing nobody wanted to read anything about during the Vietnam War the strip lost circulation by the carload lot and fortunately can if we lived long enough to see that feeling coming back the patriotism coming back by then the circulation of the strip was it was it had been completely reduced it went from seven hundred papers to eighty or something like that but I thought that the arc of K’NEX life is a fascinating almost there’s almost a Greek tragedy quality about it because the very thing that made him famous is the thing that in the end destroyed him . Of course it didn’t destroy him but it it made a happier ending to a career than he might otherwise have had. He eventually realized it. The audience for patriotism grew and what more was not the same as it had been during World War two And he changed some elements of his trip in order to recognize that we’re going to have to leave it at that.
But if you’re interested in hearing more from our guest cartoon historian Bob Harvey. He will be doing a book signing this weekend pages for all ages Saturday afternoon at two of and we’ll be talking about the creator of Terry and the pirates and Steve Canyon. He’s often in a new biography of an F. And you can pick up a copy of the book or or at least take a look at it this weekend. Thanks very much for being here. Thank you David I enjoyed it. Today’s broadcast made possible by a grant from trophy time and champagne with plaques and promotional products to recognize all occasions from athletic endeavors to musical moments to business achievements trophy time they’re more than just trophies. Additional information available on the web. Trophy Time dot com We’re broadcasting from Campbell hall for Public Telecommunications. Thanks to the generosity of Alice and Robert Campbell that’s it for us.
Robert Harvey, Cartoon Historian and Author of Meanwhile…A History of Milton Caniff, Creator of Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon