Friday, July 25, 2014

Sam Cobean

Here's a quote from cartoonist Brian Savage on Sam Cobean:

I was living in San Francisco when I definitely made up my mind I was going to become a cartoonist. I was really at loose ends. I had gone to school, college, army, and I was in San Francisco just because a friend of mine was going to the University of California. We were sharing a place together, and he went on to get his Ph.D. I saw a book and it turned me on. It sounds dramatic, but this really happened. It's a book by Cobean. I fell in love with it. It just gave me an electric shock. It really was sort of like love. I said, This is what I want to do.

- Cartoonist Brian Savage in JUMPING UP AND DOWN ON THE ROOF AND THROWING BAGS OF WATER ON PEOPLE, CARTOONS & INTERVIEWS FROM SIX OF AMERICA'S FAVORITE CARTOONISTS, Introduction and Interviews by Mark Jacobs, copyright 1980 Mark Jacobs.

Below are just a few samples of Sam Cobean's work, all from the comprehensive Sam Cobean site.

Sam Cobean (1913-1951) was attending the University of Oklahoma when he entered a contest sponsored by Walt Disney. After winning the contest, Sam quit school and moved to Hollywood to work as an in-betweener on Disney's SNOW WHITE for $16 a week.

In 1942, he participated in the Screen Cartoonists Guild strike against Disney, and left the studio soon after that. He married fellow U of O student Anne McCool that same year.

Above: an illustration by Cobean. Just look at the motion in those lines.

Cobean applied for the army and the navy, but was classified 4F on account of his flat feet. He was, the following year, drafted into the army. There, Cobean worked on Army training films in New York City alongside fellow soldier Charles Addams. Addams introduced Cobean to New Yorker magazine cartoon editor James Geraghty. Cobean began to sell to the magazine.

While still in the Army, Cobean shared a New Yorker office with fellow cartoonist contributor Addams.

Above: another cartoon from the site. That touch of grey on the ski instructor's sweater effortlessly gives us our point of interest in the cartoon. I like the details here: the bear skin rug, the beams, the luggage, the skis leaning against a wooden pillar, the circles that Cobean's drawn to denote a big stone fireplace. It all tells us we're in a lodge.

In 1946, he was discharged and he and Anne bought a summer home in Watkins Glen, NY. Sam would be involved in the Watkins Glen Gand Prix races there. Cobean began doing a lot of work for advertising, in addition to his cartooning.

In 1950, COBEAN'S NAKED EYE, the first collection of Cobean cartoons (titled by Anne) was published.

Above: a concept sketch for the cover.

Here's the next entry from the Sam Cobean chronology page:

1951 On Monday, July 2, Sam drove his shiny red Jaguar into Watkins Glen to mail some cartoons to The New Yorker for the regular art meeting the following day. While there, he met a friend, Cameron Argetsinger, who was having car trouble. He offered him a ride home. On the return trip they were involved in an automobile accident. Cobean swerved to avoid hitting another car, lost control and hit a tree. Cobean was killed instantly. His friend survived the crash.

Sam Cobean would be a major name -- as well known as Addams -- if his career wasn't cut short by that accident. I'm glad that there's a web site full of his work to remind us what a wonderful cartoonist he was.

-- Edited from a January 20, 2009 blog entry.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

THE BEST OF TIMES by Ludwig Bemelmans

It was any cartoonist's dream assignment: go to Europe, as a tourist, and draw and report on what your experience is like.

This happened to Ludwig Bemelemans (the guy who did the MADELINE books). The editor of HOLIDAY Magazine asked him to fly to Europe, to see how the people were doing. This is just after WWII. Certain cities were in rubble. The Marshall plan was rolling out.


"After the most casual arrangements and without writing anything down on a contract form or even the back of a menu, I left, virtually from the table of the restaurant at which Ted Patrick [his HOLIDAY Magazine editor] suggested the voyage. I traveled wherever I would have gone had I been on my own holiday. I stayed everywhere as long as I liked."

Here are a dozen of the fifty color illustrations and 100 black and white illustrations from his collection of essays, THE BEST OF TIMES, copyright 1948 by Simon and Schuster, Inc.

My copy fell apart (the back cover came off while scanning these). It's easy to find online at used book sites, but most copies are well read. You can see why.

"Morning Funnies" Breakfast Cereal

For a couple of years in the 1980s, there was a "Morning Funnies" breakfast cereal featuring comic strip characters from strips like

Dennis the Menace
The Family Circus
Beetle Bailey

Did you know this? I've seen a box of this before, but Allan Holtz has the whole story here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN No. 22, April 1967 by John Stanley

Here are a few stories from THIRTEEN "GOING ON EIGHTEEN," a Dell comic book by John Stanley. It's copyright 1966 by Dell Publishing.

These are all about teenagers trying to act a little older than they are.

These are just the first couple of stories from the comic book. It's mostly about best friends Val and Judy, who get into teen scrapes and do silly things. As Don Markstein observes:

Val had an older sister, Evie (useful for borrowing or stealing make-up from); a next-door neighbor, Billy (whom she was in love with, except when she hated him); and a best friend, Judy (Val's dark-haired co-star, who started out pudgy but lost weight early on). Val and Judy weren't in the full flower of teenhood, like Binky, Penny, The Jackson Twins or most other comics teens (including, of course, Archie himself), but were at that awkward stage where they were just starting to get the hang of it.

The art looks a little rushed and sketchy looking. I liked the sketchy look. The splash panels tend to have a large void in them. I mean, look at that big blank space in "Val."

This was the final year of the book, which ran from 1961 to 1967.

The D and Q John Stanley hardcover book series

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


(Art by my friend and Berndt Toast Gang colleague Art Cumings.)

The Sunday Pictorial Review was a Sunday supplement magazine that was placed into your local Sunday newspaper. It was similar to today's Parade and USA Today magazines.

But, the one big difference was the great art for the covers. Most of the art was handled by magazine cartoonists of the day, with a good number of them commissioned to female cartoonists. Here are a few of the covers:

Michael Berry:

Martha Blanchard:

E. Simms Campbell:

Fritz Willis:

Jacques Kapralik:

Jacques Kapralik:

Martha Blanchard:

Barbara Shermund:

I don't know (can anyone help?):

Ger Apeldoorn has a collection of Bud Blake's Sunday Pictorial Review covers here.

Today's Quote

"Seclusion may be better for the scientist and philosopher, but the cartoonist needs to rub elbows with his fellows and observe humanity intimately." -- Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay at The Evening Telegram, 1907. Drawing by his friend Cliff Sterrett.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Comic Book Writer Brian K. Vaughan On Digital Comics: We are "earning at least as much as they would to create a comic for traditional publishers like DC and Marvel Comics."

The New York Times has a short article about digital comics. You know, comics that you can see on the Internet. This time, though, we are specifically talking about comic books online in this article by George Gene Gustines.

Downloads of digital comic books are up:

A report released last week estimates that North American sales of comics — whether single issues, collected editions or digital downloads — were $870 million for 2013, up from $635 million in 2012. Digital sales rose to $90 million from $70 million. 

The article focuses on portals for comic book downloads like Comixology and newer sites like Thrillbent (co-created by comic book writer Mark Waid) and Panel Syndicate (co-created by comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan). The former tends to have a lot of name brands (The Avengers and so on), while the latter two have a lot of new, original content.

Now, with some of these sites, you see a sample and then pay for the actual digital content. 

But then there's the pay-what-you-want model, like at Panel Syndicate:

While he would not go into specific numbers, Mr. Vaughan said that the creative team — including the colorist Muntsa Vicente — were earning at least as much as they would to create a comic for traditional publishers like DC and Marvel Comics. More “people pay something than pay nothing,” Mr. Vaughan said of the pay-what-you-want model. “Against all odds, we’re doing great.”

Fans follow creators that they like and creators can easily eliminate the middle man (Marvel, DC, Image, etc.), that has historically taken a chunk of the income and rights for their creations.

Of course, it helps to have an established fan base.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bill Watterson and Stephan Pastis PEARLS BEFORE SWINE Originals for Auction

The three PEARLS BEFORE SWINE comic strips that Bill Watterson drew are now up for auction at Heritage Auctions.

Proceeds will go to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Here are scans of the originals. Click to make them SUPER SUPER BIG and glory in 21st century Watterson brush work:

Video: Michael Leunig Cartoons

Here's some video of Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig in conversation with Paola Totaro at the Sydney Writers' Festival. It runs about an hour.

Leunig combines absurdist, revolting and heartfelt sweetness all in one cartoon. He is one of the most popular cartoonists in Australia.

Michael Leunig has been cartooning for decades, and in case you need to see some of his cartoons, here are a selection from his book LEUNIG, originally published in 1971. This is the American paperback version, which came out ten years later. It's copyright 1981 by Mr. Leunig.

Hat tip to John Klossner for loan of the LEUNIG book. Thanks, John!