Thursday, May 31, 2007

Newspaper Reprints: Smilin' Jack

Smilin'Jack is the first title in the second series that also appeared in the first series. Issues 5 and 10 in series I featured the flyer and his friends, lovers and enemies. Issue number 4 in series II is the first of 6 appearances. Jack graduated to his own series from Dell which ran for 8 issues. All the Dell issues reprinted the material from the Syndicate.

Zack Mosley was the creator of Smilin' Jack Martin, a knight of the skies. Mosley himself was an aviation enthusiast and flyer and brought that attitude and experience to his cast.

Born on Dec 12, 1906 in Hickory Oklahoma Mosley became interested in flying after an old Army Jenney made a forced landing on the family ranch in 1918. After graduating from High School Zack moved to Chicago where he studied art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Chicago Art Institute.

Mosley submitted samples for an aviation strip to the various syndicates. Captain Joseph Patterson of the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate accepted the strip and on October 1, 1933 "On the Wing" debuted as a Sunday strip. The strip centered on the adventures of Mack Martin, an aviation student and his fellow student flyers. Mosley himself was a student at the same time and earned his pilots license on Friday November 13, 1933.

Captain Patterson changed the lead characters name to Jack and renamed the strip Smilin' Jack on December 31, 1933. The daily strip began on June 15, 1936. One of the most popular of the aviation strips it continued until Mosley retired on April 1, 1973, a forty year run.

Mosley was an avid flyer and was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and logged over 300 hours flying planes along the Atlantic Coast during the opening months of WWII. His strip and flying exploits put him in contact with famous pilots from pioneers Jimmy Doolittle to astronauts Buzz Aldrin.

Mosley died in 1994. His daughter Jill is the keeper of his legacy and has a website where she sells prints, original strip art and Mosley's autobiography "Brave Coward Zack".

Smilin' Jacks first Four Color appearance was in issue number 5 in Series I. At this time, I don't have a copy to review. See the want list for this and other issues needed to complete the series. If you have a copy that you can scan or are willing to loan or sell cheap, get in touch.

Check back for future updates on this issue.

Jack's second appearance is also in Series I, issue number 10. This one I have a scan made with microfiche as the source. The colors are a little washed out and it gets blurry when it's enlarged but it beats not having it all. If you look closely at both covers you can see that Jack is clean shaven. By the next issue Jack has grown his signature mustache, one of the few "good guy" characters to sport one. This issue reprints strips published in 1937-38.

As the issue opens on the inside front cover, Jack is disguised as a passenger on a South American airplane being piloted by two of his associates, Von Bosch, a German and Marcel, a Frenchman. Along with Sir Percy, an Englishman they make up the Legion of Lost Pilots, a group of ex-patriot flyers from the Great War. They attempt to extort the passengers of the airplane by threatening dangerous maneuvers unless they pay. Jack reveals himself and forces they back to the airfield.

They continue with other schemes, bombing ranches and selling fake parachutes to frightened passengers for outrageous amounts. Jack catches them again in a trap and fires them from Pedro's Brazilian Airline.

Meanwhile Jack's complicated love life involves Bonita, a local Senorita with designs upon him and his old flame Dixie, working as a "hostess" (the modern title is Flight Attendant) for an airline back in the States is on the verge of marrying Dude Duncan. Dude is a scoundrel, he dupes the airline and is rewarded for successfully landing his plane in the mountains after running into trouble. He promptly loses the money in a card game. He gets Dixie to give him more money om the pretense of buying furniture for their new home. However, he promptly heads to the casino where he runs into an old girl friend and loses the money.

All this time a letter that Dixie wrote to Jack telling him she will marry Dude unless he returns finally makes it's way around the world, only to fall into Bonita's hands. She holds it past the wedding date before giving it to Jack. But what Jack doesn't know is that the wedding was postponed. Duke returning from his drunken casino date crashed his car and had been unconscious in the hospital.

While Dude is in the hospital he flirts with all the nurses continuing to pull the wool over Dixie's eyes. Jack sends a congratulatory cable which Dude receives and destroys before Dixie can read it. Jack meanwhile is starting to fall for Bonita.

The Legion of Lost Pilots decides to finish Jack off by pushing him out of a plane. Marcel rebels and wounds the others saving Jack's life.

Bonita decides she wants to take up flying and have Jack teach her. Von Bosch from his hospital bed plots his revenge on Jack by having his agent crash a plane into Jack who is about to fly a load of nitroglycerin. Bonita sees it and intercepts the agents plane. Jack believing Bonita will not survive agrees to marry her, but she knows she will recover and puts off the wedding.

Dixie has accepted a new run with the airline, to Brazil. Dude knowing Jack is in Brazil tries to delay her so she'll miss the flight, however they both make it. Dude then tries to get the pilot to marry them, trying to convince everyone it's just like a ship captain. He reluctantly agrees but doubts it's legal. He calls back to the airline and it's confirmed, he cannot marry passengers, so he tells Dixie and Dude they aren't married.

Upon landing in Brazil, Dude decides to fly out into the jungle with Dixie until he can get her to agree they are married. He fakes engine trouble and lands. Unfortunately for him, Jack was also flying in the area and lands to offer assistance. He learns Dixie is not married to Dude, but feels bound to his pledge to Bonita. Dixie and Bonita meet and Bonita tells her of her claim on Jack. Dixie is upset but Jack finally explains the situation to her. She forgives him but they can't figure out how to escape the mess.

Jack is hired to fly a group of new Hostess trainees that Dixie is to train. Bonita sneaks on board to protect her interests. During a tropical storm they crash on an island. Bonita and Dixie fight it out when Jack suffers sunstroke. Dixie knocks her out and establishes her claim to nurse Jack. They meet a group of what they think are wild men but they turn out to be shipwrecked sailors. The girls pair off with the sailors and are married up. With the sailors help, they rig the airplanes fuselage into an outrigger and Jack, Bonita and Dixie set sail. Another storm destroys their sail, Jack sacrificing his rations has become delirious. Finally the plane drifts into a sea lane and they are picked up by a liner. Bonita frees Jack from his promise and leaves.

Back in Brazil Jack finds that Von Bosch has been attacking Pedro's planes and forcing them to crash. Jack takes to the air to track him down, but Von Bosch marked Dude's plane to look like his and Jack forces Dude to crash. Dude is alive but Jack is arrested for attempted murder. Marcel destroys Von Bosch and finds his agent. He flies in time to rescue Jack from a firing squad. Jack is freed.

Jack and Dixie return to the States where Jack proposes. She accepts but trouble arrives in the form of her brother Cotton. Cotton wants to be a pilot but is too lazy and vain to put in the effort. He crashes Jacks prize racer and tells Dixie his injuries were from a hit and run driver. As the issue comes to a close, Jack has lost his plane, lost Dixie when she defends Cotton and has lost his pilots license as Cottons erratic flying of his plane is blamed on Jack.

Whew! 68 pages of nonstop action. Other than a couple of bad edits that make the story jump, it's an entertaining read.

More updates to come on the remaining issues.

Series II issue 4.

UPDATED July 2, 2007, review of Series II Issue 14 .

We open with a quick synopsis on the inside cover, Jack has lost Dixie who has married Dr Medic and had signed on as a test pilot to forget her. Jack and his friend Gull Wing on the trail of saboteurs and out to prove the innocence of Gull Wing's daughter have hidden away on a plane owned by Miss Gale. They overhear a conversation between her and a fellow named Powder and find the two are spies. A fight breaks out and all except Gull Wing are knocked out.

We open with Gull Wing landing the plane and Jack turns the spies over to the Authorities as represented by the Inspector. Looking over papers found on the injured Powder the Inspector notices a remarkable resemblance of the Spy to Jack. The Inspector proposes a daring plan, Jack will impersonate Powder and meet the boss of the spy ring.

Jack agrees and has his hair permanently waved and bleached, begins to grow a mustache and worst of all has his hand branded with a symbol to match Powder. After much study we see Jack preparing at the right for his first test. Can he pass himself off as Powder to Miss Gale. We also see on this page, Jack's first appearance with what would become his trademark mustache.

Jack passes the test and is on his way to the rendezvous with fake documents. He arrives on board the Spy Ship only to be confronted with Laura. Jack quickly learns she is Powder's wife. Even worse he has an infant son Wally! What to do? Laura will quickly determine he's an impostor. Jack solves his dilemma in family newspaper fashion - he picks a fight and declares he's leaving them.

Jack next meets the head of the Spy Ring - "The HEAD", a small man with an oversize head and big buggy eyes. He also meets his henchman, "The Claw" and huge man with a hook for his right hand.

Jack continues to play the role but finally slips up and is exposed as an impostor. Jack is tossed into the hold until they reach The Head's island base where he will be tortured and killed. Enduring his time Jack hears the engines of a Navy airship, stolen by agents of the Head landing next to them. He greases himself up and manages to squeeze out the porthole. Landing in the water he swims to the far side of the airship and takes over the plane. The Head and Claw pursue him in a light plane from the ship and attempt to shoot Jack down. Jack turns the tables and shoots them down, watching them land in a fiery crash in the water.

Jack's luck gets worse, he flies into a storm that forces his ship down and destroys it in the rough sea. Jack eventually makes it to an island, helped by friendly porpoises. Jack fall asleep on the beach only to be awaken when grabbed by native savages.

Well one native isn't a savage. As seen in the page at left, is the first appearance of Fat Stuff. Jack is once again mistaken for Powder. It seems he has visited before and agreed to marry the Chief's daughter. Despite his protests he is engaged. One native, a huge brute Taboo challenges Jack to a fight for the girl. This proves not to be Jack's out, the loser goes into the volcano. Jack prevails and Taboo proves to be too big to be carried up to the volcano, escaping the booby prize. The final step in the wedding ceremony is a drink from the Mystery River. Jack sees that it flows from an underground cavern and dives in hoping to make an escape. He finds Fat Stuff has come along. They escape the cave into the ocean where they spot a boat. Swimming for it they are spotted and rescued.

Once again Jack is mistaken for Powder. This time by Limehouse, a passenger on the ship and the former Head Guard at Death Rock, a notorious South Sea prison. Limehouse also recognises Fat Stuff. It seems both Powder and Fat Stuff were escapees from the prison. Jack and Fat Stuff are now on their way back to the Death Rock. Limehouse gives Jack a chance. Before escaping Powder killed another prisoner and stole a treasure map. If Jack will lead Limehouse to the treasure, he will not turn him in at the prison. Jack agrees hoping he and Fat Stuff will be able to escape from Limehouse.

Upon reaching the island the three set off in a jeep. Limehouse is about to shoot Fat Stuff when Jack convinces him that he is more valuable for the reward of turning him in. They leave him tied up in a hut. Jack leads Limehouse on a trip into the jungle, pretending to be following the map and makes a break. Limehouse manages to shoot him in the leg and recaptures him. He gives up on the treasure and turns them in at the prison getting the reward and his old job back.

It seems the other prisoners disliked Powder for many reasons and are getting their revenge by tormenting Jack. Only Fat Stuff's watchful eye keeps it from being fatal. Just when you think it couldn't get any worse, The Head and the Claw appear as new prisoners.

Backed by the Claw's muscle (and the jagged knife the Head devised to replace the hook taken by the authorities) The Head establishes himself as boss of the prisoners. He sends them out on a scheme to make money and bribe the guards so they can escape. Once they earn enough they escape taking Jack and Fat Stuff with them. Fat Stuff is able to trick them into losing all their provisions and leads them through the jungle for days, weakening them physically. They finally break away from the Head and the Claw only to be captured by natives who turn them in to the prison for the reward.

All are sentenced to solitary confinement on the island of the Devil's Kitchen, a towering rock island. Things look bad for Jack until one day Limehouse discards a broken lighter near his cell. Jack manages to reach it and begins to fashion a key from it in hopes of opening the lock on his cell. He succeeds and a plan for escape begins to form. Jack has noticed an airliner that passes over the island on a regular basis. He begins to build a glider in hopes of taking off and getting noticed and rescued by the ship.

Scavenging from around the island at night Jack builds his glider and is awaiting the Clipper when he is spotted by Limehouse. During the fight Limehouse falls to his death. Jack takes off and is spotted by the airship, which lands and picks him up.

Informed by the pilot that he must return him to the prison, Jack is finally saved when his is recognized as Smilin Jack by the navigator. It's the first appearance of his old friend Downwind Jaxon!

Returning to the island prison Jack gains Fat Stuff's freedom by threatening the warden for falsely imprisoning him. Now they all head back to the United States.

Upon arriving back in the States, Downwind quits his airline job and joins Jack in a freelance flying business. Jack get Fat Stuff a job as a cook in the airport diner and enrolls him in school.

As the issue comes to an end Jack has begun a romance with a mysterious woman ham radio operator he met on the airwaves during a hazardous moment on a job. Downwind has girls on every arm. Fat Stuff wants a girl friend too and of course Downwind has just the girl for him. He hooks him up with a member of the chorus at the Tropical Club, Woo Woo Bali.

Another action packed 68 page issue, this time the reprints were from 1938. And one of the best issues in the series with lots of action and little of the romantic soap opera that most of the other issues feature. This one's a winner.

Jack looks confident on the cover of Issue 36 but opening to the inside cover we are informed that Jack's love life is as chaotic as ever. "His wedding postponed by an emergency call, Jack tries to fly an acute appendicitis case to a hospital, but a storm forces him to crash land. When the operation is performed in a farmhouse, the patient proves to be Dixie, Jack's old sweetheart, now a widow and blind. Mary, jack's fiancee goes to the farm to care for Dixie". Starting from that point the issue reprints strips from 1938-39-40.

Jack's buddy Downwind Jaxon arrives by auto pulling a trailer to ferry Mary and Dixie back to town to the hospital. Mary, knowing who Dixie is and of her past relationship with Jack worries about a spark being rekindled. Dixie unaware of Mary and Jack's engagement tells Jack how lucky she is to have them as friends.

Downwind is about to have women problems of his own. A magazine article published his photo along with his current location. Scores of his former "de-icers" (a Mosley term for a pretty girl as in so hot she'd melt the ice off a wing) are on their way to extract their revenge for the various affronts they suffered at Downwind's hands. He escapes by jumping into his plane and taking off. Followed by a flight of de-icers he ducks into a cloud and disappears.

Fatstuff has a different problem, he's in love with Woo Woo Bali, a former South Sea dancer before she gained too much weight and became plump. He proposes and Woo Woo accepts.

Mary and Jack decide to fly Dixie to see a specialist who might be able to restore her sight. Knowing her pride they trick her into the trip. However, she discovers the true purpose and during a refueling stop takes off. Mary discovers her missing and goes searching, finding her in a wind tunnel. Jack discovers them just as the test begins and manages to lock his legs around a hot steam pipe and hold on to the girls. The force is strong enough it pulls Dixie's dress which goes through the blades. The shredded material blows out and realizing something is wrong the test is stopped.

They are rescued in time but Jack's legs suffered third degree burns. Unless Jack has skin grafts he may never walk again. So massive are the burns they will need more than one donor. Immediately both women volunteer.

While recovering in the hospital Jack discovers that his ward mate is none other than Downwind. The de-icers caught up with him and messed him up. Downwind is released but is worried about his looks, who would want to go out with him now? However it doesn't slow him down, girls continue to flock around. Jack attributes it to personality rather than looks.

As Jack is being released from the hospital, he is visited quickly by both Mary and Dixie who each kiss him and depart. Jack discovers notes from each girl telling him she is leaving so that he may be with the other. Both have disappeared.

Jack throws himself into his work to escape. He and Downwind have landed a contract to train College students as pilots. One student in particular, nicknamed Rabbit has a profound fear of everything. He has enrolled in the hopes that if he can conquer his greatest fear, he can overcome all the others. Jack has taken him on as a student but all appears hopeless for poor rabbit.

Meanwhile Madam Mongoose has summed her agents. She is out to sabotage the training program. He plan is to cause the instructors to have a fatal crash and scaring off the students.
She slips poisoned gum to Jack who is going up with Rabbit. Jack is put to sleep by the gum but Rabbit is able to resist and safely lands the ship.

Pursuing a lead Jack and Downwind find themselves captured by the Mongoose and taken to her estate. There they find that Dixie is innocently working for the Mongoose. She devises a death trap for the three and binding them fly high into the atmosphere where the lack of oxygen will kill them. However they plane ices up before that point and crashes. The Mongoose is escaping only to find herself killed by a plane she sabotaged as this 52 page issue ends.

Issue 58 reprints strips from 1940. On the cover we find Jack waving to Dixie. As the issue opens a man is at the airport attempting to hire a pilot for a Mister Beaverduck. As soon as they hear the name they all cut and run.

Dixie has met another fellow in Jack's and is now engaged. She tells Jack of her predicament and that the fellow threatens harm to anyone who attempts to steal her away. Jack doesn't care he's not worried, If Dixie loves him that's all he needs. Dixie refuses to be a blind millstone around his neck. Jack has found that there is only one doctor who might be able to treat Dixie and regain her sight but he is in war torn Europe. To raise the money Jack signs on to work for Beaverduck.

The job is to teach Beaverduck's daughter Joy to fly properly. Joy is a socialite with an attitude and jack has his hands full dealing with her and her tipsy friends. Jack finally has enough and takes Joy over his knee and gives her a good spanking. Beaverduck is delighted and promotes Jack to oversee all her activities. Joy is starting to get interested in Jack but he shoots her down by telling her he's engaged to Dixie.

Not one to take no for an answer she hires an Bottles, an ex-pilot and bootlegger to help her get Jack's pilot's license revoked so he can't earn the money for Dixie's operation. Bottles stows away on Jack's plane and knocks him out during a flight. He then executes dangerous maneuvers so that Jack's plane numbers will be reported. Bottles, Pours booze into Jack, set the plane on auto pilot and bails out. Jack recovers and lands the plane but is accused of the airborne stunts and along with the booze on his breath loses his license.

As seen on this page Joy has come up with a scheme to keep Jack around but since he can't fly she pays him less, so he can't raise the money f0r Dixie's operation. She hires Downwind to teach her pilot a glider but proves to be just as bad flying a glider as a plane.

Joy finally throws herself at Jack but he rebuffs her. She becomes infuriated and decides to set a glider altitude record by recklessly flying a thunderheads updraft. As expected she runs into trouble, her glider is broken up and she parachutes out. Landing hard she is knocked unconscious. Downwind is unable to fly a rescue plane, he had partied too hardy the night before, so Jack takes the controls. Joy has been badly injured, many broken bones. Jack and Downwind deliver her to the hospital where they discover she needs a blood transfusion. Having a rare blood type the only person that's a match that can be available in enough time is Dixie. In her delirium Joy reveals her plot to capture Jack which Dixie overhears. Noble to the end, Dixie provided the needed blood.

Upon recovering Joy experiences a change and decides that she owes Dixie fro saving her life. Joy secretly provides the money to send Dixie to Europe for the operation to restore her sight.

Meanwhile Jack and Downwind accept a job to dust crops for their old friend Cyclone. Cyclone is laid up from a crash, it appears someone is trying to run him out of business. As Jack is walking down the street he runs into none other than Joy Beaverduck who is visiting her uncle. It appears her uncle Gumbo is behind all the dirty business, trying to force all the other cotton farms into bankruptcy so he can acquire them cheap. Jack tells Joy her uncle is behind the plot but she refuses to believe him. Jack while investigating Gumbo's cotton gin discovers how Gumbo disposes of dead bodies and is on the verge of experiencing it first hand when Joy arrives. Jack grapples with Gumbo who falls into the gin. As the issue ends so does Gumbo.

Issue 80 is a 36 pager and picks up in 1940 where issue 58 ended. Jack and Downwind have completed their cropdusting assignement when they learn Dixie's operation was a success and is returning home.

Meanwhile Fatstuff and WooWoo have become parents of triplets.

As Jack and Dixie try to get married before anything else gets in they way she receives a telegram. Her long dead husband has turned up alive. Dixie leaves to be with him as he is too ill to travel. Jack once again is down in the dumps. Joy Beaverduck is still around and just as much in love with Jack as ever, but doesn't know how to approach him. Downwind decides to try to re-ignite the romance between Jack and Joy.

Downwind has decided to organize a "Sixth Column" to fight the Fifth Columists. He "interviews" prospective de-icers by kissing them, if they pass then they become members. When they encounter a suspecious person they get information using their feminine whiles and pass it on.

A group of Fifth Columnists led by the Eye has learned of Downwind's group. Those are the fellows with Downwind on the cover of this issue. One of the girls has become suspicious of a fellow worker at the airplane factory. During a night of drinking and dancing he reveals his connection. The Eye decides to send Miss Fahrenheit to lure Downwind into their trap. In true James Bond fashion, his kiss brings her over to his side.

Downwind's efforts as matchmaker are beginning to pay off, but he discovers that he is also falling for Joy. While wandering the streets bemoaning his situation he is captured by the Eye. Downwind is taken to the harbor where is tied up on a ship that is to be towed out to sea and used for dive bomber practice by the Navy.

Tepid Fahrenheit has learned of Downwind's capture. Hurrying to the airfield she learns from Joy that Jack has flown out of town. Revealing what she knows to Joy, they spot the planes lining up to attack. Joy jumps into her plane and takes off to intercept the squadron. Once airbourne she discovers that her radio is not operational, so she flies into the formation disrupting the attack. Joy crashes her plane into the water and is able to pull the unconscious Downwind from the ship. As a seaplane lands to pick them up she is stuck by a floats and they sink. Pulled from the water they are resusitated. Tepid gives Downwind the location of the Eye's headquarters and they break in and thrash them soundly before turning them over to the authorities.

Meanwhile Jack has made the realization that he is in love with Joy. Jack tells Downwind who leaves rather than come between them. Jack and Joy are married when word arrives that Downwind has disappered in the mountains. Leaving his new bride behind Jack takes off to find him. He locates his crashed plane and later finds him safe at a farmhouse. As the issue ends on the last page, Jack gets tossed into jail for car theft.

Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Grand Comics Database;

Series II issue 149

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Newspaper Reprints: Alley Oop

The third issue in the series features V.T. Hamlin's caveman Alley Oop. This issue was Oop's one and only appearance in the series. Alley is the chap with a grip on Eeny, the villain of the issue. Alley's girl friend Oola stands behind him. looking over the situation is his pet dinosaur Dinny and his pal Foozy.

Oop didn't star again in a Dell comic until 1962 when he appeared in two issues of Alley Oop with stories produced specifically for the books. He did get his own series at Ned Pines Standard Publications. Beginning in 1947, nine issues of Alley Oop, numbered 10 through 18, were published under the Standard banner. I haven't seen any issues, so it's only speculation, but based on other titles I've seen from Standard that featured newspaper strips, they were reprints of syndicate material. Oop also appeared in 3 issues of reprints published by Argo Publications in 1955-56.

The creation of Vincent T. Hamlin, Alley Oop first appeared as a daily comic on Aug 7, 1933. A Sunday page was started on Sept 9, 1934.

Hamlin was born in 1900 in Perry, Iowa. When the U.S. joined the Allies in World War I, he enlisted in the Army. At the age of 17 he was sent overseas to France. There he amused his comrades with his sketches. He met a wounded newspaperman at a Hospital who suggested Hamlin start a comic strip.

Hamlin returned to Perry in 1918 after the Armistice and resumed High School, then studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He found work as a reporter for the Des Moines Register and Tribune and the Des Moines News.

Hamlin moved on to Texas where he went to work at the Fort Worth Record as an arist and photographer. It was in Texas that he developed an interest in fossils and rock formations in the oil fields. Hamlin left the paper and began a career as an artist producing maps, posters and other items for the various oil companies. Hamlin's interest in geology sparked another interest in paleontology.

Moving to Houston he returned to the news business as a photographer. It was at this point he began experimenting with comic strips. His first concept was a girl strip. He abandoned that and following his wife's advice began a strip with a modern family in cavemen times. After a year of working on the idea he scrapped it and began another cave-man style strip. That effort lasted six months before he dropped it when he got the idea for Alley Oop.

NEA picked up the strip which continues to appear in newspapers. Hamlin retired in 1973 and his longtime assistant Dave Graue took over the strip. Jack Bender took over from Graue upon his retirement in 1991.

Issue Two's story (originally published in 1937-38) opens on the inside front cover. Oop is bored and spots Foozy and suggests they go see how Oola is doing in her new job as Grand Wizer. Foozy, who speaks in rhyme, doesn't want to as he feels it's gone to her head. They decide to head out into the jungle instead. They spot King Guzzle on a ledge as a storm blows in and strands Guz on the ledge.

Guz catches the attention of a wandering dino and escapes by rolling down the dino's back, which the dino likes and promptly snatches Guz and places him back on the ledge to repeat the manouver. Guz takes it on the lam and Oop's laughter gets the dino to chase him back to Moo (where they live) and hides in a cave. Queen Umpa, who has dethroned her husband as ruler of Moo, smacks the dino on the tail and finds herself carried off into the jungle by the dino.

Oola tells Oop they must save her and off they go on Dinny. Umpa is freed by Eeny who is from Jerooly. Eeny knows the dino is tame and only wants it's back scratched. She is telling Umpa how in Jerooly they have domesticated dinos when Oop and Oola arrive.

Eeny through force of personality soon has Foozy making stone wheels to build a cart for the dino to pull. Oop has developed a large dislike for Eeny but Umpa is protecting her. Eeny continues to step in and usurp more of Umpa's power for herself. Oola objects but Umpa refuses to see it. Oola resigns as Grand Wizer in protest and Eeny appoints herself as replacement. Eeny secretly begins to build her own secret organization of followers (called Hairshirts) among the women of Moo.

Eeny uses her influence and pulls a coup appointing herself as dictator. If you haven't noticed by now the parallel to Hitler and the Nazi's you're not paying attention. Oop takes a job as the Assistant Dictator, which he thinks he can use to reign in Eeny. She thinks she has Oop just where she wants him and all Alley's friend turn their back on him.

Eeny eventually doublecrosses Alley by having the Hairshirts, cause a rockslide that traps him inside his cave. Oola has escaped from the tribe and is at large in the jungle while Foozy is held prisoner in the pit. Eeny lies to Umpa about Oop not being in the cave when the collapse happened only to hear him cry out for help. They begin to battle and Oop frees himself only to have the women unite and drive him away. He rescues Foozy and they escape from the Hairshirts.

Alley and Foozy meet up with some of their old foes and they form an alliance as Oola, Guz and the rest of the Mooians that fled from Eeny's depotism join them. A great flood sweeps Eeny away and Umpa and the remaining women are rescued.

King Guz having returned to power decides they should head for Sawalla and make a new home. Oop, Foozy, Wur, Dootsy BoBo and the former Wizer decide to stay behind and form their own country. They survey and stake out their new home which Oop christens Mootoo. Eeny wanders into the camp and is prepared to stay until Oop walks in and she runs off. As an act of revenge she begins to set up signs and direction markers inviting people to settle in Mootoo. She places them where Guz will spot them and bring the rest of the group along. Meanwhile dissention is begining in camp. Foozy and Alley break away from the others and capture a small dino for entertainment. They set up houskeeping in a high cave on a cliff to escape the dino's mother. Suddenly Guz has arrived with the rest of Moo and they begin to layout their new home.

Oola and Dinny have been out in jungle and she meets up in turn with Dootsy Bobo, Wur and the Grand Wizer who rescues her from the others. They meet up with Oop and all return to Mootoo as the issue comes to an end.

Like the first two issues, this one is 68 pages with no ads. As for readablity, it's top notch. Little Joe wasn't bad, I just need a break when reading Harold Gray so I put it down a couple of times. Harold Teen was just tough, especially issue 2. The old slang and old dialect wore me out. I put it down several times. Issue 209 was better but I still had to take a break. Alley Oop in contrast I read and enjoyed straight through. Hamlin not only could tell a story well but had a pleasant art style to complement it. This one is a four star book.

Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996; Grand Comics Database

Monday, May 21, 2007

Newspaper Reprints: Harold Teen

Harold Teen is featured in two issues of Series II, numbers 2 and 209.

Created by Carl Ed in 1919 Harold lasted 40 years in the newspapers ending in 1959. Ed (pronounced Eed) was born in Rockford Illinois in 1890. He graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois.

Ed started as an artist with World Color Syndicate in St Louis drawing a baseball strip entitled Big Ben. he left St Louis moving back to Rock Island as a reporter and sports editor for the Argus newspaper. There he drew another baseball strip, Luke McGluke, which was syndicated.

Moving to Chicago, Ed worked first for the Chicago American and later for the Chicago Tribune. It was at the Tribune that Ed submitted his idea for a teen strip entitled Seventeen. Captain Joseph Patterson changed the name and The Love Life of Harold Teen premiered on Sunday May 4, 1919.

The driving gimmick behind Harold Teen was the use of contemporary teen-age slang. Ed kept up with the slang and styles throughout the Twenties with the help of his teen-age daughter.

The strip was quite popular and was adapted to the radio and was also made as both a silent movie and a talkie. The silent version starred Arthur Lake as Harold. Lake later starred as Dagwood Bumstead in the movies and on TV.

Four Color Comic Number 2, another 68 pager, shows Harold sitting at the table in Pop Jenks Sugar Bowl, dreaming of his girlfriend Lillums Lovewell. That's Pops behind the counter polishing up a glass. Hustling across the front with some coin for a soda is Harold's pal "Shadow" Smart.

We open on the inside front cover with a synopsis. In this story line, reprinted from 1937, "Harold and Lillums have had a quarrel but with Shadows urging they have made up. Harold, bitten by the poetry bug, spends all his time composing love lyrics".

Naturally, this sends Shadow around the bend as he no longer has Harold to pal around with. As he bemoans his fate, he is unintentionally insulted by an old woman who mistakes him for a child due to his small stature. Turns out she is Lillum's Aunt Prunella, who has come for a visit. A modern woman, she insists that once Lillums completes high school in the Spring, she must go to Junior College. Even if Aunt Prunella has to pay for it. Excited by the prospect, she phones Harold to inform him of her good fortune. This sends Harold into a funk as they will be separated. He feels the pressure to compose the perfect love ballad. Shadow decides that he and Harold team up as a song writing team.

As the word spreads about Lillums going away to college in the Fall, all the other fellows begin to make a play for her. The result is that the Lovewell home is overrun with teenage boys. Mother and Father Lovewell are called out of town to take case of sister Susie who is ill. Aunt Prunella stays behind to chaperon the situation. Turns out Aunt Pruny is quite the hep cat, dancing the latest steps and shooting dice with the boys.

The boys decide to stop fighting and let Lillums make her choice of boy friend. This leads to lots of one-upmanship with gifts and a dating schedule as to what time each may call.

Shadow, constantly out of cash and with no credit, begins to take Aunt Pruny to the Sugar Bowl to buy soda. While there she strikes up with Pop. He puts on to Shadow about not liking women but it's obvious it's only an act.

The boys all show up at the Sugar Bowl with an attitude. Shadow acting as spokesman for the group demanded that Lillums pick one. Pop's asks which one did she pick? The answer, all of them.

The big day arrives and Lillums has gone off to college. Aunt Pruny decides to stay with the Lovewells which she is away. Everyone misses her terribly and imagines she is homesick, until Harold gets a letter where she raves about the college boys. Shadow is supposed to be keeping an eye on Harold for Lillums, but everyone sees through his disguises. Meanwhile, Aunt Pruny is on a campaign to spiff up Pop's wardrobe.

In the example on the left, the gang has skipped out without paying for sodas. Meanwhile, Harold drops by the Lillums household and Aunt Pruny gives Shadow an assignment. Loaded with lots of late 30's slang.

As Christmas arrives the gang is all excited as Lillums will be home from school on Holiday Break. They gather at the train station with flowers and hustle her for dates as she steps off the train. The days are a whirl for her with dates round the clock, but Harold is morose as he is only getting a portion of her time.

The New year arrives and the strip moves into 1938 as Lillums returns to school. Once more the town is in the dumps. meanwhile Pops romance is picking up with Aunt Pruny. As the issue comes to a close, Harold is behind the counter at the Sugar Bowl, Pops is dining at the Lovewells.

Two Hundred and seven issues later Harold returns for his seecond and final appearance in the series.

We see a split cover, on the right we have Harold writing a letter to Lana as he stares at her picture. On the left we have Harold's Grandfather writing to Aunt Prunella.

The inside front cover has a Sunday gag that is outside of any continuity. Shadow and Goofy are going to surprise Honey by baking up some buns. Instead they fall into horseplay and Honey throws them out of the house when she sees the mess in the Kitchen.

We now begin to follow the continuity of a story line from 1941-42. Grandfather Timothy Teen and Aunt Prunella Lovewell meet on the train. They are travelling to Covena to visit their respective families. Being old friends they spend the trip catching up. What they don't know is that Harold and Lillums have had a quarrel which has sparked a feud between Mother Lovewell and Mother Teen.

Aunt Pruny and Grandfather Teen reject the feud and pick up on an old relationship. Gramps (as the family calls him) reveals that he has a gold mine on his ranch bad in Arizona and has stuck it rich. He names his mine the Prunella Gold Mine No. 1. Things get hot with the parents as both mothers try to position their families to inherit the mine.

Harold having graduated from high school is working at a plant, presumably doing war work and is having lunch with Gramps when they are approached by a former classmate Veronica Vale. Veronica had just learned that Gramps was loaded and quickly decides to separate Gramps from his gold. Harold attempts to warn Gramps but he won't hear it.

Veronica turns up the heat by continually popping up and imposing herself upon the situation. Her flattering of Gramps is working and he is becoming smitten. He mentions her in Prunellas presence and covers his track by saying she is Harolds new girl friend. Gramps wants to meet Veronica's mother and she reluctantly sets up a visit at her home, dressing her mother up as an old lady.

Mother decides that she better grab Gramps instead and begins a campaign. Mother and daughter are waging war with Gramps the prize. Veronica has gotten herself a job in Gramps office and Harold confronts him. They have an argument and Harold leaves.

Gramps eventually feels regret and reconciles with Harold. Gramps has finally come to his senses and dumps Veronica, returning to Prunella, who never knew what was going on. In a last ditch effort to keep her plan going Veronica makes an appeal to Gramps that she needs to keep her job to pay for a needed medical procedure for her mother. Gramps falls for it and keeps her on.

Gramps is able to resist Veronica until his old buddy from out west HughDunnit arrives for a visit. Veronica accepts a dinner invitation from Hugh where she continues her plot by getting Hugh to believe that she has fallen for Gramps but is too shy to tell him. Hugh takes the bait and passes the message.

Gramps is hooked again and is back in Veronica's clutches. She poisons him against Prunella and he goes to tell her off. But her sweetness overcomes him and he can't do it. Gramps begins to think again and decides to get away for a bit to break things off and will return and propose to Prunella.

The issue ends on this happy note, but if you have access to reading the newspaper strips, Veronica had overheard the plan and was taking steps to overcome them. Undoubtedly this situation continued to be played out into 1942.

The back cover (inside and out) has two more Sunday pages featuring gags with Shadow, Goofy and Honey.

Final page count is 36 pages with no ads.

You can also see that the art work is better in the second issue. Ed has apparently changed assistants.

Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996

Friday, May 18, 2007

Newspaper reprints: Little Joe

The second series starts off with Little Joe in issue number 1.

Little Joe was syndicated by the Chicago tribune New York News Syndicate and debuted on Oct 1, 1933. Little Joe was drawn by Ed Leffingwell and written by his cousin Harold Gray. Ed Leffingwell died in 1936 and his brother Robert took over the art chores. Gray quit writing the strip in 1946 and Robert took over the writing as well continuing until the syndicate cancelled the strip in 1969. Leffingwell was Gray's assistant on Little Orphan Annie and stylistically is quite similar. Toss in Gray's writing and philosophy and it's even more similar.

Pictured on the cover with the red plaid shirt is Little Joe Oak, a plucky fellow who lives with his widowed mother on their ranch out west in contemporary time. The fellow in the center is Utah, the ranch manager. A hard-nosed former gunfighter Utah dispenses the philosophy along with fists and six guns when necessary.

Little Joe never appeared as the headliner in any other comic, at least as far as I've ever seen.

Stories in this issue reprints strips from 1936 to 1938. Strips are edited roughly so continuity doesn't always flow smoothly.

The first story begins on the inside front cover. Don Jose owns a large ranch and has been trying unsuccessfully to acquire the Oak's ranch. After his own men beat him he escapes and goes to the Oak's home where despite his past actions he is taken in and doctored. Restored to his health Don Jose attempts to take over the home only to be outsmarted by Joe and run off by Utah.

The next episode begins with Utah away from the ranch when a group of gunmen ride up looking for Black Jack Smith. Joe stands his ground and the group departs. He turns and runs into Black Jack who thanks him. Mrs Oak refuses to allow Black Jack to remain even though he professes his innocence. His timely help in treating her rattlesnake bite changes her perception and he is welcomed. Utah throws down on him when he returns but is swayed by the Oak's defense of Jack. Jack eventually leaves to lead to posse chasing him away from the Oak ranch.

In the third adventure sheepherders move onto the range. Utah naturally objects but the herder and his wife prove to be tough characters. Utah delivers a subtle ultimatum. The sheepherders finally realize he means business and skedaddle.

Utah is expressing his philosophy on how the only thing lower than a sheepherder was an Injun when they run smack into a group. In a fit of bad editing Joe has suddenly become their prisoner when they learn he's the son of Big Joe Oak and send him home an Honorary Chief. They come to an understanding with the Oaks and Utah.

Squatters have moved onto the range and are now fencing it off much to Mrs Oak and Utah's chagrin. Utah takes a hard line trying to oppose the farmers who hired Lawyer Blurb who has advised them regarding filing claims on their plots. Blurb is elected Judge and the farmers have fenced off the Oak's herd from the water. Utah is arrested for attempting to cut the fence and his disdain for Blurb lands him in jail. As the herd begins to die of thirst Blurb attempts to purchase the cattle only to be run off by Mrs Oak. The Indians having heard of the situation return and offer to move the cattle to a secret water source known to them. A dust storm blows up bringing hardship to the farmers. Utah is released after his 90 days is up.

The page at right is a typical example of Gray's storytelling technique, the tongue waggers and bootstrap philosophy.

Mrs Oak and Utah decide to build a new and better home higher in the range and work begins. The farmers having heard of the plan all pitch in and help build the house. Despite their having ruined the range Utah accepts them and a bond has been forged between the ranchers and farmers.
Utah's old pard Three-Card Al arrives and convinces him to run for Sheriff of the town of Centipede, the county seat. His argument that we need six-guns not lawyers to take care of rustlers doesn't work until he questions Utah's courage. That does it. Utah runs and is elected after singled handed he stops a bank robbery. With Joe's help he catches the rustlers and returns home in time for Christmas.
A hiker by the name of Drill arrives and asks if he might lodge with them for a few days. Mrs Oak agrees. Drill turns out to be an engineer and is scouting to build a dam. Drill gets Joe interested in science and provides him with several textbooks. This results in some humorous situations with Joe and Utah as they attempt some experiments. Utah has also received word that crooks and gamblers are taking over in Centipede in his absence. He returns and quickly cleans up the town.
As the issue comes to a close Drill has built a small dam and has provided electricity for the ranch house. The Oaks have electric lights and can listen to the radio. Joe pulls a trick on Utah and Three-Card on the back cover.

Sixty Eight pages including the cover wrap and no ads.

References: Grand Comics Database: 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Series II Introduction

With 1322 issues, classifying Series II becomes a challenge. My classification and presentation will follow this outline:

Newspaper Strips
New Material produced for the books

Movie Cowboy Stars

Adapted from the Pulps
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Zane Grey
Johnston McCulley
Max Brand
Ernest Haycox
Luke Short
Ellery Queen

Radio Shows

Walt Disney Licensed
Cartoon Characters
Movie Adaptations
TV Adaptations

Warner Bros Licensed
Cartoon Characters

Walter Lantz Licensed
Cartoon Characters

MGM Licensed
Cartoon Characters

UPA Licensed
Cartoon Characters

Movie Adaptations

Magazine Cartoons
Roland Coe

Holiday Comics

Original Creations

Literature Adaptations
Teen Advice

Miscellaneous Licensing
Breakfast Cereal
US Forest Service

Hanna Barbera Licensed
Cartoon Characters

TV Adaptations
Kid Shows
Crime Shows
Doctor Shows
Family Shows

Instead of presenting each title in numeric sequence, titles are grouped within the categories and issues combined.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Four Color Companion Introduction

One of Baseball's enduring myths is that Abner Doubleday, one sunny Cooperstown day invented the game. Serious students of Baseball history know that the game predates that day having evolved from the old English game of rounders. Called, old cat, three eyed cat and town ball it was a popular pastime for children. It became a game played by young gentlemen and was codified by Alexander Cartwright, a member the the Knickerbockers Club. His original rules are largely unchanged in the modern game.

Comics have their myths as well. The Yellow Kid was the first newspaper strip. Famous Funnies was the first comic book. We all know those are not quite true either.

One of my favorites is how a salesman at Eastern Color printing, M.C. Gaines, took a handful of giveaway comics, stuck a 10 cent price sticker on then, dropped them off at some newsstands and invented the industry. There is probably some truth to the story and the impact of that experiment did ultimately lead Gaines to publishing and he influenced others to give it a try too.

One of those was George Delacourt. This was Delacourts second attempt at comics. In 1929 he published The Funnies, which according to Ron Goulart was more like a newspaper tabloid than a comic book. The book was 24 pages in length, issued weekly and sold for 10 cents. After 36 issues Dell called it quits.

Gaines was employed at the McClure Syndicate by 1935 and there packaged Dell's first true comic book, Popular Comics cover dated Feb 1936. Popular followed the Famous Funnies formula of offering reprints of established newspaper strips such as Dick Tracy, Skippy, Mutt and Jeff (a Gaines favorite, he printed M&J under his All American line), Little Orphan Annie, Tailspin Tommy, The Gumps, Don Winslow of the Navy, Bronc Peeler, Smokey Stover, Terry and the Pirates and Ripley's Believe it or Not.

This also established a pattern for Dell, for the next 30 odd years they purchased the comics they published as a package. The primary supplier was Western Publishing and Lithographing Company. Western took over packaging Popular and appointed Oskar Lebeck as editor.

Gaines packaged Dell's second book, resurrecting The Funnies as the title and cover dated October 1936. In 1937 Dell published The Comics and in 1938 added Crackajack and Super Comics to their list of titles.

All these titles were anthology titles consisting of newspaper reprints, original strips produced by Western and licensed properties from Stephen Slesinger.

Along with Dell and Eastern Color's Famous Funnies, United Features published anthology titles reprinting newspaper strips that they syndicated. Tip Top comics first appeared in 1936 followed by Comics on Parade in 1938. The David McKay Company of Philadelphia published comic strips syndicated by King Features beginning in 1936 with King Comics. They added Ace Comics in 1937 and Magic Comics in 1939.

Each of these publishers launched an omnibus title where they would feature an individual strip. The advantage to these books is that in the case of continuity strips an entire story would be printed. In the anthology books most strips would get 2 to 4 pages in each issue. You were pretty much following at the same pace as the Sunday paper except you got 4 weeks once a month instead of one week at a time.

There was more precedence for these single character books. Foxy Grandpa and Buster Brown appeared in more than a dozen books reprinting their Sunday adventures between 1901 and 1917. Many of these were published by the newspapers themselves. Heart's New York Journal printed 5 in 1902. Available from all the Hearst papers nationwide were titles like The Katzenjammer Kids and Happy Hooligan. Hearst passed the publishing rights over to the Frederick A Stokes Company in 1904 who continued to issues books of Hearst strips until 1916.

In 1906, New York publisher Couples and Leon began publishing. By the time they quit in 1934 they had produced over 100 different issues. Their most popular title was Bringing Up Father, who appeared in 26 different books. Other collections included Little Orphan Annie, Mutt and Jeff, The Gumps, Tillie the Toiler and Smitty.

In January 1922 Embee Distributing published the first issue of the Comic Monthly. Unlike the C&L books this was closer to the Comic Book format that evolved in the 1930's. Each month a different Hearst strip was featured beginning wit Polly and Her Pals. Comic Monthly lasted for a year before it ceased publishing.

David McKay was the first publisher to print an omnibus issuing Feature Book in 1937. The first issue was unnumbered and titled Dick Tracy the Detective. Zane Grey's King of the Royal Mounted was the first numbered issue, cover dated May 1937. A large book at 9x12 and 64 pages it reprinted the newspaper strip.

United Features followed with their Single Series in 1939, with the Captain and the Kids, Fritzi Ritz, Broncho Bill, Ella Cinders and Li'l Abner among the featured titles.

Dell entered the omnibus race in 1939 with the Large Feature Comic, an oversize book that mixed issues with newspaper reprints like Dick Tracy and Terry and the Pirates and illustrated text stories like issue #7 entitled Hi-Yo Silver The Lone Ranger to the Rescue. These were black and white with color covers. But Sept 1939 also marked Dell's first Four Color Comic, Dick Tracy #1, 68 pages all in color. A total of 25 issues appeared on the stands mostly reprinting newspaper strips. Disney produced two issues that showcased animated cartoons, #13's The Reluctant Dragon and # 17's Dumbo.

In 1942, Dell started the numbering for the Four Color Comics over with #1 Little Joe, reprinting the newspaper strip. Series II continued until Summer 1962 with a total of 1322 issues. Issue 1329 was believed to be issued with the number 01329-207. Issue 1354 Calvin and the Colonel was the final issue published. Issues with 1331,1334,1338-1340,1342-1347 and 1351-1353 were never printed.

Reference: Grand Comics Database; Over 50 Years of American Comic Books, Ron Goulart, Mallard Press 1991; The International Book of Comics, Denis Gifford,Crescent Books 1984