Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love and Crickets

Tuesday Comic Strip Day.

Blog favorite Grodo was started in the war years by former Disney animator Gus Arriola. He had to suspend the strip when he went to war, but he restarted it after the war. Although it started out as a continuity strip, it ended up being one of the most wonderful poetic and funny strips ever, especially in the well designed Sundays. Arriola had the trick of playing games with his name as well, which you should look out for.

Whenever I come across some of those Sundays, I usually clip them. Not always, because sometimes they were so brightly colored that they just don't work in a black and white scan. Here's what I have got the last couple of months - with some of those rare selfscanned early fifties Sundays in color.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I See, I See, What You Doxsee

Monday Cartoon Day.

This article is a reworking of an ealrier piece, with more illustrations and more information. After you have read this, you may want to have a look at th other samples by following the label.

Scanning a new set of Nero Wolfe Sundays I came across an interesting feature called Let's Explore Your Mind. I knew this strip before, it ran for quite a while as a daily and a Sunday between the thirties into the sixties. Written by Albert Edward Wiggam who is descried on the internet as a 'psychologist, lecturer and author', it was a series of psychological and biological observations framed in the for of illustrated questions and answers. In fact, many of the simple truths about men, women and behavior are still true today. For more than 40 years Wiggam produced one such qeustion every day and four or five every Sunday. They were always illustrated, at first in a solemn style, but in the late fifties a news artist took over, who added a bit of humor to the illustrations. In 1962 his work was taken over by journeyma artist Bill Legante who remained at the helm until the end of the strip in the seventies. Later Buck Rogers artist Rick Yager did a stint in the late forties.

But the indentity of the artist in the late fifties remains unknown. Even Alan Holtz, who has more information on the feature and even a beginning and end date, doesn't know anything except that indeed it is a seperate artist. And an artist I feel I should know. Every time I have come across his work, it struck me as someone whose work I had seen before, but I could never make out where.

Now that I had a longer run, I was able to have a better look. I immediately knew where I wanted to look. The grotesk style used for the characters here is similar in a lot of ways to one that was used around the same time by ome of the artists working for the early years of Cracked magazine. Before John Severin and Bill Ward (McCartney) became the resident artists filling the magazine almost on their own for twenty years, a lot of artists from the Timely Atlas pool were used. This must have something to do with the Carl Burgos/Sy Shores connection and also with the fact that in the late fifties most artists were scrambling for work because of the slow deterioration of the comcis industry. Among the artists used by Cracked (and other Mad imitators) were Al Jaffee, Bill Elder, Russ Heath, Bill Bailey, Joe Maneely, Carl Burgos, Joe Sinnot, Angelo Torres, Bill Everett and Jack Davis. Joe Maneely and Bill Bailey were two of the artists who working in this big face style, but the most visible one was a Richard Doxsee.

Doxsee (whose name is sometimes spelled Doxee in the cracked masthead) was an adaptable (and possibly young) artist, who could work in several styles. He is on my blog, doing some sort of fairy tale horror story in a very nondescript humor style in some of his oldest known work, but when he turns up at Timely, he is wokring in the Angelo Torres/Al Williamson style (also known as the Fleagle Gang style), although he seems not to have been part of their circle. The humor style he uses for his work in Cracked has nothing in common with those moody horror stories.

But I do see an obvious conection to the cartoons in Dr. Wiggam's columns at that time. The manic grin, the way the cheeckbones are drawn, the dotted pupils... it all seems the work of the same artist to me. I know the Cracked worked is more grotesque (and there is a definite Jack Davis influence going on) but if you look closely to the X-Ray article, for instance, you do see a similarity in the women's faces and the line quality as well. Still, it's no exact science. Best would be to have someone from that time confirm it.

And that is not easy. All my efforts to track Richard Doxsee down have gotten me nowhere. I ahve one or two more leads to follow, but after doing his cartoon stuff for Cracked (and possibly turned Explore over to Bill Ligante), he seems to have dropped of the face of the earth. Clearly a competent artist, he must ave found another outlet for his talents.

I went and had a look when this artist first appeared on Let's Explore Your Mind and here is what I found. In the early fifties, there was an artist who signed his name Ray Chatton. His only known credit on the internet is for the cover of a Buck Rogers comic (#9), which ties him in with the later RBuck Rogers artist Rick Yager in a strange way. He stops signeing towards the end of 1955 and the last column I have that seems to be illustrated by him is from november 1955. The first I have of the 'new' artist is early in January 1956. As I said, he satyed on until Bill Ligante takes over in 1962.