Monday, February 20, 2012

What Exactly Is A Comic Book ??

Here is another older post I made on another list of "what Exactly is a Comic Book?"

Of course there is a difference between "narrative strips" and "world balloon strips" - but both can be contained within any comicbook whether that format be magazine, perfect bound, trade PB, or most all the comicbooks pointed out in the Victorian and Plat Comicbook price indexes found in Overstreet.

I would sure hate to think the decade i have out there in re-educating with expanded cosmic comicbook consciousness first myself then the research as presented in that growing section I have created within the pages of the Overstreet Price Guide was for nought. That the collective research i have gathered under one roof from many dozens of fellow like minded comicstrip book researchers are also like-minded deluded

Or think outside the box, think inclusive, is my working motto in this field after 40 years of study

i surely did not know the crazy-minded resistance i would encounter the first decade building that section from whole cloth. Agonizing over the few dozen pictorial representatives to include out of the 1000s of examples i have uncovered and indexed together under one roof.

I cannot rest until all worship the full spectrum of the Comics Ghods of Yore

- let them all be recognized as contributing to the national comics consciousness of America. It took generations to unfold, to develop, each new generation feeding on the myths and legends of the previous ones, that seems more natural to me

- nothing is created in a vacuum, except empty headed thinking, methinks

I think every one reading this thread should figure out how to score this book:

These are as much a comic book

here are some more favorite comic books I own:


every bit as much comic books as these newer favorites of mine:

as this is

Robert Beerbohm
Here is a Blast From The Past

Here is a transcription I made circa 1998 which appeared in the old list, from whence a tremendous amount of off-shoot lists came out of. This became the basis for the hunt for 1800s comic strips books which evolved eventually in to the "Victorian" section of Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide.

There are typo errors for which i apologize in advance, and not all of Legman's data was 100% accurate as we later found out. If we are going to have a serious discussion of the origins of the comic strip in America, I have a LOT more stuff where this comes from.

Recently comics scholar Jay Maeder <> posted portions onto the comicscholar-list from a letter titled "The First Comic Books In America: Revisions And Reflections," by Gershon Legman, published in the January 1946 issue of a small-size zine named American Notes & Queries (NY:NY).

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I finally tracked down a complete bound set of this zine in one of their sub-basements, wiped the cobwebs off, was lucky to be able to check out for 3 weeks the complete 4 volume set (1941-1950) and have herewith transcribed all the comics references I could so far locate. There may be a few strays.

Beginning with the earliest question, originally posed by none other than August Derleth, in 1941, an e-mail-like "thread" of comics history was slowly discussed by various early comics fans extending thru the zine's demise in 1950.

What follows a few preliminary letters is the complete text of an absolutely extraordinary letter by LOVE AND DEATH (1949) author Gershon Legman tying a lot of concepts together. All { } and [ ] are Legman's but for two of mine, noted.

Legman appears to be personally in possession of all/most of the 1800s material he references. One must keep in mind that there was very little prior historical reference work to double-check facts. I welcome scholarly feedback on this post iff you have the time & inclination.

Robert Beerbohm



*********AN&Q July 1941*********

A. D. CONDO. Does anyone know anything of the whereabouts of A. D. Condo, creator of the comic strip "Everett True"?

August Derleth

*********AN&Q Aug 1941*********

LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND. I am at the moment much interested inall information concerning comics - in fact I am preparing a book on the subject.

Winsor McCay (d. 1934) created "Little Nemo in Slumberland" sometimes called "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams" in 1904. It was syndicated by the New York HERALD TRIBUNE from 1905 until about 1911 or 1912, when King Features took it over an dran it as "In the Land of Wonderful Dreams" until 1915. It was again syndicated by the HERALD TRIBUNE in August, 1924, under its original title, and survived until August (?), 1927.

Most libraries, et al., remove the comics from the regular newspaper files before binding, and comics bound spearately are not plentiful. A complete file of this series would represent not more than 676 full pages. Of this my own copies - from the New York HERALD TRIBUNE, the Chicago RECORD-HERALD (after May, 1918, the Chicago HERALD AND EXAMINER), the Boston POST, etc. - total abou thalf. I am particularly anxious to fill out the 1909-1912 sequence. Have your readers any suggestions?

August Derleth

*********AN&Q Sept 1941*********

LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND (1:70 Aug '41). "Little Nemo," it would seem, still has a following. Rand McNally has just issued a ten cent LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMERLAND (Chicago, 1941).

McCay's DREAMS OF A RAREBIT FIEND may, in its way, have been as popular as LITTLE NEMO. The New York Public Library's copy of this tale of the rueful rarebit roue' is signed "Silas," contains sixty one-page episodes, and was published (c. 1905) by Stokes and the New York EVENING TELEGRAM. For a kind of highly imaginative and innocuous horror, parts of it are, I think, every bit as good as the best of Walt Disney.

H. N.

*********AN&Q March 1942********

COMICS BEFORE 1925. I should like some information as to where I might find copies of some of the comic books issued by a variety of publishers before 1925: Clare Victor Dwiggens' SCHOOL DAYS (N.Y., 1919), which I am anxious to own myself; Saalfield Mager's (sic) HAWKSHAW THE DETECTIVE; BUSTER BROWN, issued by Cupples & Leon, publishers of George McManus' BRINGING UP FATHER series; LITTLE SAMMY SNEZE, issued by Stokes, and Clare A. Brigg' O. MAN!

I am also hunting stray bits of anecdote about many of the earlier cartoonists, specifically, Briggs, Dirks, Dwig, Herriman, McManus, Outcault, and Sterrett.

August Derleth

*********AN&Q April 1942*********

COMICS BEFORE 1925 (1:185). Clare Brigg's OH, MAN! was published by P. F. Volland Company, Chicago, in 1919. It contained a "breezy foreward by Franklin P. Adams." Some years later it was remaindered, and is now probably only available seconfhand.

W. L. Werner

[RB here: There then seems to be a comics content gap as we fight World
War Two and everybody seemed to be getting drafted or enlisted.]

*********AN&Q May 1944**********

COMICS BEFORE 1925 (2:13 et al.). Obituaries of the late George Herriman, who died on April 25, will yield Mr. Derleth some rather good material. He was the creator of "Krazy Kat" comic strip and notoriously silent on his own affairs. Yet several interesting snatches emerge - his journey to New York in search of a fortune, his painting of canvases for Coney Island concessionaires, his adventures as a "talker for a snake-eaters act." A few facts about Krazy Kat's unsuccessful predecessors as well as the locale of the sketches (assumed to be Coconino County, Arizona) are mentioned.

Y. A.

*********AN&Q October 1944********

COMICS BEFORE 1925 (4:29et al.). "Mr. and Mrs. Beans," the adventures of two Boston terriers, appearing in the SATURDAY EVENING POST, began in the early twenties. Their creator, Robert L. Dickey, well-known for his drawings of dogs and horses, died in Cleveland on Oct. 21. A brief obituary states that he moved from New York about four years ago and had
since lived in Ohio with his son Ralph L. Dickey. He was a native of Marshall, Michigan; stuidued at the Art Institute of Chicago; and began his career as a cartoonist for th eold Chicago INTEROCEAN.
L. O.

*********AN&Q July 1945**********

COMIC BEFORE 1925 (4:110 et al). TIME (July 16, 1945) stated that the American Antiquarian Society had discovered a comic strip antedating by at least thirty years Richard Outcault's "YELLOW KID," long regarded as the original in this field.

The newly-found character was FERDINAND FLIPPER, and he appeared in the New York weekly, BROTHER JONATHAN, between 1858 and 1863. The strip, according to TIME, was evidently the work of several cartoonists whose names are not known.

W. H. P.

*********AN&Q August 1945**********

THE FIRST COMIC BOOKS . Unfortunately, the TIME article, quoted on page 62 of the July, 1945, issue of AN&Q, was inaccurate. FREDINAND FLIPPER was not a comic strip but a comic book. And it was published by - not in BROTHER JONATHAN.

Nor was it, however, the only known one of its kinds. There are, to our knowledge, three contemporaries or predecessors:

1. THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCES OF ICHBOD ACADEMICUS, illustrated by William T. Peters, [New Haven, 1847].
2. A similar Harvard picture book beginning with THE FIRST MATIN BELL DOTH REMIND THE FRESHMEN, etc

We would be gald to hear of any additions to this little bibliography.

Clifford K. Shipton
American Antiquarian Society

******Gershon Legman AN&Q Jan 1946*********



The usual statement on the early history of the comics in America runs about like this:

"The first comics didn't appear in the United States until the latter half of the 19th century. Richard F. Outcault, a former draftsman for ELECTRICAL WORLD, created a little roughneck character from the slums and called him THE YELLOW KID." --Martin Sheridan, COMICS AND THEIR CREATORS, Boston, 1942, revised 1944, pp. 16-17.

Numerous variations have been rung on this theme, and perhaps the most absurd of them is this excerpt from "Judaism in the 'Comics' Corrupting our Native Tongue," an annonymous article of 1924:

"The 'comic strip' and the Sunday 'comics,' which are devoured so voraciously by children throughout the land, are peculiar to America. Before 1890, they are unknown. They have made their appearance since the Jews came here in large masses . . . They [the Jews and the 'Romanists'] would apparently convert Sunday into a day for the children to absorb the blatant vulgarities, evil suggestions and language corruption of the 'comics.'" --THE AMERICAN STANDARD, New York, Vol. 1, 1924, #8, page 7.

Nevertheless, the comic strip is not originally an American art-form, and Outcault's comic-stories in the NEW YORK WORLD in 1894 ("THE YELLOW KID" was not his first) were half a century later than the first comics appearing in the United States, and an unknown number of centuries later than the first that appeared at all.

The history of the comic strip has not yet been traced.

[RB here: Twenty five years later we were blessed with Kunzle #1.]

Its descent can be roughly seen in the bison-drawings of the cave dwellers; the hieroglyphic writing of Egypt (in which the cartouche, or conversation-balloon, first appears); the architectural friezes of Babylonia, Central America, and Indonesia; the ceramic decorations of
Greece; the silver-chasing Roman arms and armor; the wall graffiti of Pompeii; the hunting tapestries of the Middle Ages; the playing-cards and fortune-telling Tarot of the Renaissance; the horizontal scrolls (makimono) of Japan; and the crowded canvases of the Flemish peasant painters, particularly Pieter Breughel, the Elder.

Its popularity as a folk-art waited until the habit of reading supplanted listening in the transmission of folk-tale fantasy, in the early 19th century in western Europe.

Combined with the growing popularity of political caricature and satirical almanacs, there was at hand the AUDIENCE, the MATERIAL, the METHOD, and the VEHICLE for the fantasy-story told in a cycle of drawings.

For as far as the impact on the experiencing mind is concerned it makes little difference whether it is the djinni of the Arabian Nights, the Roland and Arthur of legend, the Tyl and Robin Hood of ballad and jest, the fairy-tale witches of Basile's "Pentamerone (even in the watered-down versions of Grimm and Anderson), or the virile, three-color exploits of Superprig in the 60th Century, brandishing a ray-gat in each mitt.

Clifford K. Shipman has drawn attention (AN&Q 5:71) to several early American comic books, FERDINAND FLIPPER, ICHABOD ACADEMICUS and others. The earliest of these, THE ADVENTURES OF MR. OBADIAH OLDBUCK, is not an American original but a piracy of a Swiss album of 1837, a fact already noted by William Murrell in 1933:

"Under the classification: 'Early American Humor' in booksellers' catalogues, one occasionally meets with THE ADVENTURES OF BACHELOR BUTTERFLY and OBADIAH OLDBUCK IN SEARCH OF A BRIDE, 1846.

"These album-like little volumes each contain some two hundred excellent comic illustrations, and the texts printed at the bottom of every page illuminate the antics of the hero. But these drawings were the work of the famous Swiss, Rodolphe Toepffer [sic], and the items classified as 'Early American Humor' were pirated editions with English texts. True there is no indication of this in the albums, and only those familiar with Toeppfer's (sic) work would raise a questioning eyebrow." --William Murrell, "A History Of American Graphic Humor", New York, Vol. 1, 1933, pp. 164-65.

According to the NEW YORK TIMES (Sept 3, 1904), the first American reprint of Topffer was issued as a supplement to BROTHER JONATHAN (New York, Sept. 14, 1842).

The Dick & Fitzgerald reprints, which followed, can be gotten out of the way most conveniently by listing Topffer's original works and what appear to be their American piracies.

Topffer, Rodolphe (1799-1846):

-- LE DOCTEUR FESTUS (1829, published 1840)
-- HISTOIRE D'ALBERT (Geneve, 1845)
-- MONSIEUR CRYPTOGAME (1845) (in L'ILLUSTRATION, 1845, redrawn by "Cham" [Amedee de Noe], published separately 1846-1847.)
-- COLLECTION DES HISTOIRES EN ESTAMPES (Geneve, 1846-47) 6 vol., reprinted as Komische Bilderromane (Esslingen, 1899).

Three of the illustrations from M. VIEUX-BOIS (appear) later in OBADIAH OLDBUCK, are reproduced by Ernst Schur in KUNST UND KUNSTLER (Berlin, Vol. 7,1909, pp. 502-503, 506), but several (other) sequences do not appear in OLDBUCK, suggesting that one or all of the American piracies may be abridged.

Except for OLDBUCK the relation of these originals to the following (Dick & Fitzgerald) reprints is not known to me, but owners of copies will be able to determine this very easily by comparison:

-- THE ADVENTURES OF MR. OBADIAH OLDBUCK. Wherein are set forth his unconquerable passion for his lady-love, his utterable despair on losing her, his five attempts at suicide and his surprising exploits in search of the beloved object. Also, his final success. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, publishers, 18 Ann Street (1846?) 80 p. oblong 8vo

The rest are quoted from Dick & Fitzgerald's catalogue for 1878. The alternative titles are not necessarily those appearing on the printed works; OLDBUCK - title page as above - is advertised this:

"THE MISHAPS AND ADVENTURES OF OBADIAH OLDBUCK. Wherein are set forth the crosses, chagrins, calamities, checks, chills, the changes, circumgyrations, by which his courtship was attended. Showing also the issue of his suit, and his espousal to his Lady love [&c.]"

-- THE LAUGHABLE ADVENTURES OF MESSRS. BROWN, JONES AND ROBINSON Showing where they went, and how they went, what they did, and how they did it. ("Illustrated with nearly 200 thrillingly comic engravings." [A later catalogue adds "By Richard Doyle."]

-- THE COURTSHIP OF CHEVALIER SLY-FOX WYKOFF Showing his heart-rending, astounding and most wonderful love adventures with Fanny Elssler and Miss Gambol. [N.B. "Elssler - German for "the Alsatian."]

-- THE STRANGE AND WONDERFUL ADVENTURES OF BATCHELOR BUTTERFLY [sic]. Showing how his passion for natural history completely eradicated the tender passion implanted in his breast -also, detailing his extraordinary travels, both by sea and land. ("The book is printed on fine plate paper in the neatest manner, and is the cheapest pictorial work ever issued in America. Price: 30 cts.") [The pirates apparently had no shame.]

-- THE COMIC ADVENTURES OF DAVID DUFFICKS ("Illustrated with over 100 funny engravings.")

-- THE EXTRAORDINARY AND MIRTH-PROVOKING ADVENTURES BY SEA AND LAND, OF OSCAR SHANGHAI (All told in a series of nearly 200 of the most risible, quizzible, provoking, peculiar, saucy and spicy cuts ever gathered within the leaves of any one book . . . Price 25 cts.") [This in spite of the Comstock Law of 1872.]

I do not know what the first comic strip, sheet or book by an American-born artist may have been. The original Swiss editions are very limited and it seems likely that Dick & Fitzgerald used the 1846-47 collected edition, which would date these reprints four years later than the BROTHER JONATHAN Topffer of 1842.

It is possible that comic BOOKS in America took their inspiration from Toppfer, but in only a quick glance at Murrell's HISTORY OF AMERICAN GRAPHIC HUMOR one comes across a number of American artists who were, in the 1830s and earlier, producing material that may properly designated "comics."

William Charle's TOM THE PIPER'S SON (reissued: Salem 1814) and Edward Clay's satirical "This Is The House That Jack Built" (1837) [Murrell 1:82-3, 149] obviously stem from the 18th-century children's horn-books of the TRAGICAL DEATH OF AN APPLE PIE type ("A apple-pye, B bit it, C cut it" etc). The anonymous "Illustrations Of Masonry" (Boston ca. 1826) and Frank Bellew's eight "Trials Of A Witness" (in THE LANTERN, ceased publication in 1853) [Murrell, 10:100-101, 183] are evident reprises of the older static frieze-drawings.

Lear and the comic historians in England led directly into the comic story in pictures, as in the mid-century humor magazines of England and the continent; and John Camden Hotten, just before his death in 1873, published in London a complete comic book, THE FOOLS PARADISE, colored illustrations and all.

A sequel, FURTHER ADVENTURES IN FOOLS PARADISE, was issued by his successors, Chatto & Windus; both were largely reprints of the great German comic artist, Wilhelm Busch, from FLIEGENDE BLATTER, 1859, ff. A decade before it was taken into the American newspaper in 1894, the comic story in pictures had been accepted as completely natural by a number of American artists -- A.B. Frost (STUFF AND NONSENSE. NY., 1884-88), E.W. Kemble and probably others.

The groundwork for the comic book in America was laid when the comic almanacs, beginning with Charles Ellms' AMERICAN COMIC ALMANAC (Boston 1831), created a demand for humorous drawings in pamphlets rather than broadsides. The illustrations of jokes and scenes of static humor -- the cartoon as opposed to the caricature -- continued in the tradition of book
illustration, while the caricature became strictly a feature of the newspapers and magazines which later took over the cartoon as well.

The comic -- involving continued action through a series of drawings -- combined the reduplicative frieze-motif, the nursery-tale and horn-book presentation, the comic almanac format, and the emergent European protracted story form (as in Topffer's work) into the comic book.

Apparently 1946 is its American centennial.

Gershon Legman

*****NEXT LETTER AN&Q April 1946*****

FIRST COMIC BOOKS IN AMERICA (5:189 et al). Mr Legman rightly notes (5:148) that the history of the comic strip has not been fully traced. Besides the Egyptian forms he cites there is the pictorial representation of a sequence of acts found in mediaeval art, where, e.g., within one pictorial unit are portrayals of a man on the scaffold and the same man beheaded.

A longer sequence, depicting a complete narrative - from the first meeting of the "actors" on through the significant episodes to the final murder (or executiuon) - can be seen in the thirty chapter headings in John Reynolds' THE TRIUMPH OF GOD'S REVENGE AGAINST THE CRYINGE AND EXCREIBLE SINNE OF .... MURTHER (4th ed., London, 1663).

There are twelve scenes in the first heading; eight on the second, third and fourth; and fourteen in the twenty-fourth. The resemblance to a comic strip in form (but not matter) is striking. I have not seen the earlier editions of this book.

Archer Taylor

[RB here: AMERICAN NOTES & QUERIES seems to become eratic in publishing schedule like many a small press zine ala ALTER EGO. -:)]

*****NEXT LETTER Jan 1950*****

FIRST COMIC BOOK IN AMERICA (6:14, et al). The excellent material that has appeared under this heading has been concerned largely with comics in general as a literary or art form - and not specifically with comic books.

The comic book, obviously, is merely an adaptation of an already popular medium. In fact, according to John R. Vosburgh's "How the Comic Book Started" (COMMONWEAL, May 2, 1949), it is only about 17 years old.

Harry I. Wildenberg, who in 1932 was sales manager for Eastern Color Printing Company in New York, producers of the comic sections of deozens of papers along the Atlantic Seaboard, had the task of digging up ideas that would sell color printing for his firm. The popularity of the funny sheets baffled him, but he became convinced that they constituted a good advertising medium. He suggested a tabloid of comics, and one of his clients, Gulf Oil, carried out the notion, supplying their own artists and creator. Gulf Oil stations distributed 3,000,000 copies a week.

The book notion did not strike him until one day somewhat later he was :idly folding a newspaper in halves, then quarters." He immediately set to work, got pulication rights to Bell Syndicate comics, had an artist make up some dummies, and sent these off to a number of his largest advertisers. When Proctor & Gamble fired back an order for a million 32-page comic magazines in color, "the first comic book ever printed or distributed" was with us. The sponsor called it "(Funnies) on Parade" and in it were many of the popular newspaper strips.

Thus far it was all a distribution scheme; the notion that a comic book could be SOLD was for the moment beyond Wildenberg's eye.

Not long, however, for soon he invaded the retail market and sounded out the five-and-ten-cent stores. But the idea was thoroughly rejected. Even the comics syndicates turned him down, insisting that nobody wanted to read comics. Yet Wildenberg felt that the field had been scarcely touched. He at last induced Dell Publishing Company to get out a first edition of 40,000; every copy was sold. Nevertheless, the comic book was still considered a gamble, from the advertiser's point of view.

In July,m 1934, eaterm put out a trial edition of 200,000 and sold 90 per cent. Each issue thereafter snowballed, month by month. Within less than a year three competitors entered the field.

Strangely enough, Wildenberg strongly disapproves of comics in any form. It never occurred to him, he said, that the effect might be disastrous.

P. E. R.

*****end of the comics history letters*****

AN&Q's March 1950 issue had this definition of the term fanzine:

"FANZINES": fantasy magazines, or magazines for fantasy fans; term cited in an article on California writers in the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, May 7, 1950.


One must embrace the concept that the just maybe comic book came first, then the comic strip in newspapers, followed by the four color saddle stiched format we recognize today.

There is much research still to be accomplished. Yes?

Robert Beerbohm,
who thanks to Jay Maeder for pointing him down this path.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Goodman vs Ditko & Kirby by: Robert Beerbohm

 This is the first entry in a series of blogs I hope to learn how to do shortly

In response to the recent “Kirby Zealots†post, comics historian Robert Beerbohm was nice enough to weigh in on the subject.

Goodman vs Ditko & Kirby by: Robert Beerbohm

Martin Goodman used Stan Lee as a conduit, as his paid go-between, with the “hired help.â€