(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Comics

“I would say lenguage is that we may mis-unda-stend each udda”*…

Long-time readers will know that your correspondent adores George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (c.f., e.g., this post: the remarkable Chris Ware on the modern relevance of the seminal strip). Today, Amber Medland on Krazy Kat‘s huge resonance with Modernists throughout its run…

The Kat had a cult following among the modernists. For Joyce, Fitzgerald, Stein, and Picasso, all of whose work fed on playful energies similar to those unleashed in the strip, he had a double appeal, in being commercially nonviable and carrying the reek of authenticity in seeming to belong to mass culture. By the thirties, strips like Blondie were appearing daily in roughly a thousand newspapers; Krazy appeared in only thirty-five. The Kat was one of those niche-but-not-really phenomena, a darling of critics and artists alike, even after it stopped appearing in newspapers. Since then: Umberto Eco called Herriman’s work “raw poetry”; Kerouac claimed the Kat as “the immediate progenitor” of the beats; Stan Lee (Spider-Man) went with “genius”; Herriman was revered by Charles Schulz and Theodor Geisel alike. But Krazy Kat was never popular. The strip began as a sideline for Herriman, who had been making a name for himself as a cartoonist since 1902. It ran in “the waste space,” literally underfoot the characters of his more conventional 1910 comic strip The Dingbat Family, published in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal. Hearst gave Herriman a rare lifetime contract and, with his backing, by 1913 the liminal kreatures had their own strip. Most people disliked not being able to understand it. Soon advertisers worried that formerly loyal readers would skip the strips and miss the ads. Editors were infuriated by devices like Herriman’s “intermission” panel, which disrupted the narrative by stalling the action…

For [E.E.] Cummings, who, with his flagrant anti-intellectual stance, privileged what he called “Aliveness” above all else, Charlie Chaplin was the only artist to rival Herriman. But technology disrupted both Chaplin’s and Herriman’s idiosyncratic work. At the introduction of sound in film in 1927, Chaplin said that the “spontaneity of the gags had been lost,” but what he really lost was his control of time. Sound erases distance; there was no longer a delay in which the incongruity between seeing and comprehending could bloom. In his essay “What People Laugh At” (1918), Chaplin noted “the liking of the average person for contrast and surprise in his entertainment.” Both Herriman and Chaplin orchestrated meticulously timed, silent dialogues between images and words. Slapstick—a word that originally referred to two pieces of wood joined together, used by pantomime clowns to make loud noises—is, in their work, a deliberately clumsy cleaving of the relationship between words and images. If people could explain themselves, there would be no time to revel in ludicrous situations, as when in The Kid, Chaplin, caressing the hand of a policeman’s wife, is accidentally caressed by her husband…

The unsung Modernist: “E. E. Cummings and Krazy Kat,” from @ambermedland in @parisreview.

Enjoy Krazy Kat strips here.

* Krazy, to Ignatz (Herriman one-upping Wittgenstein…)

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As we praise percipience, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948, in the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Haredevil Hare,” that Marvin the Martian made his debut.

“Haredevil Hare”: Bugs Bunny, disguised as a Martian, hands Marvin the Uranium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator. (Animation by Ken Harris.)

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“The more beautiful will the piece be by reason of its size”*…

From the annals of animation…

A Boy And His Atom earned the Guinness World Records record for the “World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.”…

What you see on screen are individual carbon monoxide molecules moving around. The film was zoomed in 100 million times. The actual plot of the film is about a boy who bounces his atom around and watches it morph into different forms such as clouds and the word “THINK,” which has been IBM’s slogan since 1911…

And as to how it was made…

A Boy And His Atom is the world’s smallest movie,” from @BoingBoing.

* Aristotle, Poetics

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As we muse on the micro, we might lament that fact that it was on this date in 1944 that the final installment of George Herriman’s comic strip Krazy Kat appeared– exactly two months after Herriman’s death. The strip– aguably the best ever; inarguably foundational to the form– debuted in New York Journal (as the “downstairs” strip in Herriman’s predecessor comic, The Dingbat Family (later, The Family Upstairs).  Krazy, Ignatz, and Offisa Pup stepped out on their own in 1913, and ran until 1944– but never actually succeeded financially.  It was only the admiration (and support) of publisher William Randolph Hearst that kept those bricks aloft.

The final strip

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“Then we got into a labyrinth, and when we thought we were at the end, came out again at the beginning, having still to seek as much as ever.”*…

Can you identify this painting’s creator?

On the heels of Wordle‘s extraordinary success, there have been a rash of variations: e.g., Crosswordle, Absurdle, Quordle, even the NSFW Lewdle.

Now for the National Gallery of Art, another nifty puzzle: Artle.

Enjoy!

* Plato, Euthydemus

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As we play, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Mandrake the Magician first appeared in newspapers. A comic strip, it was created by Lee Falk (before he created The Phantom)… and thus its crime-fighting, puzzle-solving hero is regarded by most historians of the form to have been America’s first comic superhero.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 11, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories”*…

Mel Birnkrant is a successful toy designer, creator both of items that succeeded in the toy market (e.g., the Outer Space Men and Baby Face), and (with his wife Eunice) of the output of “Boutique Fantastique,” handcrafted “‘authentic reproductions’ of antique toys and music boxes that never existed in the first place” (or, as The New York Times put it in a review of a show of their work at the Cooper Union Museum, “antiques that never were”).

But he is probably as well known– at least in the circle of aficionados of which he is a part– as the force behind The Birnkrant Collection of Mickey Mouse & Comic Characters, unique in both its breadth and it depth…

The Birnkrant Collection of Mickey Mouse & Comic Characters was christened “MOUSE HEAVEN” by our good friend Kenneth Anger [Kenneth AngerKenneth Anger!] many years ago, long before he made his film of the same name.  Although, the Collection encompasses the vast expanse of Comic Character Imagery, beginning at the Turn of the 20th Century, right up through the early 1940s, and is about much more than merely Mickey.  The title “stuck”, and over time, in my own mind, it came to include Everything! 

A collection, like this, can only happen, once in a lifetime, and by some twist of fate, that lifetime happened to be mine.  For better, or for worse, the likes of it could never be amassed again.  So this is it, about as good as Comic Character Collecting gets.  To duplicate what you are about to see would require just three things: 1. Infinite resources.  2. A Time Machine, you’d have to be there, either living from 1890 to 1945, or be in attendance at all the great flea markets, antique shows, and toy shows on the East Coast, for the past 50 years, and be able to run faster than me.  And, finally, 3. You’d have to BE me.  All this only looks haphazard, actually, its unified by a single vision.  Everything here is related, It all goes together, in a way that few perceive.

I’m not a historian.  My interest in the items I collected all my life was always purely Visual.  They are simply, flat out, Works of Art to me.  So don’t expect a history of the various characters they portray.  As interesting as that may be, it was never what interested me.  What I learned, along the way, about the various comic characters and their creators was purely secondary.  That scant knowledge was only used as clues to help me find more of the same.  Thus, my commentary, as we go along, will serve only one purpose, I will strive to help you see these Works of Art as Works of Art.  But, be forewarned, you’ll learn little of their stories, and who they were, historically.  It’s all about the way they look to me.  These Icons are the Graven Images of would-be Gods and Goddesses, in the Comic Character Pantheon.  I will present them as Iconic Idols, worthy recipients of Idolatry, and spare you the theology…

Take the online tour of Mouse Heaven. And then there’s Anger’s film…

* Walter Benjamin

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As we wander in wonder, we might recall that it was on this date in 2009 that 12 year old Catherine Ralston was named Easy-Bake “Baker of the Year” for her “Queen of Hearts Strawberry Tart.” The Easy-Bake Oven is, of course, a working toy oven that Kenner introduced in 1963, and which Hasbro still manufactures. Indeed, more than 16 million Easy-Bake Ovens (in 11 models) had been sold.

Ralston, right, on learning of her victory

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“I suppose illustration tends to live in the streets, rather than in the hermetically sealed atmosphere of the museum, and consequently it has come to be taken less seriously”*…

Gustave Doré, frontispiece of “Œuvres de François Rabelais.”

But surely, it shouldn’t necessarily be so…

Old Book Illustrations was born of the desire to share illustrations from a modest collection of books, which we set out to scan and publish. With the wealth of resources available online, it became increasingly difficult to resist the temptation to explore other collections and include these images along with our own. Although it would have been possible to considerably broaden the time-frame of our pursuit, we chose to keep our focus on the original period in which we started for reasons pertaining to taste, consistency, and practicality: due to obvious legal restrictions, we had to stay within the limits of the public domain. This explains why there won’t be on this site illustrations first published prior to the 18th century or later than the first quarter of the 20th century.

We are not the only image collection on the web, neither will we ever be the largest one. We hope however to be a destination of choice for visitors more particularly interested in Victorian and French Romantic illustrations—we understand French Romanticism in its broadest sense and draw its final line, at least in the realm of book illustration, at the death of Gustave Doré.
We also focused our efforts on offering as many different paths and avenues as possible to help you find your way to an illustration, whether you are looking for something specific or browsing randomly. The many links organizing content by artist, language, publisher, date of birth, and more are designed to make searching easier and indecision rewarding…

And rewarding it is! See for yourself at Old Book Illustrations (@obillustrations)

(TotH to @Recomendo6)

* master illustrator Quentin Blake

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As we visualize, we might send powerfully-drawn birthday greetings to Silvio “Sal” Buscema; he was born on this date in 1936. An illustrator and comic artist, he is best remembered for his time at Marvel, especially his ten-year run as artist of The Incredible Hulk and his eight-year run as artist of The Spectacular Spider-Man.

Comics were a family business. His elder brother John is similarly renown for his work on The Avengers, The Silver Surfer, and Conan the Barbarian.

Sal Buscema

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