We’re less than two weeks before SCREWBALL! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny will be in stores and on sale! To whet your appetite, here’s a Guest Blog by the book’s author, Paul C. Tumey…
In the course of writing and curating Screwball! I embarked on a thrilling journey in which I met many fascinating, funny cartoonists who lived and worked as far back as 140 years ago. I am delighted to be able to share their stories and art with a new audience.
The current unprecedented access to historical sources on the Internet has propelled us into a new era of historical scholarship in which it is possible to conduct in-depth research that has previously been very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish. It turns out there is a surprising amount of comics history that is undocumented and mostly forgotten. My mission with Screwball! was to reclaim some of this material, both with “lost” cartoonists and new information and art related to well-known cartoonists.
There is an innocence to screwball comics I love. At first, I thought it was because the people of the time were rather naive and uncomplicated. And then I realized these were the generations that endured World Wars and the Great Depression. I came to realize the screwball style―silly, manic, absurd, non-ironic―was a deliberate choice our worldly, weary, and wise forebears made. They must have needed a laugh. Given that our current times are looking a bit grim, it seems a worthy effort to place some of this material back in circulation to offer a tonic and perhaps even an inspiration to celebrate the absurdities of life.
Although we packed Screwball! with over 600 comics and other pieces of art―the best of the best―I turned up much more. At one point, faced with so much good material, Dean asked me to sort the art for each chapter into five folders: Definite, Preferred, If Room, If More Room, and Pipe Dreams.
Here, then, are a few very special items we think LOAC readers will enjoy that are not in the book, taken from the Preferred to Pipe Dreams folders.
ABOVE: Otto and Blotto by Milt Gross, August 19, 1934. In the mid-1930s, the restlessly creative Gross slyly changed his Count Screwloose topper to Dave’s Delicatessen into a new strip, featuring two chummy best buddy penguins who, Laurel-and-Hardy-like, are dominated by their wives and often sneak off for some fun which, of course, turns into comic disaster. (See page 191 of Screwball! for more context, and page 200 for another Gross penguin-like character, The Guy From Mars.)
ABOVE: And Her Name Was Maud by Frederick Opper, July 14, 1907. Banner art by H.B. Martin. In this episode, farmer Si’s outlandish effort to rid himself of his irascible mule hilariously backfires. (See page 19 of Screwball! for information about this strip and R. F. Outcault’s comments on it. Hint: he got a big kick out of it.)
ABOVE: Radio The Monk by Gus Mager, April 20, 1924. This highly obscure comic by Gus Mager only had three Sunday episodes and a few months of dailies. (See page 96 of Screwball! for another example, and pages 93-94 for background information on this strip.)