Archive | Skippy

It All “Ad”s Up

We sometimes have more artwork and photos than we can squeeze into the text features of our books. We’re just putting a wrap on Steve Canyon Volume 7, for example, and we have such an abundance of 1959-60 riches related to Milton Caniff and his creation that we’ll likely do a feature in this space showcasing some of the artifacts that didn’t make the cut as the book gets closer to its on-sale date.

Sifting through the files I’ve amassed related to a couple other recent books, I saw some newspaper promotional ads that we didn’t use. Here’s a “Kigmy”-related ad supporting Li’l Abner, circa 1949:

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And from that same year, an ad that does double duty, both as a promotion for Abner and as a contest pushing Proctor & Gamble products:

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I’m also partial to this 1933 ad for Tim Tyler’s Luck that we found while preparing our jumbo-sized LOAC Essentials/King Features Essentials Volume 2 devoted to Alex Raymond’s brief-but-memorable stint on that series.

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Seeing those items, and given my own soft spot for this type of material, I thought I’d sift through a batch of newspapers and see what other comic strip promotional ads I could find. The earliest one I located was from the year of the stock market crash, 1929, and is hyping Percy Crosby’s delightful and influential kids strip, Skippy:

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Fans of Gasoline Alley (myself included) may get a kick out of this 1930 advertisement, suggesting readers send in their summertime addresses and get the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette delivered while on vacation in order to stay current with events in the Wallet household:

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And I was delighted to find this 1934 ad from the Asheville, North Carolina Citizen as the paper prepared to bring Little Orphan Annie into its lineup of daily comics. The ad symbolically reminds readers how “Daddy” Warbucks’s red-haired charge typically ends up in hot water :

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Not every ad was as elaborate as the Annie, of course. In 1940, when this ad promoting the Golden Age Superman was appearing in client newspapers across America, The Man of Tomorrow was scarcely two years old. How many readers in 1940 could have imagined the strange visitor from planet Krypton would still be entertaining millions, more than seventy-five years after this modest advertisement saw print?

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The sophistication and graceful action shown in this 1952 ad for Rip Kirby strikes me as resonating very closely with what Alex Raymond was presenting on the comics page as he chronicled the adventures of the ’50’s first modern detective:

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One of the strips I always enjoyed as a youngster was Andy Capp. I liked the “Englishness” of his world, its rough-and-tumble nature, and I’m heartened that Andy has successfully continued his visits to the local more than a decade after his creator’s death (Reg Smythe passed away in 1998). The copy in this 1967 ad from the Pittsburgh Press certainly reflects the tenor of those “Swingin’ Sixties” times, doesn’t it?

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Finally, here’s a March, 1971 ad for Doonesbury, only five months into its existence. It serves as a reminder of how the art style, themes, and characters in this sprawling, sometimes controversial, sometimes powerful, always-worth-reading strip have changed!

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Keep watching this space, because we’ll be back soon with, as the Monty Python troupe used to say, “something completely different” …

Best Book of the Year

Long-time comics historian and commentator R. Fiore calls the first volume of SKIPPY the “Book of the Year” in the current Comics Journal.

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A Skippy illustration inscribed by Percy Crosby to his former commanding officer—Teddy Roosevelt.

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In the meantime, as we work on the second volume, which covers the years 1928 through 1930, we’ve encountered an unfortunate glitch. Our primary source for the dailies is Bill Blackbeard’s collection at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State; digging deep in those archives, my co-editor Jared Gardner discovered that there are serious gaps in the 1929 dailies. Percy Crosby’s daughter, Joan Tibbitts, has come through with some of the missing strips; Jared has uncovered still others in different boxes at OSU; and I located a precious two months’ worth in LOAC’s stacks. But we’re still short. So here’s the call to all collectors: anyone with 1929 Skippy dailies is encouraged to get in touch so we can complete the book sooner rather than later.

We’re optimistic that the strips will be made available soon. The upshot, of course, is that the book will be delayed. In the meantime, we’re concurrently digitizing the strips for the third volume (which we have complete, 1931-1933!). We’ll keep you posted on an updated release date for Skippy Volume 2.

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Skippy, at long last

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Last year when I was preparing to head up to Ohio State to research the Milton Caniff artbook with Lorraine Turner and Matt Tauber, and Lorraine and I were continuing on to Michigan State to research Otto Soglow’s career, Jeet Heer suggested I get in touch with Jared Gardner, a full-fledged perfessor at OSU who had written some phenomenal essays on comics history, including one on Soglow’s pre-Little King strip, the Ambassador.

Little did I know when we met Jared that he would end up writing the biographical essay forCartoon Monarch, our Soglow book, and that less than a year later he would introduce me to Joan Crosby Tibbetts, Percy Crosby’s daughter and the keeper of the Skippy flame. Turns out she and Jared were engaged in a continuing discussion about Jared writing a biography of Joan’s famous father.

Well, one thing led to another and as you can tell from the above cover, we at LOAC are extremely proud to start work on the complete reprinting of Percy Crosby’s Skippy. Jared and I are co-editing, Lorraine is designing (judging from the cover, we’ve got a lot to look forward to!), and Joan is providing advice, suggestions, and full access to her father’s files and artwork.

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Percy Crosby sketching Skippy as his wife and children look on.

Long-time comics fans know of Skippy and his creator mainly from Jerry Robinson’s 1978 book. In that book, Jules Feiffer gave us the memorable quote: “Percy Crosby caught lightning in a bottle and learned how to draw with it.” Milton Caniff once marveled, “Boy, there’s nothing faster than watching Skippy run the way Crosby drew him.” Crosby was also heralded as “the greatest apostle of motion in the field of art” by Edward Alden Jewell, art critic of the New York Times. His artwork has hung in the Louvre in Paris, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, and the Tate Gallery in London, among other venues, but it’s his work as a cartoonist, as the creator of Skippy—the philosopher man-child— for which he’s best known.

Created in 1923 in Life magazine, Skippy moved to the comics pages in 1925 and soon became a sensation, published in 28 countries and 14 languages. In 1931 it became the first comic strip to see its film version win an Academy Award. Crosby continued writing and drawing the feature until 1945.

The strip, sadly, is not well known today, but we see in Skippy the spiritual ancestor to Peanutsand Calvin and Hobbes, among many other kid strips. Percy Crosby influenced cartoonists from Charles Schulz to Walt Kelly to Garry Trudeau, and perhaps more than any other cartoonist before him brought philosophy and politics to the American newspaper comic strip. In the end, it would be his outspoken political and philosophical beliefs that would place him increasingly outside the mainstream of 1940s American culture, ultimately leading to his exile from comics and his forced incarceration in a mental institution for the last sixteen years of his life. As a result of his tragic end, Crosby’s remarkable contributions to American culture have been largely eclipsed, until now.

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We’ll release the first book—all dailies from 1925-1927—next July. Dailies and Sundays will be in separate books. To whet your appetite, we’ll run some Skippy strips every week until the book is published. Check out the dailies above. I think you’ll find something familiar in Skippy pining for the “girl in the pink’n’red dress” (shades of Charlie Brown’s little red-haired girl), and in Skippy’s go-cart flying over the hill (what—no Calvin, no Hobbes?!)

It Makes All the Difference in the World

After we posted some of Percy Crosby’s pre-Skippy single panel cartoons a few days ago, we were deluged with emails asking for more. So here are a few more from the early 1920s: two from his “It Makes All the Difference in the World” series and two from “When There’s a Boy in the Family.”

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All artwork copyright Skippy, Inc.

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 So How Long Have You Been Beating Your Wife?

Percy Crosby was a successful cartoonist long before he began Skippy. In the early 1920s he produced many single-panel series with names such as Back o’ the Flats, Three Rooms and Bath,Honeydale—Fifty Minutes Ago (hilarious train commuting gags), Pictures the Weekly Movies Never Got, and so on. His daughter Joan recenty sent us a stack of about one hundred and fifty of these, some of which will be included in our upcoming Skippy series. There’s no way we can print them all, so here are a few samples of Back o’ the Flats to give you a Crosby fix in the meantime.

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All artwork © Skippy, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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