Month: May 2012

Teaching in the Cartoon Library: Comics and American Culture

On April 26th, the Cartoon Library had the pleasure of hosting Ben Owen’s English 367.01: Language, Identity and Culture in the U.S. Experience, a second-year composition class that Owen structured around the study of comics. Throughout the course, students look at a wide variety of comics (from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to selected pieces from the What Things Do website) to learn how to think and write about the medium analytically, as well as gaining an understanding of visual rhetoric.

The specific assignment that brought Ben Owen’s class into the Cartoon Library was on comics and social diversity in the United States- using the comics medium to understand the pluralistic nature of race, gender, class, ethnicity and religion, and how their own attitudes are shaped by these aspects of American society. To do so, students were instructed to use our multiple Cartoon Library search tools to find cartoon and comics work related to a topic that interests them within the American experience, with a chance to study them in person. They then had to do a 5-minute presentation in pecha kucha style to make a compelling argument about why their topic is important and how it can be understood through comics.

The results were fascinating, and students presented on everything from medicine to religion, World War II, Hurricane Katrina, and more. Curator Jenny Robb and I were lucky enough to be able to view some of the final presentations on May 24th, pictures of which can be seen below:

One student presented on Religion and Comics, opening his presentation with the religious themes in Jack Kirby's Captain America, and Siegel and Shuster's Superman

Student Nelson Ballard gave a 5 minute history of his life, and his experiences throughout America that led him to study medicine at OSU. Supported by the illustrations of Charles Bragg.

An excellent closing slide from a student presentation on Comics and World War II

We love having classes of any discipline visit the Cartoon Library, both from OSU and beyond! Professors, if you’re interested in doing a session with us, please contact cartoons@osu.edu with your schedule and subject matter.

Found in the Collection: Alex Toth (1928-2006)

In memoriam of the anniversary of Alex Toth’s death (this past Sunday, May 27th), we have dug up a few of his works from the late 60s-early 70s. A page from issue number 12 of the DC Comics series “The Witching Hour”, and a page from one of the many romance comics he illustrated (penciled, in the case of our sample), “Young Romance”.

But first, a powerfully simplistic self-portrait that Toth did for collector Mark J. Cohen, whose collection resides here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum and contains over 370 cartoonist self portraits. A number of these pieces were displayed in our 2011 exhibit, Gallery Of Rogues: Cartoonist Self-Caricatures.

Original Alex Toth self-caricature. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Widely considered to be one of the greatest cartoonists of our time, and a protege of Milton Caniff (our founding donor!), Toth is revered not for the creation of any particular character or brilliant strip, but for his absolute command of the comics art-form at large.

Below, an original page from DC Comics’ 1969 The Witching Hour, which quite perfectly displays Toth’s supreme understanding of design and the layout of a page.

Original Alex Toth page from "The Witching Hour #12". From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Known best for his work on Zorro comics and animation work for Hanna-Barbera Productions (including the design of Space Ghost), Toth was an influence on many and a placater to few. He was strong willed and outspoken about disliking much in the field; from gratuitous violence in comics to the abstract and experimental.

To quote his autobiography in Kitchen Sink Press’ 1995 book Alex Toth: “I detest stupidity, ignorance, and arrogant disregard for craft in a “professional,” and I’ve made enemies of such people through the last thirty-three years! Much to my own disadvantage, I might add! But I am what I am, and it’s the only way I know to live a life, in as honest a manner as is possible! Play it, and say it, straight!”

Original art from "Young Romance #163", pencilled by Alex Toth and inked by Dick Giordano. From International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

In May of 2006, Toth passed away at his drawing table at age 77, in his home in Burbank, CA.

Found in the Collection: Paul Orban (1896-1974)

Largely uncelebrated, the late Paul Orban’s highly crosshatched and contrasted science fiction, fantasy and horror illustrations are impossible to take your eyes off of in person. The attention to detail and design is incredibly absorbing- and what’s more is that the pieces themselves are actually quite small, and appear to be drawn nearly to-size.

Paul Orban original art for "Ullr Uprising". From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

The pieces above and below were both interior illustrations for H. Beam Piper’s 1952 science fiction pulp Ullr Uprising.

Paul Orban original illustration for "Ullr Uprising". From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Born the son of a blacksmith in Budapest on June 23rd, 1886 Paul Orban emigrated to the United States at age 6 with his father and sister to escape poverty in Hungary. They lived in Chicago, Illinois where Orban grew up and worked until moving to New York after his second marriage in 1929. While in Chicago, he studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1917. His illustration career began during his studies, working as a staff artist for The Chicago Sunday Tribune as early as 1915. During the 1920s, he became the art director of a Chicago advertising company.

Paul Orban original illustration for "The Black Stranger" story in Fantasy Magazine. From San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

After moving to New York, Orban’s focus moved to freelance art- and he began selling his illustrations to pulp magazines, illustrating novels, and more. His work could be seen in Science Fiction Digest Magazine, Astounding Stories, Doc Savage, The Avenger, Detective Novels, Horror Stories, Popular Detective, Thrilling Mystery, Rodeo Romances, Popular Western, Thrilling Adventures, among countless others.

Paul Orban original scratch-board illustration. From San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Cartoon Library and Museum (click to enlarge)

Orban also created a large body of Masonic paintings for the Masonic Outlook magazine between 1929-1932, many of which can be seen in the Masonic Digital Archives.

All of the original works shown in this post come from our San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection. Although Bill Blackbeard was known mostly for collecting newsprint comic strips, he also accumulated thousands of pulp novels containing work from artists like Orban, and some original art to boot. These books were donated to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library  & Museum as part of the larger San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection, and have been transferred to the Rare Books & Manuscripts special collections library at The Ohio State University.

Found in the Collection: Gahan Wilson!

Though best known for his magazine work in Playboy, The New Yorker, and National Lampoon, Gahan Wilson had a fairly forgotten syndicated newspaper strip called “Sunday Comics” that ran from around 1974-1977 . The “strip” was actually a series of gags, totally unrelated to each other in its earlier incarnations (like the sample below), and later riffing on a common theme.

Gahan Wilson original art from "Sunday Comics". Part of the Newspaper Features Council Archives, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum (click to enlarge)

The Golden Age Comicbook Stories blog has a wonderful collection of colored scans from Wilson’s “Sunday Comics”.

Among the innumerable fascinating parts of the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection which resides here at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, is a small gathering of works from Cartoonists Against Drug Abuse.  Pictured below is Gahan Wilson’s entry into this contest to help stop the spread of drug abuse in America and support the United Nations efforts in doing so. The winning entries were exhibited in Melbourne during the 11th Worlds Public Relations Congress and at International Public Relations Association Council meetings in Budapest and Vienna.

(caption: "Check it out!") Gahan Wilson original art, from the "Cartoonists Against Drug Abuse" contest exhibit. Part of the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Greater subject matter aside, as always (and especially in this drawing) we are warmed by Wilson’s power to stack obtuse shapes that illustrate a child. And those footprints in the snow!

Found in the Collection: The Tall Circus

As esteemed comics librarians, we here at the Cartoon Library pride ourselves in our ability to share our knowledge with the greater blogosphere by highlighting bits and pieces of comics history. However, occasionally we come across a page of comics or a single cartoon in a collection that is so striking (and hilarious) outside of the context of a larger work, that we cant help but want to show you and ask what you think.

Thus is the case with the image below, a single page from an unidentified comic by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. Let’s call it The Tall Circus. A drum and brass band who appear incredibly tall as their shtick by wearing stilts, playing to their adoring audience of beatniks and hippies. As the crowd rushes at the end of their performance, all 5 band members simultaneously run into a tree branch (in true cartoon humor), revealing their actual modest height as the stilts fall away. The hippies in the background seem to transform instantly into an angry mob, until the band plays on and proves that they are indeed just as talented even when they are… less… tall.

Original art by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

We love this page, and hope you will too. If any readers know what comic it is from, please share in the comments section!

Detail of original art by Paul Kirchner and Ralph Reese. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

-Caitlin McGurk

New Exhibit! Remembering Ding: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Jay N. “Ding” Darling

Remembering Ding: Iconoclast in Ink

May 15-August 24, 2012

Exhibit opening and book signing Thursday, May 17, 2012

7 p.m. reception and book signing

7:30 p.m. Lecture by Richard Samuel West

Jay N. “Ding” Darling (1876-1962) was regarded by many as America’s greatest political cartoonist during the first half of the twentieth century.  A two-time Pulitzer winner, Ding repeatedly topped popularity polls throughout the Twenties and Thirties.  He was also an influential conservationist and visionary founder of the National Wildlife Federation, and both conceived of and illustrated the first Federal Duck Stamp.  The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, is named in his honor.  For more than four decades, he drew for the Des Moines Register and his cartoons were syndicated around the country for millions to see. Ding was a fiercely independent spirit and a progressive Republican who followed his conscience, not party dogma. This led him to take many surprising stands, such as impassioned support for the League of Nations.

Please join us on Thursday, May 17th at 7pm, in The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum to celebrate the opening of Remembering Ding, an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of Jay N. “Ding” Darling. This event will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ding Darling’s death, and celebrate the release of Richard Samuel West’s new book Iconoclast in Ink: The Political Cartoons of Jay N. “Ding” Darling (which will be available for the first time at this event). Join West at 7:30pm that evening as he shares some of his favorite Ding cartoons and discusses the qualities in Ding’s work that made it so extraordinary. Iconoclast in Ink is a profusely illustrated volume celebrating Ding, published by The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Come spend an hour learning about Ding’s wonderful work, in all its antic and powerful glory.

Original art by Jay N. "Ding" Darling. From the Ned White Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

 

Jay N. "Ding" Darling editorial cartoon newspaper clipping from the Des Moines Register. From The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

 Hope to see you Thursday evening for our opening reception!

Oulipo Week! Found in the Collection: The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo

In anticipation of Matt Madden’s upcoming Oulipo event at the Wexner Center here in Columbus, let’s take a look at one very early pioneer of constrained-comics: Gustave Verbeek.

A little hard to look at but a lot of fun to read, Gustave Verbeek (originally Verbeck until his arrival at Ellis Island) is probably most known for his reversable strip The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo.

Verbeek was of Dutch descent, but born in Nagasaki, Japan in 1867. His father, Guido Verbeck was a missionary for the Reformed Church in America, and later a head of the Tokyo Imperial University. Gustave spent his childhood in Japan, moved to Paris for art school, and eventually to the United States in 1900 for work as an illustrator and cartoonist for Harper’s Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and The New York Herald.   The latter was where The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo premiered on May 25th of 1902.

The sample of the comic that is included in this post is considered to be the most well-known (and well-executed) episode of the strip. Here’s how it works:

-Enlarge the first image, and read it with the captions that are underneath the panels

"The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo: A Fish Story" (right side up), from The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

-Enlarge the second image (this is when you would be rotating the newspaper upside down) and continue reading the story, reading with the captions that are within the bottom of the panels

“The Upside-Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo: a Fish Story” (reversed) from The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection

Useful tip: this is how you should see “Little Lady Lovekins”:

Where to focus on Little Lady Lovekins

Although some of Verbeek’s characters take a bit of imagination to visualize, producing a comic that is even vaguely capable of reading in reverse this way is no small undertaking. What’s more, Verbeek was able to pull off one of these every week from 1903-1905! An obvious fan and early pioneer of comics surrealism, Verbeek continued to produce comics that dealt with wordplay and absurdity for the rest of his career, including the strips The Terrors of the Tiny Tads and The Loony Lyrics of Lulu.

Check out more examples of Verbeek’s strips by searching in our Cartoon Image Database!

If you’re in Columbus this weekend, remember to check out two Oulipo events, headed by Matt Madden!

Friday, May 11th, Matt Madden’s talk: Obstacle Course: Oulipo and the Creative Potential of Constraints. 4:30pm, and free!

Saturday, May12th 1pm-4pm: Oulipo Workshop with Matt Madden at the Wexner Center! Advance registration is required and space is limited. Register here.  Call (614) 292-6493 for more info.

Oulipo Week! Found in the Collection: Al Jaffee’s MAD Fold-Ins

In anticipation of Matt Madden’s upcoming Oulipo event at the Wexner Center here in Columbus, we’re highlighting works from our collection this week that display the use of constraints in comics and cartoons. Today, the inimitable Al Jaffee’s original sketches and process drawings from one of his MAD Magazine Fold-Ins!

Al Jaffee original for a MAD magazine fold-in. Note the fold line indicators in blue pencil. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

After it’s inception in 1964, nearly every issue of MAD had one of Al Jaffee’s brilliant fold-in gags incorporated into the magazine. As with all things MAD, the content satirized everything from politicians to parents, internet culture to poor product design. What really drove Jaffee’s genius home though, was the fact that the physical design of the fold-in was a satire in itself. At a time when popular magazines like LIFE and Playboy had high quality, full color centerfold-outs, Jaffee struck up the idea of MAD having a spread that instead folded-in, and was printed in black and white (at least in its earlier years).

The result was a single page depicting a scene like the one seen above in the first image, and a question: “What new form of addiction threatens to enslave our youth?”

The text at the bottom of the page, when fully open, would elaborate further on the spread. As we can see in Jaffee’s preliminary sketches below, our sample says “Perspiring, strung-out junkies conjure up sensational images for parents. They fear any form of compulsive behavior that enslaves their sons and daughters.” As if creating an image that folds into another image isn’t challenging enough, the text of Jaffee’s captions that run along the bottom of the page also folds into itself to spell out the answer. Once folded in, the two sides of the larger image meet to reveal the punchline: “Personal Computers”

Two Al Jaffee original layout sketches for a MAD magazine fold-in, notes and captions included. Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

For those not familiar with Jaffee’s fold-ins, the New York Times has created an interactive collection of some of them online that can help you get a better understanding of how they work.

Having created hundreds of these since the 1960s, Jaffee is a true master of working under creative constraints. To find more original artwork from MAD Magazine that we have in our collection at the Cartoon Library, visit our Art Database.

If you’re in Columbus this weekend, remember to check out two Oulipo events, headed by Matt Madden!

Friday, May 11th be sure to attend Matt Madden’s talk: Obstacle Course: Oulipo and the Creative Potential of Constraints. 4:30pm, and free!

Saturday, May12th 1pm-4pm: Oulipo Workshop with Matt Madden at the Wexner Center! Advance registration is required and space is limited. Register here.  Call (614) 292-6493 for more info.

Found in the Collection: Gus Arriola’s “Gordo”

With Cinco de Mayo approaching, today on the blog we’re highlighting Gus Arriola’s comic strip Gordo. Arriola was a Mexican-American cartoonist, raised by his sisters in a Spanish-speaking family in Arizona- where he laid claim to learning English by reading the Sunday comics.  His widely syndicated strip Gordo which ran from 1941-1985, was considered to be the first comic to introduce Mexican culture to America.

Original from Gus Arriola's "Gordo". From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

An important note about Gordo is that–having not visited Mexico himself until the 1960s–Arriola’s first inception of the characters was through a somewhat stereotypical lens. As a young cartoonist wanting to draw something new, light, and above all, fun- Arriola relied on the visually-identifiable concepts of Mexicans that were popular in Hollywood at the time.  It wasn’t until 5 or 6 years in that he realized his strip was actually the only comics representation many American’s were getting of Mexican culture, leading him to put away his gimmicks and focus instead on purely reflecting Mexican life and folklore. Below, we can see an example of one of Arriola’s less-enlightened earlier strips from Gordo. When he purged his stereotype crutch, he got rid of the painful-to-read broken English his characters were using as well. However, he did maintain a heavy usage of Spanish language words. As a result, the strip has been credited with popularizing such words and phrases as “hasta la vista”, “amigo”, “muchacho”, “pinata”, “andales” and many many more. Arriola’s Gordo received wide praise from the Mexican Government, and was stated to have done more for changing the racist attitudes of American’s toward Mexicans than any other medium in its time.

Early original from Gus Arriola's "Gordo". From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Event Reminder: Derf Backderf on “My Friend Dahmer”

Not only is John Backderf (also known as Derf and Derf Backderf) yet another incredibly talented Ohio-native cartoonist and OSU graduate whose collection resides here at The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, but he also spent his grade-school days hanging around with serial killer and classmate Jeffrey Dahmer.

Derf has written his brand new graphic novel My Friend Dahmer about this experience, and we’re lucky enough to have him coming to speak about the new book as well as give a signing at this free event:

On Tuesday, May 15th at 7pm in the Wexner Center Film and Video Theater: Ohio State grad and Cleveland-based cartoonist Derf Backderf visits to discuss his new graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, an account of growing up in the same small Ohio town as notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Best known for his strip The City, Derf is a two-time Eisner Award nominee and received a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award in 2006. Join us following the event for a book signing in the Wexner Center Store. More information here. This event was made possible in collaboration with the Wexner Center for the Arts.

In 2008 John Backderf donated his collection to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, including 2,450 items consisting of original art, proofs, tearsheets, clippings, promo materials, correspondence, and much much more. Many of the originals can be found here in our Art Database.

See you on May 15th!