Found in the Collection: Frank Beaven

Here at the Cartoon Library, it’s always a bittersweet thrill to find another absurdly gifted yet unsung talent in the vaults. Today, Frank Beaven! Born in Vincennes, Indiana and a graduate of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Frank lived from 1907-1975, and worked primarily in the 1930s-50s.

Marry me, Gwendolyn, and I’ll take you away from all this” Frank Beaven original from the Ned White Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Although most people unfortunately do not recall him at all, Frank Beaven is remembered either as a cartoonist of saucy girlie drawings for Humorama magazines (which we will not be picturing here!) alongside the likes of Dan DeCarlo and Bill Ward, or as a more refined artist working for The New Yorker, Colliers, Esquire, and The Saturday Evening Post. Because of the two extremes in clientele, Beaven changed his signature often enough to drive a librarian insane. If it wasn’t his full name, it was “FB”, “REKOJ”, “RE”, “F.”, and so on.

Now if she would just look out the window.” Frank Beaven original, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Frank was an occasional contributor to many publications, and a regular contributor to few. Beyond the high society and mens mags, his work could be seen in ads for Schlitz beer, Tabasco Sauce, Zippo Lighters and Eveready Batteries, as well as in Radio Craft Magazine, a hobbyist publication for those with an interest in home made radios.

He says he’s a stranger here himself!” Frank Beaven original, from the Charles H. Kuhn Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (caption on back of piece)

From 1935 to 1937, Frank was in the funny pages of the Register and Tribune syndicates with his Bats in the Belfry multiple gag feature, for which he would occasionally pay a dollar to readers to write-in gags. For reasons unknown to us (but appreciated by us), nearly every installment contained a panel of ghost jokes.

“Bats in the Belfry” Frank Beaven tear sheet. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Frank and his wife Elise Rosenborg moved to Staten Island in 1932, and eventually to Allendale, NJ after the war where they remained until Frank passed away of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Do you have more information on Frank? Feel free to share!

Preservation and the Cartoon Library

If there is one thing that makes us swell with pride more than our own pious treatment of comic art here at the Cartoon Library, it’s seeing the meticulous process by which these pieces are repaired over at our incredible Preservation & Reformatting studio. We are lucky enough to have the expertise of the amazing conservator Harry Campbell at hand, who regularly picks up worn and torn items from us and nurses them back to health.

Recently, Harry and his staff worked on a series of old Puck magazines that needed rebinding. We took a trip over there to snap some photos, and take a look at the facility. There are few places in the world where comics get the kind of treatment that they do at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum!

Like many of the old humor periodicals we collect such as Punch and Judge, issues of Puck magazine were collected and bound into hardcover volumes. The particular collection of Puck that we focused our photos around for today was from 1879, containing the issues from Volumes 5 & 6. As you can see in the images below (click to enlarge), the spine has been damaged severely and the sections had begun to separate from the rest of the text block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our visit, we were able to watch Conservation Assistant Brenda Goodwin begin the careful work of deconstructing the volume in order to begin rebinding it with a new spine and casing. Below, an overview of the process through pictures:

With an x-acto knife and a steady hand, Brenda separated the textblock from the binding by slicing it out of the spine lining and endpapers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The text block is then placed in a vertical book vice (lying press) to hold it steady, while Brenda cleans the old spine off. Because of the strength of the old glue and brittleness of the paper, a softening agent is applied to the spine in order to more easily scrape away the old adhesive. Once the spine has been cleaned and exposed, a new cloth spine lining is applied.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The loose sections from the volume, pictured earlier, are then re-sewn back into place through the new spine lining as seen below. Back in the vice, endbands chosen to match the original format as well as a hollow tube lining is then attached to the spine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New endpapers are then attached and trimmed down, and the textblock is ready to be glued into its brand new case. The case has been made to the precise measurements of the original binding, with dyed book cloth and a fresh label to replicate the old one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the adhesive has dried and the book has been pressed, voila! We’re left with a brand new version of the same old book, ready to be read without worry of further damage. Below, the finished volume, and a spread from the J.A. Wales cover of  Puck V. 5, No. 129.

We are so thankful to have the help of Harry, Brenda, and the rest of the Preservation & Reformatting crew! They are always hard at work on our materials, so we look forward to posting more process updates as they continue to revitalize our collection.

Found in the Collection: Gus Dirks and Bugville

Gus Dirks tearsheet “Latest News From Bugtown”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

The scattered obituaries of young Gus Dirks, the 21 year old cartoonist and kid brother of the far more well-known Rudolph Dirks (creator of The Katzenjammer Kids), are as sad as they are confusing for the cartoonist who signed his name with a flower.

One, from the Providence News begins: “Gus Dirks, the “bug artist,” killed himself late yesterday afternoon because the task of laughing and making others laugh just to keep away his own tears overcame him.”

Others refer vaguely to a life plagued by an unnamed illness, and many, like the one below conclude that he took his own life out of frustration over his comics work not being taken seriously enough. This is certainly a complaint that rings true for many cartoonists today, but speaks volumes to the time period when coming from a nationally syndicated 21 year old cartoonist.

Click to read full obituary from the New York Evening World

Despite his potential reasons for committing suicide in 1902, what is more than evident is that Gus Dirks was a brilliant talent at an incredibly young age. Although many sources confuse the story (most commonly by switching their ages), it seems that Gus followed his older brother Rudolph from Chicago to New York City to pursue a life in comics, where he shared a studio with artists Charles Sarka and John Tarrant at 232 West Fourteenth St.

Gus Dirks “Bugville” tear sheet. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

As Rudolph Dirks enjoyed much success working on Katzenjammer Kids beginning in the mid 1890s, the teenage Gus Dirks received attention from publications like Judge and Life. We are lucky to have a few of Gus’ originals in our collection, including the one below from Life.

Gus Dirks original from “Life” magazine. From the Leo and Marie Egli Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

His work consistently focused around the life of bugs and other small animals, receiving enough popularity that he was approached by Hearst to create a regular Bugville feature for the Sunday color supplement.

Gus Dirks “Bugville” tearsheet. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Unfortunately, other than his potentially-embellished reasons for suicide, not much information is known about Gus Dirks. Considering the quality of work he was putting out even as a teenager, had he outlived his frustrations, it’s more than likely that he would be venerated now just as much as his older brother.

Below, an early Bugville original from our International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection. Although hard to see in the image, Dirks had only penciled in the words here. His handwriting looks astoundingly child-like (and littered with spelling errors) in comparison to the advanced adeptness of his art- a juxtaposition of his age and talent that further attests to the tragedy of his young death.

Gus Dirks “Bugville” original. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Found in the Collection: “Is Woman Driving Man Off the Stage?” Frederick Opper

Here at the Cartoon Library, we were absolutely charmed to come across this tearsheet in the Comic Supplement of the New York Journal in the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection. Frederick Burr Opper, the creator of Happy Hooligan and one of the most famous cartoonists of his time, commenting on the rise of women in the theater world in 1900.

“Is Woman Driving Man Off the Stage?” by Frederick Burr Opper, tearsheet from the Comic Supplement of the New York Journal. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

In all of it’s ridiculousness, we find “Is Woman Driving Man Off the Stage?” to be yet another fantastic example of the use of comics as social commentary on its time.

Found in the Collection: Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys”

Before the wholesome, morally charged, lovable family antics of the Berenstain Bears, there was Hans Horina’s The Bear Boys.

Detail from Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys”, August 4, 1907. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

This dreadful duo was, oddly enough, brought to the funny pages of the Chicago Tribune in 1906 in order to boost the character and artistic worth of the comics section, and of course to increase sales as well. Although not nearly as venerated as his contemporary Lyonel Feininger, Hans Horina was one of the six “German Invasion” cartoonists recruited for the Chicago Tribune in 1906, after representative James Keeley went abroad to bring back cartoon talent that would sophisticate the Tribune‘s comics section over other papers. Among Feininger and Horina were Karl Pomerhanz, Lothar Meggendorfer, Karl Staudinger, and Victor Schramm.

Unfortunately, within a few short years the Tribune found that sales had not increased as they’d imagined, and so the cartoonists were let go- leaving us with only a narrow glimpse of at their cartooning potential.

Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys Give Father a Bath”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

During Hans’ stint at the Chicago Tribune, he was possibly the most prolific of the 6 new Germans, contributing between 2 and 7 different features over the few short years he worked, that would often run side by side. These included Hungry Tommy, The Absent Minded Aunt, The Rhinoceros Boys, The Elephant Family and the Lion Family, Mr. Foxy The Artist, various Jungle Comics and The Bear Boys (featured today). As if those weren’t enough, Horina contributed a number of one-shot comics as well.

Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys- Pa Takes a Bath in the Honey Tub”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

No matter the title or anthropomorphized subject, Horina’s comics catered much more to the American audience than the works of his counterparts like Feininger, who took a more fine arts approach stylistically and built fantasy stories. Horina’s comics went straight for America’s beloved slap-stick gag, and his humor was surprisingly dark. We find The Bear Boys to be particularly terrifying, as each episode revolves around the two cubs torturing their father, often resulting in some kind of domestic-bear-dispute.

Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys Interfere With Pop’s Kindly Plans”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Horina had an excellent knack for capturing facial expressions no matter the animal he depicted, and clearly had an advanced sense of fashion as one can tell by Papa bear’s fabulously 70′s lawn-mowing ensemble seen below.

Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys Play a Joke On The Old Man”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Horina enjoyed enough financial success during his time cartooning for the Tribune to bring his family over from Germany, and after he and the others were let go from the paper he found work as an illustrator for postcards. After changing his name from “Hans” to “John” in the naturalization process, he moved his family down to Louisville, KY where he became the editor of the Louisville Anzeiger, a German-language newspaper. He passed away in 1918 at the young age of 53, after publishing what may have been his final contribution to the world of comics, War Cartoons: Pictures About the War for Sympathizers with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Hans Horina’s “The Bear Boys- Pa Thought He Would Like To Be King”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Although Horina was considered one of the top humorists in Germany and did not begin cartooning in America until he was in his 40s, little is known about his earlier career overseas.  As always, dear readers, if you have more information on Horina’s life we encourage you to contribute in our comments section!

Considering how prolific Hans Horina was over his short career of cartooning (no more than 3 years), you can be sure that we will feature more of his other strips in the future thanks to The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection.

Found in the Collection: Gardner Rea (1894-1966)

One of the very first cartoonists to appear in the The New Yorker in 1925, Gardner Rea is yet another among the strangely large number of cartoonists from Ohio. In accordance with his drawing style, any and all information about Rea seems to provide just the most basic outline. Rea lived out the majority of his life in Brookhaven, New York, in a home that he specifically designed to not have a front door. Visitors could only enter through the back, and in many of his obituaries he is noted for standing with his back to you as you spoke- facing a blank wall instead.

She just lives for horses, and horses for her.” Gardner Rea original. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

But despite this idea of him, Rea was hilarious and an absolute master of line work. His distinguished style of undetailed illustrations with a singular spot-black and total command of design and shape were the least of his contributions- at one point he was writing up to 40 gags a week for other cartoonists like Charles Adams and Helen Hokinson.

The Triumph of Technique” Gardner Rea original. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Rea attended East High School in our beloved Columbus, Ohio, and came here to The Ohio State University for his undergraduate degree. He edited the campus humor magazine, and is noted to have proudly won a prize from the Serious Poetry Committee and the Humorous Poetry Committee for the same poem. His cartooning career launched at age 15, when he sold his first cartoon to Life, and appeared occasionally in Judge and Puck later.

Gardner Rea original. Gift of Barbara Rea Renwick, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Possibly Rea’s most distinct feature was his wiggly lines, for which we love his quick explanation: “nobody will catch on when I’m senile.”

Found in the Collection: Lyonel Feininger’s “Wee Willie Winkie’s World” (1871-1956)

Named after the Scottish nursery rhyme by William Miller, the world in which Lyonel Feininger’s Wee Willie Winkie exists is an astute and awe-inducing illumination of a child’s imagination, following in the vein of McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland but in a style filtered through odd, kaleidoscopic angles. Each installment finds Willie roaming through the landscape of the countryside and seaside, interpreting and relating to his world by anthropomorphizing just about everything in it. From tree-trunks that look like elephants, to obtuse faces found in the contours of a rock, Willie’s world is sweet and alive. Below, the sun putting himself to bed by pulling the evening clouds in like a blanket, is a perfect representation of Feininger’s brilliance, and one of our personal favorites.

Lyonel Feininger’s “Wee Willie Winkie’s World”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Although the strip lasted less than one year back in 1906, Feininger’s exploration of the layout and ornamental design of the newspaper comics page in Wee Willie Winkie’s World was groundbreaking. The imaginary element of his observations is further accentuated by the lack of speech bubbles in the comics, so as we read it we’re more deeply submerged in participating in an abstracted version of a child’s reality.

Lyonel Feininger’s “Wee Willie Winkie’s World”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

Feininger, who is far more well known as an expressionist painter and a founder of the famous Bauhaus school, was born and raised in NYC but spent the majority of his influential years in Germany. In the 1930s, his work was deemed to be “degenerate art” by the Third Reich, and as the situation worsened he returned with his family to New York not long after.

Lyonel Feininger’s “Wee Willie Winkie’s World”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

His career as a cartoonist was short-lived, and better remembered through his other strip The Kin-der-Kids, which also ran just under a year during about the same time as Wee Willie Winkie’s World for the Chicago Tribune. His reasons for stopping are lost to history, but rumored to be the result of a struggle with his editors.

Lyonel Feininger’s “Wee Willie Winkie’s World”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)

To see more of Lyonel Feininger’s work, we hope you’ll check out our Lyonel Feininger Digital Album where you can learn more about his life and view a collection of his digitized tearsheets.

Found in the Collection: Basil Wolverton (1909-1978)!

Basil Wolverton was a true enigma of a man, best known for his work in both MAD Magazine and for his religious illustrations for the Radio Church of God (also known as the Worldwide Church of God, for whom he served as a board member) and of the Old Testament. His unforgettable grotesque and psychedelic style could be used just as easily to convey something hilarious as it could something damning, though there are certainly commonalities to be drawn in his use of exaggeration for doing both.

Basil Wolverton original from MAD Magazine’s “Dining Etiquette Quiz”. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

Although Wolverton’s early works of note were Powerhouse Pepper and Spacehawk, it was not these accomplishments that brought his distinctly characterized style into the public eye- but instead a contest that he won within the storyline of Al Capp’s famous Li’l Abner comic to draw the ugliest woman alive. As a smart humor device and a way to keep his readers hooked, in 1946 Capp introduced the now legendary character Lena the Hyena of Lower Slobbovia into the world of Li’l Abner on the premise that she was so hideous that anyone who looked upon her immediately went insane- and he himself never drew her face. Instead, the public was baited with teases of exposing Lena’s visage, which went on for months before Capp finally held a competition for readers to send in their own versions of Lena- the ugliest of which would be selected by Boris Karloff, Frank Sinatra, and Salvador Dali. Yes, this was indeed a time for comics where celebrities of such a high caliber were actually participating as judges for a gag on the funny pages.

Among the couple million other strips in our beloved San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection are chronological clippings of Capp’s Lil Abner, so we thought we’d share some of the build up to Wolverton’s striking national debut. Considering that the Lena the Hyena plot was built up over such a long period of time, we’ll fill in some of the gaps to explain the story as we go.

For starters, Lena the Hyena is the most despised citizen of Lower Slobbovia, the country that fictional cartoonist Lester Gooch (author of Capp’s comic-within-the-comic, “Fearless Fosdick”, a favorite among citizens of Dogpatch) found her living in. Gooch is determined to show Lena’s face to the public by drawing her in his comic, but goes insane after doing so, only to find out that his editor has removed her image from the page because it was simply too vile to see.

Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

After escaping the sanatorium that he was placed in, Lester Gooch struggles time and again to recreate his drawing of Lena, even going to such lengths as killing a dentist in order to steal his “Freezocaine” so that he can numb himself from the revulsion enough to redraw her. This eventually works.

Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

However, just as Gooch has finished his masterpiece, the police and doctors break into his apartment to drag him back to the hospital. As he tries to flee by jumping out a window, they capture him but the drawing of Lena floats out onto the wind. From there, its travels in the breeze causes weeks of devastation in the Li’l Abner strips as police officers and top meteorologists trace its path. Below, two of the more ridiculous strips from this hunt:

Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Mass-hysteria continues, at some point dissuading a gang of “good will” distributing aliens from visiting earth after they catch a glimpse of Lena’s picture through a telescope. Eventually, the President calls for all red-blooded American’s to help:

Al Capp’s “L’il Abner”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

A jury of Frank Sinatra, Boris Karloff, and Salvador Dali is formed to judge the submissions of the best (or worst) rendition of Lena the Hyena, the 500,000 of which even included an entry from Carl Barks. Below, the reasons for choosing the judges and their response to call of duty:

Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

After more social upheaval, and as the public impatiently waits to see Lena’s face once and for all- the acclaimed judges survive the process and finally deliver both the verdict and Basil Wolverton’s talent to the national public eye:

Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”, featuring the winning portrait of Lena the Hyena by Basil Wolverton. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Wolverton’s career was intensely amplified after this (Lena’s face making it to the cover of MAD Magazine), with his portraits soon appearing in Life and Pageant. In tune with his now defined drawing style which Life would coin “spaghetti and meatballs”, these portraits include the two originals below from our collection, of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stalin:

Basil Wolverton original of Franklin D. Roosevelt. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Basil Wolverton original of Joseph Stalin. From the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Although his name is not a household one, Wolverton’s influence on countless other well-known cartoonists like R. Crumb is undeniable, and his unique style would become a school of cartooning in itself. Basil would be 103 this year on July 9th.

Excitement at the Cartoon Library!

School is out, and June proved to be a fun month for us over here at the Cartoon Library! And as the heat rises in Columbus, we’re as grateful as ever for our temperature and humidity controlled archival sanctuary.

On June 21st, the Girl Scouts of America paid a visit to the Cartoon Library to earn their fabulously-designed Cadette Comic Artist Badge! We were thrilled to hear that a badge like this now exists for the Girl Scouts, and happy to help Troop #1214 gain theirs. During their time here, they received a history of ground-breaking female cartoonists, looking at originals from Edwina Dumm, Trina Robbins, Hilda Terry, Lynda Barry and many more, as well as seeing the Miss Fury tearsheets by Tarpe Mills! They were also given an introduction to the world of self-publishing, and a mini-comics making workshop. Pictured below is girl scout Beth Bolan with a Wonder Woman original!

Girl Scout Beth Bolon with original art by Trina Robbins for “The Legend of Wonder Woman”. From the Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

During the week of June 18-21st, we had the pleasure of hosting researcher and cartoonist, JB Winter from Columbia, Missouri who came here to use the manuscripts of our founding collection- Milton Caniff! Winter is studying the character Miss Mizzou, who Caniff introduced into his Steve Canyon strips in 1952. Mizzou’s namesake comes from the nickname of the University of Missouri in Columbia. Winter spent his time at the Cartoon Library using Caniff’s research files and personal correspondence folders to explore Caniff’s relationship with Columbia, Missouri, in order to write an article encompassing the history of the Miss. Mizzou character- especially timely as this year marks her 60th anniversary. Miss Mizzou’s character also had several promotional tie-ins with the city, some which were celebrated and some controversial, so we’re certain that JB’s article will be a fascinating read.

Below, Caniff’s Miss Mizzou herself:

Milton Caniff’s “Miss Mizzou”. From The Toni Mendez Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum

On June 26th, we brought Portland-based cartoonist and illustrator Aidan Koch in to give a talk at the Wexner Center! You can read more about the event here. Aidan was the cartoonist in residency for the month of June at the downtown art space Skylab Gallery, and we’re thrilled to have had our first cross-community collaboration like this. She is also the youngest cartoonist to join us on stage at the Wexner, and the very first self-publisher. As we approach our move into Sullivant Hall in the Fall of 2013, we anticipate much more programming like this as we’ll finally have the space and accessibility to do so. Thanks again to all those who came out to see Aidan last week!

We’ll be posting a video of Aidan’s event this week, but for now you can listen to an audio recording of it here. Enjoy!