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COMICS ABOUT CARTOONISTS

Comics About Cartoonists: Stories About the World's Oddest Profession
Edited and designed by Craig Yoe
232 8.5 x 11 pages
color
IDW Yoe Book harrdcove
$39.99

Comics About Cartoonists coverThis tome is another in what is becoming a long shelf of delightful and superior Yoe Books, volumes distinguished by the obvious affection their editor/author, himself a cartoonist, has for the medium. That applies not only to the selection of content but to the design of the book that showcases the material. Take, f’instance, this volume’s endpapers.

Why bother with endpapers? Who looks at endpapers? Craig Yoe (with whom I sometimes share a hotel room at the San Diego Comic-Con) evidently does. And he thinks others who admire cartooning and its history might also look at endpapers if they have something to do with cartooning.

So the endpapers of this book display numerous of the ads that appeared during the first 70 years or so of the last century in sundry sorts of magazines, each ad offering training in cartooning via mail order courses. Dozens of the profession’s practitioners took correspondence courses in their youth — Milton Caniff, Elzie Segar, Jack Cole, and so on. And here we see the come-on ads that seduced young people to part with their allowances: “How To Make Money with Simple Cartoons,” says one; another, “Cartoon Your Way to Popularity and Profit” (illustrated with a picture of a young cartoonist surrounded by pretty girls); “Do You Like to Draw?”; “Your Future Depends on You!”

In the same spirit of informing and entertaining, the first seven pages are devoted to spot drawings of cartoonists by the great Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman, the first big-foot cartoonist of any eminence in the profession. And, yes, he also ran a correspondence school.

As you can tell from its title, the book is devoted to reprinting comic book stories about cartoonists — almost 40 stories, drawn by nearly three dozen cartoonists (some, H.T. Webster, Milt Gross and Winsor McCay, represented by more than one story). With few exceptions (like those just named, plus Elzie Segar and Al Capp), the cartoonists labored in our favorite four-color pulps rather than in newspapers. The content is punctuated by fifteen comic book covers depicting comic book characters working as cartoonists (Bugs Bunny, Wacky Duck, even Superman and Batman).

The longest story in the book is by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon: their cartoonist is the protagonist in a love story from the romance title, In Love, but the tale also traces the guy’s progress from novice to full professional, supplying en route glimpses into the intricacies of syndicated comic strip cartooning. The shortest stories are one-pagers — Hey Look! by Harvey Kurtzman, a couple of Grossly Xaggerated by Milton Gross, and four of the eight or so one-page autobiographical comics Collier’s published in 1948 (Milton Caniff, Ham Fisher, Chester Gould, and Ernie Bushmiller).

Some of the works represented are classics — a Spirit story by Will Eisner, a six-page Scribbly continuity by Sheldon Mayer, an adventure with Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s manic  Funnyman and another with Basil Wolverton’s zany-off-the-wall Scoop Scuttle — all particular favorites of mine. 

And in an Inky story, Jack Cole supplies his usual dose of wacky visuals coupled to routine insanities. One character threatens the cartoonist with a bottle of camel poison, saying: “We’ll poison all da camels, den dere’ll be no camel’s hair fer brushes an’ all da artists’ll starve.”

“You fiend!” exclaims the cartoonist. “You have me in your power!”

And there are some rarities like a cartoon done by Jack Chick before he took up salvation as a subject matter, “Kar Toon and His Copy Cat” by Martin Filchock, and a 1953 horror story by Jay Disbrow, who draws, here, better than I remember his doing. “Suzie,” attributed to Harry Sahle, is a spritely leggy-sexy funny romp with the title character modeling superheroine garb for a cartoonist.  The collection ends with another classic, Wally Wood’s legendary “My World.”

The reprinted pages are reproduced directly from their initial incarnation in the funnybooks, complete with out-of-register color sometimes (not often), but lacking altogether (thankfully) any recoloring with garish hues in a misguided attempt to refurbish the art to make it look “new.” On the first page of every item, Yoe supplies the source (comic book title, number, and date) and the name of the cartoonist — invaluable.

Yoe’s Introduction, laced with some rare one-panel cartoons (many from his stupendous stash of originals), explains obscure references and reminds us of who some of the cartoonists are (Frank Frazetta worked for Al Capp on Li’l Abner for a time before catapulting himself into fantasy illustration). This is his favorite book, Yoe says; and it may be mine, too.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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http://www.countertops.com/

A basic overview of his innovative approach; you can learn more about the process.

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