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Comic Chronicles – Three Cartooning Aces

Syracuse University has Ray Thompson‘s Papers
and the inventory includes a biography of the 20th Century cartoonist and writer:

In the autumn of 1926, after attampting in vain to land a job at any of the city’s newspapers, he decided to try freelancing. He had been drawing cartoons since grade school and sold his first piece at the age of 15. In his downtown studio, he turned out cartoons for the then-Philadelphia-based Saturday Evening Post, as well as the Ladies Home Journal, Country Gentleman, Life, Judge, Colliers, and various other publications. He pioneered the field of cartoon advertising and created many national advertising campaigns using the humorous approach. Some of his national accounts were the Atlantic Refining Co. (the “Three Little Men” campaign for the N.W. Ayer Advertising Agency, 1940s-1950s), Kellogg’s Cereals, Freihofer Bread, Sun Oil Co., SaniFlush, Slinky, and Richardson’s Mints.

 

While the mainstay of his work was in the burgeoning field of cartoon advertising, Thompson also continued with his writing, turning out radio scripts and feature stories in addition to “ghosting” several well-known comic strips (“The Shadow,” “Roy Powers, Eagle Scout,” and “Connie,” all in 1935). In 1936 he created his own adventure strip, “Myra North, Special Nurse,” illustrated by the Cleveland, Ohio NEA staff artist Charles Coll. This feature appeared in 466 newspapers until 1941. Other strips for national syndicates included a daily strip and Sunday page of “Somebody’s Stenog” (1932-1934, Ledger Syndicate, about 150 newspapers), “Annabelle’s Answers” (advice to the lovelorn, 1934, Ledger Syndicate), “Your Dreams” (George Matthew Adams Syndicate, NY), and “Doodle-Bug Heads” for the Philadelphia Bulletin. In 1945, he originated a one-panel cartoon strip, “Homer the Ghost,” for the New York Herald Tribune Syndicate. This cartoon was also syndicated in newspapers all over the United States and South America and ran for several years.

Over the years, Thompson also created a vast assortment of games, puzzles, children’s items, gift novelties, stationery and silhouette prints. Beginning in the 1940s, he drew 750 comic strips for the Fleer Dubble Bubble Gum wrappers. He drew a weekly cartoon for Tap and Tavern (trade publication for the liquor industry) which endured for 34 years (1942-1975). He created “Hap Hazard,” a humorous safety poster character for the Asplundh Tree Expert Company. His cartoon “Odd Job Ozzie” appeared in the Reading Railroad Magazine every month from 1927 to 1959; many of these have recently been reprinted in a 1997 book by Benjamin Bernhard, “The Reading Railroad and Its Cartoon Art.” Thompson also illustrated countless brochures and booklets and lettered thousands of testimonial scrolls and awards.

 

 

On the occasion of the 80th year since his death The Coloradan features a tribute to Bert Christman, comic book and comic strip cartoonist and World War Two Flying Tiger.

Bert Christman, a budding cartoonist and pilot with the First American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force, had died while flying a mission over what was then Burma on Jan. 23, 1942. He was 26 years old.

After graduating from college in 1936, Bert tried his luck in New York City and soon got a job drawing the Associated Press’ “Scorchy Smith” comic strip about a pilot and adventurer. He’s also credited with co-creating the original Sandman character for DC Comics.

Bert put his cartoon career on hold when he joined the U.S. Navy Air Service to get a taste of military life and gather material for a new comic strip he was planning to start after a three-year enlistment, according to a 1939 article in the Express-Courier.

 

 

One particularly dire period in the history of the United States is tied to a remarkably bountiful chapter in the nation’s artistic legacy. As part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the infrastructure and employment initiative deployed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, tens of thousands of artists were commissioned to create public works.

Still, the WPA had its skeptics and detractors, many of them conservative politicians who criticized the projects as costly handouts; one Republican representative described the arts arm specifically as a “hotbed of Communists.” In the face of these attacks, American artist and labor activist William Gropper came to the program’s defense with his incisive political cartoons, a group of which are going under the hammer at Swann Galleries this week as part of its “Artists of the WPA” auction.

Hyperallergic looks at depression era cartoons of William Gropper and their relevance to today.

The images are apposite to the current moment, a time of intense pushback on public spending largely voiced by conservative policymakers. 

Community Comments

#1 Allan Holtz
February/1/2022
@ 8:41 am

Ray Thompson may have done some ghost-writing for Roy Powers and The Shadow, but it sure wasn’t in 1935 since those strips did not exist until later.

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