Thursday, February 20, 2020


Now I can't afford, or am entitled to, or am "important" enough in this world to have the opportunity to have read every comic strip history that's come out these past few years, but gawly ned if this one just didn't hit that infamous chord in me to the point where I hadda just purchase a copy for myself to have, to hold and to slobber over. IN OTHER WORDS this ain't gonna be re-gifted, so whatever you do don't get your hopes up Bill or Brad!!!

An' so, once again it's time to for me to revert to my single-digit days (nothing that's too hard for me to do) to seep into and enjoy a well-deserved history of the Amerigan comic strip! Well at least its zanier side, and at least a history of what comic strips meant to crazed kids who sure got a whole lotta enjoyment outta sprawlin' themselves down right inna middle of the living room floor readin' that day's selection of true blue jam-slammed packed adventure and fun jamz WHEN THEY SHOULDA BEEN DOIN' THEIR HOMEWORK! Or at least that's the guilt trip that usedta be laid down on me alla time and who knows, maybe it was on you too!

The whole screwball comic trend has been discussed many-a-time before not only on the SCREWBALL blog (see list at left) but in these very "pages", and any real fan of the non-pretentious comic strip is bound know a whole lot more about such totally loonybin classics as SALESMAN SAM and THE SQUIRREL CAGE than your average DOONESBURY reader ever would. Of course that's a given but I have the sneakin' suspicion that many of you reg'lar BLOG TO COMM readers are woefully ignorant about this important and mostly forgotten trend in comic strips. And that, naturally, is where this book comes in.

Author Tumey does a pretty good (not "perfect" but not lacking either) job of presenting a historical and at times lively history of these particularly off-the-meter and at times downright "surreal" (not that I'm getting into seventies art criticism mind you) strips which might have seemed old and quaint to the post-fifties breed of sophisticado fans but really kept up the whole spirit of comic strip energy at that fever pitch level that's kept people like me coming back for more. Well, strips like these sure kept me pourin' through newspaper microfilms if only to read these seemingly long-forgotten efforts all the while tellin' the librarians I was doing a school report on somethingorother in order to keep outta trouble!

It's a fine and informative (an' I mean informative as in the fact that you'll be glued to each panel and devour all of the new information on these crackpot cartoons a whole lot more than you did with your fourth grade chemistry book!) read, detailing a whole lotta history backdrop into those more nutzoid strips that really put a punch into the funny pages. (Imagine these as the printed page's answer to the Three Stooges or Joe Cook and you'll get the drift.) Starting with the infamous Frederick Burr Opper (whose professional cartooning career began in 1876!) to other infamous names as E.C. Segar (THIMBLE THEATER), Rube Goldberg, Milt Gross, Bill Holman (SMOKEY STOVER) and Ving Fuller (the subject of a nasty joke in LI'L ABNER), you not only get those nice and compact biographies of the guys who made the funny papers totally ridiculous but plenty of hotcha examples of their work that just might have you slippin' back in time and hoggin' up the living room with your girth spread all over the floor while the kids use your butt crack as a dangerous crevice as they drive all over your body with their Matchbox cars.

Really, some of these cartoons are so hilarious that every slab of cartooning emitted over the past twenty or so years wilts mightily in comparison. Really, how can anything in today's comicsphere hold a candle to those SMOKEY STOVER badgags done up the way I like 'em or even more groaners gone good via THE NUT BROTHERS. And howzbout the infamous "Nov Schmoz Ka Pop?" hitchhiker who the inventor wanted to see dead in THE SQUIRREL CAGE! Just about anything that Milt Gross inked is worthy my time and temperature (an' he's a guy whose strips from NIZE BABY to COUNT SCREWLOOSE should be collected and published immediate-like!) an' while I'm on an anti-postmodernist cartoon jag, who today could have done a HAPPY HOOLIGAN Sunday page where the panels were cut diagonally in half and re-pasted for the reader to figure out himself?!?!?! It took me awhile to do some mental un-scrambling (didn't wanna cut the page up!), but after I was finished I figured that the way they originally appeared was dada enough to enjoy in its original version so why should I have bothered inna first place!

Sure Tumey emits a few irks here and there which I can't let slide by, such as his contention that the post Gene Ahern OUR BOARDING HOUSE was strictly grade-z turdsville (frankly, I can't even tell the difference!) while his total omission of Stan MacGovern's crazed SILLY MILLIE is something I would deem downright irresponsible considering how books on screwball comic strips are mighty few and far between. However I gotta commend the guy for tackling one subject that I would never think any respectable publishing firm would dare to publish, and sheesh if you've put a whole lotta free time and obsession into those old comic strips at a time when the only ones you could talk about Major Hoople or Smokey Stover were your aunts and uncles who were headin' into their mid-fifties which seemed like a LIFETIME to your nine-year-old self well, I guess you will understand just as much as I do how much books like this can mean to your own sense of well being and happiness!


Anonymous said...

(((E.C. Segar)))

(((Rube Goldberg)))

(((Milt Gross)))

OY! VEY! Vulgarians a list of!

(((Cultural Marxism)))

Christopher Stigliano said...

Uh, no ((())) for Segar!!!

Bill S. said...

I'm more than happy with the duplicate copies of
BEETLE BAILEY paperbacks that you send my way!


Anonymous said...

Wrong, (((Shlomo Shekeliano))) of (((Blog to Communism)))!

No, I am not one to trust (((Wikipedia))). But this is verified several times over.

PS: (((Epstein))) didn't commit suicide.

Christopher Stigliano said...

According to SCREWBALL Segar was Norwegian. And you believe Wikipedia???

diskojoe said...

I noticed the other day that this book seems to be a cover story in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books by Art Spieglman.

Paul C.Tumey said...

Thank you for this review of my book! I winced at my work being damned by faint praise (not perfect but not awful ... ouch). I'd like to offer a response to the two criticisms in the review. First, regarding what is NOT in the book, please see page 6: "There are many worthy cartoonists not included, due to space limitations..." Stan McGovern's Silly Millie would certainly belong in a comprehensive collection of screwball comics... which dis ain't. Rather than puke out yet another bland, shallow, ultimately frustrating survey of comics in which you get one or two examples of a huge number of strips with a few passing comments, I decided to create the kind of book I'd enjoy reading... one with some depth, research, critical insight, and enough examples to get a grasp of the cartoonist's overall development. I did select cartoonists who collectively represent the span of the rise and decline of Screwballism in the funny papers so there is an overall narrative. I go on to write on page 7: "The discarded stacks of fine screwball comics deserving a new readership could easily fill a new volume." The hope being I get to do a second volume. As for the post-Ahern Our Boarding House... geez. If you can't tell the difference between the work of an original comic genius like Ahern and the many serviceable copyists such as Bill Freyse (you want Freyse with that?) that followed to keep the bucks rolling in for the syndicate, then I feel you must be not really "getting" Ahern. The art looks similar but the quality of the humor is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug, to rip-ff Mark Twain. The book is a celebration of inspired work in the realm of humor cartooning. I regard each and every one of the 15 cartoonists I wrote about to each have something special to offer. There has been no one like Ahern. Even though you didn't think I did a very good job, I was gratified to read that you enjoyed the book and are keeping it! The hefty tome makes a good doorstop! Thanks again!