Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I'm a little late in posting this discussion of Glamourpuss #3 by writer/artist Dave Sim. It came out awhile ago, and the most current issue is #6. Still, this one has been on my mental docket for awhile as the issue concerns Milton Caniff and the photograph below -

Dave Sim faithfully reproduces the photograph and takes us into an in-depth discussion. First, he gives us the surface details: "The photo taken 29 March 50 of (left to right) Rube Goldberg, Alex Raymond and Milt Caniff on the occasion of Raymond becoming the third president of the National Cartoonists Society (Goldberg had been the first and Caniff the second)."

All three men are legends of the comics. Rube Goldberg was famous for his cartoons of humorously elaborate contraptions designed to perform simple tasks. Alex Raymond was known for his creation of Flash Gordon and his then-current strip, Rip Kirby. Milton Caniff at this time was three years into his celebrated new strip 'Steve Canyon'. By all accounts, the three were congenial friends who, with others, had started the National Cartoonists Society as an excuse to socialize.

I take issue, then, with Sim's analysis that ascribes malice to Caniff's handshake. Sim feels their friendly rivalry as men at the top of their field has turned sour, with Caniff giving a hard handshake, causing Raymond to wince in pain and be pushed backward into Goldberg and the draperies. What was the source of Caniff's anger? Sim supplies reproduced panels of 'Kirby' and 'Canyon' to demonstrate his deduction that for a week in October 1949, Raymond borrowed Caniff's inking style (see below with the Raymond example at left and the Caniff at right)
Sim concludes that Raymond couldn't pull off Caniff-style inking, and so immediately went back to his own style. We are supposed to believe then, per Sim, that five months later Caniff is non-verbally telling him, "Hey, buddy...BACK OFF!" There are several problems with all of these suppositions. I contacted R.C. Harvey, Caniff's biographer. He doesn't know of any hostility between Caniff and Raymond and believes that what Sim calls Raymond's wincing is how the artist always looked when he smiled. Quoth Harvey, not one to mince his words, "Sim is off his rocker." The final nail in the theory's coffin comes from Caniff's own opinion, as recounted in Harvey's book, Meanwhile...
"As soon as Flash Gordon came out, it startled the hell out of everybody. I remember reading [Raymond's] stuff every day and enjoying it very much, but I never thought of him in terms of a rival...a mean, old hate-his-guts rival. I had great admiration for him."

My conclusion is that the photograph is a congratulatory moment and Sim is over-thinking it to the point of delusion. However, I admit the deconstruction of the scene is a tantalizing exercise, and the idea that someone would even put these ideas together jibes with my own esoteric blogging compulsions.

To obtain issues of Glamourpuss, ask your local comics retailer.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Most people know about the tragic 1979 Who concert in Cincinnati. The concert was festival seating, so the faster you got in, the closer you could get to the front. 11 people died in the crush to get inside Riverfront Coliseum (now called the U.S. Bank Arena). Action was fast in banning festival seating from future concerts and events.

Somewhat oddly, Cincinnati city safety director Bret McGinnis allowed an exemption in June 1980 for a boxing match at Cincinnati Gardens (still called the Cincinnati Gardens). Mayor Ken Blackwell, who was recently a candidate for chairman of the RNC, was against the move. While there were no incidents, Blackwell said "we were lucky." A limited exemption for a Bruce Springsteen concert in 2002 made headline. The ban was completely lifted in 2004.

Monday, April 20, 2009

SPACE 2009

I attended SPACE (the Small Press Alternative Comics Expo) in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend. As ever, I went with my pal, Ted Haycraft, a movie critic from Evansville. I'd post a pic of Ted in his Aym Geronimo t-shirt, but I forgot to take any pictures at all!

All of the comic creator tables were sold out, so there was lots of variety to catch the eye. If a guy with a giant straw for a head isn't your thing, you can check out some freaky deaky fridge magnets, or maybe even a current triple Eisner nominee. One table I really liked had a plethora of paper toys. These are simple toys that you cut out of a sheet of paper and then fold together to make a 3-D googab. Apparently there is a papertoy subculture out there that I was unaware of...and I thought I had trouble explaining my hobby to people!

The traditional guest of honor, Dave Sim, had decided after '08 to no longer attend, creating a void that really wasn't filled. I think just having one big name in independent comics would be a huge draw for the show, like maybe Columbus' own Jeff Smith. Because even though the show was well attended, I still got the feeling that exhibitors far outnumbered the patrons.

I timed my attendance this year so I could see a panel about Ohio cartoonists. Russell Merritt, an art instructor from Newark, Ohio, gave a PowerPoint presentation about cartoonists that were Ohio-born or did significant work while living in Ohio. This was right up my alley of course, given the Ohio roots of Milton Caniff. It was an interesting overview for the uninitiated, though I would have liked to have seen less text in the presentation and more artwork. Caniff was spotlighted, though Merritt didn't mention 'Steve Canyon' or Caniff pal Noel Sickles. I could nitpick on other points, like including Blondie creator Chic Young (an Illinoisan), but I'd rather praise the effort of talking about Caniff et al in a public forum. I wish Mr. Merritt the best of luck on his planned book on Ohio cartoonists.

One project I saw that gives me the nostalgia bug is Joe Kuth's 'Emberley Galaxy: a Tribute to Ed Emberley'. Kuth was at SPACE '08 touting the same upcoming project, so it's a long time in the making. Ed Emberley was an artist who created several 'how-to' drawing books utilizing simple shapes and colors. Kuth brought along his library of these books, which instantly zap me back to my childhood. I would check out these books from the school library and draw, draw, draw.

See you all next year at SPACE 2010!

Friday, April 10, 2009


[click to enlarge]
For the uninitiated, Cincinnati has a three-party political system - Republicans, Democrats, and Charterites. What's a Charterite's philosophy as opposed to the other two? I've lived here most of my life and I couldn't tell you. Maybe somebody could tell me?

This cartoon was in response to a move by the Charterites that angered Democrats. The Charterites on City Council broke their long-standing political coalition with the Democrats by proposing a new neighborhood policy and holding a press conference about it, all without consulting their allies. To put them in their place, Democrat Gerald Springer (yes, that Jerry Springer), broke rank and joined the Republicans in defeating the plan. It was unclear at this point if the Democrats and Charterites would continue to run on the same ticket.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Last week we visited Noel Sickles' Chillicothe. One of the major reasons I made the trip was based on this paragraph by author Bruce Canwell in Scorchy Smith & the Art of Noel Sickles:
"...members of his 1929 graduating class were in touch with [Sickles] about a plan to present one of his originals to Chillicothe High School. Sickles agreed to provide the H.S. Hope piece he had drawn for the July 27, 1959 cover of Life...they would mount and frame the work and present it to the High School as a combined gift from Sickles and the Class of 1929."

I was intrigued. Would the high school still have this painting almost 40 years after it had been donated? How big was the painting itself, and was it displayed prominently? Would anybody there know what it was or that they had this renowned alumnus? Itching in the back of my mind was also the daydream that the painting was forgotten and stored away, but some janitor who knew where it was might sell it to me out the back door of the school.

The school was my first stop in Chillicothe. With me was my son, Noah (then 14 months old), a camera, and a copy of the Life Magazine cover. I went to the front desk to give my prepared spiel about how I was looking for this painting that was done by Noel Sickles, a famous artist and Chillicothe grad, and that the painting had been donated to the school in the early 1970s. The woman at the front desk didn't know, but she took my picture and went into the office of Mr. Payne, the principal. Payne came out of his office. He'd never seen it, and explained it might be hard to find since the entire building had been gutted and rebuilt within the past decade. He took it to the Vice-Principal. She thought she recognized it as being in the Guidance office before the remodeling. Mr. Payne, though he was busy and running behind, walked me across the hall to the Guidance Department. The woman there thought she recognized it from being in Lorene Washington’s office. However, Lorene was retired and may have taken it with her. My eyes widened. "But wait," she said, "Lorene runs a store called ‘Lorene’s House of Everything’ on Main Street"

Mr. Payne gives me directions. My heart sings a little bit. From the store name, I envision a junk shop, with this Sickles painting on a wall amid Goodwill-esque clutter. Noah and I rush over to Main Street. I don’t see ‘Lorene’s House of Everything’, but I do see ‘LS Everything in Sports’. Is that it? I don't see anything more promising, so we go inside. A woman of about 50 is sitting in a chair amidst sports memorabilia. I give her my story and show her the picture. It not only wasn't in her office, she’s never seen it in her life. I’m crestfallen, but I talk to her for about 15 minutes trying to eke out any clues. Noah is curious and silent. She tells me about other kinds of paintings she had in her office. “But I didn’t have no ship,” she says. Then she starts to think of who might know. "You know who would know? Mr. Bolivant, he was head of the art department...but he dead. He left a lot of art and stuff behind, but I'm sorry to say, honey,a lot of that got thrown out!"

Yikes! Was this it? No more leads and the possibility that the painting was in the deep strata of the local landfill. "But wait," Lorene says, "you know who might know is his successor, Nancy Grey...but she's also retired." I ask Lorene if she has a phone book. Lorene looks it up, but there’s no Nancy, only an N F Grey. I write down the number, thank Lorene and leave. In the parking lot, I call the number. At first, a machine picks up, then, a weathered voice answers. It’s indeed Nancy Grey, former art teacher at Chillicothe High School. I explain again about Sickles and the painting. She does remember the painting! Only as she recalls it, it's in the library. I have no choice. Noah and I return to the school.

I'm back at the front desk. I explain that I’ve seen Lorene and spoken with Nancy Grey, who thinks the painting is in the library. “May I please go to the library,” I ask. Another staff member is there and she agrees to escort me to the library. On the walk there through long hallways, she asks me about what I’m looking for, so I tell her my story and what led up to my return visit. We enter the library and walk towards the desk. The librarian is an older woman, which gives me hope that she’s been there awhile and may know. I show her the picture. She hasn’t seen it, but walks me into the library office where three women are working. I show them the picture, but none have seen it. “But you know who might know?” one said. And they name a librarian recently retired. They don’t have her phone number, but do know she volunteers with the Chillicothe Historical Society. I have the Society’s address, so I started thinking of that as my next move. The staff member who escorted me asks me where I parked and decides to take me on an easier route to my car. We had entered the library in a side entrance, but now she was taking me out via the main entrance. As we’re walking out of the main entrance to the library, she looks to her left and says, “Is that it?” Click here to find out!