Friday, May 28, 2010


I read 'Apartment 3-G' as a kid on Sundays. But we didn't get the paper with the dailies, so I never really knew what was going on. I probably wouldn't have read it even if we did, as it's a "soap opera" strip in the vein of 'Mary Worth'. So I'm not well-versed in the adventuers of Margo, Tommie and Lu Ann, but I'll try to give some background for the strip above. [click to enlarge]

'Apartment 3-G' began in 1961, written by Nicholas Dallis and drawn by Alex Kotzky. Dallis was a licensed psychiatrist who was by this time a strip veteran. He was already writing his co-creations 'Rex Morgan, M.D.' and 'Judge Parker', though under separate pseudonyms to protect his medical practice. By 1961 he had retired from medicine, so I guess that freed up time to create '3-G' with Kotzky.

Kotzky started out as a comic book artist, best known for his post-war work with Quality Comics. After the comic industry meltdown in the early 1950s, he moved on to advertising illustration (where the money was) as well as freelancing in comic strips. I'm not sure how Kotzky was picked for 'Apartment 3-G', but his ease at drawing beautiful, modern women must have been a factor. Dave Karlen as the story on Kotzky, along with some beautiful original art, over on his blog. Kotzky drew the strip for over three decades until his death in 1996. He was succeeded by his son, Brian, a paperback cover artist who illustrated over 100 Hardy Boys novels. He was succeeded in 1999 by Frank Bolle, another comic book veteran and contemporary of Kotzky's. The modern strip has its own fans, such as this blogger who views the ladies of Apartment 3-G as something of a 'Sex & the City' prototype. Here's a recent sample of Bolle's strip, a Sunday from 05/26/10 -

Kudos to Frank Bolle, something of an undersung artist who did most of his comic book work for Western Publishing. He's in his late '80s and still drawing a daily strip. Plus, he used to draw really cool stuff like this -

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


One of my stops on the 'Noel Sickles Tour' of Chillicothe, Ohio, was the Carnegie Library where Sickles haunted the art stacks. My eyes were drawn toward, hanging unassumingly on the wall, what appeared to be some kind of Victorian masterpiece. The pictures I took of it were blurry, so I didn't blog about it at the time. Thankfully, we stopped again on my return trip. I was able to get better pictures and find out some information.

All I had to go on in 2007 was the name in the corner - Van Lerius. Thanks to Google, I was able to find the artist's full name and a picture of the painting. Well, sort of. Apparently this painting was important enough to make an intaglio plate engraving so that copies could be made. These copies are still being sold today. So, was that it? Was this a copy hanging on the wall? I didn't think so. The massive frame indicated age and stature. The colors of the painting do not match the colors used on the engraving, although those could have changed over time. No, I convinced myself, this was the original, whatever it was.Joseph Henri Francois Van Lerius was a Belgian painter of the 1800s. He attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, later becoming a professor there from 1854-76. He was best known for his painting of Lady Godiva. The painting above is known as 'Cinderella and Her Sisters', or sometimes just 'Cinderella'. In 1860, the painting was on display at Schau's Gallery in New York. A reviewer said it showed "all the beauties, and some of the defects, of that artist's style."1 The reviewer alludes to the engraving having been done by Atkinson in London between a previous New York exhibition and 1860. In 1861, it was at Robinson's Gallery in Philadelphia. A local magazine called it "a work of rare merit."2 According to the New York Times, it returned to Schau's later in 1861. In 1874, 'Cinderella' was one of three Van Lerius paintings representing Belgium at the International Exhibition in London. Critic Bernard Becker also raved about 'Cinderella', remarking on "the wonderful texture-painting" and calling the story "excellently told."3

The painting's provenance is unknown between 1874 and 1909, but during this time it came into the possession of A.L. Fullerton, a wealthy Chillicothean who had been on the Board of Education and the library's Board of Trustees. A report in the Scioto Gazette from February 1909 related that Fullerton gifted the painting to the library. I'm guessing Fullerton was instrumental in the library's formation, as the article eludes that he was "intimately associated" with this six year old institution.4 Now here we are, a century later, and a it's still hanging in the library, probably where it was originally placed "so it would get a good light so as to reveal its beauties."

The magic of Photoshop Elements reveals more details in Cinderella's chimney corner.

1The Crayon, New York, December, 1860
2Arthur's Home Magazine, Philadelphia, January, 1861, p.252
3Journal of the Society of the Arts, London, May 22, 1874, Bernard H Becker
4Scioto Gazette, Feb 9, 1909

Monday, May 17, 2010


I have long heard about the wonders of Wonderfest, the annual sci-fi/horror/monster movies and models convention in Louisville. So this year I decided to join my friends, who are longtime Wonderfest boosters, to see what it was all about.

In the mid-1990s I met fantasy artist Ken Kelly at a Capital City Distribution trade show. I was struck at the time with how easygoing and gracious Ken was. Well, only our hair has changed as he gladly helped me recreate the scene in the photo below - photo by Jim Alexander

A draw for me this year was the premiere of 'Aurora Monsters: The Model Craze That Gripped the World'. As the documentary explains, the classic monster movies of the 1930s and '40s were syndicated to television in the late '50s as "Shock Theatre". This created a nationwide craze for Dracula, Frankenstein, et al., which led to merchandising and the creation of monster model kits by Aurora Plastics. Kids who grew up with these kits and still have a passion for them are called "monster kids", and they fuel much of what goes on at Wonderfest. The documentary was worth the trip, particularly the interviews with artist James Bama and sculptor Ray Meyers. The film is hosted throughout by Zacherley, the dean of TV horror hosts, now a spritely 91. To order this DVD, go here.
Even better than Ray Meyers on the documentary was Ray Meyers in person. Meyers sculpted the figures for several of the model kits. A true artisan, Meyers brought his electric drill and bits as well as an example of the acetate plastic he sculpted from. At 90, Meyers is engaging, humorous and still well-versed in his craft and the work that he did. After Aurora, Meyers went on to sculpt toys for Kohner Bros and collectibles for the Franklin Mint. Meyers was very pleased and surprised that there was so much interest in the work he did half a century ago. He remarked several times about the standing ovation he received at Saturday night's award ceremony, somewhat astonished at all the accolades that fans felt were long overdue.
Aurora enthusiast Jim Alexander asks a question.

The model 'contest and display' room was packed with rows of finished models. Most of them are faithful and intricate reproductions of characters and vehicles from beloved movies and comics. There was a special display of models for 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

Some modelers include a bit of whimsy. You can't read the card in the lower right, but basically the creator has some story about an AT-AT trying to 'help up' a fallen comrade.
Some of the models are existing kits put together with expert skill. The mind-blowing models are those that are built from scratch. For example, this model based on a controversial comic book cover.

James Karen was one of the guests of the show, mainly due to his role in the 'Return of the Living Dead' films. He's one of those actors you've seen everywhere. I know him best as Craig T. Nelson's boss in 'Poltergeist'. He's been all over television, including a "M*A*S*H", as the villain in the last 'Little House' TV movie, and the "Seinfeld" episode they never show because Kramer stomps on the Puerto Rican flag. I didn't get to meet James Karen, but my pal Ted Haycraft scored this autograph for me (thanks, Ted!).

Saturday, May 8, 2010


In our second blog post ever, I went to Hillsboro, Ohio, the birthplace of Milton Caniff, to see what Caniff sites I could find. Last month I made a return pilgrimage with pal and fellow Caniffite Ted Haycraft. Our first stop was the above plaque in front of the Highland County District Library. Last time I went into the library and wrote that they didn't have anything on Caniff, only to have the library director subsequently e-mail me to tell me they have a Caniff file. So, this time I went in and asked about the Caniff file. The librarian didn't know and asked other librarians if there was some file for "the guy on the sign." But the library director, who e-mailed me again, was out at the time and they do have a file. I'll have to save it for the next trip. To read the plaque, click here.

If you go to Hillsboro for the Caniff sites, you might as well go to nearby Chillicothe for the Noel Sickles' sites. Our first stop was a visit this elusive Sickles painting. Ted (pictured) noticed a slight variation in the waves in the lower right of the painting between the painting itself and the published version. Curious.

You'd think I'd have taken a close-up of said waves for comparison, but I "missed the boat" (sorry). I did zoom in on some other details, benefiting from less glare than my last visit.
Other than his grave marker, Noel Sickles' status as a famous Chillicothian is more or less unknown. Better known is Billy Ireland, cartooning mentor to both Sickles and Milton Caniff in his capacity as their boss at the Columbus Dispatch. Here is Ireland's marker, about 100 feet away from Sickles at Grandview Cemetery in Chillicothe.

Ireland is also represented on the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame wall at Chillicothe High School. If you are a Chillicothe High alum, please nominate Noel Sickles for this honor here.

As in past tours, the last stop was in Columbus, Ohio at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Research Library and Museum. Just two years ago it was the plain ol' Cartoon Research Library, but the expansion of its holdings, its future plans to expand into a larger, renovated building and a generous gift from the Elizabeth Ireland Graves Foundation, have caused the name to grow along with the library. We took in the latest Reading Room exhibit, which is a sampling of recent museum acquisitions. It runs through August 20th.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Today, May 5th, would have been my son Andrew’s fourth birthday. For those who don’t know me, my son Andrew was born 13 weeks premature, weighing all of 1 pound and (barely) 8 ounces. 65 days, several infections, a thousand needle sticks and an untold number of prayers later, Andrew passed away on July 9th.

The hardest part right now is having a two-year old who misses the brother he never knew. Our son Noah asks about Andrew all the time. It’s a rough thing for a little kid, to have to find about death. Not just bug death, or cartoon death, but real, honest to goodness, never coming back death. Out of the blue, Noah will ask us, “Do you miss Andrew?”, “Are you sad about Andrew?” and the real heartbreaker, “When is Andrew coming home?” We’ve told him about Heaven, which makes the bitter pill of death go down a little easier. But if Heaven is an abstract concept to most adults, I couldn’t begin to understand how a toddler sees it.

I want to thank everyone who keeps Andrew’s memory alive in their thoughts and hearts. The support and love that Jill and I received from family and friends during Andrew’s life and after his death played a significant role in our lives. While we will always grieve for Andrew, it is heartening to know that others honor his time on Earth.