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Posted By Art Baxter


This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday.

Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter


I was reminded of this drawing by R. Crumb after I heard former Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan's, mea culpa referring to his being blind-sighted by the subprime mortgage crisis. Greenspan was, as many don't know,  a deciple of the queen of laissez-faire capitalism, Ayn Rand, in the 1950's when he was a young saxophone player and student of economics.

This drawing first appeared on the back cover of WEIRDO Magazine #15 (Winter 1985/86) at the height of the Reagan presidency. Greenspan was appointed Fed Chairman two years later.

Looks like Crumb was right after all.

At least Greenspan had the good sense to marry the saucy Andrea Mitchell.

Drawing © 1985 R. Crumb

Posted By Art Baxter


This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday. Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter


This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday. Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter


Art Clokey - October 12, 1921

I think that GUMBY is one of the greatest designed characters in the last fifty years. That particular shade of green not found in nature. That flat body design with flaring legs. Those mittened hands on tubular arms. That asymmetrical pointed head! Art Clokey's GUMBY first appeared in 1954 and has been in and out of the public consciousness ever since. I also think the GUMBY toy is one of the greatest toys ever made. You can have Gumby doing just about anything and he looks cool doing it. Partnered with his orange pony pal, Pokey, the pair are unbeatable. The success of Gumby is that he is truly an "every-man." The sight of Gumby also seems to add an air of psychedelia to any situation. Gumby has a calming yet energizing visage. No need to freak out, man!


The GUMBY toy first appeared in the mid 1960s and was hugely successful. Everybody had a GUMBY. Of course, the major problem with the GUMBY toy was the wires in his arms eventually broke and the rubber tended to rot. Unfortunately, my own GUMBY from this era is lost to the ages. The GUMBY toy vanished by the early 1970s. There was a resurgent interest in GUMBY in the mid 1980s due, in part, to nostalgia and new bendable GUMBY and POKEY toys started showing up. Since then, GUMBY toys have never completely left the scene. This past summer I picked up a new mini edition of bendable G & P to stand on my shelf with the rest of my collection.

The trademark bump on Gumby's head was inspired by a picture of Clokey's father, Arthur Farrington, taken when he was 18. You can see a cow-lick on one side of the head, the sight of which amazed the young Clokey. The post-buddhist Clokey has also stated that the bump represents an extra bump of wisdom. The head bump certainly ads to Gumby's uniqueness and seems to make Gumby "Gumby."

Posted By Art Baxter


The GUMBY TV show is unfortunately not so great. He first appeared on TV in 1956 on the  HOWDY DOODY SHOW and graduated to his own show a year later. New episodes were produced through 1968. There was also a revival of new episodes in 1988. It's fun to watch the primitive claymation in the early shows but the stories are often unengaging and repetitive. Gumby's the schlemiel to Pokey's schlimazel. Gumby gets them in trouble and Pokey gets them out. Clokey and company were really cranking them out. The GUMBY show tended to get worse and worse as they got slicker and slicker. Frankly, the DAVEY AND GOLIATH series, also produced by Clokey in the early to mid 1960, are superior thanks to good scripts by children's book author, Nancy Moore. Ultimately, the problem was with the character and look of Gumby. He was an every-man but a pretty bland every-man. Because he is heavily abstracted he doesn't quite fit in almost any situation. Curiously, the GUMBY toy seems to transcend this problem. Still, there is a magic to these hand crafted clay characters moving around on cheap cardboard sets that I almost never get from computer animation. A visceral tangible quality of the fantastic made real.

I think one of the coolest things about the GUMBY show was it's great theme song. It's a catchy number that really gets you ready for a cartoon. It's a strange concoction of harp, electric guitar, drum set, children singing and xzylaphone. It starts slowly with a harp intro, then goes into a frothy pop confection. Here, listen for yourself. You can thank me three weeks from now when it's still running through your brain.


The GUMBY show has been released on DVD by RHINO several years ago and now fetches ridiculously high collectors prices. There have been a few "Best of" collections released on budget disks. There are no good books about GUMBY. There is one book, GUMBY: THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY OF THE WORLDS FAVORITE CLAYBOY by Louis Kaplin and Scott Michaelson with Art Clokey. Aside from some good pictures, the text is pretty terrible and uninformative. I think Clokey is an interesting guy and one day a good book will be written. There is a new documentary on Gumby and Clokey called GUMBY DHARMA which I haven't seen yet but intend to.

You can find out more about the whole GUMBY/Clokey thang here and here.

Why not pose a GUMBY toy on Art Clokey's 87th birthday!

GUMBY and POKEY are © Premavision, Inc. and Prema Toy Co.

Posted By Art Baxter


In today's strip, our hero, the Cap'n, is surrounded by topless native girls wanting to wait on him hand and foot and he's vaguely annoyed. I can't imagine why? They're pretty dern cute. Click  here to see the complete strip. Y'know in the big ol' history of newspaper strips in this country, this may be the only example of bared female breasts appearing in the daily or Sunday funnies. Not so in England and Europe of course. It's practically a prerequisite there. Thank god the girls in this strip are "dusky" island natives. Why it's just like the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC.*

When I first saw this strip in Bill Blackbeard's excellent SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS, I couldn't believe it. Here are cute topless native girls in all their glory in the Sunday funnies. This was January 20, 1935. Two years earlier, The Hays Commission had imposed a morality code on the motion picture industry, which, among other things, lowered the skirt and libido of Miss BETTY BOOP, in 1932. Yet, two years later, these and a few more times in subsequent EASY Sundays, are perhaps the only known exposed nipples in the history of American mainstream newspaper comics.

Lets take a closer look at one, shall we.


A dot and quarter circle line. What could be more simple? Drink deep!

So, through this archeological dig through old newsprint, we find that the origin of the "topless back" is the "topless front."

NEXT: AFTERWARD: Turnabout is fair play!

CAPTAIN EASY is © NEA Services, Inc.

Posted By Art Baxter


This HENRY cartoon was drawn by his creator Carl Anderson between 1932 and 1934 for the SATURDAY EVENING POST. Look for a new HENRY cartoon every Monday. Find out more about HENRY here.

Posted By Art Baxter


Bil Keane - October 5, 1922

I have great respect for Bil Keane as a cartoonist. I generally don't give a crap about his characters: the five kids, two parents, grandparents or pets in THE FAMILY CIRCUS. What I've liked about Keane is his Sunday strips. I like the effort he puts into his drawings. Who can't look at a Sunday FAMILY CIRCUS and not follow Billy's roundabout paths as he is distracted from a simple straightforward journey. I love the boring, everyday, mundane details Keane put into a drawing of the backyard of a suburban, split-level, tract house. I love the way Keane uses the space on his Sundays. Sometimes they are full of nothing, sometimes they are incredibly dense, sometimes they are both at the same time. I also think that the emotional and psychological topography of the strip and it's characters are as deep and personal to Keane as the PEANUTS strip and characters were to Charles Schulz, abet not as completely developed.

Although I was never a regular reader of THE FAMILY CIRCUS, I would look at it it something caught my eye. Most of the time it would be a Sunday strip. In the 1990s I slowly became aware of a reoccurring motif that Keane used having to do with death. The character of Granddad, the father of the Father character had passed away in the mid 1980s yet often Granddad would still appear in the strip as a ghost or in heaven. In this strip from July 1, 1986, Billy is discussing his recently dead grandfather with his father. The father gives him some comfort by telling him that his grandfather has been reunited with his family and friends. We see Granddad, in the mind's eye of Billy, about to enter the golden gates of heaven being welcomed by his old pals in white robes and wings.

In the strip of February 15, 1987, Jeffy inquires of Grandma if Granddad can hear him to which Grandma replies yes and that she speaks to him all the time. Jeffy then gives Granddad a big "hello" but then wonders if Granddad heard him at all. We know he did. The ghost of Granddad can be seen sitting next to Grandma with his arm around her waist.

Most of the Grandma/Granddad strips I remember seeing were similar to this strip from May 5, 2002 (most likely Keane's last one), where Grandma prompts thoughts of Grandad and what he is doing in heaven. It's kind of mild, bland place where everyone gets along. It's sentimental and comforting but if that's what it's really like, I think I'd prefer hell, thank you.

Posted By Art Baxter


By the time I thought to clip these strips to save, it was unfortunately near the end of the run of them. They were all drawn by Keane himself but he was already beginning to hand the reigns of the strip over to his son Jeff. Bil Keane became less and less involved with the strip. I think with the Grandma/Granddad strips Keane began to feel the cold hand of death on his own shoulder and produced strips on the subject no matter how banal they were. There were two noticeable exceptions that I'm aware of.

The first of these is this strip from August 10, 1997. Here we see Grandma being greeted by a young acquaintance who offers her condolence on the passing of Grandma's husband. The woman uses the word "lost" to soften the bluntness of the situation. To which, Grandma replies that she is the one who is "lost." The woman looks at Grandma with sadness through heavily lidded eyes. Meanwhile, Granddad can be seen looking down from his cloud in heaven. Grandma's loneliness is palpable. Aside from Granddad's appearance, the strip is pretty sober.

The next from November 6, 1999 (see above), is the darkest. Grandma sits on the edge of the bed and offers a meditation on how her days seem to be numbered. This is accentuated by the scene out the window of the sun setting and the skeletal leafless tree. It's not only the end of the day but the end of the season. Grandma looks tired. She's hunched over. Her eyes are tiny slits. Her eyebrows arching up in worry.

I hope you have enjoyed these comics by Bil Keane on the theme of death for his 86th birthday!

THE FAMILY CIRCUS is © Bil Keane, Inc.

Posted By Art Baxter


Here's the third, and final, drawing from the Janes Island State Park trip. Three is pretty good considering we were only really there one full day! My sister even got an illustrated postcard drawn the same day. Our trip was cut short by a projected three days of rain courtesy of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Kyle which reached the southern end of Maryland early in the morning last Thursday.

This drawing was drawn right after the tree nocturne presented last time. It was midnight. I had gone down to the fishing dock near our cabin to look out on the island at night. It was an incredibly dark, cloudy, starless, moonless night. It was hard to see anything even when your eyes adjusted to the dark. There was a bit of light on the water that came from a light about 200 yards away on my right. The wind was blowing at me from across the canal and I liked the way it made the water ripple.

I wanted to try and draw it. I went and got my sketchbook and flashlight. Since all of this was silhouette I didn't have to draw much, just get the shape. I couldn't see what I was drawing in the dark so I got an impression in my eye then turned on the flashlight and drew it in the book in pencil.  Then had to wait for my eyes to adjust to the dark to get more down. I then went back in the cabin and rendered the pencils with the brush pen.

The first version of the drawing didn't turn out so well so I went back out and did it again. This is the second drawing. It isn't quite the way I wanted but it was as close as I was going to get that night.

It only took a half hour or so. Through the magic of Photoshop I put some flat color behind the drawing to capture the mood of the scene as I remember it. The original is 11" x 14." You can see the drawing bigger here.




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