Posted By Art Baxter

fox photo

Fontaine Fox - March 3, 1884 - August 9, 1964

Fontaine Fox is famous for his cartoon panel, TOONERVILLE FOLKS, which ran from 1915 to 1955. The comic panel began in 1915. A Sunday color comic strip was added in 1918. Fox emploed an assistant, Arthur Clark, on gags and inking and used a code to indicate how much of a cartoon was his: six parallel lines over Fox's signature meant the cartoon was all his - fewer meant some participation by his assistant. The comic was most popular in the time between the two world wars. Fox changed syndicates twice and eventually gained all rights to his creation. TOONERVILLE FOLKS is almost completely forgotten today.

Toonerville is a small rural town full of eccentric characters. Each character spotlighted has his or her own schtick. Characters include the "Powerful" Katrinka; Pop Whortle and the entire enormous Whortle clan; the Terrible Tempered Mr. Bang, toughest kid in town, Mickey (Himself) McGuire; "Tomboy" Taylor; Grandma Futty, the demon chaperone; "Snake-Tounge" Saunders; Snag Sanders, the town's famous mustache artist, Grandpaw Sims, the hidebound Republican; "Hams" Henderson and  Cynthia Snoop, just to name a few. Perhaps the most famous part of the strip was the rickety Toonerville Trolly run by the white-bearded, Skipper.

It took quite a while for me to warm up to TOONERVILLE FOLKS. In my younger days I preferred comics that favored the clean line. TOONERVILLE was just too sketchy, dashed off and way too corny. Somewhere along the way I had picked up a copy of TOONERVILLE TROLLY by Galewitz and Winslow which collected a sampling of the the panel cartons. As I read I warmed up to the town and it's characters. The humor is broad slapstick but it is really funny. I like the outrageous characters the best. I'm less interested in the Trolly cartoons and the Sunday strip.

Fox's art is sketchy and his line is loose. He is great at body language and capturing a scene as economically as possible. His cartoon is frequently set outdoors with the viewer above the scene looking down at the tiny characters scrambling around. Amazingly, Fox frequently draws six to twelve people interacting in this small panel cartoon. I like how he often has some kid in the foreground commenting on the action in crazy gestures.

Check out some TOONERVILLE FOLKS cartoons for Fontaine Fox's 124th birthday!

fox self portrait

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