Category Archives: Cartooning

Rudolph the catalog reindeer

Who remembers that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Montgomery Ward, the now-defunct retailer/catalog competitor of the almost defunct Sears? Here is the first animated appearance of Rudolph, directed by Max Fleischer and beautifully restored, with its original music, and presented by the Library of Congress. Santa has the barrel-chested build of Popeye’s nemesis Bluto!

P.S. The LoC took the video down a day after posting it and I don’t know why. There is no possibility of a copyright issue, so I will assume the problem is technical.

P.P.S. I asked why the video was down, and as I had assumed…

Server problems! It’s back up now.

Mike Mashon

Head, Moving Image Section
Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation

P.P.P.S. A notorious, nit-picking Internet troll going by the handle “Denro,” but who is, in fact, Dennis F. Rogers of Massachusetts, has requested — nay, demanded — that the first sentence of this post be changed as follows.

“Who remembers that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward, the now-defunct retailer/catalog competitor of the almost defunct Sears?”

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

Starting this coming Tuesday, the PBS series American Masters is presenting “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”. Don’t miss it!

I was 22 when Crosby suddenly collapsed after playing golf in Spain on October 14, 1977. Bing sure seemed old to me at the time, but he was only 74. To put that into perspective, Ringo Starr is 74.

The day after Bing died, Denro and I were at the Boston Newcon comic book convention, interviewing the one and only Joe Sinnott, who was, at the time, starting work on inking the Silver Surfer graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, released in 1978. Dennis asked Joe, addressing him as Mr. Sinnott, “What do you for enjoyment? To get away from comics?” Here is what Joe said, as recorded by me on October 15, 1977.

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We knew that Bing had died, so I wasn’t completely clueless and, yet, being the callow youth that I was, stupidly I asked, “So how do you feel about it?” Duh! The next day, October 16, would be Joe’s 51st birthday and, my goodness, how young he sounds in that recording.

I don’t know yet how much the American Masters documentary will ac-cen-tu-ate the positive. Gary Crosby’s memoir damaged Bing’s reputation as a father, but the multi-talented, multi-media Crosby remains an undeniably significant and pioneering figure in entertainment history. As I have pointed out in the past, Crosby was the first to see and exploit the potential of magnetic tape recording. A few months ago, someone working on the American Masters documentary spotted my posts and requested a photo for “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”, which I gladly provided. I can’t say for certain if the picture is in the final edit, but if you see it you’ll know where it came from.

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Get me to the church on time!

For the first time in decades, this non-practicing Lutheran has attended a Catholic Church. Joe Sinnott’s son Mark told me we’d better not be late for Sunday morning Mass or Joe would give me heck. So I made sure we were there on time! Joe and Mark are in the area for the Super MegaFest Comic-Con in Framingham, MA, and I’ll be heading back there shortly.

A contemporary of Joe’s, the artist Ramona Fradon, is traveling with them. Ramona had a long and notable run drawing Aquaman for DC Comics, and I am a big fan of her work on “Super Friends”. Ramona was later hired to draw the comic strip “Brenda Starr”, which she did for fifteen years.

Speaking of Catholicism, if you’re a Silver Age fanboy you know that Joe inked Jack Kirby’s pencil art for Fantastic Four #5, the story that introduced the quartet’s most infamous villain, Doctor Doom. Get out a reprint FF #6 (I assume if you have an original comic it’s sealed) and take a look at page #2. Most of that single page was inked by Joe, but everything else in the book was inked by Dick Ayers. Why? Because Treasure Chest, a publisher of comic books that were distributed to Catholic parochial schools, made Joe an offer he couldn’t refuse, to illustrate the life story of Pope John XXIII.

Sinnott

The story was released in serial form and now, for the first time, all of the installments are being collected in a single volume, scanned from the original art in Joe’s archives. This project, which means so much to Joe, is thanks to the hard work of Mr. James Tournas, otherwise known as Jimmy T., who ran a successful Kickstarter project to get the money together. See that $1500 pledge down on the right? I wonder who contributed that princely sum? ;-) There are 25 paperback artist’s proofs that were printed locally in Boston, and I’m looking at one of them right now. The final print run of 500 10″x15″ hardcover copies should arrive on (literally) a slow boat from China the first week of December.

Joe also has all of his original art to the story of the Beatles, authorized by Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises and published in 1964 by Dell Comics.

dellbeatles

It would have been great if a similar deluxe hardcover edition of the Beatles book were done, but a certain someone, through Apple Records, nixed it. “Saint” Paul said no, and so the decision was made for the Pope John book. A higher power than the Beatles must have been at work!

POW! ZAP!

Scene from "That Darn Catwoman" - Batman, Season 2, Episode 40: Airdate Jan. 19, 1967

Scene from “That Darn Catwoman” – Batman, Season 2, Episode 40: Airdate Jan. 19, 1967

For decades I resented seeing “POW!” and “ZAP!” on every newspaper and magazine article about comic books. The blame belonged to Sixties Pop Art and its offspring, the Batman TV show — a show I loved, and that I can honestly say changed my life, by transforming me overnight from a casual reader of comic books into a hard-core fan. And now, well, I guess I’m old enough to embrace the silliness of POW! and ZAP!, especially because it’s no longer the norm, thanks to comics having gone mainstream and movies having set a very different tone for the genre. (ZAP! was also the title of the raunchy underground comic that made Robert Crumb a cartooning star.)

tastewar says of this article on Wired, about the Sixties Batman TV show finally coming to home video, “This seems to me like the kind of story that would be right up your alley.” And indeed it is. The article gives a good overview of the hassles behind the holdup all these years — a legal tangle that, curiously, didn’t prevent the feature-length movie version of the show from being released. The good thing about the delay is that it means the latest video restoration technology was used and the set is available on Blu-ray as well as DVD. I am crossing my Bat Fingers that Santa will give me the complete Batman TV series on Blu-ray, when he comes at the same Bat-Time, down the same Bat-Chimney that he does every year.