Sunday, January 15, 2017

Updating Noah's Ark: Charles Addams and Howard V. Brown

Reading The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925-1975 back when it was published, I encountered for the first time the classic 1946 Charles Addams cartoon updating the story of Noah's Ark. A line of animals arranged two by two boards not a seagoing vessel but a rocket ship aimed at the heavens. It is not only a clever idea, it is a beautiful drawing which certainly held up well in the thirty years since its initial publication. Rockets destined for space, we had since learned, would best be fired straight upwards away from the earth's center of mass, but the quaint angulation of Addams's rocket on the launch rail does nothing to detract from its charm even today. The drawing, in the 1946 magazine and the 1975 collection, gloriously occupies a full page on which it invites us to linger.
Charles Addams, The New Yorker, July 13, 1946, page 20

It is only recently that I learned of the pulp illustrator Howard V. Brown, and looking into his work I came across the magazine Startling Stories from November of 1939. The cover illustrates a "novel of the future" called The Fortress of Utopia by someone named Jack Williamson. The illustration depicts a line of animals arranged two by two in the act of boarding the "Ark of Space," and it was published almost seven years before the New Yorker drawing. The rocket is oriented at even less of an upright angle than in the Addams, and it faces to the left, the opposite direction. Of note, the upward sweep of the ramp is very similar in both illustrations. 

Howard V. Brown, Startling Stories, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Nov. 1939).

Could the Brown illustration have influenced Addams or whoever might have come up with the idea for the gag if it was not Addams himself? It's possible. Magazine covers on the newsstand can be seen and casually noted, then immediately forgotten, or so it may seem, only to be unconsciously recalled at a later time. On the other hand, artists often arrive at the same idea coming from different approaches with no cross-pollination whatsoever. 

The two works differ in significant ways. The Brown cover is strikingly busy. Its main focus is the rocket, oversized, garishly colored, and looking—shall we say?—rather virile. The rocket's streamlined appearance stands in contrast to the jagged peaks in the landscape. There is also military action in the foreground with brutal soldiers shooting on a desperate mob that seeks to board the Ark. Brown is illustrating a story about a lot more than just the animals coming aboard the Ark.

Addams's rendition, on the other hand, is more focused and witty, even poignant, conveying with humor a message that goes much deeper than the contents of a pulp science fiction story. It has not only withstood the test of time, it has demonstrated an enduring cultural significance.

Charles Addams, The New Yorker, July 13, 1946, page 20


Note:  Would you like to read The Fortress of Utopia in its entirety? Me neither, but if you like you can still catch the whole issue of Startling Stories, "The Best in Scientifiction," right here.


Attempted Bloggery's quick links:


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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vaughn Bodé: Malcolm X Talks to Young People

An original pencil sketch by Vaughn Bodé, presumably from the 1960s or early 1970s, looks to be a comic book cover design related to the record Malcolm X Talks to Young People. There is indeed a recording with this title, a talk given by Malcolm X to 37 teenagers visiting New York from McComb, Mississippi where they had been active in the Civil Rights movement. Vaughn Bodé has included a rendition of the actual album cover on the artwork, which may have been intended for a comic book tie-in. The cover shows two black children listening to a phonograph record of Malcolm X. They say, "He talkin', man" and "He talkin' to us, man"—perhaps not the most promising of cover concepts.

Vaughn Bodé, concept sketch, Malcolm X Talks to Young People

eBay Listing Ended January 4, 2017

eBay Item Description
eBay Bid History
One bid at the last minute, literally



This specific album cover is depicted in Vaughn Bodé's artwork.
Malcolm X Talks to Young People, 1969 edition

Vaughn Bodé, concept sketch, Malcolm X Talks to Young People


Note:  If the Vaughn Bodé comic book tie-in was ever published, please let me know what you know.



Attempted Bloggery's quick links:


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Friday, January 13, 2017

Lee Lorenz: Calling Malcolm X

Original cartoon art from the 1960s by Lee Lorenz finds humor in the idea that a busy activist like Malcolm X might require something as conventional as an answering service. The cartoon has an unknown publication history and was sold for $149 on eBay in 2015.

Lee Lorenz, "I couldn't reach Malcolm X so I left a message with his answering service."
Original cartoon art

Verso

EBay Listing Ended March 19, 2015

eBay Item Description


Lee Lorenz, "I couldn't reach Malcolm X so I left a message with his answering service."
Original cartoon art


Note:  Please get in touch if you know the publication history of this artwork.


Attempted Bloggery's quick links:


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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

William Steig's Terms of Endearment

William Steig's art seems to maintain a Depression Era sensibility even in the postwar period. An endearing cartoon of his was published in the New Yorker of June 6, 1953 and any reader who thought it was from two decades earlier could be forgiven. That fall the original art was exhibited by Mr. Steig at the Fifty-First Annual Water Color and Print Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Water Color Club from October 18 through November 22. Back in those days, apparently, watercolor was two words and "black and white" described a medium you could freely exhibit at a watercolor and print show. Hear, hear.

The cartoon is distinctive for its atypical display of affection. The couple on the couch are two ordinary, working-class people who do not necessarily conform to anyone's romantic ideal. Nevertheless, the tenant and the housekeeper have found something special in each other even though they do not resemble the big screen idols of the 1950s any more than they do those of today. Their relationship is primal and spontaneous, existing on a different plane than the landlord and his lease agreement. The drawing is both funny and sweet in a way that few other than Bill Steig could pull off.

The landlord is appropriately upright and pinstriped. The couple leans away from him at the same angle as the housekeeper's broom. The couch is not drawn flat against the wall but instead creates a rudimentary two-point perspective. This serves to lead the eye from left to right as we take in the scene, while the sides of the couch along with the seated man's thigh, the dust brush, and the band on the broom all lead the eye back to the landlord. It's a tour-de-force, but most readers would have been laughing too hard to notice.

William Steig, "The agreement as I remember it, Mr. Plitz, was for room
and board and telephone privileges!"
Original art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1953, page 99



EBay Listing as of October 10, 2015


Left half of eBay item description
 
Right half of eBay item description


William Steig, "The agreement as I remember it, Mr. Plitz, was for room and board and telephone privileges!"
Original art, The New Yorker, June 6, 1953, page 99

The New Yorker, June 6, 1953
William Steig, "The agreement as I remember it, Mr. Plitz, was
for room and board and telephone privileges!"
The New Yorker, June 6, 1953, page 99

William Steig, "The agreement as I remember it, Mr. Plitz, was
for room and board and telephone privileges!"
The New Yorker, June 6, 1953, page 99



Note:  I'm always happy to show off examples of original New Yorker art and, for that matter, just about anything from the hand of William Steig.


Attempted Bloggery's quick links as I remember them, Mr. Plitz:


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Bob and Ray Show Signed by Bob and Ray

Illustrator and book collector Stephen Kroninger writes of his copy of The Bob and Ray Show:
I bought this on the street for five bucks years ago. I have no idea who Julie and Lester are but I've always been grateful to them for unloading this book.


Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding, The Bob and Ray Show, 1983
Image courtesy of Stephen Kroninger

Inscribed to Julie and Lester by Bob and Ray
Image courtesy of Stephen Kroninger

Bob and Ray
"The Great Lakes Paper Clip Company"


Note:  Thanks to Stephen Kroninger for sharing highlights from his personal library. That's five bucks well spent. It is thanks to him that Bob and Ray have finally made an appearance on this blog. He is also responsible for the choice of comedy clip.


Attempted Bloggery's quick links:

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Monday, January 9, 2017

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #552

Hop aboard for my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #552 for January 9, 2017. The drawing is by Robert Leighton.


"The lake was more fun before climate change."



January 13, 2017 Update:
The Semifinalists
https://www.research.net/r/552NYKERMCN



Note:  Last week cartoonist Tom Chitty took to the stormy waters of New York Harbor and caught the Donald Trump wave. My caption was not Presidential. Set sail for Contest #551.


Then make your way to an oasis with more Attempted Bloggery posts about Robert Leighton.

If you've ever been through the desert on a horse with no name, it will feel good to look at these cartoons.


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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bernard Schoenbaum's Economic Stimulus Plan

Cartoonist Bernard Schoenbaum wryly presented an economic stimulus plan in the pages of the New Yorker twenty-five years ago. Today, a new Administration is preparing to take the reins in Washington and promoting economic prosperity will no doubt be a top priority. As a public service, let's revisit Mr. Schoenbaum's spirited economic plan with the proviso, should any be needed, that it was offered only in jest.

Bernard Schoenbaum, "This should jump-start the economy." 
Original artwork for The New Yorker, December 30, 1991, page 26

Bernard Schoenbaum, "This should jump-start the economy."
Framed original artwork for The New Yorker, December 30, 1991, page 26


eBay Listing Ended June 1, 2013
http://www.ebay.com/itm/VINTAGE-ORIGINAL-ILLUSTRATION-NOT-A-PRINT-NEW-YORKER-CARTOON-ART-/140981796015?pt=Art_Paintings&hash=item20d32b7caf&nma=true&si=VJo29%252F7WbHpl1SY9gWmnl4%252FkT80%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

eBay Item Description
Bernard Schoenbaum, "This should jump-start the economy." 
The New Yorker, December 30, 1991, page 26
Bernard Schoenbaum, "This should jump-start the economy." 
The New Yorker, December 30, 1991, page 26


Attempted Bloggery's economical links:


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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Vaughn Bodé: Early Cheech Wizard

A very early pencil drawing by Vaughn Bodé of Cheech Wizard is dated 1963 and signed Von. Cheech is shown walking with a Nile Bird which "speaks hieroglyphical." The drawing was donated by Larry Todd and the Bodé Estate to a charity auction in 1982. It was offered on eBay in early 2014.

Vaughn Bodé, Nile Bird Hieroglyphics, 1963
A very early pencil drawing of Cheech Wizard


Documentation


http://www.ebay.com/itm/Original-Vaughn-Bode-Very-Early-Cheech-Wizard-Pencils-Drawing-Very-Rare-1963-/221348063617




eBay Purchase History
Declined Offers



Vaughn Bodé, Nile Bird Hieroglyphics, 1963
A very early pencil drawing of Cheech Wizard



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