July 5th, 2008

The Zombie

By The Dawn's Early...Comics

July 4 -  Happy Independence Day (although belatedly, as I write this)!  I hope you're all having a wonderful July so far.  As for me, I've been busy, but not with too much that was productive.  I did have a couple of art projects (thanks to Ashley, LariAnn, and Fred!), but nothing along the lines of comic book stuff (well, LariAnn's project - a "how to" for planting a tree - looks a lot like a comic book page, now that I think about it).  Mostly, I've just been doing some thinking.  And, yes, that took four days (smart alec).  First, I wanted to think of a great "...Of The Day" theme for the month.  After some thought, I came up with an AWESOME idea; in the month of Independence Day, I'd feature Independent Comics Artists!  As I happily compiled my list of groundbreakers and free thinkers, I happened to read comics author Steven Grant's "Permanent Damage" column over at CBR.  Guess what.  He beat me to it!  Arg!   He even started it right off with "For July 4th, how about a "Declaration Of Independents?"  If you'd like to read what he wrote on the subject, go HERE.  There, in one e-article, Mr. Grant succinctly covered the topics that I'd hoped to spread out over the entire month!  UGH!  So, back to a-thinkin' I went.  OK, so if what we now call Independent Comics were out, how about the original independents, the foundling pre-comics of "The Platinum Age?"  YES!  For those who don't know, the "Platinum" title has been given to comic strip reprint collections from the few decades just before the Golden Age, during which what we now think of as comic books came into being.  The Platinum era, which roughly spanned from 1883 to 1935 (or so), is rich with famous characters, forgotten masters, beautiful artwork, secrets, surprises, mystery, triumph, tragedy, and just about every printing size and format conceivable.  There is no real "flow" to the story of those times, at least in regards to the proto-comic books, because there was no set market, no monthly audience, no standard distribution system, nor much of the original art that marked the following "Ages."  Instead, Platinum Age comics, and the stories behind them, are more like an assemblage of similar items, like shells gathered from the world's beaches.  Even those which are similar are still very different from one another.  As a whole, the Platinum Age comics are mostly representative of two things; the dawn of classic American cartooning and the beginning of modern merchandising.  I hope that I'll get into all of that as I go, learning more about those times as I do (and I'll talk about lots of other stuff, too, I suppose).  One last note before I go.  I was going to feature the cartoonists of those times this month, and still intend to talk about them over the next couple of weeks.  However, upon a little research, I realized that a small handful of cartoonists created many of the most popular characters of the time.  It was not uncommon for a single artist during those years to have three, four, or even dozens of well-known comic strips over the course of a career.  Instead, then, I'm going to list the characters themselves.  Let's start right off with four All-American classics this Fourth; here are your Platinum Age Comic Book Characters of The Day for - July 1 - Happy Hooligan, July 2 - The Yellow Kid, July 3 - Tillie "The Toiler" Jones, and July 4 - Mickey Mouse!

Happy Hooligan from "The Glorious Fourth of July," 1902