January 18th, 2009

The Zombie

The House of Cartooning History Mystery

January 17 -  You may notice a few unlikely names in this month's listing of "Dead Comic Book Characters of The Day."  Superman, for example.  Obviously, Superman is still "alive" in current comics, but only after he'd already "died" a decade or so ago.  Remember that?  "Superman Dies" was actually a major headline in newscasts and newspapers worldwide.  Yep, he was dead, which is why he (and anyone else who also so "died") made the list.  Later, of course, he got better.  In fact, none of the characters on my list are guaranteed to remain dead.  Well, maybe the character I have planned to post on the 30th will stay deceased, but even he may make a comeback in years after the actual death of his creator (many "dead" characters miraculously spring back to life, coincidentally right after they lapse into the public domain).  These all are, after all, just fictional characters.  Some will return as the undead, some as the never-was dead, and some will make their comebacks as ghosts.  The "ghost" option has become a surprisingly prevalent trend in the last few years, perhaps due to the popularity of paranormality on TV right now.  In fact, I am surprised that there hasn't been an earnest attempt to revive a classic Silver or Bronze Age horror comic like The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, GHOSTS, The House of Mystery, The House of Secrets, or Secrets of Haunted House (Hmm...there sure were a lot of creepy "Houses" amongst DC's 1970's publications).  The old Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery often used "true" ghost tales as basis for the comic's stories, which seems like a way to bring in fans of, say, Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State.  There were even several strange hybrid horror/romance comics, which could be resurrected to appeal to followers of The Ghost Whisperer.  Although now long gone from comics display racks, such genre titles used to be almost as popular as superhero books (and probably more popular than some).  When I was a kid, ghost-filled comic The Unexpected was one of my favorites, so I can easily see how these old books could be revamped and reissued.  Of course, because of the economy, there probably aren't going to be too many new comic book titles coming out for awhile anyway.  I suppose that the idea itself is dead...for now.  Well, let's leave that subject for now, but remind me to tell you about our ghosts sometime (WOMP H.Q. has at least one, if not several - honest!).  I want to get back to my year-end countdown of...

The WOMP-Blog's Biggest Stories of 2008
Number Four - C.N. Stars

I don't know why obscure little stories about cartooning history intrigue me, but they do.  Someday, I'll tell you about the first cartoonist to amass a real fortune (John T. McCutcheon), or about how a cartoonist was the subject of a study meant to illustrate the once-controversial theory that people's personalities are products of how they are raised, rather than by their race (Paul Fung).  This last year, however, I really fixated on only one such story, that of C.N. Landon.  Coming along perfectly during Platinum Age Comic Book Characters Month in the WOMP-Blog, my discovery of the now nearly forgotten cartooning-education pioneer continued to occupy my thoughts throughout the Summer.  It also happened to coincide with the release of Mr. John Garvin's new book, The Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning, the on-line promotion for which had a lot of great information on the subject that wouldn't have been available any year earlier.  Since those posts, in which I told you a little bit about Mr. Landon's life and who some of his famous students were, I have learned a lot more, thanks in great part to the research of Norwalk, Ohio, historian Henry Timman.  I'm sure I'll learn even more soon, too, since I've even finally ordered a copy of Mr. Garvin's book, which is in the mail as I write this.  While I may still post some of those very interesting updates here someday, for now I want to save most of them for Mr. Garvin, who is planning a second, updated version of his book.  For now?  Hmmm...let's see.  I suppose I can at least tell you that Charles Nelson Landon was once known as "Nelt" to his friends.  Aw, heck...if you check out this entry in The WOMP-Blog Archives over at LiveJournal (where I can include photos), I'll even post a copy of his 1937 hometown newspaper obituary (and probably some other nifty stuff while I'm at it).  Maybe you're a comics history nut like me, or maybe you're not, but, either way, I hope you'll agree that that history, like the story of C.N. Landon, needs to be chronicled and preserved before it is lost.  And if you don't agree with me, just why the heck are you reading this anyway?

(this is a little hard to read, but it's Mr. Landon's obituary from the May 17, 1937, Norwalk Reflector Herald)

(this is some of the vintage Beuford C. Peer artwork that started me off on my
quest to learn more about Mr. Landon, whose handwritten notation of
encouragement can be seen in the upper left corner.  It reads
"Good - I like the way you handle a pen, Beuford")

(from about 1927, here is another piece drawn by Beuford, who was only about
16 or 17 at the time.  Even though it's more of a serious doodle than actual
Landon Course assignment work, you can see that Beuford had a lot of promise.)


Well, I've gotta get back to work.  Here is your Dead Comic Book Character of The Day - Thor!