Thanks to Boingboing.net I learned that The Atlantic Monthly now has its archive freely viewable. I just started looking at it and already found this great quote about Sunday comics from 1906:
"Ten or a dozen years ago,—the exact date is here immaterial,—an enterprising newspaper publisher conceived the idea of appealing to what is known as the American "sense of humor" by printing a so-called comic supplement in colors. He chose Sunday as of all days the most lacking in popular amusements, carefully restricted himself to pictures without humor and color without beauty, and presently inaugurated a new era in American journalism. The colored supplement became an institution. No Sunday is complete without it,—not because its pages invariably delight, but because, like flies in suummer, there is no screen that will altogether exclude them."
also, this one's good--these are both in the opener of the story!:
"One and all they unite vigorously, as if driven by a perverse and cynical intention, to prove the American sense of humor a national shame and degredation. Fortunately the public has so little to say about its reading matter that one may fairly suspend judgment."
The author here is Ralph Bergengren, and this article is his indictment of comics, specifcally color comics (apparently the color printing of 1906 wasn't to his liking, as he says the black and white versions look "twice as attractive"), and the simple, cheap humor they dealt in. I'm actually still not sure it isn't satirical, but I'm assuming he's in earnest.
On some points I agree with him, on others he's crazy. His descriptions of the immoral activities of the color supplement sound better than any turn of the century comic i've ever seen, more lurid, lunatic and wily--he should have been making comics. On the other hand, he makes the point that all the "types" created by the cartoonists dilutes the variety that humor generally has to offer that maybe partly true.
The writing overall here is a lot of fun to read, even though the author is a stuffy traditionalist. If you're interested in old-time comics, take a look here. He cites Winsor McKay as one of the good ones, while rival versions of the Yellow Kid (I think? not specifically named) both stink.
To me, reading this a hundred years later, all he proves is that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and I think that's what happens anytime you read a hundred year old magazine article of any kind. Strangely, I'd really feel good about making a comic composed of "pictures without humor and color without beauty."
Labels: cartoonists, comics, comma splice, history