Posts Tagged ‘Billy DeBeck’

Swanky Cartoonists


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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


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1923 Illustrators Show.

I really like this 1923 photo of the cream of the cartooning world. Billy Debeck was surpisingly dainty; and Clare Briggs a bit pudgier than he appears in other photos. From The National Cartoonists Society Album, 1980 edition, compiled by Charles Green and Mort Walker.

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Crumb’s Visual Sources: Research Note 2


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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


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Robert Crumb is a great synthesizer, a great adopter of other people‚Äôs stylistic conventions which he cunningly redeploys for his own ends. Any in-depth analysis of Crumb has to come to terms with the way his art is not only great in itself but also serves as a veritable museum of 20th century cartooning. Most comics criticism tends to have a literary bias, so this visual aspect of Crumb has gone under-discussed. But I don’t think we can understand Crumb’s art without reference to his many allusions to earlier cartoonists (not to mention painters and illustrators).

Here are a few notes that might help future research:

1. Wolverton. Crumb has often talked about his debt to Basil Wolverton, going back to the sacred cover of Mad comics #11. Interestingly, Wolverton and Crumb both adapted the Bible. I’d like to know how familiar Crumb was with Wolverton’s religious art (now available in the great Fantagraphics book The Wolverton Bible).

Above is a scene from Wolverton’s rendition of the Noah story.

And here is a panel from Crumb’s The Book of Genesis Illustrated. Notice that in both Wolverton and Crumb, the choppy waves have an oddly static look, as if they were sand dunes rather than water.

2. Billy DeBeck. I’ve never heard Crumb talk about Billy DeBeck but Crumb’s big-nosed style, especially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had a strong touch of DeBeck’s bounciness.

Above are two excerpts from Billy DeBeck’s work, one showing the character Bunky (the very eloquent baby) and the other Lowzie, the bonnet-wearing hillbilly.

And here is Crumb’s Big Baby (from Big Ass #1, 1969).

3. E.C. Segar. The creator of Popeye is much loved by Crumb.

Here is a panel from a Segar Thimble Theatre page (July 19, 1931). Pay close attention to the crowd, a jumble of noses.

And here is Crumb’s cover for Weirdo #14, where he pays homage to Segar’s crowd of fools.

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Unintentional Connections?


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Friday, January 29, 2010


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A while back on Blog Flume, Ken Parille wrote an interesting post deploying Ivan Brunetti’s idea that one of the “common pitfall” of cartooning is the making of “unintentional connections” between images in different panels. (Brunetti made that statement in his great little book Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice).

In post and the comments section, the question was raised as to how to decide whether an connection is unintentional or not. Most good cartoonists care about not just what’s inside a panel but how panels relate to each other, not to mention the composition of the whole page.

Here is an example that illustrates the problem: two panels from Billy DeBeck’s Barney Google Sunday page of November 15, 1925. The left facing bull in the first panel does make a connection to the image of the same bull facing right in the second panel: instead of one bull in two panels we seem to be looking at one weird, two-headed monster. More subtly, the sweep of the horizon line in the two panels seems continuous. Was DeBeck aware of what he was doing? Does intentionality even matter, or should we just treasure the overall effect?

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