About That Gimmick

     In our last thrilling installment, we considered some of the series postcards which await us out in the world of these non-electronic texts.  We looked at just a few of those which connected their assorted cards through the use of a catch phrase.  There were other artists, however, who used a standard format as recognizable as the running slogan used in the catchphrase cards.

     The nightmare series, shown at the top, was a popular one.  It involved a bizarre illustration and a paragraph in the corner elaborately telling the events of a nightmare which disturbed the sleeper last night.  The wilder and more outlandish the situation, the more people liked it.

     This led to a similar series on NICE dreams, but this didn’t seem to have the same appeal, either because it was harder to turn this into bizarre images or because we prefer to enjoy other people’s troubles.

     Speaking of other people’s troubles, I am not sure how long THIS series ran, but it certainly has a distinctive style: harried human being talking in triplicate because they miss you.

     This was an equal opportunity card idea.

     And it did not depend on one catch phrase but could make use of other words.

     The standard format card was a boon to the artist, who knew basically how things would look, and needed only to consider “How will I do it THIS time?”  This is why authors like (sometimes) to write about a series character and comic strip artists enjoy characters who find themselves in the same situation all the time.  (Bringing Up Father creator George MacManus would sometimes draw emergency strips and set them aside for a week when he was short on inspiration and gags.  This would show Jiggs ogling a beautiful woman as his wife came up behind him.  Maggie would say something, Jiggs would reply, and the last panel would show Jiggs looking up from the sidewalk, wondering what had just hit him.  Having drawn this, MacManus had only to come up with new dialogue to fill the balloons with when he needed to use the strip.)

     Walter Wellman, who was perfectly capable of one-shot postcard gags, also produced series after series.  In this one, he showed an ability to mock sensational crime reporting with his Black Hand series.

     The Black Hand was a nickname given to a mob which ruled by extortion and violence, sending notes signed with the symbol of a black hand.  The whole idea of a criminal organization with broad and efficient power was so shocking (who makes up such unrealistic stuff) that things became ridiculous, with the Black Hand being blamed for any car accident or thunderstorm that inconvenienced ordinary citizens.

     Wellman took the rising cliché of mob conspiracy, and ran with it.

     One of his most amazing series, however, was Life’s Little Tragedies in Three Acts, in which three rhyming words were all the caption needed to show off the protagonist’s troubles.

     These leaned heavily toward dating drama, in humiliation being suffered by the male protagonist, felled by vile misfortune.

     Not all of his little tragedies, however, ended in chagrin.  Let’s close with a happy ending.

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