Friday, May 13, 2011

Art Collection: "Winnie Winkle" Comic Strip By Martin Branner, 1926/27

Click for bigger, readable.

Above is the original drawing (pen and ink,with solid black areas brushed in, and colored pencil on illustration board) by Martin Branner for a "Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner" comic strip originally published by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate on Friday, February 18, 1927. The board is about 22"x6" and is slightly cropped on each side in the scan above.

Winnie Winkle debuted in 1920. It wasn't the first "working gal" comic strip, but was the first to be super-popular, spawning many imitations, such as Russ Westover's "Tillie the Toiler" and Larry Whittington's "Fritzi Ritz" (which was later taken over by Saint Ernie Bushmiller). 

Just as "Fritzi Ritz" transformed eventually into the sublime "Nancy", so too did Winnie Winkle evolve. It started as a gag-a-day strip, became a comedic continuing story, and later became an absolutely terrible "Apartment 3G" style soap opera which survived until 1996 (!), making it one of the longest running, if not exactly beloved, comic strips of all time.

Winnie Winkle was a young, single go-getter who supported her family, which included her shiftless layabout father ("Everybody works but father" is the suggested title, written in pencil at the top). The above strip shows Branner as he really hit his stride, with nice clear drawings and solid gag structure obviously influenced by George McManus' "Bringing Up Father." I love Winnie's flapperesque dress with fur panels, her accent, and the way she makes the detective's combover and cigar fly in the last panel. At this point the strip was extremely popular, and ten (!) Winnie Winkle short movies were made around this time.

There are some interesting technical aspects: non-reproducing blue pencil is used to indicate where dot-screens should be used on the Photostat to create a gray tone, just like in the "TAD" Dorgan strip I published last week, and one can see where the artist changed the design of the desk from having two panels on each side to one panel by using white paint which has darkened a little and become transparent over time. I wonder why he made the change? Perhaps Branner thought it made the strip look too cluttered. Good choice.

Coming soon: a superb late-1940s "Nancy" original by St. Bushmiller.


Comrade PhysioProf said...

That's fucken coolio! Would he have done the lettering also, or a different, lettering expert?

Peteykins said...

Comrade, comic strip artists did often have assistants to do any number of chores, including inking, lettering, etc. It depends on the artist. Charles Schulz, for instance, never used an assistant for anything ever, whereas somebody like Jim Davis employs an entire studio of hacks to help with the horrible Garfield. Frank Frazetta was an assistant to Al Capp on Li'l Abner, of all things. Sometimes the assistants took over the strips when the original artist died.

It's unlikely that Branner used an assistant at this relatively early stage in his career.

frigg said...

True Trivia Tidbit Time! Mark Schultz (creator of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, which I highly recommend) had his lettering done by...his WIFE! Zing! Plus, if you are lucky enough to spend the afternoon with them at their home, Mark will take you to go eat at the local Perkins! Rad!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Thanks for the info!