Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Art Collection: Picasso-Themed Gags By Jimmy Hatlo, Ca. 1931

(Photo by Erica Abbey. Click for bigger!)

Today's selection from my collection of original comic art drawings is an early gag panel by Jimmy Hatlo, drawn circa 1931 for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin. It measures 17.5" x 16", and is pen, brush, and ink with collage and pencil underdrawing on Strathmore illustration board.

The oft-repeated legend is that once upon a time in 1929, a shipment of Indoor Sports artwork by Tad Dorgan (there he is again!) failed to arrive at the Call-Bulletin in time for publication. Panicked, and with a large hole to fill, the editors called upon staff cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo to fill the space with something similar. What Hatlo came up with was a panel he called They'll Do It Every Time. Dorgan died soon afterwards, and Hatlo's replacement feature was a hit with readers, so the series continued, and was eventually distributed nationally by King Features beginning in 1936. (UPDATE: This legend is almost certainly false. See more info here. I've also reworded the next paragraph to reflect this.) The series was a massive success, and lasted well beyond Hatlo's death until 2008 (!).

Before hitting the big time with TDIET, Hatlo drew a daily series of unrelated editorial and non-fiction gag cartoons for the paper, each time changing the theme and format, basically reinventing the untitled feature for every installment, not unlike Pony Pal™ Mark Newgarden's self-titled alt-weekly comic strip from the late 80s/early 90s.

The one shown here is a classic of the "cartoonists make fun of modern art" genre, and Hatlo certainly had a lot of fun spinning gag after gag free-associated from a study by Pablo Picasso for his 1929 painting Nude Standing By the Sea, which is clipped and taped onto the upper left corner. Not content to only poke fun at Picasso, the comic also features jokes about Herbert Hoover, Babe Ruth, Old Gold cigarettes' ridiculous "Keep Kissable" ad campaign, also mocked by Hatlo in other drawings from this period, and even Paul Chabas's kitsch masterpiece September Morn, making this a unique piece of period satire.

Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time is well known, but these early gag strips have never, to my knowledge, been reprinted in any form. Luckily, I just picked up, in addition to this original drawing, a cache of 25 clippings of this series from the Call-Bulletin, so stay tuned for some rare, inventive, hilarious stuff!

UPDATE: John del Valle, to whom this drawing is dedicated (after production, no doubt), is almost certainly John Austin del Valle (1904 - 1997), who was a drama critic and columnist at the same newspaper, and later a Hollywood publicist.  Here is his obituary at Variety.


Anonymous said...

Sonnuva...!!! I was just researching Little Iodine/They'll Do It every Time this very day and found that Jimmy Hatlo was the originator of that strip, which I recall from Bob Dunn's run in the late 60s to mid 70s! I think my local paper spiked Little Iodine by the late 70s. As for Hatlo, today's the first day I've ever heard of the man.

samael7 said...

<-The Urge to Keep Reading

Anonymous said...

Love this early comic art. Keep it coming, please.

Do you know two of the greatest talents of the period--Clare Victor Dwiggins and Clare Briggs?

Peteykins said...

Briggs is another really early cartoonist, and he worked alongside Tad Dorgan at the NY Journal. He was prolific, too. His stuff hasn't ever really done much for me.

I've never looked at much of "Dwig"'s comic strips. The art is a little too fussy for my tastes. Sometimes it gets really weird, though, so I wouldn't mind seeing more.

I personally wouldn't call them two of the greatest talents of that era, to be honest.

Peteykins said...

Oh, and Briggs is almost certainly one of the people shown in the bullpen scene shown in this drawing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, and a tip of the Hatlo hat!

Anonymous said...

A matter of taste, I guess. They're definitely not Bushmiller-minimalist.

But Dwigs's "School Days" and "Bill's Diary" are beautifully drawn and funny. They're an important link in the whole "bad boy" thing between Tom Sawyer (Dwig did a "Tom Sawyer" strip)and the Little Rascals, Ray Bradbury's work, and beyond. of course, if you don't like the Little Rascals....

He also devised "Rube Goldberg" gimmicks long before Rube Goldberg. He's worth checking out.

Peteykins said...

You're right that it's a matter of taste more than anything. I'm just naturally drawn (ha) to a more spare, iconic style.

My tastes for the earliest stuff is fairly conventional, actually. I love the "founding four": Opper (just acquired a drawing!), Swinnerton (LOVE his stuff), Outcault, and Dirks. I think what I love the most about Tad Dorgan is that he combines the best features of all four of these artists, and paved the way for the lunacy which followed, especially the work of Herriman and Milt Gross.

My favorite early-ish obscurity is the rare work of Charles M. Payne. I dream of owning his work.

Be sure to check out the blog "Strippers Guide" for really unusual and obscure early comics.