Thursday, July 19, 2012

Art Collection: "Outdoor Sports" Drawing By "Tad" Dorgan, Ca. 1920-1922

(Click for bigger.)

Resuming Tadstravaganza after a bit of a break. This is the original drawing for an early 1920s Outdoor Sports panel, and it follows the specs of all the other ones in my collection.

Whenever I see Tad using silhouettes and dot screens (indicated by the non-repro blue pencil), I assume he was up against a deadline and did a rushed job by employing shortcuts. That said, this is a wonderful drawing and a superb composition, even if it isn't necessarily "hilarious." The addition of the dot-screen gray tone must have resulted in an unusually atmospheric drawing for Dorgan. It's also a great reminder that early automobiles were basically wagons with flimsy motors. I'm sure that period readers would have found it outrageous that a woman was helping to push the vehicle.

I'm frustrated by my inability (so far) to securely date this drawing (two memos and an engraving order, which would have been dated, have all been torn off the verso), and here is why:

Tad is often credited for popularizing the phrase yes, we have no bananas, but the various resources I've found on the web are contradictory and muddled. Like other catch-phrases credited to him, it is possible, even probable, that he didn't invent the phrase himself, but was responsible for spreading the meme nationwide, and it's safe to say that the song, which dates to 1922-3, would never have been written had it not been for Tad. This drawing very likely predates the song, but could it possibly be the first use of the phrase in print? I should be so lucky.

What I'll have to do is obtain microfilm (urrrrgh) of the NY Evening Journal from the good ol' Library of Congress to find out. The microfilm comes in two-month batches, so I've got quite a slog ahead of me. I'll let you know what I find!


Shawnboy said...

I hope that you have THE BANANA!
Let us PSP readers know!

samael7 said...

If it's a rush job, it doesn't seem like it, but that's what a good artist can do, I suppose.

His little asides, like the "Yes, we have no" stuff . . . how was it supposed to be read in the context of the comic? I never quite "got" it. Was it the snappy equivalent of "Shave and a haircut, two bits" or a running gag thing (which he may or may not have started, but which enough people realized/understood), like an SNL beaten-to-death joke?

I don't mind it, or anything, but it's just not something you really see anymore in the funnies. Kinda curious about how it came and went.

Peteykins said...

Samael, that's a really good question, and one that can probably never be answered. What Tad seems to do is construct his "primary gag" for the cartoon, and then he'll often add unrelated "secondary gags" in the corners or margins, almost like a feature within a feature. It's as if the comics had a dual purpose: one, to create a funny drawing of a common situation, and the other to put forward the latest slang terms he wanted to promote, almost like it was a game to him to see what would catch on.

If you look at his earlier "Daffydils" feature, it's complete chaos, totally unfocused. If anything, these later ones are quite a bit more coherent.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea what the 'end of a perfect jay' line means?

I've been following your Tadstravaganza for a little while now and enjoying it muchly! Thank you!

Peteykins said...

"The end of a perfect day" is a line in a very popular parlor song from the period which describes a sunset scene. So I'm guessing Tad just made the guy's named "Jay" to pun on the song.

Anonymous said...

The woman in front has the face of a jaybird. What's up with that? Does that tie into the pun at the end?

Anonymous said...

.thanks for sharing