Wednesday, April 24, 2013

TADstravaganza Avalanche!

(Click for bigger.)

As many of you know, I'm totally obsessed with early 20th Century cartoonist Thomas "TAD" Dorgan, the Hearst superstar whose work was as popular back then as it is obscure and impenetrable now. "When you write about that cartoonist," a coworker recently asked, "does your readership plummet?" "Well, yes," I admitted, "but the quality of readership goes up."

So anyway, for those who enjoy my posts of Tad's drawings and scans of his work, have I ever got news for you! I recently acquired a cache of no fewer than 800 (!!) clippings of Dorgan's cartoons which some wonderful obsessive cut from the Memphis, TN News Scimitar between 1913 and 1920. About 2/3 of these are "Indoor Sports" panels, and the remainder are "Silk Hat Harry's Divorce Suit" comic strips featuring Tad's roster of alcoholic, vulgar anthropomorphized dogs. I don't know who this wonderful scissor-wielding Tennessean was, but I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

The contents of this cache are astounding. I've only just begun the scanning process, but already it looks like I may have, for instance, a complete run of Tad's 1918 output, and quite likely similar coverage of 1914 and 1915. Looking at such a thorough sampling of his work is already giving me a sharper picture of his evolving style, his sense of humor, and generally what makes his work unique. Obviously I'm not going to post all of them here, but you can expect plenty.

My current favorite is posted above, a wonderfully "meta" example of "Indoor Sports" from 1914 showing the artist himself struggling to come up with ideas for the strip. Searching his fan mail for potential gags, Tad laments, hilariously, that all of his readers' ideas are too hard to draw. "Here's a pip of an idea," begins one, "Have a mob – get me A MOB...", while another suggests "Have 80 guys around a billiard table..."

What's especially amusing about this is that Tad had only just begun "Indoor Sports" within a year of this panel, which is dated April, 1914 (99 years ago!) and already he's complaining about how hard it is to come up with ideas for it.  Dorgan would continue the series for fifteen years, so he had literally thousands of drawings ahead of him, thousands of observations regarding the minutia of modern city life. I wonder if it ever got easier for him?


dianegsocialist said...

I'm reading the Oz books right now and in all of the forewards Baum wrote, he talked about including fan requests in the stories. I like that he was responsive to what his readers wanted -- I believe The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would have been a stand alone book if not for the huge amount of fanmail he got asking for more, and specifically what characters and what sorts of stories they wanted to read. I wonder if the situation with Dorgan was the same -- He was getting tons of fanmail and trying to respond to the people who were so appreciative of his work.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I do enjoy the crowd shots that he drew. Each person was truly an individual. I would want to see his ideas for 80-100 people. The "boobs dancing" letter made me laugh. Thanks!


samael7 said...

Nobody home but the artist, and he's withdrawn.

Peteykins said...

LOL, wow, Samael, you have been paying attention!