Oh, the Places He’s Been: Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

« Theodor Geisel spent his workdays ensconced in his private studio, the walls lined with sketches and drawings, in a bell-tower outside his La Jolla, California, house. Geisel was a much more quiet man than his jocular rhymes suggest. He rarely ventured out in public to meet his young readership, fretting that kids would expect a merry, outspoken, Cat in the Hat-like figure, and would be disappointed with his reserved personality. » — Susan Cain

Today, we honour Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), born one hundred and eighteen years ago and better known under his nom de plume of Dr. Seuss (one of several, such as Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, Dr. Theodophilus Seuss, Theo LeSieg, L. Pasteur, D.G. Rossetti, and Rosetta Stone. The man loved a good pseudonym.) And no, he wasn’t actually a doctor, though he contributed to more people’s well-being than most physicians could dream of. His alma mater, Dartmouth College, did bestow upon him an honorary doctorate, in 1956. Furthermore, it renamed, in 2012, its medical school (fourth oldest in the United States, founded in 1797) Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in recognition of the good man’s financial contributions over the years. Cool, uh?

Moreover, « Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association. »

It certainly did in my case — when I wanted to learn English as a kid, his books were the ones I reached for. Results!
Geisel’s cover for Judge‘s March, 1933 issue.
A sample of his 1930’s magazine work. Dang — now I can’t get that song out of my head.
And another. Teetotallers may not know (or they may know too well, hence the abstinence) that DT stands for the latin delirium tremens, or alcohol withdrawal-induced delirium. As for these beasts, you’ll have cause to worry if you should See Them Everywhere, and not merely aboard Goah’s Ark.
« Long before his success as Dr. Seuss, Theodore Geisel (Dartmouth Class of 1925), designed advertisements for Flit, Standard Oil Company’s wildly popular spray-pump insecticide which later contained DDT. Over the course of 17 years, Geisel’s humorous advertisements helped make Flit a household name throughout the 1930s and 1940s. At the time, liberal spraying of pesticides around people, animals, and crops was highly encouraged with little regard to potential environmental impacts. » [ source ]. This particular ad hails from 1930.
Given the scope of Geisel’s genius and the length of the ad campaign, there are many, many highlights.
More like ‘Bug Game Hunter’!
Over the years, these ads came in every format.
A 1941 poster for Flit. The casual, harum-scarum use of dangerous chemicals may seem quaint to our jaded modern eye, but it goes on, all right. Personally, I cringe when I encounter ads for Procter and Gamble’s Febreze, for instance. Seems a tad irresponsible to me, given the risks.
This is the opening installment of Hejji, Geisel’s very short-lived (April 7 to June 23, 1935, twelve episodes in all — read them all here) Sunday comic strip, the man’s sole entry into the syndicated comic strip arena, preceding by a couple of years the publication of his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937). Hejji was oh-so-briefly published by William Randolph Hearst’s King Features Syndicate. Fickle, fickle!

« In these pages Dr. Seuss was already introducing us to his wonderful talent for creating unusual and delightful creatures. Hejji and his master “The Mighty One” would meet many an odd creature like Bearded Bees, Wombats, and the great Pitzu bird. All of these would be encountered in the attempt to impress the object of “Mighty One’s love, “The Fair One”. Unfortunately, as the legend goes, Seuss was let go during great depression job cuts by William Randolph Hearst. Of course Seuss would later go on to create his extraordinary children’s books including Cat in the Hat, and The Grinch that stole Christmas. Hejji pages are some of the rarest and most sought-after on the comic-strip market. Printed exclusively as Tabs and only carried in a few newspapers, their rarity is as great as the popularity of their creator. As a result, each and every page carries the highest premium. » [ source ]

In 1982, Darmouth College commissioned none other than Everett Raymond Kinstler to paint this portrait (oil on canvas) of his esteemed colleague.

-RG

Tentacle Tuesday: The Jungle Queens

« Beware, bwana — beware its tentacles! »

Cue in the taut, frantic jungle drums! Picture this: through a thick tangle of brush and tropical vegetation, prances a fair maiden who is quite unaffected by spiky plants or venomous insects. She’s the staunch defender of jungle animals, friend to jaguar or hippo (or whatever other animal the artist’s imagination conjures, even if it’s entirely inappropriate to a jungle… but who cares about zoological accuracy?) One creature this wild child is definitely not a friend to, however, is the octopus: anything with tentacles gets stabbed and killed, as expediently as possible. That’s little cause for concern, however – the real octopus, who lives only in oceans, has little use for a jungle… so whatever’s getting killed must be an impostor or a mutant.

I am amused by jungle comics, which perhaps require an even more dramatic suspension of disbelief than many an equally action-oriented genre.  The female protagonists, usually clad in some sort of leopard/jaguar skin (which makes one wonder why big felines even want to hang out with someone wearing their relatives’ pelt), are usually portrayed as guardians of the wilderness… but some of them kill an awful lot of animals for supposed protectors of the feral kingdom. The blonde Sheena (first female comic book character with her own series), equally blonde Lorna the Jungle Girl (Atlas-published, a rival to Fiction House’s Sheena), Avon’s Taanda – White Princess of the Jungle, Camilla – Wild Girl of the Congo (a case of Fiction House knocking off their own Sheena)… the list definitely goes on. That’s quite a few jungle queens bouncing around, dealing with hostile tribesmen getting uppity, lethal white hunters up to no good and would-be Romeos perpetually being held hostage. Sometimes they even have cat fights and overthrow one another. Very amusing indeed. Pepper the dialogue with lots of bwanas, toss in an epic rescue of hapless natives, and you’re all set.

To be fair, however, some Golden Age jungle comics boast fetching art and compelling stories in which natives are their own agents and her Royal Highness gets to show off her wits (and her gams) to best advantage. It’s hard to dislike stories in which a strong, clever woman gets to save the day.

Without further ado, I present Jungle Queen vs Octopus!

First up, there’s Sheena, who has struggled with quite a few tentacles in her day:

Jumbo Comics #31-Sheena-Voodootreasureofblackslavelake
Page from «Voodoo Treasure of Black Slave Lake», scripted by W. Morgan Thomas, pencilled by Robert Webb, and inked by David Heames, published in Jumbo Comics no. 31 (September 1941, Fiction House).

Jumbo Comics #87
«Sargasso of Lost Safaris», pencilled by Robert Webb and inked by Ann Brewster, published in Jumbo Comics no. 87 (May 1946, Fiction House). What the heck does the Sargasso sea have to do with a jungle? I’d like to know.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #5
Untitled story from Sheena, Queen of the Jungle no. 5 (Summer 1949, Fiction House). Art by Robert Webb.

Sheena, Queen of the Jungle #12
Panels from «The Beasts That Dawn Begot!» drawn by Robert Webb, published in Sheena, Queen of the Jungle no. 12 (Summer 1951, Fiction House).

Time for other queens to borrow Sheena’s spotlight:

Jungle Comics #105-JohnCelardo
«The Red Witch of Ubangi-Shan», with art by John Celardo, published in Jungle Comics no. 105 (September 1948, Fiction House). Technically, this inclusion goes against my main theme – for Käanga has a very stupid mate who has to be rescued at every turn. She may wear a leopard bikini, but she’s nothing but a Damsel in Distress. Boo.

This Camilla story was scripted by Victor Ibsen and drawn by Ralph Mayo, and was published in Jungle Comics no. 144 (1951, Fiction House):

Jungle Comics #144

Jungle Comics #144 -2
A raft full of musclebound men and Camilla has to be the one to stab the octopus. Her contempt is well justified, as Asheley is clearly a loser.

We’ve had a lot of blondes so far, how about a redhead?

White-Princess-of-the-Jungle-#4
White Princess of the Jungle no. 4 (August 1952, Avon), cover by Everett Raymond Kinstler.

The cover story, «Fangs of the Swamp Beast»:

White Princess of the Jungle #4-swampbeast

White Princess of the Jungle #4-1

Back to our regularly scheduled blonde heroine! This is «The Devil’s Lagoon», scripted by Don Rico and drawn by Werner Roth, published in Lorna the Jungle Queen no. 4 (December 1953, Atlas):

Lorna the Jungle Queen #4-devil's lagoon
Lorna has the talent of plunging into water boobs first, and using them to optimize buoyancy.

LornaTheJungleQueen#4-devil'slagoon-savageye
Again with the bust-ridiculously-stuck-out pose in the first panel.

LornaTheJungleQueen#4-2

For a chuckle, read Stupid Comics‘ critique of Devil’s Lagoon here. Moving on, I have no wish to be unfair to brunettes, especially given that I generally prefer them:

AllTop16A
All Top Comics no. 16 (March 1949, Fox). Cover by Matt Baker. Sure features plenty of top, doesn’t it? That’s Rulah, by the way – you guessed it, Rulah, the Jungle Goddess (well, at least she’s not a queen), one of those run-amok women who has no qualms killing animal or human.

Here’s a rather amusing explanation for Rulah’s raison d’être from Toonopedia: «One day, while piloting a small plane across Darkest Africa, she crash-landed where civilization had scarcely been heard of. Her clothes were damaged to the point of leaving her butt naked (“like Eve in the Garden,” she mused), modesty preserved only by shadows and strategically-placed vegetation — yet, her skin wasn’t noticeably scratched or abraded. Fortunately, her plane had whacked a giraffe on the way down, so she skinned it and skillfully fashioned a fetching bikini from the raw, uncured pelt. Her uncovered parts were no more bothered by thorns, rough bark, poison ivy and the like, than were her bare feet. Next, she saved a tribe from the local tyrant, a white jungle queen much like herself, and was proclaimed its ruler — provided she could prove herself by killing a starving leopard with nothing but a dagger, which she did.»

Vooda22A
Another brunette! Vooda no. 22 (August 1955, Farrell). Note that Jungle Queens are only allowed to have hoop earrings, preferably gold.

Phew, that tromp through the jungle wore me out! Until next Tentacle Tuesday…

~ ds