Monday, August 3, 2015

The Funnies - Special Edition: Happy International Clown Week!

Prepare yourself Coulrophobes, August 1st through 7th is International Clown Week! Yes, a week when roving groups of clowns wander the street unchecked. They may be coming for you right now!

International Clown Week stared in the 1950's, but it wasn't until 1967 that the Clown Club of America (yes, they have a club) began urging its members to write their congressmen and senators to request a presidential proclamation to name August 1-7 as National Clown Week. In 1969 Arkansas Senator John McCleallan, chairman of the US Senate subcommittee on Observances and Holidays (another clown club) met with the members of the CCoA and Public Law 91-443 establishing clown week was presented to Richard Nixon for signature.

In honor of the week, I decided to select a special clown-centric strip from Life Magazine's archives.

How He Escaped from His Border
Life Magazine, November 17, 1904

This un-credited strip ran in 1904 and it reminds me of the work of one of my favorite turn-of-the-century comic artists, Winsor McCay. His strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland launched in October 1905 making it possible this clown is an early example of McCay's groundbreaking style. For comparison, just check out his work from one of the Little Nemo strips below.

The Nemo strip featured a little boy (Little Nemo) facing the incredible inhabitants of the dreamscape of Slumberland. The strip ran in the New York Herald from October 1905 through July 1911. Afterward the strip was renamed In the Land of Wonderful Dreams and ran in William Randolph Hearst's New York American from July 1911 through July 1914. After his run with Hearst, McCay returned to the Herald, restored the strip's original title, and ran it from August of 1924 through December 1926.

McCay was an innovator in the way comic strips flowed across the page. He experimented with panel size, shape, perspective, as well as other details of how images flowed, conforming his strip's look to the details of the story rather than the geometry of the page on which it was printed. His drawings put you into the panel with the characters, when mushrooms grow to gigantic proportions so does the frame that contains them, leaving the characters tiny by comparison. I'll put together a post on Nemo and McCay at a later date, there's plenty to say about him, his creation, and his influences and my intention today was to do a tribute to National Clown Week, not Winsor McCay!

No comments: