Are you familiar with the pre-war comic strip, “Bringing Up Father”? If you’re not, you’re not alone. It’s one of those strips that’s largely been lost to history. People remember other pre-war strips, like Popeye, Blondie, The Katzenjammer Kids, Buster Brown, or even The Yellow Kid, but almost no one remembers “Bringing Up Father”. Sadly, there’s not even good links I could point you to, online — the really good stuff isn’t on the web. It’s sitting in crumbly, 70-year old books that no one reads.
A fact which bums me out, as a cartoonist. Because George McManus, the artist behind the strip, may have been the finest draughtsman to ever sit at a cartoonist’s desk. And I say that with Bill Watterson and David Low books sitting not two feet from me. George McManus…could draw. Like the wind. He could craft images in ways few cartoonists — alive or dead — ever could. He was, simply put, one of the best that ever lived.
And now, in 2007, so few folks have even heard his name in passing. It’s such a bummer. SUCH A BUMMER.
It’s a reminder of the fleeting, passing imprint we leave on this world, perhaps. That he could be so huge, so immensely huge, in the 30’s and 40’s, and now be forgotten. That he could be a millionaire at a time when that meant wealth beyond wealth, that he could have three films made from his strip, and now is found utterly forgotten. Dust in the wind, I suppose. A shade of Kubla Khan.
But! To my point!
I have a secret passion for collecting original cartoon art — with pieces going back to 18th-Century Hogarth and Gillray prints. I have Bloom Countys and Doonesburys and Beetle Baileys and Dennis the Menaces and a whole bunch more. They’re my secret, nerdy love.
It’s why I get so excited whenever anyone chooses to buy a Sheldon original. I know what it means to want a piece so badly you put it up on your wall…in your home…as an expression of you. I do it myself, with the originals I’ve loved. So, when someone chooses to put my stuff on *their* wall….well, I’m on cloud nine.
But still! I am stepping away from my point!
Which is, original art. Specifically, George McManus’ original art.
Though I’ve tried, numerous times over the past decade, to buy this or that McManus original, for various reasons and at various times it’s never worked out. But this weekend, I was able to look at another collector’s extensive gathering of McManus original Sundays…and it was amazing.
Humbling, and awe-inspiring, and amazing.
There were minute-long stretches where I was literally dumbstruck, looking at his line-work up close.
It was so amazing that’s it’s taken me a couple of days to process it all. And now, shaking off the awed silence that comes from seeing the work of a true, true master up close, I want to do this:
I want to publicly thank George MacManus — as stupid as this sounds — for being so utterly and fantastically brilliant in life. I look at your work, and it makes me want to pick up a pen immediately. I look at your work, and I want to dash to a drawing board, as though having just held your artwork will somehow — dear Lord, somehow — imbue me with a tenth of your skill. I look at your work, and it makes me want to dive back in time to your studio, to stand quietly by your side and see how you did what you did. To see the amazing techniques that you developed…techniques I’ve never seen in any other work since.
I want to thank you, long-dead, long-forgotten George McManus. You work continues to live on, and continues to inspire me, 53 years after your death. May you rest in peace, you genius of the craft.