Friday, October 30, 2009

Stylish Flintstones Comics

Chris Lopez has done us another great turn. I don't know where he gets these old comic strips, but it's generous of him to share them with the world.
I loved these comics when I was a kid. I'm more critical of them now, but still enjoy looking at them. I wish I had them all.
Most of the drawings are probably Gene Hazelton (according to Chris they might be Dick Bickenbach) but both had very pleasing, sedate but somewhat modern styles.
Someone drew a good dead Fred.
This looks like an Ed Benedict character. He told me he ghosted for awhile in the 60s.
I love the great lettering in the comics. The title lettering was always a thrill. Unfortunately these are from truncated versions of the strips that leave out the title panels and possibly other panels. What a crime!
I have been spoiled by widened tastes and discovering many more great cartoonists over the years. Harvey Eisenberg's careful compositions and perfectly balanced poses make me think of these comics as being kind of clumsy by comparison. Milt Gross' wild layouts and funny posing makes this stuff seem really tame to me now.
I think the big difference between strips that catch on and strips that may be great, but not so popular is character. I'm of the opinion that a wide audience reacts best to cartoons about characters, rather than mere genius of execution - or even humor. They'll take mild humor with strong characters over hilarity with weak characters.

Milt Gross, Harvey Kurtzman, Geo. Herriman all did brilliant work, but never created strong characters that the public could latch on to. Segar, a lesser draftsman than all mentioned created Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto and a host of interesting characters who could carry long stories and many stories. That's the key. He has drawing skill for sure, but is not as adventurous visually as the other guys.

The Flintstones were such strong and distinct characters on TV, that they didn't need to be executed brilliantly in order to last 3 decades. A mere 6 seasons were played over and over again forever because the public got the characters. They seemed like real folks and people like to hang around with characters more than with geniuses. Same thing can probably be said about Peanuts. Or the Simpsons. I've never thought much of the meandering stories and weak gags in the Simpsons, but I sort of understand how the public got used to the characters through sheer exposure. It's on 12 times a day. It eventually became like visiting your neighbors and befriending them. Even if your neighbors are boring, they are easily accessible and recognizable, so you enjoy their company through familiarity and habit.

Tex Avery on the other hand is an obvious genius, an innovator and very funny, but he never achieved the popularity of the Warner Bros. characters or even Tom and Jerry, who are barely characters at all - but at least they never go away. People got used to T&J because it's all Bill and Joe made for almost 20 years. Tex never settled on any strong characters and it robbed him of the acclaim and riches his greater talent deserved.

The Flintstones comics weren't funny and didn't match the show concept exactly, but were stylish enough to look at and our already strong familiarity of the likeable TV characters made us enjoy the strip version - at least until it got too influenced by late 60s comic strip styles and no longer had any resemblance to the Flintstones. I love silhouette panels in comics and the odd time they do it in animated cartoons. It really tests an artists' skills to make something read clearly in silhouette.
Familiar characters done reasonably well give us comfort. Genius makes us feel and think - or run away if we are kind of stupid. Some folks just want to relax and forget about the day's troubles.

I like Clampett because he gives us everything - fantastic characters and funny stories with great execution.

Hey do me a favor, willya? Type in "Clampett" in that Ligit search slot at the upper right of the blog and see what happens. I'm doing a test.


Mashie The Pup said...

Clampett brought back 277 matches, FYI. You doing an article on those horrid Beverly Hillbillies comic books next? J/K.

Speaking of comics based on cartoons, what'd ya think of the old Marvel "Ren & Stimpy" comics, if you ever looked at it at all? I enjoyed it when Mike Kazaleh was doing the art, at least.

Gary Wintle said...

I put up a post on my practice blog
with what I saw when I put in the Clampett search.

Hope that helps.

ps (just happened to read the bottom of this by chance, now time to dive into this awesome looking Flintstones post)

James Nuttings Littlefilms said...

hi John! This question has nothing to do with this post, but it's a question i have been wanting to ask you for you like Richard Williams animation?
The reason i ask is because i love his book and i think its the greatest book on animation principles i have ever read. But he has a totally different style to your own, and you have mentioned him in some of your posts, so i wondered what you thought of him and his work.

ALSO...i live in england so the only Loony Tunes DVD's available to me are volumes 1-4, i loved your commentaries on volumes 2 and 3. Do you do any interviews or commentaries on any more of the Looney Tunes DVD's???


Shorty said...

Typing Clampett in the search field opens up a floating window in the same tab with the search results.

Looks like this.

Dorseytunes said...

Wow! It's great to see how many things pop up on the search. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

The Lijit search reveals loads (227) of posts labelled 'Clampett'. I use that search all the time & it pretty much always gets me what i want.

Typing "Clampett lip synch" reveals that awesome 'calling all cars' animation which made me sit up wide-eyed & slack-jawed. Typing "Clampett lip SYNC" however reveals nothing.

It doesn't seem to organise the search results in a consecutive order though (at least not one that i can see).

I do find it a very useful search tool, but it certainly helps to know EXACTLY what you're looking for.


Bob Lilly said...

The Clampett search test instantly gave me 16 pages of Bob Clampett references from the John K Stuff blog. Works just fine.
Enjoyed the Flintstones post.
I'll agree with you that the mainstream public enjoys the character centered cartooning and doesn't focus on the good artwork. In comparing one Cartoonist to another... a cartoonist like Segar might not be as skilled as Eisenburg in some areas, but nobody else has ever been able to capture the same qualities in his characters Popeye and Wimpy. Anyone else who tries to draw the Peanuts characters comes across as a second rate Schulz.
Of course I enjoy cartooning that is collaborative, like the Spumco and H-B, and Warners stuff and I appreciate that John K. is not slavishly driven to keep every drawing of every character "on model"

ArtF said...

these are nice, they bring back memories of being a kid! the only difference is i read these in spanish.

i typed "clampett" into the search box and got links to all of your Clampett posts. hope that helps ya, John.

Amanda H. said...

I never thought about it that way, with Flintstones being strong characters.
On the other hand, The lettering is really nice in those comics

John said...

Great! Here's a study I did of this - yep, I'm still trying to get into your school, John!

384Sprites said...

Great observations, thanks for sharing.

Paul B said...

nothing strange happens to me when I wrote clampett

Elana Pritchard said...

People will accept imperfection in exchange for humanity because no one in in the world is perfect.

People think of good characters as their friends or family in an ever increasingly estranged culture.

p.s. the Simpsons did have some good writing back in the day

Niki said...

Well it's around 16 pages of Clampett if that's what you'd like to know. I'm also downloading these onto my laptop, they show Flintstones on Boomerang and I still watch it a lot!

Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7

I also have these to show because I haven't had internet in the past few days

peldma3 said...


The Clampett search brings up alot of links.


Hey John,

I'm not certain that these were from the hand of Dick Bickenbach, although the styling of the characters is similar to the model sheets he drew. Gene Hazelton perhaps drew rough thumbnails for these strips, but the final art is definitely not his.

I've read about an artist named Dale Hale who drew the Flintstones strip for a while, so maybe he was responisble for these.

JohnK said...

Thanks Mark!

Seems lke lots of folks took turns. Do you think Gene inked everything?

Even the Eisenberg strips have that stylish inking.

Kali Fontecchio said...

I agree about the Simpsons, people love familiarity.

Chris said...

I credited Dick Bickenbach according to the email
from Joe Messerli sent to Pat Owsley about who drew the strips.
I love these strips. Though you may be tainted by other influences and your own keen eye, if you hold these inferior strips next to any of today's comics, including Mutts, these will be genius in comparison. There isn't anything today that can hold a candle to these Flintstones Sundays, let alone any Hazelton dailies.

I do have more of The Flintstones and Yogi Bear Sundays to post. I do wish I had the full versions as well. I love the different lettering styles. I think it's great that the lettering is part of the artwork and not some layer in Photoshop with stock fonts.

Thanks to everyone for visiting my site.


I think that Gene Hazelton may have done some of the inking, but Iwao told me that a gentleman by the name of Lee Hooper (who later went on to ink the H-B Marvel comics) inked the comic strips. Whether that applies to both the Yogi and Flintstones strips, I just don't know.

As you said, a number of artists took turns drawing them. They really were assembly line products.

The Artist Aficionado said...

Great comics. Personally I like to see off model versions of most cartoon characters especially the Flintstones. So for this comic book to explore outside of the sixties Ed Benedict Hannah-Barbara style is actually a treat.

I like seeing classic cartoon characters explore different styles. Not that its ethical for all cartoons. Though I try to experiment with cartoon characters in different forms and styles kind of like dissecting an artists original character.

Hans Flagon said...

John, any opinions on Jack Coles staging in Plastic Man? because for some reason, that popped into my head when you mentioned Milt Gross.

smackmonkey said...

Kali said...
"I agree about the Simpsons, people love familiarity."

Hence Family Guy. I think the Peanuts are in a completely different category from the Simpsons. I was always amazed at how much information and insight Schultz put into so few panels. Both children AND adults could identify and sympathize with the characters unlike FG or the Simpsons where over-the-top compulsive personalities are aimed at providing vicarious entertainment via outlandish escapades. In real life such people are to be pitied and rarely survive to maturity without extensive incarceration.

To simplify: Charlie Brown alwaysy misses kicking the football when Lucy when pulls it away. Homer, on the other hand, eats greasy donuts until his duodenum explodes (or whatever).

As to the strips:
I really love the spot blacks on Barney and Wilma. The floor with the white spots is very cool and only required a little white outlining of Barney's togs at the bottom. A careful (i.e. - if the artist had more time and $$$) rethinking of the placement of the spots and I think there would have been no need for the outlining. The silo shot is great as well. It's very difficult to get "dot" eyes to read when done that way as they tend to look vacuous.

Chris said...

Here's the email from Joe Messerli to Patrick Owsley:

Nice site. For most of the 60s I inked and letteredthe FLINTSTONE daily and Sunday strips for Gene Hazelton at Hanna-Barbera on a freelance basis. On Tuesdays, I would go into the H-B Studio; Gene would also go in. We'd go into a little room. I'd deliver finishes, Gene would check them over and give me new pencil drawings (with scripts). Gene always drew the FLINTSTONE DAILIES. Dick Bickenbach penciled the FLINTSTONE Sunday (occasionally Gene did). Harvey Eisenberg penciled the YOGI BEAR daily panel and the Sunday page … until he died. Then, Harvey's son Jerry Eisenberg took over. I inked and lettered Yogi for quite a while.

Hope this clarifies things some, but probably just adds to the confusion over who did what. =)

Yowp said...

John, this is where my untrained eye leaves me completely baffled.

How can I tell the difference between Bick and Gene Hazelton? Is there something exclusive to each artist to look for? Or for Harvey?

I guess it's just a matter of studying. As a kid, I could watch the Peanuts specials and know Charles Schulz didn't draw them. You could tell. They just didn't look quite right.