Monday, June 21, 2010

Jimmy Hatlo, Bob Dunn: The Cartoonists' World View

There used to be a school of cartooning I think of as "The Man Style".
By "Man" I don't mean "manly", muscular, macho, athletic or anything like that. I mean the style and point of view reflects how men see the world. Men who have to work for a living, who had a tough childhood and had to sweat for everything they have, who have seen the ugliest parts of human nature, yet still can find amusement and jollity in the everyday world of crusty humans.

Jimmy Hatlo is one of these towering giants of cragginess. He appeals to the middle aged man in all of us. Even as a kid, I loved these man cartoonists and identified with them. I think in every lad - and especially in every red blooded cartoonist boy, there lurks a fascination with the world of adults. Adults are funny, with their rules, their bulbous noses, their red-faced frustrations, their mottled, moley skin and scraggly hair- their wrinkly knuckles and crooked stinky toes. Why are these people in charge of the world most kids wonder...and so do the cartoonists.

This drawing style is more than an arbitrary graphic style; it represents a natural philosophy and outlook. Hatlo knows what's funny: fish markets are naturally funny, too much traffic, middle aged men with aches, pains, crustiness, and complaints about the younger generation; all this is natural cartoon fodder for the true cartoonist who draws the world as he lives it.

There were many man cartoonists in the first half of history; in fact probably most of them were crusty, hard boiled realistic dreamers. they were bald, smoked cigars, wore suspenders and hats and had eyeballs that saw throgh every irony of life- their drawing styles were born of this natural cartoonist personality.

Some other funny man cartoonists who really represent the type were Bud Fisher, Bill Holman and Gene Ahern. All these guys would fit in at any lodge meeting.

Man cartoonists saw almost everything from a middle aged man perspective. Hatlo even drew kids who looked middle aged. He had a great strip called Little Iodine starring a tiny man in a dress.

Other artists followed him with his strips and comic books: Bob Dunn and probably more:I don't know who drew the Little Iodine comic books, but he's great. He is dutifully following Hatlo's style, but has added a lot of his own on top of it.
Looks like this cartoonist is also influenced by Milt Gross.
I think this stuff is gorgeous and it makes me really nostalgic; it makes me wanna be a carefree snot-nosed kid again. This scene of Iodine playing with puppets of her parents is so pure. Kids playing and making up games and stories are a million times more creative than what corporate entertainment has become. We need to inject some of this pure fun back into our stale and clinical modern cartoons somehow.
These aren't generic cutesy pie Disneyesque/Cal Arts cherubs. These are buck toothed, freckled and stubbly little terrors who'll do anything to get away with breaking the rules.
This is the kind of stuff that made me wanna be a cartoonist.
I'll put up some more of these covers in another post. If you have any Little Iodine comics, scan them for us will ya? I will link to wherever you put 'em.

Eddie Fitzgerald is the last "man-cartoonist" I can think of and that's a horrible tragedy. Man cartoonists were the foundation of all that was great about cartoons, the heart and sould of our art. At least half of the business was held up by these cigar chomping but gifted and insightful regular guys.

Now instead of mans, we have pampered middle classed suburban kids who have never experienced the grit, grime or sweat of real life. They spend their lives trying to ape each other and aiming to be the one with the hippest ironic modern style -or the one who can draw the squarest fingers, or the one who copies Aaron the best, or the one who wants to marry his Mom.
Where are the funny cartoonists?

See? Hatlo was right about it being funny that us middle aged guys complain about all the young bums who have it easy!