Today let's look at a late product from the Funnies, Inc. comic book packaging company, founded by Lloyd Jacquet in 1939 as First Funnies Inc. One of the earliest heavy players in the budding comic book making business, and also one of the best-paying, they attracted a lot of terrific talent over the years, many of them working freelance at home, not a common practice in those days.
By the time they published the series that we'll look into today, the company was located at 500 Fifth Avenue in New York and still managed by Jacquet. There were only six issues of Juke Box produced, each one stuffed full of popular musical performers and writers, but like many post-war comics it didn't last. Once wartime paper restrictions were lifted, everyone flooded the newstands with too many comics and that generally helped to crush many comic book publishers altogether. A lot of subjects were tried out in the late 1940s, but few books held on for very long.
This first issue of Juke Box is very promising, well-drawn and written throughout, and we'll see most of it today. I plan to showcase excerpts from the other five issues in future WFMU blog posts as they are rife with interesting artists. So come along now and learn about Lindley Armstrong Jones (who he?), the habits and interests of Duke Ellington, fight crime with Benny Goodman, pen some hits with Johnny Mercer, and much more musical excitement - all after the jump!
The cover and the first story were drawn by the terrific Alex Toth (signed as 'Sandy' Toth), who would have also been drawing the Green Lantern over at DC in those days, I believe, along with many other art jobs.
And the next feature is drawn (no writing credits are available for this book) by another one of my Golden Age favorites - Fred Guardineer. Speaking of which, the Funnies Inc. outfit was unusual in that they encouraged artists, and even occasionally writers, to sign their work, very uncommon in the comic book world. Guardineer does some jazzy layouts on this piece.
Next up - a tidy two-pager about famous tunesmith Johnny Mercer, by an unknown artist. Mercer says, "I'm really terribly lazy! I don't do anything!!" A sentiment I completely sympathize with.
Our next selection is illustrated by Sid Green, whose work we've seen before here on BOTB.
Now here's a pretty well-known three-page sequence about Duke Ellington, drawn by Alvin Hollingsworth. Mr. Hollingsworth had a long and interesting fine art career as well as being notable as one of the few African Americans working in the mainstream comic book business; in the 1960s he taught illustration at the High School of Art & Design, on Second Avenue and East 57th Street in Manhattan, and from 1980 on was professor of art at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York. And best of all, as an artist who uses them - he was an expert on flourescent paint!
And we'll wind up this issue with this feature drawn by "R. Johnson", who looks to me like he may have been doing other 'teen' type books and/or funny animal material. A nice and uniquely goofy style of rendering. I love the baby Buddy scenes, he looks so much like an evil ventriloquists puppet! Those bits are kind of nightmarish anyway; the five-year-old prodigy and his monster parents. I feel for the guy more, now!
In closing, here's a bonus illustration found during the preparation of this article - the back cover to the original giveaway book from early 1939 that was the first project of the Funnies Inc. team: Motion Picture Fun Weekly.