Comic Strip History: Henry Jackson Lewis and The Freeman

Henry Jackson Lewis

Most of the things I've covered previously have been either from the early 20th century, or perhaps the very late 19th century. This time, I'd like to go back a bit further in order to discuss a fascinating man, and a fascinating newspaper, that had quite an effect on newspaper illustration at the time, and continued to have an effect for many years.

The newspaper was one in Indianapolis, called The Freeman, and was African-American owned and operated. It was first published in 1888 by Edward Cooper, and while there were several African-American papers in various cities at the time, The Freeman was the only one that was illustrated. That was its boast, at least, and that fact certainly helped its publicity and circulation.

The most prominent illustrator at The Freeman was Henry Jackson Lewis, who was born, according to the best records anyone has, sometime around 1837 in Water Valley, Mississippi, as a slave. Very little is known about his early life, apart from an accident as a child which left him blin…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: George Luks

George Luks' The Yellow Kid

One of the most interesting periods comic strip history, to me, is the the late 19th and early 20th century, because of the fierce batttles for supremacy between the various newspapers, especially in New York. One of the biggest feuds by far was between the newspapers owned by Joseph Pulitzer and those owned by William Randolph Hearst, and involves one of the earliest newspaper comic strips, "Hogan's Alley," and its most famous character, The Yellow Kid. The strip was created by Richard F. Outcault, but was also drawn for a period by a different artist, the American realist painter George Luks.

Luks is best known for his paintings, which have been featured in many high profile museums in the United States. He is most commonly associated with the "Ashcan" school of realism, which also included artists such as Edward Hopper and George Bellows. Like those other American realists, Luks mainly created art that depicted the common, working class residents of New York City, and the real lives that they lived. Th…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Lyonel Feininger

The Kin-Der-Kids

I have always maintained, and will always maintain, that comic strips of any era can be considered fine art. There's nothing that separates the art that you see in the newspaper and the art that you see in a museum apart from one being in a frame and one being in print. I feel this opinion of mine is bolstered by the fact there are those who are considered fine artists who also created newspaper comic strips.

Lyonel Feininger certainly deserves the label of fine artist. Born in New York, he was sent to Germany at 16 to study music, but ended up studying art instead. He studied at various art schools in Berlin and Paris. He was affiliated with several German Expressionist groups, including the famous Blue Four, which included himself, Paul Klee, Wassilly Kandinsky, and Alexej von Jawlensky. He helped found the Bauhaus school and was the only person to teach there from its inception all the way until it was forced to close. He worked in several different media, including oil, woodcut, charcoal, and ink, in…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: David Lynch

The Angriest Dog in the World

This one might more appropriately be filed under "Unexpected comic strips," as it's a bit of a strange one. While nothing that David Lynch does is necessarily expected, a newspaper comic strip is not the first thing one would imagine a surrealist film and television director might do. Even then, if one tried to imagine of what kind of comic strip said surrealist film and television director might create, I don't think it's likely anything like The Angriest Dog in the World would come to mind.

David Lynch is best known for his movies such as "Eraserhead," "The Elephant Man," "Dune," "Blue Velvet," "Mulholland Drive," and others, as well as his television series "Twin Peaks." Before venturing into film, he originally wanted to be a painter. As such, his films were supposed to be paintings come to life, if such a thing is possible.

In 1983, he decided, for reasons known only to Lynch, to create a comic strip that featured a dog who, according to the caption which accompanied every strip, "...is so angry he…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Dr. Seuss

Hejji, by Dr. Seuss

To be fair, this one isn't quite as unexpected as the last three, but the newspaper comic strip he created is obscure enough that I thought it was important to cover.

Dr. Seuss is, of course, mainly known for his work in children's literature, but much like Johnny Gruelle he got his start in cartooning and illustration. He began as a magazine cartoonist, and his cartoons first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and in the humor publication Judge. He also did quite a few advertising illustrations for Standard Oil, NBC, General Electric, and others. His first book, "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street," was published in 1937. He did quite a lot of political cartooning during World War II, and after the war he would begin his children's book career in earnest. However, in between all of this, for a period of less than a year, he wrote and illustrated a mostly forgotten newspaper comic strip called "Hejji."

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot written about Hejji anywhere, either on the internet or…

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