You are the writer and artist of the Lum
and Abner comicstrip - so please explain, especially for those of
my readers not familiar with Lum
and Abner of old, what is your comic all about?
the comic strip, is based on the American radio comedy program of the same
name, so I write a continuity that presents those characters and a few I
introduce from time to time in a format that resembles the shows somewhat,
but I have to adapt it to the style of a Sunday newspaper strip. It takes
place mostly in Pine Ridge,
Arkansas, which is a real town, by the way. The characters are friendly,
small-town people, a little exaggerated, but not much different than my
own relatives who are from
Arkansas. I keep the characters in the basic time period of the radio show, mainly
the 1930s and ‘40s. It’s suitable for family reading - or listening -
since I also do an audio adaptation every week.
inspired you to turn exactly these two into comicstrip characters?
For one thing, I love what has become
known as “Old Time Radio”. I love the dramas, the comedies, everything
I started hearing Lum and Abner
in 1980, first on a college radio station, thanks to a professor named Dr.
Joe Oliver, and then in 1981 on an AM radio station, KHYM-1060, near my
then-home in Spring Hill, just outside of Longview, Texas. I was hooked by
the daily 15-minute serialized stories.
A good friend, David Miller, got into
listening to the shows in his town, and we started researching the
characters. We were impressed that the show was created by two boyhood
friends who grew up in Mena,
Arkansas, which was only about four hours from where I lived. There was an older
gentleman named George Lillie who’d done a lot of research on Lum
and we all saw national newspaper articles about him, and through him, a
man named Sam Brown of Illinois
contacted us, and that started a long friendship.
We learned there was a Lum and
Abner Museum in the real Pine Ridge,
Arkansas, and Sam and I met there in 1982 during their Lum and Abner Days
festival. I was finishing college a bit late, but a younger college
student named Tim Hollis of
Alabama located Sam and me in 1983. In 1984, we founded a radio historical
organization called the National Lum and Abner Society, and started
publishing a bimonthly newsletter called The Jot ‘Em Down Journal,
which ran until 2007.
Starting in 1985, we produced an annual
NLAS Convention in the Pine Ridge and Mena area, and invited numerous Old
Time Radio (“OTR”) celebrities to be our guest stars. We managed to
bring in most of the surviving actors, writers, announcers, producers, and
friends who worked with Lum and Abner, or Chester Lauck and Norris Goff.
Sadly, we were too late to meet Lauck and Goff themselves, but members of
their families made it to our conventions.
Donnie at the drawing board
Our last NLAS Convention was in 2005,
but in 2011 and 2015, we produced two “NLAS Reunions” I suppose
you’d call them. I just returned from the most recent one. We were
unable to have anyone who worked with Lauck and Goff, sadly, due to the
few that survive being of advanced age, so we had two world-syndicated
newspaper cartoonists who love Lum
and Abner. John Rose, who writes and
draws another rural humor strip, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith,
and Mike Curtis, who writes Dick Tracy, were our guest stars.
I’d say “all of the above” inspired me to want to produce a comic
strip about Lum
and Abner! That, and the fact that there was never a strip
about them, although Chester Lauck did draw his own caricatures of them in
their various printed premiums.
Abner actually under copyright - and if so, what kind of a challenge was it to
get permission to use them?
name or title “Lum and Abner” is a registered trademark, and it is
owned by Chester H. Lauck jr, the son of the man who co-created the show
and played the part of Lum. Since I'd contacted him back in 1984 to secure
permission for us to found the National Lum and Abner Society, I knew him
already. When I decided to try a comic strip based on the characters in
2011, I contacted Mr. Lauck. He wanted to see samples, so I worked up
model sheets and four weeks of strips. He asked for a few changes, we
worked out the financial arrangements, and he approved the launch of the
project which we announced at the 2011 NLAS Reunion in Mena,
Arkansas. I like the fact that we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the Lum
and Abner radio show by introducing the characters in a format that
was new for them.
What can you tell us about
the look and feel of your comicstrip, and is it in any way influenced by
the comicstrips from back of Lum
and Abner's days, stylistically?
I'm a fan of the classic comic strips
and comic books, as well as animated films, so I lean more toward what I
call the "classic" style. Chester Lauck's style of drawing Lum
and Abner characters is more "bigfoot," which I love.
"Bigfoot" in comics is a term that goes back to the circus, with
clowns and their big shoes, or big feet. Bigfoot characters are often
round-headed and exaggerated and really comical. Mickey Mouse, Popeye,
Snuffy Smith, all those characters fall into that category.
But I thought about the fact that many
folks knew Lum and Abner from the movies, which, of course, starred real
people, Lauck and Goff themselves, and they would expect a more realistic
look. I decided to go for a "happy medium" in the look of the
characters, but I think I've moved it toward more of a bigfoot look as the
past four years have moved along. I like to exaggerate facial expressions
and poses for comedic effect.
What can you
tell us about your comicstrip's brand of humour, and to what extent do you
borrow from Lum
and Abner's radio programs and movies?
I try to keep the strip in line with the
kind of humor the Lum
radio shows and films provided.
There are some wonderful characters in the mythical Pine Ridge, and some
were based on real people in the real Pine Ridge, which was originally
known as Waters,
Arkansas. On first listen, a newcomer might think the shows are slow and boring,
as I did, but you need to relax with them and allow them to transport you
back in time. The accents and expressions and general feel of the programs
is like stepping back into my childhood and spending time around my own
family members - my grandparents, uncles, aunts in Arkansas
East Texas. I remember going to little country stores and hearing the old fellows
telling tall tales, and spending my pennies on hard candy and just hearing
the breeze rustle the trees. In some ways, Lum
reading a Mark Twain novel. There is comedy, but also adventure and
I've written all but two of the
continuities I've illustrated. One was based on a series of recurring
dreams. I called it Murder! in Pine Ridge? and first wrote it
as a script we performed at the 2003 NLAS Convention. We had two amazing
guest stars. One was actress Kay Linaker, who, in addition to being Lum's
love interest in the 1943 film Two Weeks to Live, was also in
several Charlie Chan films at Fox. I cast her in dual roles as the
"woman of mystery" and as "Miss Earline Biggers"
(named for Earl Derr Biggers, creator of Charlie Chan), a librarian Lum
was in love with. We had cartoon voice man Dal McKennon
("Gumby") as Charlie Chan. What a great time we had!
Lum and Abner with Kay Linaker in Two Weeks
I turned that into a comic strip story
than ran several weeks, but had to write Chan out, of course. Couldn't
afford the rights. It became a dark mystery at times. Other stories have
been lighthearted, dealing with Lum's latest attempts at romance, or
Abner's confusion over simple matters.
There is a lot of wordplay in Lum and
Abner. Lum will use an expression, like, perhaps, "Abner, we've
got to bite the bullet and get this done," and Abner will take it
literally, and say, "HUH?" and go off on a tangent, which leaves
Lum frustrated. Lum pronounced his last name of "Edwards" as
"Eddards" and called his expressions "Old Eddards
Sayin's." Those moments in the radio series are classics, and among
my favorites, so I try to present similar routines in the strips.
I've used characters from both the radio
shows and the movies. Two movie characters I adapted are little boys named
Jimmy and Washington who have been in several of my strips. Another
character from radio is the town bully, Snake Hogan. So I try to mine both
I've adapted two stories from original
Lauck and Goff radio scripts of the 1930s. These are scripts for which no
recordings exist. In 1936, Lum tried to run for U.S. President, and
failed, of course, and in another series, he tried to become a prize
fighter. I'm sure I'll revisit those old scripts in the future for more
Which were your favourite and least favourite films of the
Good question, and a hard one to answer.
I like all the movies, but the one that really seems closest to the radio
series, and may be my favorite, is The Bashful Bachelor. It was
adapted from scripts written by Lauck and Goff themselves, and was the
movie I ever saw. Incidentally, we had their costar, Louise
Currie, as our NLAS Convention guest in 1992 when
we celebrated the 50th anniversary of that film with a special
screening in Mena,
Arkansas. Miss Currie lived to be 100 years old! She was reported dead several
years ago, and our Sam Brown cleared that up. He called Louise, and she
said, "As far as I know, I'm still alive!"
films all vary from the
radio show in various jarring ways, but they're still entertaining. Lauck
and Goff play their characters of Lum and Abner using heavy old-age
makeup, since they were only in their 30s and 40s at the time, so you have
total authenticity there, although to me it's still a bit awkward, since
I'd developed a mental image of each character. That's the problem
adapting radio to a visual medium. In fact, there are some who contacted
me about the comic strip, and said, "I just can't read your strip.
Nothing looks right, and nothing ever will." I fully understand.
I think it is universally agreed that
the worst Lum
film of all time is Lum and Abner Abroad, their
seventh. It was the last production of their careers, and they undertook
it at the end of their radio season in 1954. Their head writer for many
years, Roswell Rogers, told us Lauck and Goff contracted with the Nassour
Brothers who wanted to produce a film using frozen funds in
Europe. The idea was that the characters of Lum and Abner had won a contest to
be "Good Will Ambassadors" for the
United States, and they got to tour
Europe. Actually, the film was started as a TV series, and each segment was to
be in another country.
The problem is the three pilots were
Yugoslavia, where the film studio was using technology equivalent to the advent of
sound motion pictures. Everything was shot in and around
Zagreb, even though Lum and Abner were supposed to also be in France
and Monte Carlo!
In one segment, shooting was done on
location in an old castle, and the cast and crew got stranded overnight
because the drawbridge froze up. Lauck and Goff spend a cold, damp night
there, and before trying to sleep, Norris "Tuffy" Goff asked
Chet Lauck, "Why don't we quit this business?" Lauck said he'd
think it over. The next day, he agreed, they shook hands, and decided to
finish the filming and call it quits.
The pilot episodes did not sell to
television. They were so crudely produced. Howco, a production company
Texarkana, a city not far from where I live, released the three segments, awkwardly
edited into a feature. For years, it was reported that this film had never
been released, but we later found evidence of some bookings at small
theaters in 1956 or so. It went unseen for decades until Chester Lauck jr released it on home video in 1985.
other six films were all well-produced and entertaining. Even though Lum
and Abner Abroad might "feel" like an Edward D. Wood jr [Ed
Wood bio - click here] production, though, I must say the characters of Lum and Abner come off
perfectly, thanks to the talent of Lauck and Goff!
always release your comicstrips together with little audioplays for your
blind audiences. So what gave you that idea, and do talk about these
recording sessions for a bit!
This came about when we first announced
the comic strip. I have several blind friends, and some of them
congratulated me, and said, "Maybe I can find someone to read them to
me," or "That's great, but I won't be able to follow the
strips." One guy suggested I include a text file with each strip, one
that would read like a radio script. I liked that idea. They told me their
screen-readers wouldn't translate comic strip lettering, which is done by
hand. Or it's a computer font based on hand lettering.
At the time, 2011, the strip was being
carried by a web-based news organization called FirstArkansasNews. I asked
the editor if we could include a link to an audio file. He thought it was
a good idea, so we started including audio adaptations from the official
Cast of "Lum and Abner Meet Snuffy Smith
and Dick Tracy," performed June 6, 2015, Mena, Arkansas, in
"Old Time Radio" style. Left-to-right: John Rose
(cartoonist of "Snuffy Smith," playing that part), Mike
Curtis (writer of "Dick Tracy," playing that part), and
National Lum and Abner Society Founders Sam Brown (as Dick
Huddleston), Tim Hollis (as Lum, Grandpap, and Snake Hogan) and
Donnie Pitchford (as Abner and Squire Skimp). Also in the cast were
Jeff Sinsley as Coffee, and Candace Riner as Little Orphan Annie
Most of the audio versions are one-man
shows. I never claim to be able to duplicate the great character voices of
Lauck and Goff. I just try to get close enough to make the strips come to
life for the blind audience. I include music and sound effects too.
I used to use recordings of the original
themes for the music, but about a year into the project, a talented
composer-musician named Marc Ridgeway contacted me and asked if he could
provide some new music. I was happy to do that! The sound effects are
sometimes created live, and sometimes they're vintage ones from the old
Valentino library of discs.
Currently, I have help on the audio. I
was able to record a dozen or so scripts on location in Mena and
Arkansas, with my friends Sam Brown and Tim Hollis providing many of the character
voices. We'll also have John Rose and Mike Curtis as themselves in one
strip and audio segment, and Kathy Stucker, owner-manager of the Lum and
Abner Museum, in another. I mentioned the young boys in Pine Ridge. For 25 years, I
was an educator-broadcaster for Carthage ISD here in
Texas, and two graduates of my program, known as CHS-TV, played those parts -
Kyle Cage and Daron McDaniel. Another graduate, Jackson Herod, played the
part of the town bully, Snake Hogan. These guys do a great job!
Funnier than any of the audio comic
strips are the bloopers! But I'm afraid those can't be released.
The audio segments are broadcast each
Friday evening on YUSA, during their live shows, at www.yesterdayusa.com.
The three hosts, John Gassman, Larry Gassman, and Walden Hughes, are
blind, and they're among the friends who suggested the audio productions.
In fact, I paid tribute to them with a character named Larry-John Walden,
a blind man, who ended up the hero in a recent storyline. He was able to
save Lum and Abner from an evil hypnotist. Larry-John couldn't see the
hypnotist's shiny watch or hypnotic gestures, so he wasn't mesmerized!
Larry Gassman recorded those voice parts for me in California.
The $64-question of
course: Where can your comicstrips be found?
The home website is http://www.lumandabnersociety.org/Comic-Strip-Home.html, and this is where
you can find both the current comic strip, and its audio adaptation. Some
readers like to play the audio track while they view the panels of the
Also at that site, I have archive pages
where readers can view entire stories. Those disappear as the strips are
put into printed collections, so I encourage folks to check them out soon.
There is another online source I
encourage, and you can sign up for a free subscription. It's www.gocomics.com/lum-and-abner. You can't hear the audio there, but there
are also archival strips available. Plus there are lots of other comics on
that site, including Dick Tracy. More about that shortly!
In print, we're available in some Arkansas
newspapers, along with a monthly appearance in a national magazine called Today's
Grocer. There's a digital magazine called Old Radio Times that
carries one strip per month.
released two printed volumes of strips: Lum and Abner Year One and
Lum and Abner Year Two. They're available for PayPal ordering on
the home website. I've not tried selling them outside the
USA, so anyone who may be interested, please contact me by e-mail (there is a
link on the site) so I can work out the postal charges for such an order.
you first interested into Lum
and Abner - and am I guessing right, you were not around in their
wanted to be a cartoonist since age five, which was over 50 years ago, and
when I was eight or so, my dad took me to a Lum’s restaurant in
Memphis, Tennessee. I asked about the name “Lum”, and he told me all about the radio
show he listened to growing up in Arkansas. I asked what it was like, and he compared it to our then-network TV
shows the likes of The Real McCoys, The Andy Griffith Show and
The Beverly Hillbillies. I was intrigued, and wanted to hear Lum
because I’d heard some of the last of the network radio shows, like Gunsmoke,
but sadly, Lum and Abner was a few years away from coming back in
For the uninitiated, what can you tell us about
the original Lum
and Abner, how did they develop their characters, get their start,
and what can you tell us about their radio show(s)?
Goff (left) and Lauck, as they really looked,
broadcasting their show from a remote location during the 1938-40
"Chet" Lauck and Norris "Tuffy"
Goff met as kids in Mena, Arkansas. They were born in the early years of the 20th
century. Tuffy's father
owned a large wholesale grocery company, and Chet's dad ran a lumber
company and was a bank officer, and both fathers put their boys to work,
and at times, they'd work together for one of the other men. Their routes
took them out to Waters, where they met a gentleman named Dick Huddleston,
who had the largest general store in that area. They'd hear the tall tales
and enjoyed meeting the "local characters" of Waters.
They were in their late 20s when they
had a chance to perform at a benefit, a sort of talent show. A radio
Hot Springs, Arkansas, was having an open audition of sorts, and Lauck and Goff drove to that
city, and because most of the other male teams were imitating a popular
radio show called Amos 'n' Andy, Chet and Tuffy decided they'd
better do something different. On the spot, they decided to mimic the
Waters folks, and poked a little fun at Dick Huddleston and friends. Chet
said, "We were always careful, because we were talking about our own
folks." Before the announcer introduced them, he whispered,
"What do you call your act?" Tuffy said, "Well... call me
Abner." Chet said, "Okay, I'll be Lum." The announcer
approached the microphone and said something like, "And now, we
present a visit with Lum and Abner."
This was April 1931. They were a
regional sensation, and were invited back for several weeks, and there was
a demand for publicity photos, which they had made in Mena. After several
weeks, they secured an audition in Chicago for the NBC
radio network, and scored a success with a national sponsor,
the Quaker Oats Company.
There were ups and downs in the early
1930s, but they rebounded and were sponsored for a time by the Ford
Dealers of America, and then by Horlick's Malted Milk. Old Mr. Horlick
himself loved the show, and would have continued with them had he not
died. At that point, General Foods picked them up for the CBS network,
having them plug their coffee substitute, Postum.
They moved to Hollywood
to begin film production, and for much of the 1940s were on the NBC Blue
network which was sold and became ABC.
Miles Laboratories, makers of Alka-Seltzer, One-a-Day
Vitamins and Miles Nervine sponsored them until
1948. By that time they'd moved to CBS
again, and did an ill-fated two
years of half hour weekly shows. The format wasn't accepted by the
audience overall, and that ended in 1950.
They returned to ABC
for a final series
of 15-minute "strip" shows (Monday through Friday) which ran in
1953 and 1954.
Incidentally, "strip" shows
are daily serialized shows, and they got their name by being considered
"comic strips of the air," so I guess Lum and
Abner becoming a comic
strip 80 years after they began is only fitting!
My favorites are the strip shows.
They're serialized, with little cliffhangers at the end, which can be
anything from a gentle little gag to a scary situation. There is always
something to tug you back the next day. The characters are likeable, and
Lauck and Goff played most of the
characters themselves. Chet Lauck played Lum, Grandpappy Spears (a
cantankerous older fellow), Cedric Weehunt (a young man who wasn't very
bright), Snake Hogan (the bully), and others from time to time. Tuffy was
Abner, Squire Skimp (a con man), Mousey Gray (a younger fellow who was
small, gentle, and poetic), Ulysses S. Quincy (whose favorite expression
was "Okay!"), and the town physician, "Doc" Miller,
who shows up in their annual Christmas episode, a classic of radio.
Abner also made a total of seven films - so you have to talk about
those for a bit, and in what way did they mirror the duo's brand of
I'll cover them briefly, one at a time. Dreaming
Out Loud was first. It was released by RKO-Radio Pictures in 1940, and
a premiere was held in their home town of Mena,
Arkansas. In fact, our NLAS Reunion show was held at that very theater June 6 of
this year! Sam Coslow, composer of "Everybody Loves Somebody,"
"Sing You Sinners," and "Cocktails for Two", wrote the
title song, which was sung by Frances Langford, costar in the film. Miss
Langford had appeared in 1933 on the Lum and Abner radio shows
known as The Friday Night Sociable, back during their Ford
Dealers of America sponsorship. Also in that film was radio star Phil
Harris, a good friend of Tuffy Goff, who was famous for his roles on Jack
Benny's radio programs and films. This is the film with the children,
Jimmy, played by Bobs Watson, and
Washington, played by Troy Brown jr. Bobs Watson was our NLAS Convention guest in
1990. This film combined humor and drama, and is probably the darkest of
the films, with a very tragic death of a young girl central to the plot.
It varies from the radio show, in that a major character is a doctor,
played by Frank Craven, who has an upstairs apartment and office. There
was no second floor to the Jot 'Em Down Store on radio! Also in the cast
are familiar faces Clara Blandick ("Auntie Em" in The Wizard
of Oz) and Irving
Bacon, a character actor who would turn up again in Lum and
Abner movies. This
film was directed by Harold Young. All six RKO
Abners were produced by
While Lauck and Goff played Lum and
Abner, other actors were cast as supporting characters. First Oscar
O'Shea, and then Dick Elliot played Squire Skimp. Grady Sutton took on the
role of Cedric Weehunt, and Danny Duncan, who'd played Town Marshal Uncle
Henry Lunsford on radio, donned a beard to be Grandpappy Spears in some of
The Bashful Bachelor came
second, in 1942, directed by Malcolm St. Clair. Zasu Pitts was cast as
Lum's love interest. As I said before, this may be my favorite, as it was
written from storylines created by Lauck and Goff. Lum is trying to become
a hero to impress Zasu Pitts, and ends up endangering Abner's life in
various stunts. This one is more lighthearted, with a rousing horse race
at the climax, with Abner as the jockey. Singer Marni Nixon has a small
part as a child in this film.
Their third movie, Two Weeks to Live,
was co-written by their radio writer Roswell Rogers, and directed by St.
Clair. This is the first film in which Lum and
Abner travel to a big city, with
Abner thinking he's inherited a valuable railroad company. This is the one
with Kay Linaker as a slinky con-woman who sweet-talks poor Lum into
helping her with a nefarious deed! There are some familiar faces in this,
such as Flash
Gordon's nemesis, Charles Middleton, who has a small part as
a crusty character from Pine Ridge, and silent star Herbert Rawlinson
appears early on. Irving Bacon shows up again as an eccentric window
washer, and the ever-fussy Franklin Pangborn is a paranoid representative
of the building where Abner suffers a painful fall on the stairs. This
leads to a misdiagnosis, thanks to a love-sick nurse who hands Lum and
Abner the wrong slip of paper. Poor Abner thinks he will die in two weeks!
They are in dire need of money, and Lum starts volunteering Abner for
various dangerous stunts, and we see several slapstick antics. It's a fun
film, with more physical comedy than others. Director Malcolm St. Clair
certainly had experience in that realm, having worked with Mack Sennett,
Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton [Buster
Keaton bio - click here], and Laurel and
That and the next film, So This is
Washington, were both released in 1943. Raymond McCarey was the
director of their fourth film. By this time, with World War II in full
force, Lum and Abner were addressing wartime issues on radio and in film. This
fourth film dealt with Abner's attempt to develop a synthetic rubber
compound to assist the US government, and he and Lum travel to the nation's capitol. This is another
based on radio scripts, only on the air, it is Grandpappy Spears who
develops the rubber formula, and then suffers a blow on the head causing
amnesia! British character actor Alan Mowbray is a bombastic government
official who assists the old fellows. This film has the distinction of
being the only Lum and
Abner movie to be nominated for an Academy Award! James
L. Fields was nominated for "Best Sound Recording", but sadly,
the Oscar went elsewhere.
The fifth Lum and
Abner movie, Goin' to Town, was released in 1944. Lum and Abner are convinced they have oil
on their property, and once again, Lum is in love, this time with a lady
played by Florence Lake. Leslie Goodwins was the director. An actress who would become famous as
television's "Della Street" on the series Perry Mason, Barbara Hale, has a small role in
this film, working with another character played by the returning Herbert
Rawlinson. Incidentally, Rawlinson turned up on the Lum and Abner
radio shows occasionally. This film is similar to Two Weeks to Live,
in that Lum and Abner again travel to
on business ventures, and we see them attempting to blend in with the
"city folk" at places like nightclubs and restaurants. Chet
Lauck's daughter Shirley has a small role as a hatcheck girl in this film.
Sadly, she passed away only recently. She and her husband, Dwight Babcock,
were our NLAS Convention guests in 1994 when we screened this film.
Their sixth and final RKO
film was one
of their most unusual: Partners in Time, released in 1946. It was
directed by William Nigh. The story isn't totally true to the radio
series, but it depicts how Lum and Abner got together in Pine Ridge to
operate the Jot 'Em Down Store some 40 years earlier. Lauck and Goff
portray Lum and Abner as young men, and while there is no old-age makeup, Tuffy
sports a toupee to give him a more youthful hairline. Both come across as
handsome young men, and play their youthful parts using their natural
speaking voices, which makes one wonder why they developed the more rural
sound as Lum and Abner aged! It's an entertaining film, with sentiment and
some bittersweet moments, as we're shown scenes in which young Lum is in
love with a beautiful lady named
Elizabeth, played by Pamela Blake, only to see her swept off her feet by the
dashing young Abner! I believe by this time, Lauck and Goff had perfected
their on-screen portrayals of Lum and Abner, and the old-age makeup is
perfect. Sadly, this was their last truly good film.
I mentioned their seventh film, Lum and Abner Abroad, earlier. It's a
mess, even though it was directed by James V. Kern, who'd helmed some
excellent TV episodes of I Love Lucy and other programs. I've heard
an interview with Tuffy Goff in which he was asked, "Was Lum and Abner
Abroad your last picture?" and he replies, "That would
be ANYBODY'S last picture!" Chet Lauck called it "a most
interesting experience," but Mr. Goff's memories of it were
Before you launched your comicstrip almost 5
years ago, were there previous incarnations of Lum
and Abner as comicbook characters?
No, other than Chet Lauck's little
cartoon illustrations in the 1932 book, Lum and Abner and Their Friends
From Pine Ridge. A reprint of that is available from the Lum and
Abner Museum. You can find them online at www.lum-abner.com, by the way, and I highly
recommend visiting there if you have the chance to travel to
Arkansas. It's a fascinating place.
Some of Chet's cartoons also show up in
another radio premium, a book called Jot 'Em Down Store: Catalogue,
Calendar & Game and Party Book for 1939.
those books, there were some newspapers called Pine Ridge News, and
three issues of a digest-sized soft cover called Lum and Abner's Family
Almanac (1936, 1937 and 1938), which printed some nice drawings and
paintings of Lum and Abner, but, to my knowledge, there was never an
actual comic strip version of Lum and Abner.
you tell us about Lum
and Abner's fanbase nowadays, and how would you explain the
continued interest in them?
When the National Lum and Abner Society
ceased its annual conventions a decade ago, and stopped publishing in
2007, the fan base has continued thanks to the internet. I must say this:
The NLAS was a major force in propelling Lum and Abner's OTR fandom. I can
say that, even though I was part of it, because of the sincere, dedicated
efforts of my co-founders, Tim Hollis and Sam Brown. Tim was the major
scholar of the group, and tirelessly researched Lum
and Abner, and sought
contacts with so many of their surviving associates. I'm guessing he wrote
95% of the articles we published, and was the editor of The Jot 'Em
Down Journal for 23 years.
Sam Brown secured the donation of the
largest collection of Lum
and Abner transcription discs and films to the NLAS, and his efforts brought about the discovery of hundreds of radio
programs thought lost. Anyone who hears a Horlick's Malted Milk
commercial, or the actual recording of the famed "Transatlantic
Broadcast" (Lum in
London, Abner in
Chicago), or the broadcast in which Waters,
Arkansas became Pine Ridge in 1936, can thank Sam Brown.
Today, fans are linked by the Internet,
and all the extant Lum and Abner programs are available as MP3s (in
sometimes poor quality), while a company called Radio Spirits is releasing
digitally-cleaned versions on CD.
Facebook and I invite you to join the groups Lum and Abner Comic
Strip and Lum and Abner Radio Show Fan Club. Some of the
most enthusiastic fans of Lum
and Abner are much younger than I!
After all the talk about Lum
and Abner, let's talk about you for a bit - how did you first get
into drawing comics, and did you receive any formal training on the
I was drawing on fogged windows with my
finger as a toddler. I loved animation as a kid, and The Flintstones
on TV grabbed my attention, as did any comic books, newspaper comics, or
storybooks I could find. I drew on everything, ruining my storybooks by
adding my own characters to the scenes, and scrawling all over the
undersides of my parents' kitchen table with a crayon.
The Sunday comics became a highlight of
my week, and I loved Dick Tracy and Snuffy Smith, and what a
treat to have the current creators of those two strips at our recent NLAS
stage show! Plus, Lum
and Abner were guests in Dick Tracy on
Sunday, July 20, 2014!
I announced I wanted to be a cartoonist
to family and friends in 1963, and created my own characters, which I drew
in pencil and crayon all through my childhood. I'd be inspired by the TV
programs of Walt
Disney, Walter Lantz, and the reruns of the Warner
I loved comic books of all kinds,
especially the bigfoot characters of Disney,
Popeye has long been a favorite
character, first from his animated cartoons on TV, then the comic books by
Bud Sagendorf, and later, those illustrated by George Wildman. I found the
work of Popeye's creator, Elzie Segar, last! But that was because reprints
were not available until later.
I wrote a letter to George Wildman in
January 1971, and that kicked off a friendship that has lasted until the
present. Along the way, George, a comic book editor at Charlton Comics,
offered lots of great advice. He drew Popeye
from the late 1960s until the
early 1980s, and has illustrated countless comics and books starring the
most famous characters of animation.
(Texas) had no art classes when I was a student there. I wanted to attend the Kubert
New Jersey, which was brand new when I graduated high school, but I couldn't afford
it. I majored in commercial art at
Kilgore, Texas, and after working in the printing industry for a while, went back to
F. Austin State University in
Nacogdoches, Texas, where I completed my BFA with a certification to teach art on the
I taught art and graphic arts for a year
Texas, and finished my MA at the University
at Tyler, with a major in art.
I was "sidetracked" for 25
years with my work as educator-broadcaster at Carthage ISD here in
Texas. Though I was yearning to be a professional cartoonist, I taught
broadcast journalism and video technology, and produced over 1,000 weekly
radio-TV programs with my students, and several hundred other productions
along the way. My wife taught at various campuses in the district as well.
I was pleased to see several of my
CHS-TV graduates go to work in various areas of broadcasting and cinema
work, some in New York, some in Hollywood, and others in various areas of
the USA, as well as abroad.
I did several illustrations for both the
NLAS and a group called the Popeye Fan Club, and finally got to meet my
mentor, George Wildman, in 1994. I also met Hy Eisman, who draws The
Katzenjammer Kids and Popeye Sunday comics, and Nicola Cuti,
and longtime writer for Popeye.
wasn't until I was able to "retire" (I tell people I just
"changed jobs") from education that I had time to start my
chosen career as a cartoonist in earnest, and one of my first commissions
was a painting of George Wildman for the cover of Charlton Spotlight,
published by Argo Press, Austin, Texas. Michael Ambrose is the editor:
What can you tell us about your
comicstrip/-book work prior to Lum
that, other than my private work, and some work for fanzines, it was
contributed to the NLAS and the Popeye Fan Club. I was so busy teaching
and broadcasting, I just didn't have a lot of time and energy for much
How would you describe your overall
I prefer "cartoony",
but I've also done realistic paintings and various types of commercial
art. I enjoy depicting facial expressions. I prefer the
"classic" style of cartoon illustration, and work in a
traditional manner, meaning I use paper, pencil, and ink. I do my layouts
digitally, but print out paper where I pencil in the art, then convert
that to a non-repro blue, print it on plate-finish Bristol board, and ink
it using a flexible Gillott 170 pen with high-carbon black India ink and a
brush. The color is added digitally.
Comicbook artists who inspire you, and some of
your favourite comicbooks and -strips, old and new?
mentioned George and Hy, but others who come to mind are the great Disney
"Duckman" Carl Barks, Elzie Segar, Steve Ditko, Russ Manning,
Pat Boyette, Joe Staton, and friends like John Rose. I recently co-edited
a book on a great one named Tom Sutton. There are so many! I'm afraid to
leave someone out! If you asked me this next week, the list would vary! I
don't want to slight anyone.
comicstrip's website, Facebook, whatever else?
For comics and audio, books and CDs, and
For weekly e-mail subscription:
Facebook, comic strip:
Facebook, radio series:
Lum and Abner costar in Dick Tracy:
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think we've covered so much! I just encourage folks to visit my comic
strip. I have books for sale, and sponsorship opportunities. I have to be
honest and say this isn't making me a million, not by a long shot! But I
love drawing these characters, and meeting the folks who enjoy my comics
and the radio shows and films. In a time when lots of entertainment is
filled with violence and language we couldn't hear on radio and TV decades
ago, Lum and Abner is, to me and others, a refreshing change, and
it's like a trip in a time machine to a simpler time in history. I hope
you'll join us!
for the interview!
Thanks to you, it's
been an honor!