Saturday, November 15, 2008

Abner Dean's "Funny Side Up"

In 1940 Abner Dean was hired by United Features to do a cartoon similar to Grin and Bear It by George Lichty, who had recently left the syndicate. Dean’s gag panel, which he named Funny Side Up, followed the template of Lichty’s: a single-panel humor strip with no recurring characters, drawn in ink and shaded with crayon (a shading technique that Dean seldom used).

In 1941 Dean wrote of the “ordeal” of creating over 300 Funny Side Up cartoons: “for the greater part of the last year I was doing a daily and Sunday feature. . . . It appeared in over a hundred papers, was a wonderful experience in discipline, but proved to be not sufficiently rewarding mentally to justify spending the next five years as its slave. After about ten months of a night and day routine I decided to abandon it and return to the work that syndication had forced me to leave.” “I’m still unsettled in my work,” he continued. “I’ve experimented a great deal and gone off on many tangents which justify themselves, but I haven’t yet found the balance between the well known economic structure of things and the work I want to do. I find time occasionally to paint and experiment in clay, but the demands of commercial art are so great and lead so far away from the purer forms that I don’t believe a compromise between the two is ever possible. Those who pretend it is are perhaps over-stating their validity in one or the other."

["It's funny . . . I can dance this way all night and my feet never get tired."]

["The senior class at Yale voted him 'most likely to succeed' . . . so who was I to stop him when he tried to kiss me!"]

["Wrap up the price tag . . . If she likes that I'll come back for the necklace!"]

To my knowledge, the above three cartoons have never been reprinted in any form - the one at the top of this post is the only reprint I have found. (I apologize for the microfilm quality of these images.) Dean is not know for this type of cartoon, but rather for the kind you can see here, which he published in book collections released after Funny Side Up.

Dean revived the Funny Side Up name for filler material in at least two United Features-owned comic books during 1943: Sparkler Comics and Tip Top Comics. It's nice to see Dean's work in color and on newsprint:


Gabriel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Parille said...

Gabriel, sorry I didn't reply to you earlier _ The Dean bibliography posting is on hold for the time being - a few other things have to take priority.

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