Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bill Holman and Smokey Stover

When I was young I talked my parents into buying the Sunday edition of THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS so I could get out of town comic strips, some even a week early (I never did figure that one out!). My favorite was SMOKEY STOVER by Bill Holman, a zany cartoonist who was, by all accounts, as silly and crazy as the title fireman of his long-running strip! SMOKEY STOVER was filled with endless puns and Elderesque "chicken fat." There were strange signs that simply said "Notary Sojac" or "Foo" for no apparent reason, background characters that seemed to be performing in a different strip and of, course, the ridiculous, screwball antics of ever-smiling Smokey and his boss, Chief Cash U. Nutt. The closest comparison today would be the AIRPLANE school of rapid-fire movie humor that doesn't need or try to make any sense. My own first attempt at a comic strip, circa 1968, featured a Smokey style country bumpkin with the improbable name of "Garley Gratcher." Alas, this was one of the few things from my childhood I didn't keep. Anyway, the charming bits of nonsense we have here come once again from THE CARTOONIST COOKBOOK of 1966. SMOKEY STOVER ran from 1935 until the artist retired it in 1973. It was another unique strip that should by all rights be in print in its entirety for new generations to discover. Here's a start though! SMOKEY STOVER has a great official website here at Smokey Stover Online!

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