Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: Bunker Hill

In the 1991 Necronomicon Press chapbook, Report on a Writing Man, there's a chapter titled, "So Far the Poet...," which reprints a series of quick notations made by Tevis Clyde Smith in preparation for a never-written memoir of his friendship with author Robert E. Howard.

Among these frustratingly vague notes is the following entry:

His affection for Bunker Hill - "Youse is a viper, Fagin." Kept up with the strip, and retold it in a charming way. Liked to talk Brooklynese, and once entered a local dry goods store, and asked to see a shoitel.

The editor of Report on a Writing Man, REH uberscholar Rusty Burke, told us that he'd been searching in vain for a comic strip named "Bunker Hill." Finally! — our obsession with old comic strips paid off. We knew that Bunker Hill, Jr., was the wise-beyond-his-years-infant brainchild of artist Billy DeBeck — most famous as the creator of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. The strip Rusty was looking for was actually titled Parlor, Bedroom, & Sink, and wasn't a feature that ran on its own, but instead appeared each week (beginning in 1926) as the introductory "topper" to the much beloved Barney Google comic strip.

We chose this subject for our 55th Dark Horse episode of The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob. We decided that it would be fun to transition from one of DeBeck's strips into a scene of Bob retelling the story to his friends. Parlor, Bedroom, & Sink has rarely been reprinted, and we didn't have access to any original tear-sheets, so we only had few examples to chose from. Ultimately, we chose this strip (March 9th, 1930) which was reprinted (in B&W) in Nemo #3, published by Fantagraphics in 1983 (you can click on the images to see them larger):

Brendan Burford at King Features Syndicate (the rights holders of Parlor, Bedroom, & Sink), was kind enough to allow us to incorporate their strip into our own.

Because of the roughness of the sample we had, we redrew the art onto a new sheet of paper and reinked it, making sure to duplicate every line as accurately as we could — but the ratio between the two strips was very different, which forced us to stretch the height of the panels so that they would fit our format better.

We were never able to locate a color version of the exact strip we needed, so the colors were extrapolated based on a few color examples of other episodes published in Bill Blackbeard's book The Comic Strip Century (Kitchen Sink, 1995), later republished as 100 Years of Comics (Barnes & Nobile, 2004).

Here's the strip that resulted, as published in Conan #36 (Dark Horse, 2006):

It's interesting to note that Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, was nicknamed "Sparky" after Barney Google's racehorse, "Sparkplug" — another creation of the great Billy DeBeck.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful detail for a great anecdote. And an awesome strip on the part of the WFK's. It's always a pleasure to see how you guys blend existing material with your own work. (On the rare occasions when you do that.)