Thursday, January 29, 2009

That Fellow With The Feet

Part of the media blitz following Chaplin's move from Keystone to Essanay in January 1915 was this official studio-sanctioned comic strip, drawn initially by A. C. Carothers and distributed through the Keeley-Handy Syndicate. The Handy of Keeley-Handy was one Jamieson "Jam" Handy, also vice-president in charge of sales of the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. Copyrights on the strip are variously attributed to both Keeley-Handy and the Chicago Tribune during the first year, and, eventually, to J. Keeley alone after Handy departed for more profitable climes, ultimately becoming founder of the famous Jam Handy industrial film studio. Having been previously only familiar with the later E. C. Segar run of Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers, these initial strips came as a pleasant surprise. Carothers captures remarkably well the freewheeling spirit of Chaplin's Keystone and Essanay shorts, aided by his own decidedly anarchistic sense of humor. Unfortunately, Carothers spent only four months on Comic Capers. Clearly, something was happening behind the scenes towards the end, his signature disappearing from some obviously ghosted strips, and his final signed examples degrading into the kind of inane vaudeville patter that would in time become the strip's hallmark under Segar (that an amateur like Segar was hired at all, especially given the quality of his earliest work, suggests that the syndicate was simply looking for someone cheap and compliant.. which may give us a clue as to why Carothers left). While Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers would survive for several more years, far outlasting Chaplin's time with Essanay, it would never recapture the quality of these earliest strips.



Blogger prof. grewbeard said...

is this Winsor McCay-ish or is it just the era?


8:17 PM  
Blogger Aaron Neathery said...

The dream-like quality is kinda McCay-ish, but Carothers' drawing style doesn't owe much to McCay, IMO.

9:48 PM  

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