So far we’ve only covered one other R.F. James magazine cover series here, Let’s Run Away, way back in 2010. At the time I remarked on how similar his style was to Russell Patterson’s, but I tempered that with the observation that James had a thing-for doll-like white faces for his girls. Finally we have another of his series, Don’t Tell Auntie, and yes, those cadaver-esque doll faces seem to be a consistent feature of his work.
Don’t Tell Auntie concerns a pair of bratty sisters who try to convince their very rich and strait-laced aunt that they should inherit her considerable dough. But the young debs have little willpower when it comes to parties, men, smoking, drinking, and just about any other vice you care to name, and thus constantly get in dutch with the dowager. Lots of silly shenanigans ensue in this 16-episode series, but you needn’t wonder what happens in the end because the concluding episode is right here above.
Don’t Tell Auntie ran from March 13 to May 29 1932 in the Hearst magazine cover series that was in the midst of switching from the Newspaper Feature Service to King Features.
Nell Brinkley was a regular contributor of Hearst magazine cover series, even though she seemed to be kept plenty busy on the weekday romantic cartoons as well. You’d never know she was overworked, though, when you look at the amazing design work that went into pages like this one from The Romances of Gloriette. Seriously, embiggen this cover and just marvel at that top panel especially.
The story told in verse is supplied by Berton Braley, and it’s the standard romantic girl-spurns-boy-until-she-doesn’t business. This series, distributed through Hearst’s International Features Service arm, ran from August 10 to November 16 1930.
Yet another in a long string of Russell Patterson Hearst magazine cover series, Get-Your-Man Gloria ran under the King Features imprint from March 27 to May 29 1932.
This series throws a lazily-breaking curveball into the standard romance formula. Gloria Glayde is a reporter for the Clarion newspaper, and she’ll do just about anything to get the dirt on high society folks, even if she has to inject herself to manufacture a headline. Her favorite target is Derek Denbeigh, heir to a ketchup fortune — he’s a hunk, he’s rich, he’s single and he falls for just about every trap Gloria lays for him. Poor Derek can’t decide if he loves or hates Gloria for all her shenanigans, but I’ll leave it to your imagination which of those emotions wins over in the end. Gloria, on the other hand, still seems to prefer playing him for the fool even come the end of the series, a bit of a surprise change to the formula.
Here’s one of Nell Brinkley’s magazine cover series, this one under the King Features brand. Dimples’ Day Dreams ran from March 4 to May 20 1928.
Fish, the great British cartoonist, had a long relationship with the American Weekly, producing quite a few series over about a decade and a half. Here’s an early offering, Petty-June at College. This one is about a vacuous little John Held-style flapper-deb. The series appeared on American Weekly covers from November 18 1928 to February 10 1929, and was popular enough that the character returned for a second series, Petty-June Does Europe.
I think Fish did tremendous work, and I’m surprised no retrospective book of her cartoons and illustrations has been produced. Am I alone in my admiration for her work?
The Philadelphia Public Ledger had some great Sunday magazine covers that they offered through their syndicate, but rarely did they form a series. Hearst loved the romantic magazine cover series, but Ledger stood pretty firm on the side of one-shots.
One of the few exceptions was Flapper Fairy Tales, which brought together the verses of Ruth Plumly Thompson and the art of Ledger regular Charles J. Coll. Thompson is well-known to Oz fans for her many books continuing Baum’s original series, and she also wrote a long-running series of children’s stories for the Ledger. Here she jumps well out of her regular groove to write jazzy adult fare, and, well, I’ll let you decide for yourself if she succeeds.
Flapper Fairy Tales ran from April 21 to May 26 1929.
Raeburn Van Buren was just about to embark on a long stint working on Hearst’s daily romantic cartoon series when he was tapped to provide a very short series for their Sunday magazine covers. Let’s All Elope was only three episodes long, and foolishly tried to tackle a story of two star-crossed couples in a comedy of errors that needed way more space to make any sense to readers. The final episode, above, reads more like the Cliff’s Notes to the story than the story itself.
Let’s All Elope ran from February 12 to 26 1933, and comes just months before the end of the King Features magazine cover series. With cover series like this, no wonder it was cancelled.
The short-running magazine series Juliet a-la Jazz ran from April 16 to May 21 1933 and marked Russell Patterson‘s last magazine cover series for Hearst for the next six years. Not that there was anything wrong with the series, since it sticks like gum to the shoe sole of the standard romantic magazine cover formula. Leggy redhead Juliet is cast in a play and the only question is whether she’ll pick the leading man, the stage manager or the director to be her off-stage romantic lead.
Carolyn Wells and Fish were both tremendous talents, but I think Wells was a better artist than she was a versifier, and Fish was a better writer than she was an artist. So what does the American Weekly do but put the two together and assign each the role in which they’re weaker.
Curious Kitty is a pretty forgettable cover series that ran in the American Weekly from June 28 to August 30 1931. The plot is that Kitty keeps getting in trouble because of her insatiable curiosity, until the final installment … well, go ahead and read it yourself, because our sample is the concluding episode of the saga. All’s well that ends well.
After our big project of Hearst magazine cover indexing back in January, here finally we’re covering one of those series. This one is Sylvia the Deb Detective, by R.F. James. I’ll spare you from going back to the index and tell you that the series ran from June 5 to October 23 1932.
This wacky series begins with a rich debutante who is just about to appear at her coming out party. Her doting papa has given her an extravagant present for the occasion, an enormous jewel. Dressing for the party, she discovers that the jewel has been stolen.
Sylvia Ritzmore, the rich deb, decides that rather than call the cops or a private dick, she will play detective and find that priceless jewel herself. Apparently this is just fine with Mama and Papa, and she proceeds to drag her boyfriend Hugh off to help her find the rock.
The fast-paced story follows Sylvia all over the world, always just one step behind the jewel thieves. Poor Hugh gets left behind after awhile, though Sylvia hardly seems to notice. No problem, she just picks up another handsome beau, Bob, a few installments later. He’s better anyway because he’s a flier, and they have a lot of travelling to do.
After lots of adventure and intrigue, Sylvia recovers not only her jewel, but a whole treasure trove of additional sparklers, making her even richer than she was. In the final installment (spoiler alert!) Bob proposes to the Deb Detective and Everyone Lives Happily Ever After.