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Milt Gross' Count Screwloose (November 23, 1930

Milt Gross (March 4, 1895 – November 29, 1953), was an American comic strip and comic book writer, illustrator and animator. He wrote his comics in a Yiddish-inflected English. He originated the non-sequitur "Banana Oil!" as a phrase deflating pomposity and posing. His character Count Screwloose's admonition, "Iggy, keep an eye on me!", became a national catch phrase. The National Cartoonists Society fund to aid indigent cartoonists and their families for many years was known as the Milt Gross Fund. In 2005, it was absorbed by the Society's Foundation, which continues the charitable work of the Fund.[1]

Contents

Comic strips and books

Gross was born in the Bronx and served as a soldier in World War I.[2][3] After apprenticing as a teenage assistant to Tad Dorgan, Gross's first comic strip was Phool Phan Phables for the New York Journal, begun when he was 20, featuring a rabid sports fan named George Phan. It was one of several short-lived comic strips (and other undertakings, including his first animated film) before his first success, Gross Exaggerations, which began as an illustrated column in the New York World. Its Yinglish vocabulary would set the tone for much of Gross's work, as would its reworkings of well-known tales, as in "Nize ferry-tail from Elledin witt de wanderful lemp" and "Jack witt de binn stuck" (see Jack and the Beanstalk). These were gathered in a 1926 book Nize Baby, which evolved into a Sunday newspaper color comic strip.[2][3]

Also in 1926, he published Hiawatta witt no odder poems, a 40-page parody of Longfellow's Hiawatha, each of its pages, in the words of Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., "with a barely decipherable stanza and a drawing which only sometimes helped."[2] In subsequent years, Gross followed with De Night in De Front From Chreesmas (1927, see The Night Before Christmas), Dunt Esk (1927) and Famous Fimmales Witt Odder Ewents From Heestory (1928).

In 1930, Gross published what many consider his masterpiece, the wordless He Done Her Wrong: The Great American Novel and Not a Word in It — No Music, Too. This "novel" is composed entirely of pen-and-ink cartoons, nearly 300 pages long, and is comparable to such silent films serials as The Perils of Pauline. It resembled (and parodied) the graphic novels of Lynd Ward. It has been reprinted several times, including in 1983 as Hearts of Gold and in 2005, by Fantagraphics, under its original title.[2][3]

Starting in 1931, he worked for the Hearst chain, doing various comic strips, including Count Screwlooose of Tooloose, Dave's Delicatessen, Babbling Brooks, Otto and Blotto and That's My Pop! (which later became a radio show). While his strips' vocabulary moved closer to standard English over time, his work always maintained Yiddish touches. He published two books in 1936, Pasha the Persian and What's This?[2]

Animation

Gross made occasional animated films through the silent film era, with titles such as The Ups & Downs of Mr. Phool Phan (his first), Useless Hints by Fuller Prunes, Izzy Able the Detective, and How My Vacation Spent Me; most of these were for the studio of John R. Bray.[3]

In 1939, he returned briefly to animated film, making two MGM cartoons, Jitterbug Follies and Wanted: No Master, featuring Count Screwloose (voiced by Mel Blanc, who couldn't take a screen credit because of his Warner Bros. contract).[3]

In 1945, the year of his book Dear Dollink, he suffered a heart attack and went into semi-retirement. His last book was I Shouda Ate the Eclair (published 1946), in which one Mr. Figgits nearly starts World War III because he refuses to eat a chocolate eclair. In 1946–47, his work appeared in the short-lived comic book Picture News.[2][3] His final published work appeared in the pages of comic books published by American Comics Group, including two issues of Milt Gross Funnies.

Milt Gross' Count Screwloose (June 18, 1939)

In 1950, two of his earlier books were combined as Hiawatta and De Night in De Front From Chreesmas.[2]

References

  1. ^ NCS
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Vadeboncoeur Jr., Jim. "Milt Gross". bpib.com, Bud Plant Illustrated Books. http://www.bpib.com/gross.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-30.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Milt Gross". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. http://www.toonopedia.com/mgross.htm. Retrieved 2006-10-25.  

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