was an American cartoonist who drew the classic comic strip
A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions....
Smokey Stover is an American comic strip written and drawn by cartoonist Bill Holman, from 1935 until he retired in 1973. Distributed through the Chicago Tribune, it features the wacky misadventures of the titular fireman, and had the longest run of any comic strip in the "screwball comics"...
from 1935 until he retired in 1973. Distributed through the Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune is a major daily newspaper based in Chicago, Illinois, and the flagship publication of the Tribune Company. Formerly self-styled as the "World's Greatest Newspaper" , it remains the most read daily newspaper of the Chicago metropolitan area and the Great Lakes region and is...
, it had the longest run of any strip in the screwball genre. Holman signed some strips with the pseudonym Scat H.
He once described himself as "always inclined to humor and acting silly."
Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana
Crawfordsville is a city in Union Township, Montgomery County, Indiana, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 15,915. The city is the county seat of Montgomery County...
, Holman lived as a child in Nappanee, Indiana
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 6,710 people, 2,521 households, and 1,792 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,818.9 people per square mile . There were 2,647 housing units at an average density of 717.5 per square mile...
, a town where six successful cartoonists lived when they were children. Holman's father died when he was young. He began drawing when he was 12 years old.
While working part-time at Nappanee's local five and dime store, he developed an interest in art as a career and sent away for the Landon School of Illustration and Cartooning correspondence course. Dropping out of high school, he was 15 when he moved with his mother to Chicago. There he took night courses at the Academy of Fine Arts and learned more about cartooning from Carl Ed
In 1920, he held a job as a copy boy at the Chicago Tribune
for six dollars a week. The position gave him the opportunity to hang out with the top Tribune
cartoonists, including Sidney Smith, Harold Gray
and E. C. Segar
Elzie Crisler Segar was an American cartoonist, best known as the creator of Popeye, a character who first appeared in 1929 in his comic strip Thimble Theatre. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest it was "SEE-gar". He commonly signed his work simply Segar or E...
In Cleveland, he began working for the Newspaper Enterprise Association
United Media is a large editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States, owned by The E.W. Scripps Company. It syndicates 150 comics and editorial columns worldwide. Its core business is the United Feature Syndicate and the Newspaper Enterprise Association...
, which syndicated his short-lived animal strip, Billville Birds
(1922). After three years with NEA and Scripps-Howard
The E. W. Scripps Company is an American media conglomerate founded by Edward W. Scripps on November 2, 1878. The company is headquartered inside the Scripps Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its corporate motto is "Give light and the people will find their own way."On October 16, 2007, the company...
, he headed for New York, where he was a Herald Tribune
staff artist and drew the child strip G. Whizz Jr.
for the Herald Tribune Syndicate. He scored a success when he headed in a new direction, submitting his cartoons to a variety of different magazines, including Liberty
Liberty was a weekly, general-interest magazine, originally priced at five cents and subtitled, "A Weekly for Everybody." It was launched in 1924 by McCormick-Patterson, the publisher until 1931, when it was taken over by Bernarr Macfadden until 1942. At one time it was said to be "the second...
Redbook is an American women's magazine published by the Hearst Corporation. It is one of the "Seven Sisters", a group of women's service magazines.-History:...
Collier's Weekly was an American magazine founded by Peter Fenelon Collier and published from 1888 to 1957. With the passage of decades, the title was shortened to Collier's....
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....
Smokey Stover and Spooky
Holman thought firemen were funny, "running around in a red wagon with sirens and bells," and he began doing Smokey Stover
as a Sunday strip
A Sunday strip is a newspaper comic strip format, where comic strips are printed in the Sunday newspaper, usually in a special section called the Sunday comics, and virtually always in color. Some readers called these sections the Sunday funnies...
for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate on March 10, 1935.
One month later (April 7, 1935), to accompany Smokey Stover
, he launched a topper
A topper in comic strip parlance is a small secondary strip seen along with a larger Sunday strip. In the 1920s and 1930s, leading cartoonists were given full pages in the Sunday comics sections, allowing them to add smaller strips and single-panel cartoons to their page.Toppers usually were drawn...
. With a perpetually bandaged tail, the firehouse cat Spooky lived with its owner, Fenwick Flooky, who did embroidery while sitting barefoot in a rocking chair.
The daily Smokey Stover
was not launched until November 14, 1938. Holman loved word play, and all of his features percolated with puns. In his file cabinet, Holman kept thousands of puns. Readers of Smokey Stover
often sent him puns, sometimes with accompanying illustrations.
He also inserted bizarre words and phrases, such as "Foo," "Notary Sojac," "Scramgravy Ain't Wavy" and "1506 Nix Nix". Some of these became national catchphrases. "1506 Nix Nix" was an inside joke on Holman's friend, cartoonist Al Posen
Alvah Posen was an American cartoonist on several comic strips, but he is best known for his strip Sweeney & Son and as co-producer of the now-lost Marx Brothers film, Humor Risk ....
, as Holman once explained, "The late Al Posen, who did the Sweeney and Son
comic strip, was a bachelor living in a hotel room, number 1506. I began using the phrase, a private joke between the two of us, as a warning to girls to stay away from Al's room."
Nuts and Jolts
Holman's gag panel, Nuts and Jolts
, was syndicated by the Chicago Tribune - New York News Syndicate from the 1930s to 1970. When Gaar Williams
Gaar Campbell Williams was a prominent American cartoonist who worked for the Indianapolis News and the Chicago Tribune. His scenes of horse-and-buggy days in small towns of the Victorian era included situations taken from memories of his childhood in his hometown of Richmond, Indiana...
, who drew a gag panel under a variety of titles, died in 1935, Holman stepped in as a replacement. In July 1935, Holman picked up where Williams had left off, but the Nuts and Jolts
title did not appear on the series until July 3, 1939. That same month, he began a Thursday panel, Zipper
, about a dog.
Journalist Al Meyers described Holman in a 1938 feature story:
By 1939, when Holman was earning $1500 a month, he gave a humorous summary of his life to Editor & Publisher
For the USO, Holman made many trips abroad to entertain troops in the South Pacific, Europe, Japan and Korea, in addition to his chalk talk
A chalk talk was a popular act in vaudeville. A performer used chalk on a blackboard to make changes in a drawing while delivering a monologue. Some performers would do caricatures of audience members. The term also was used to describe an act done with crayons...
s at veteran’s hospitals. A promoter of U.S. Savings Bonds, Holman donated his time to draw booklets for local fire-safety campaigns. He was also involved in numerous children’s charities.
Holman was one of the co-founders of the National Cartoonists Society
The National Cartoonists Society is an organization of professional cartoonists in the United States. It presents the National Cartoonists Society Awards. The Society was born in 1946 when groups of cartoonists got together to entertain the troops...
, and he was the organization's president in 1961-62. He continued his close association with the Society after his 1973 retirement. Even after retiring from Smokey Stover
, Holman could not stop the flow of puns and verbal/visual ideas, and he produced stack of sketches for a possible syndicated panel he titled Wall Nuts
. This had no connection with Gene Ahern
Eugene Leslie Ahern was a cartoonist best known for his bombastic Major Hoople, a pompous character who appeared in the long-run syndicated gag panel Our Boarding House...
's The Nut Bros: Ches and Wal
, but it could be a nod to Ahern's strip which mined a vein of surreal silliness somewhat similar to Smokey Stover
At age 84, Holman died February 27, 1987 in New York, survived by his wife Dolores.
In Nappanee, Holman is cited on the Indiana Historical Bureau's Historical Marker, which reads:
- Merrill Blosser
Merrill Blosser was the creator of the comic strip Freckles and His Friends, which had a long run . Although his strip was set in the small town of Shadyside, it was obviously based on Blosser's hometown of Nappanee, Indiana, since Blosser often referenced real Nappanee locations, such as...
was first Nappanee artist to gain national recognition as a professional cartoonist. Freckles and His Friends, his most popular cartoon, ran from 1915 to 1973, syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. In 1965, National Cartoonists Society honored Blosser on fiftieth year of Freckles and its "wholesome entertainment. Five other Nappanee artists became nationally recognized cartoonists. Henry Maust and Francis "Mike" Parks drew newspaper editorial cartoons; Bill Holman's best was Smokey Stover (1935-1973); Fred Neher
Fred Neher was an American cartoonist best known for his syndicated gag panel, Life’s Like That, which offered a humorous look at human nature, with a focus on American society and family life, for more than five decades....
's Life’s Like That
Life’s Like That was a gag panel by Fred Neher which found humor in life's foibles. Spanning five decades, the series was initially distributed by the Bell Syndicate and later by Consolidated News Features and the United Features Syndicate....
ran 1934-1977; Max Gwin drew Slim and Spud for Prairie Farmer 1955-1991. Town, training, and careers connected these artists.
- Strickler, Dave
Dave Strickler is a reference librarian noted for his compilation of Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924–1995: The Complete Index, regarded as a major reference work by researchers and historians of newspaper comic strips....
. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, California: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1