Sunday, January 24, 2010

Scorchy Smith and the Limits of Search

The Internet's a great resource for information -- but it's not the only resource. Sometimes we forget that unless something's been digitized it isn't on the web.

And while there's a lot of highly specialized websites, blogs and forums that provide a wealth of information on some pretty obscure and/or tightly focused topics, there's still a lot missing.

Case in point: I just finished a four-part series on a very obscure comic strip, "Scorchy Smith" and Noel Sickles, one of the artists who worked on it.

Although Sickles only drew the strip from 1933-1936, his work continues to be a major influence in the field of comics to this day. Because Sickles is an important figure (even in a highly specialised field), a fair amount of information was available online.

I decided to continue with a series on the artists who followed Sickles and look at how each one's vision changed the strip. That's when I ran into trouble.

A 1950s sequence by Rodlow Willard, man of mystery
(as far as online references go).
Bert Christman took over in 1936. He joined the Flying Tigers and was killed in action. There's a little information available, but not a lot about his art work.

Frank Robbins, who also drew Scorchy Smith in the 1940's, was an important artist to both the newspaper comic strip and comic book genres with a long, successful career. It's easy to find information about Robbins, although very little about his work on Scorchy Smith.

As for the other artists who worked on the strip, some have only one or two citations -- others are just cyphers (at least online).

Robert Farrell, Ed Good, Rodlow Willard, Milt Morris. Occasionaly mentioned, seldom linked to.

That's not to say there's no information about these artists somewhere in the world. Old comic strip collections, newspaper archives, AP business records -- just nothing online.

So I've hit the edge of the Internet. And it's an important lesson to remember.

Yes, you can call up all kinds of information online. But you can only dig so deep. And sometime you can't dig at all.

- Ralph

No comments:

Post a Comment