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Top Cartoonists vs. Ugly Americanism

About Comics revivifies a Cold War classic

 


The Cold War had many odd battlefronts, not the least of which was the image of Americans as boorish and self-important tourists. To take on this battle, the U.S. used one of its more unlikely fighting forces: top-named newspaper cartoonists. In 1958 - the same year that the novel The Ugly American created a name for the stereotype - President Eisenhower's pet project The People-to-People Program had its Cartoonists Committee create a book of cartoons explaining to Americans what reputation "anti-American forces" were trying to promote, so that when we journeyed overseas, we would not live down to that image. Al Capp headed up the project; top names like Charles Schulz, Hank Ketcham, and Milton Caniff contributed original cartoons. Unfortunately, the book they created, You Don't See These Sights on the Regular Tours, has remained out of print for more than half a century and hard to find in any form... until now. We here at About Comics have just rereleased this long-lost, special book–with a twist.
The thing that drew us to this book was not just the line-up of cartoonists (although certainly anything with Mort Walker, Roy Crane, Otto Soglow, and Rube Goldberg will catch our eye!) but the topic. The book was simultaneously trying to say that the Ugly American image was false and to encourage tourists not to match that image - a combination of "Americans don't do that!" and "Americans, don't do that!"
The problem that faced us as a publisher was that each of the single panel gag cartoons that the cartoonists had done on the topic was matched with a sketch of that cartoonist's famous characters with a word balloon where they try to explain why Americans aren't (or shouldn't be) like that. Clearing the rights to use over 20 different copyrighted characters would be beyond the ability of this teeny-tiny publishing company. What to do, what to do?
If we couldn't use their famous characters, we would use one of our own. The patriotic superguy Mister U.S., created by artist Mark Lewis and About Comics publisher Nat Gertler, first appeared in the Image Comics run of Big Bang Comics, and has gone on to appear in a number of places. While that character was created in the '90s, from the very beginning he was meant to have faux Golden Age roots. So we reimagined Regular Tours as if it had been narrated not by famous newspaper strip characters, but by Mister U.S., replacing all the unusable figures with images of Mister U.S. drawn in masterful pastiches of the original artist's style, but all actually rendered by Scott Roberts. Longtime comics readers may recall Scott's indy series Pattycake, but those who have seen his "Working Daze" material know that he can ape just about any cartoonist the papers have ever published. The idea that Mister U.S. was used to emcee this cartoon collection actually fits in quite well with the way the character has been used before; the About Comics policy of freely lending out this character for other uses (go to misterus.com for details on that) has led to him being everything from a presenter in an online awards show to a recurring example in a psychology textbook.
We did have to replace one full panel - the great Walt Kelly had used his Pogo characters not just in the explanation for his gag cartoon, but in the gag cartoon itself. So Scott drew one full new image. The full list of classic creators whose work is included is: Chic Young, Milton Caniff, Charles Schulz, Mort Walker, Hank Ketcham, Al Capp, Otto Soglow, Jimmy Hatlo, Alfred Andriola, Dik Browne, Rube Goldberg, Roy Crane, Bernard Lansky, Bob Lubbers, Ernie Bushmiller, Mel Casson, Stan Drake, Harry Devlin, Dick Cavalli, Gus Edson & Irwin Hasen.
So you can see You Don't See These Sights on the Regular Tours: Mister U.S. Edition as a mixture of both history and faux history... or you can just see it as a bunch of fun.
The book is available for immediate order through the US branch of Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/dp/1949996042) with a cover price of $7.99. Retailers interested in carrying this and other classic cartoon works from About Comics should write to questions@aboutcomics.com

Front cover

Art by Milton Caniff and Scott Roberts

Art by Charles M. Schulz and Scott Roberts
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