Monday, June 21, 2021

Under Cover: Kunen Books

The Publisher
Kunen Publishers, Inc. worked with Harvey Kurtzman, René Goscinny, Fred Ottenheimer, Evelyn and Dellwyn Cunningham, and Elliot Liebow to produce several children’s books between 1946 and 1950. Most of the books had jigsaw puzzles and four titles were irregular-shaped, die-cut books. Here are the known titles. 

Two Way Educational Book. Learn to Spell. Fit Together Puzzle
Illustrated by Fred Ottenheimer

Illustrated by Fred Ottenheimer

Playtime Numbers: Jigsaw Puzzles with Real Numbers and Related Animal Stories
Illustrated by Fred Ottenheimer

Playtime Plays: Jigsaw Puzzles of Six Plays for Children Portrayed in Two Scenes
A Playtime Puzzle Book
Illustrated by Fred Ottenheimer
Cinderella, Aladdin, Pinocchio, Robin Hood, Little RedRiding Hood, and Rip Van Winkle

Playtime Reader: A Jigsaw Puzzles Reader with Cut Out Figures and a Farm Story
Illustrated by Harvey Kurtzman

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
René Goscinny

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
Harvey Kurtzman

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
Harvey Kurtzman

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
E. & D. Cunningham

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
E. & D. Cunningham

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
René Goscinny

Jigsaw Puzzle Book
René Goscinny

Elliot Liebow
Illustrated by René Goscinny
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman
A Bright Book

Elliot Liebow
Illustrated by René Goscinny
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman
A Bright Book

Elliot Liebow
Illustrated by René Goscinny
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman
A Bright Book

Elliot Liebow
Illustrated by René Goscinny
Cover by Harvey Kurtzman
A Bright Book

Apparently the first article about Kunen appeared in Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1947. 
Kunen Publishing Company Issues First Book
A publishing firm, the Kunen Publishing Company, has issued its first book, a juvenile, and is making plans for other books next year. The firm is a partnership of two veterans of the Army Air Corps, Charles W. Alexander and Alfred E. Kunen. Their first book is a toy book called “Playtime Speller,” which is spiral bound in heavy boards and has six removable, inlaid puzzles. Under the pieces of each puzzle is a short story for the child of 3 to 7. The book retails for $1.50. Distribution to date has been limited to stores in New York City, and selling elsewhere will begin in earnest in the spring.

A story book for the 3 to 6 age group is planned for spring publication. The publishers want to concentrate on juveniles and hope to keep their prices to one dollar. 

The firm has recently moved to 1933 Mott Avenue, Far Rockaway, Long Island. The telephone number is MU 2-5792.
Playtime Reader had a December 9, 1946 copyright date and might have been released for the Christmas season. The spiral-bound, oblong book measures 10.5625 by 7.9375 inches or 26.83 by 20.16 centimeters. When the puzzle pieces are removed, a story is revealed. I believe the title page is missing in my copy below.

Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1947, printed a full-page advertisement for Playtime Speller.

In the same issue was this item
Change in Name
Far Rockaway, N.Y.—Kunen Publishing Company has changed its name to Kunen & Alexander, Inc. and will specialize in juveniles. The address is 1931 Mott Avenue, and the telephone number is Far Rockaway 7-8419.
Also in the same issue was the Spring Book Index which had this listing.
Ottenheimer, Fred, il. Playtime speller.
Jan Kunen Alexander 1 50
According to their World War II draft cards, Kunen and Alexander lived in Far Rockaway, New York so they may have known each other. One connection is clear: their wives were sisters. Kunen married Gloria F. Landau on May 29, 1942. Alexander married Rhoda Landau on June 16, 1944. 

The 1943 Cleveland, Ohio, city directory listed Kunen and his wife at 4923 Bader Avenue. His occupation was engineer. Alexander was employed at the Department of Parks before his military service. Why they chose to enter publishing is not known. How they met Fred Ottenheimer, who illustrated the first and second books, is a mystery. 

The second book was published by Kunen Publishers, Inc. in 1948. Alexander’s name was dropped from the firm’s name for reasons unknown. The company moved from Far Rockaway. The 1948 New York, New York city directory listed “Kunen Alfred E” at 17 East 42nd Street, in Manhattan. The listings included Kunen Engineering Company and Herbert K. Kunen, both with the same address and telephone number as Alfred. Herbert, the oldest of three brothers, was an engineer who, before the war, was employed at the Anemostat Corporation of America, which published his A Treatise on Acoustics in Air Conditioned Enclosures in 1939. George Kunen was a lawyer who worked at a different location. Presumably the two brothers shared the same office, with Herbert managing the engineering projects and Alfred handling the publishing. Another person might be connected to the Kunen brothers and Alexander. 

In the 1948 directory Florence Bibo Alexander was a literary agent at the same address as the Kunens but with a different telephone number. She was at the same location in the 1945 and 1946 directories. The New York Times, December 3, 1993, said
... Mrs. Alexander began her career in publishing in Philadelphia and later moved to Manhattan, where she entered the advertising business. She later set up her own agency, which represented artists and cartoonists. ...
Florence E. Bibo married Joseph Alexander on August 6, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. He was a salesman. It’s not clear if he was related to Charles Alexander. Florence was also a writer who wrote at least three children’s books in 1945: I Knew a Kangaroo Named Sue! How About You?, Once a Leopard Saw His Spots, and Nancy and Jane: A Dress-Up Doll Story. The Big Game Hunter was published in 1947 and Jolly Jingles in 1949. Florence’s main business was an artist representative. Two prominent illustrators she represented were Tomie DePaola and Gail Gibbons

Florence had an established business at 17 East 42nd Street. It seems more than a coincidence that the Kunen brothers moved to the same place. If there was a business relationship between them it remained a secret. 

In 1949 three more Playtime titles were published. Each book had a title page and series list.

In 1950 Kunen published four books and, apparently, stopped production on further projects. 

Of the available directories, the last appearance of Kunen Engineering was in 1953 and neither brother was listed. Florence continued to be listed for many more years. 

Kunen Publishers, Inc. had a brief existence and produced a small number of delightful books. 

The Kunen Brothers
Herbert Kenneth Kunen, engineer, March 2, 1915, Brooklyn, New York – August 19, 2005, Florida. 
George L. Kunen, lawyer, May 22, 1916, Brooklyn, New York – July 3, 1967, New York. 
Alfred Edward Kunen, engineer and publisher, February 22, 1920, Brooklyn, New York – July 21, 1991, New York, New York. 

The Business Partner
Charles Washington Alexander, May 23, 1923, Far Rockaway, New York – November 27, 1999, New York. 

The Agent and the Salesman
Florence Bibo Alexander, writer, literary agent and artist representative, July 24, 1904, Woodbury, New Jersey – November 30, 1993, New York, New York.
Joseph Alexander, salesman, November 15, 1895, Troy, New York – November 12, 1978, New York. 

The Artists
Fred Ottenheimer, artist and violinist, April 15, 1924, Stuttgart, Germany – September 9, 1999, New York.

Kunen Books

A passenger list at said “Fritz Ottenheimer” and his parents, Albert and Alize Ottenheimer, departed aboard the S.S. Mouzinho, on August 20, 1941, from Lisbon, Portugal. They arrived in the port of New York City on September 2. Their final destination was Woodmere, Long Island, New York, where Hugo Kauffmann, Albert’s brother-in-law, lived. Ottenheimer’s sister, Sara, remained in Germany.

On June 30, 1942, Ottenheimer signed his World War II draft card. His address was 302 Derby Avenue, Woodmere, New York. Ottenheimer was employed at the Schneider Press, 216 West 18th Street, New York City. (It’s doubtful Ottenheimer attended high school after his arrival.) His description was five feet six inches, 145 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. 

In 1942 Ottenheimer found freelance work with Louis Ferstadt whose studio produced material for several comic book publishers. Ferstadt hired another teenager named Harvey Kurtzman. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Ferstadt’s clients included Ace Periodicals which published several characters including Magno and Lash Lightning. The cover of Four Favorites #10, May 1943, was initialed, near the spine, “HK FO” (Kurtzman and Ottenheimer). 

This issue had a Magno story by Kurtzman and a Lash Lightning story by Ottenheimer who signed his initials. 

(Special thanks to Jake Oster for pointing out Ottenheimer and Kurtzman’s work for Ferstadt.)

Ottenheimer enlisted in the Army on March 15, 1943. He was a commercial artist who had four years of high school (in another country). Information about his art training has not been found. Ottenheimer was in the infantry and served in the Persian Gulf and European Theater. His veteran’s file, at, said he was discharged from the Army on December 15, 1945.

Ottenheimer looked for work at book and magazine publishers. He did the cover art for Esquire, January 1947 (above). Ottenheimer illustrated four books for Kunen from 1946 to 1949. 

A few years after the war, Ottenheimer and Kurtzman worked together. Bill Schelly, in his book, Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America (2015), said
... Fred Ottenheimer, a young artist and designer, agreed to take Kurtzman in, probably for about $25 a month, so he carted his drawing board on the train into Manhattan, ready to start his career in earnest. ...
Around 1949, Ottenheimer rented space to Kurtzman. Each of them illustrated books for Kunen. Schelly said Kurtzman did three jigsaw puzzle books which were published in early 1949: The Paper DollLet’s Take a Ride and Playtime Reader. Ottenheimer’s Playtime Numbers and Playtime Plays, also published in 1949, were his last for the company. The Catalog of Copyright Entries, Books, Third Series, Volume 3, Part 1A, Number 1, January–June 1949, said the three Playtime books were published June 1, 1949. 

Ottenheimer illustrated more books including TV Pals (1954) and Peter and Wendy See the New York World’s Fair with Pop-Up Action Pictures (1963). 

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (New York), November 28, 1957, highlighted Ottenheimer’s American Artist Group Christmas card, “Servants of the Muse”, which had a string quartet rehearsing. Ottenheimer was a violinist in a string ensemble

Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Ottenheimer worked on a few comic strips and scripted some horror stories.

He married Mary Calzetta in 1953. 

The Social Security Death Index said his last residence was Flushing, New York. 

Fred Ottenheimer should not to be confused with Fritz Ottenheimer

EH! #4#5#6#7
From Here to Insanity #8, #9, #10, #11, #12
Funny Animals #88, #89, #90
Muggsy Mouse #3#4
Keen Teens #3
Little Miss Sunbeam Comics #1

* * * * * 

Harvey Kurtzman, artist, writer and editor, October 3, 1924, New York, New York – February 21, 1993, Mount Vernon, New York. 

Kunen Books
’Round the World (1950, cover)
Hello Jimmy (1950, cover)
The Little Red Car (1950, cover)
The Jolly Jungle (1950, cover)

Recommended Reading

My Life as a Cartoonist
Harvey Kurtzman
Minstrel Book, 1988

The Comics Journal Library, Volume 7: Harvey Kurtzman
Greg Sadowski
Fantagraphics Books, 2006

Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The MAD Genius of Comics
Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle
Abrams ComicArts, 2009

Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America
Bill Schelly
Fantagraphics Books, 2015

Adele Kurtzman talks to her daughter Nellie about raising children, being married to Harvey Kurtzman the cartoonist, and working a wide variety of jobs.

* * * * * 

René Goscinny, artist, art director, writer and publisher, August 14, 1926, Paris, France – November 5, 1977, Paris, France. 

Kunen Books

Recommended Reading
The Comics Journal, French and Frisky: The Man Behind Astérix

* * * * * 

Evelyn (Klein) Cunningham, fashion artist, September 30, 1915, Boston, Massachusetts – February 15, 2006, Paoli, Pennsylvania. 

Evelyn Klein, Massachusetts School of Art, 1936

Dellwyn C. “Denny” Cunningham, artist, Cocoa, Florida, August 29, 1921 – May 31, 2007. They married in New York City in 1948. 

Denny Cunningham, Fleischer Studios, World War II Draft Card, 1942

Kunen Books

Illustrations by Dellwyn Cunningham

* * * * * 

The Writer
Elliot Liebow, writer, poet, anthropologist and sociologist, January 24, 1925, Washington, DC – September 4, 1994, Silver Spring, Maryland. 

Kunen Books

Recommended Reading
The New York Times, September 7, 1994
Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), September 7, 1994 

(Updated October 27, 2021. Next post on Monday: Artie Simek Memoriam by Flo Steinberg)

Monday, June 14, 2021

Comics: Daisy Swayze, Letterer

Daisy Swayze was born around 1907 in Monroe, Louisiana, based on the 1910 United States Census enumeration which said she was three years old. Her birth year increases in subsequent censuses. Daisy was the youngest of three children born to Louis Herbert Swayze, a riverboat engineer, and Mildred. Also in the household was Daisy’s maternal grandmother, Mamie Turner. They lived in Monroe at 711 Grammont.

An early mention of Daisy was in the Monroe News-Star, May 24, 1911, “Daisy the little daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L. H. Swayze has been ill for a week or more.”

The 1920 census said Daisy was twelve years old. New to the household was Marc, age six, who would become an illustrator and comics artist. Daisy’s father was a steamboat master. The family address was unchanged.

The headline in the Monroe News-Star, September 13, 1923, read, “Miss Daisy Swayze Given First Prize in Saenger Contest”. 

Daisy was in the class of 1926 at Monroe City High School. She was one of 52 graduates. 

In the 1930 census, 21-year-old Daisy, her parents, older sister, Mildred, and Marc resided at 510 Auburn Avenue in Monroe. Her father was a steamboat captain. 

According to the 1940 census, Daisy (age 28) and her sister, Mildred, were new workers. They lived with their parents at 2007 South Grand in Monroe. Their father was employed at the city street department. 

Daisy’s mother passed away February 9, 1941. The Monroe News-Star reported her death the following day. 

Marc has not been found in the 1940 census. On October 16, 1940 Marc signed his World War II draft card which said he lived in Memphis, Tennessee. He was assisting cartoonist, Russell Keaton, who was drawing the comic strip Flyin’ Jenny. Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 said Marc did the lettering. At some point Marc returned to Monroe. The Monroe Morning World, September 7, 1941, said Marc accepted a position at the Fawcett Publishing company in New York City. During World War II Marc enlisted in the army on November 28, 1942. He was discharged in 1944. At some point Marc traveled to New York and picked up the art chores on the Flyin’ Jenny Sunday page, and, from Fawcett, he got the Phantom Eagle. He worked at home in Monroe and enlisted his sister, Daisy, to do the lettering. Alter Ego #100, March 2001, reprinted Marc’s interviews in Fawcett Collectors of America Newsletter #11, November 1978, and #41, Spring 1988. He said 
… Daisy, who did just about all my lettering from 1945 [sic] on. She was one of the greatest letterers, according to Roy Ald and Will Lieberson. When I left New York with Flyin’ Jenny under one arm and Phantom Eagle under the other, I wrote my sister—sending her lettering samples—and told her I needed her help doing lettering. She had never claimed to have any art abilities but took on the assignment. At first it was rough, but eventually she developed her own style. Once I received a letter praising the clarity of my lettering. I had to write back and confess it was the work of my sister, Daisy!
Alter Ego, #141, August 2016, reprinted a 1945 Monroe Morning World article about Marc that said 
... Swayze’s sister Daisy assists in the inking and lettering. 

But she has only been able to lend her aid since the artist’s return here from New York, where he was for some time doing illustrations and commercial art for magazines before taking to the fruitful comic field. ...
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Marc drew the Flyin’ Jenny Sunday page from May to August 1943 and from July 23, 1944 to July 14, 1946. 

Flyin’ Jenny, December 3, 1944, lettered by Marc. 

Flyin’ Jenny, December 10, 1944, lettered by Marc (top tier) and Daisy (bottom tier). Daisy’s letters are wider than Marc’s. Their construction of the letter “M” is the most noticeable difference. For Marc, the sides of the “M” are angled. For Daisy, the sides of the “M” are perpendicular. 

Flyin’ Jenny, December 17, 1944, lettered by Marc (caption under the logo) and Daisy.

Starting July 30, 1945, Marc took over the Flyin’ Jenny daily strip when Russell Keaton passed away. Marc lettered the first week’s strips except one.

Flyin’ Jenny, Thursday, August 2, 1945, lettered by Marc.

Flyin’ Jenny, Friday, August 3, 1945, lettered by Daisy.

Flyin’ Jenny, Saturday, August 4, 1945, lettered by Marc.

Flyin’ Jenny, Monday, August 6, 1945, lettered by Daisy.

Wow Comics, #31 November 1944, “The Phantom Eagle in the Hills of Araby”, top panel introduction lettered by Marc; rest of the story lettered by Daisy. 

The Monroe, Louisiana and West Monroe, Louisiana City Directory 1947–48 listed Daisy,  her father, sister, Mildred, and brother, Marc. Mildred was also an artist. 

Daisy’s father was home when he passed away on March 23, 1950. 

In 1950 Daisy was a deputy in the tax office of Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor Odis Russell. The 1950 census recorded Daisy and her sister, Mildred, at 2007 South Grand in Monroe. Daisy’s occupation, hand letterer, was crossed out. 

The Monroe Morning World, November 26, 1950, profiled Marc and mentioned his work in Sweethearts, a Fawcett comic book. “Lettering of the strips are done by M. D.’s sister, Daisy Swayze, who is recognized as being an outstanding professional. The team of brother and sister are at present the only known one in the free lance artist field.” 

In the Fawcett Companion: The Best of FCA (2001) Marc said
... Also, while digging out the old comics, I noticed that in one of the Fawcett romance comics featuring my work, Life Story #21, 1950, all three stories were done by me, except for the lettering which was done by my sister Daisy ...
The following pages show Daisy’s lettering and Marc’s art in the Fawcett romance comics. 

Sweethearts #89, July 1950, “Prisoner of Love

Sweethearts #91, September 1950, “Love Walked Out!

Sweethearts #93, November 1950, “Temptation!

Life Story #21, December 1950, “Two on a Match

The Monroe News-Star, October 11, 1956, reported the passing of Daisy’s sister, Mildred. 

Daisy passed away on May 4, 1972, in Monroe. An obituary was published the same day in the Monroe News-Star
Miss D. Swayze Dies; Funeral Slated Friday
Miss Daisy Swayze, 1202 Riverside Dr., Monroe, deputy in the office of the Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor, died early today after suffering an apparent heart attack. 

Funeral services will be held at 4 pm Friday in the chapel of Mulhearn Funeral Home of Monroe with the Rev. Lea Joyner, pastor of the Southside United Methodist Church, officiating. 

Burial will follow in the Old City Cemetery.

Miss Swayze, a native of Monroe and member of a pioneer area family, suffered the apparent attack at her home. She was pronounced dead on arrival at Glenwood Hospital.

She had worked as deputy assessor since 1950. She was a member of the Southside United Methodist Church.

Survivors include two brothers: Marcus Desha Swayze of Monroe; Louis Herbert Swayze, Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia; and several nieces and nephews.
A second article about the funeral appeared the next day.
Miss Daisy Swayze
Funeral services for Miss Daisy Swayze, 1202 Riverside Drive, Monroe, will be held at 4 p.m. today at Mulhearn’s Funeral Home of Monroe with the Rev. Lea Joyner officiating.

Burial will be in the Riverview Cemetery under direction of Mulhearn’s Funeral home. 

Miss Swayze died early Thursday at her residence after an apparent heart attack.

She was a deputy in the tax office of Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor Odis Russell, a position she had held since 1950.

Miss Swayze was a native of Monroe and a member of a pioneer family in the area. She was member of Southside United methodist Church.

Survivors include two brothers, Marcus D. Swayze of Monroe and Louis H. Swayze Jr. of Atlanta, Ga., and nieces and nephews.

Pallbearers will be O. H. Walker, Odis Russell, Bill Hardin, Justin Fogelman, M. A. Denoux, Bill Downey, Gladden Walters and Wayne Huff.
Marc passed away October 14, 2012. 

Comics Letterer Posts


(Next post on Monday: Kunen Books)