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Monday, July 27, 2015

Number 1766: Dr Mephisto and the Milquetoast model

Caspar “Casper” Emerson, born 1878, was an artist who began work in newspapers before the turn of the twentieth century. He ran into a situation which caused a public scandal and personal ignominy, when his wife left him for a gypsy violinist known as Prince Rigo. A divorce was granted in 1910, and Emerson is thought to be the model for the henpecked Timid Soul, Caspar Milquetoast,* made famous by cartoonist H.T. Webster.

In the thirties illustration work dried up for Emerson, and he began drawing for pulp magazines. In the forties he worked doing comic stories for Fairy Tale Parade, and later did the Dr. Mephisto strip in Power Comics. This particular episode is from issue #4 (1945). A comment with an accompanying illustration in the excellent article on Emerson by David Saunders demonstrates that Dr. Mephisto looks a lot like Prince Rigo, the man who took his wife.

The Dr. Mephisto script was written by William Woolfolk.








*See examples of The Timid Soul here.

18 comments:

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

What?!? “his wife left him for a gypsy violinist known as Prince Rigo” ? Really?
I’m sorry for the poor fella, but can’t help thinking about Peter Sellers in the Muppet Show: “It iss mee, Boriss… with hiss ssobbing violin…”

Oh well, life can be more strange than any comic book, I guess…
The idea of a series with a criminal anti-hero in a leading role (well before the 60's)is very good, I think.
As a side comment: the arch nemesis of the most famous Italian western hero, Tex Willer, is called “Mefisto”. He’s an English guy named Steve Dickart, who started as a stage magician (and very similar to Dr. M., by the way) and a spy for the Mexicans, then after several encounters with Tex he became an expert in real Black magic (a sort of Alesteir Crowley). Notable facts: he had an ambiguous relationship with his sister Lily (we’re talking about the 50’s) ; he actually DIED and kept fighting his enemies from Hell. Have a look, if you like:

http://dimeweb.blogspot.it/2015/07/the-dark-side-of-tex-m-v-parte-mefisto.html

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

In 7:4, Tubbs appears to go into milquetoast mode. Ultimately, these two squirrels didn't really even manage to chase Dr Mephisto away, yet they seem quite pleased with themselves! And I'm not sure why the relatives were offering a substantial reward, unless they hoped to persecute the recipient of the wealth.

The art is fairly pretty, though in some of the panels bodies interact no better than if the work were collage. I thought that Peters' tie (a cravat?) was oddly old-fashioned, but Tubbs seems to have had the same tastes in neck-wear.

It's a pity that people were and are shamed when their partners are publicly revealed to have cheated on them. (The Ashley Madison story comes quickly to mind.) What was Emerson supposed to have done? kept his wife in mortal terror of the consequences of betrayal? My second girl-friend cheated on me — with a married man who was a father! I was crushed, yes. But I'd done nothing wrong. And I wasn't unworthy of the woman whom I'd thought her to be; she just wasn't truly that woman.

Ryan Anthony said...

I see that Prince Rigo somewhat resembled Dr. Mephisto, but Emerson was also closely associated with C.W. Kahles, who created 'Hairbreadth Harry', a strip that featured Relentless Rudolph, who also looks a lot like Mephisto.

Boy, Emerson had no luck at all, even in revenge! The same year Rigo died in poverty, Emerson's wife died. Then, when his first wife died poor, Emerson was poor himself. That just sucks: he was unable to have any satisfaction against those who ruined him.

It's really cool that you bring guys like this to our attention, Pappy. Now Caspar (Casper) Emerson is no longer so forgotten.

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

You've pulled off a tour de force posting, Pappy. Reading the article on the illustrator Casper Emerson Jr. provided some interesting layers to the Dr. Mephisto comic —my yiddle brain pan is all a-whirl with them. The artist, Emerson, is they guy who inspired the comic strip The Timid Soul Caspar Milquetoast. As if that wasn't enough, the titular character of his comic book series, Dr. Mephisto, a theatrical, frustrated scoundrel who lives in a grave, was based on the grandiloquent musician who ran off with his first wife. Certainly the story of Emerson in the article beats this comic in all respects. But the scene where the randomly-picked heir to the fortune (with a pretty wife who could be based on Emerson's first wife) gets the inheritance letter, two detectives and the villain arriving at the same time demonstrates the wonder of comics. That randomly-picked heir could be Casper Emerson Jr. It's all so fraught. Heh.

Pappy said...

J D, thank you for introducing me to the Dime Web blog; I am not familiar with Tex, but the artwork presented in the blog reminds me of the solid artwork of Tom Gill, who drew the Lone Ranger comic book for many years.

I will enjoy going back through this blog when my schedule gives me some time to browse.

Brian Barnes said...

"Prince" Pappy, has a nice ring to it ...

The Emerson story is interesting, if not depressing, which is why real life never makes good romance comics.

The arch-villain comics, especially in the 40s, always had a really strange vibe. The villain never really wins, and is usually foiled by others ("fate", really Dr. Mephisto? I think you not being able to properly think of examining the mail did you in, and, maybe, two guys jumping you!) Why continue to read these kinds of tales? I loved the old Marvel villain team-up, but that worked because you put two giant ego clashing together, and it made things interesting and having a winning outcome unnecessary. This kind of story, though, is just a dope in a cape living under a tombstone who constantly fails!

Pappy said...

Daniel, that is probably a good way of looking at your own situation (". . . I wasn't unworthy of the woman whom I'd thought her to be; she just wasn't truly that woman.) I could probably do a blog just based on stories of cheating and cheaters I have known...but to tell the truth, it all boils down to the fact that people just are not monogamous.

I do have time for one story: In 1972 I went to work in the advertising end of a large franchising firm. I worked for an attractive young woman, who was then 24. She was married to the heir of a large local oil company. The franchise firm got a new general manager, who was 42, and she and he fell in love, left their spouses, and moved to another state. Her second husband eventually died (after cheating on her numerous times, as she claimed. My response to that was, "He cheated with you. Did you think he wouldn't cheat on you?") Anyway, he died of cancer, and she remarried. Then husband number three died, and last I heard she had remarried her first husband, over 45 years after divorcing him. He is no longer the oil company heir, but its owner. I wonder what her first/fourth husband thought when he remarried her, after divorcing his second wife to remarry his first. Sheesh.

Pappy said...

7f7, I found the story of Casper Emerson interesting, not only in its scandalous particulars, but because he was one of the older artists who worked in comic books as a second career, or to earn some money so they could pursue other artistic goals.

I wanted to be an artist. But I chose earning a living instead. I guess Casper could have gone to work in a grocery store or driven a taxi (or maybe he did...his biography doesn't detail his entire life).

To anyone who can earn a living as an artist, congratulations!

Pappy said...

Ryan, I also found Casper Emerson's story fascinating because of the Timid Soul connection. My grandparents and parents all referred to Caspar Milquetoast when pushing me out the door toward some achievement with the exhortation, "Don't be a Casper Milquetoast!" They could have said, "Be a Prince Rigo!" but I'm sure they didn't know that story.

Until I grew to adultery, errrrr, I mean adulthood, I had no idea who or what a Caspar Milquetoast was. Then I stumbled onto the book of H. T. Webster cartoons, with a whole section devoted to Caspar Milquetoast, and immediately knew what my parents and grandparents meant.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

I read the article, and the intersting comments of you boys. Milquetoast or not, the beautiful wife and her beautiful cousin were, I think, "due grandissime puttane" (that's italian for "two not so irreproachable ladies").

Emerson's story is tragic, but also gives an annoying feeling, as if it's from Operetta or Vaudeville. You know, the Belgian prince, the millionaire's daughter, the gipsy violinist... the Great War wiped off many of this crap.

I'm single, but I stand for monogamy. I guess I was a "milquetoast" for many years, now (as a reaction maybe) I occasionally do "strange" things like buying an ice tea to a street performer I have never seen before (the most beautiful green eyes I ever saw), and spending an "innocent" afternoon with her talking about theatre. I wouldn't do that if I had a wife or a girlfriend. Ok, thus ends confession mood.

Pappy, you probably know the late Joe Kubert did a great Tex Annual (2001). I had it, unfortunately one of my cats pissed all over the book. Over more than 200 pages of fine Kubert's art. Would you believe it? Now , THIS is a sad story. I feel kinda betrayed by the little scoundrel.

Ryan Anthony said...

I also have a book of Webster cartoons, Pap. Now I'll have to go look at the Milquetoast panels and see if I can link them with Emerson at all.

Pappy said...

J D, I love cats, but I learned from painful experience (similar to yours: a cat sprayed a bookshelf), not to let them into the room where I store my comics.

Alicia American said...

W8-- she left tha rich dude, marryed 2 otherer guys, than wen tha rich dude got richerer, she got him back.

So in otherer words, God rewards L8YS who cheet on there hubbys. I'll have 2 file this info awhey 4 laterer use Happity 2sday we luv u Pappy xoxoxoxoxo

Don said...

Eisner first conceived of the Spirit in 1940, five years before Dr. Mephisto appeared. Isn't it quite a coincidence for Emerson to have written about a mystery character, albeit a villain,who is thought dead but secretly lives in a cemetery? Prince Rigo isn't the only character Dr. Mephisto resembles.

Pappy said...

Don, I don't know how much Emerson had to do with creating the character of Dr. Mephisto, because Bill Woolfolk wrote the script. My guess is that Emerson probably saw a good opportunity to get in an inside joke on Prince Rigo.

Pappy said...

Alicia...well, wait, uhhhh, hmmm. Yes, I guess you are right! She cheated, divorced and outlived her husbands and gained riches. If I ever talk to her again I'll pass that along.

cartoonjoe said...

Comp as red you to Caspar Milquetoast, eh Pappy?

Count yer blessings...my mother wouldadmonish us kids to "stop standin' around lookin' like ANDY GUMP!"

(Andy Gump...one of the homliest so 'n'sos in comics...makes Popeye the Sailor look like Clark Gable! Sheesh! :( )

Pappy said...

Cartoon Joe, maybe we should walk down the street and listen for anybody yelling, "Hey, here come Gump and Milquetoast!"