If your idea of a “historian” is a rather bland, even boring personality, then you’ve never had the pleasure of reading the works of Allan Holtz of Tavares.
Story: Debbi Kiddy
Allan researches and writes about newspaper comics for his Stripper’s Guide blog, started in 2005. In addition to his many contributions to to the comic publication, “Hogan’s Alley”, he is the author of American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide (2012).
Allan became interested in comic books as a teen. “The Cartoon Museum, opened in 1967, was a landmark shop that exhibited and sold cartoon art,” he says. “The store also sold comic books, which is where I came in. As a teen, I frequented the shop as a certified comic book geek. At the time I couldn’t have cared less about newspaper comics.”
So, what sparked his interest? Allan says he owes it all to Jim Ivey, who was the editorial cartoonist for The Orlando Sentinel, a historian of cartooning, and proprietor of The Cartoon Museum. Allan says, “Ivey took me under his wing, making it his mission to show me there is a lot more to cartooning than the exploits of overdeveloped musclemen running around in their long underwear. He gave me a deeper appreciation of the art form. I found that newspaper comics in particular had been very lightly researched, and I decided I may as well work toward becoming an expert on their history.”
When asked about his favorite comic strip as a child, Allan says, “I was a fan of ‘Dennis the Menace’ as a kid. I think it was because Dennis represented everything I was not. I was a well-behaved kid, followed all the rules, didn’t speak out of turn—I wasn’t a sissy or a mama’s boy, I just didn’t seem to have the will to be a bad kid. Dennis, I suppose, was my evil alter ego, the outlet for whatever part of me wanted to just go haywire and be a little hell-raiser.”
What is Allan’s favorite comic strip now and why does he enjoy researching comics? Allan replies, “Like any researcher, my favorite is ever-changing, it’s always the next big find. Comic strip research is mostly the boring process of reviewing thousands upon thousands of newspapers on microfilm (though nowadays some are accessible on the internet). When I am lucky enough to discover an old comic strip series that has been completely forgotten, it is like an archaeologist finding a really unusual fossil. I can’t wait to document it and show it off to comic strip fans.”