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 Martin M. Branner  (1888 - 1970)

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Lived/Active: New York/Illinois      Known for: illustration, cartoon, genre painting

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Ad Code: 3
Martin Branner
from Auction House Records.
Art for Amazing Spider-Man #10 complete 22 page story
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Martin Branner, the New York born creator of the long-running cartoon, "Winnie Winkle," set his cap for a career in art early in his life. Branner applied for a job in the art department of the New York World while he was still in high school. Although he was turned down for that initial job, he continued to do free-lance advertising art for nearly a decade before becoming established as a strip-cartoonist.

At 18, he saw no way to support himself with his pencil, and his career took a sharp and romantic turn when he eloped with then fifteen-year old Edith Fabrini, and the two formed a vaudeville act. As Martin and Fabrini, the duo, danced their way to considerable success, Branner supplemented his income by drawing occasional ads for Variety and for fellow-vaudevillian and later radio star, Fred Allen.

The Martin and Fabrini Continental Dance Act played the Palace, and had reached $400 a week when World War I began. They nearly embarked on a European tour. Branner enlisted in the Army, where he served in the Chemical Warfare Division. He returned in 1918 to resume his career on the vaudeville stage. His dream of becoming a cartoonist had not faded, however, and he began submitting ideas to the syndicates.

In 1919, Bell accepted a Sunday feature about a bald little attorney, Looie the Lawyer, and a second Sunday strip, Pete and Pinto, he sold to the New York Sun and the New York Herald soon after. In the spring of 1920, the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate gave him a contract for the daily strip that was to make his name for the rest of his professional life. "Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner" debuted on September 20, 1920, with a Sunday feature following in 1923.

Branner kept all three strips running for a time, but soon dropped Looie and Pete and Pinto to devote his full time to Winnie Winkle. The first of the major working-girl strips, Winnie Winkle began as a humor feature with a daily gag but evolved into a continuity strip with realistic stories about the life of a stenographer and her family. He revived Looie, who for many years had a strip of his own beneath the Winnie Sunday. Branner, with help, wrote and drew the strip until his retirement, following a stroke, in 1962.

He died in 1970, four months short of the 50th anniversary of his creations appearance. His legacy, Winnie Winkle, remains alive and well. It is one of the few survivors of the continuity strips of its period.

(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "The Encyclopedia of American Comics", edited by Ron Goulart.)

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