When Barrie Schindler was young, her mother Jane Krom Grammer mentioned to her that she had drawn art for comic books. Jane kept a package filled with several issues of Supersnipe Comics from the mid-1940s and pointed to the Dotty stories in them. But Jane’s name didn’t appear anywhere on the art and there were no pay vouchers or contracts to back up the story, only her word.
The Dotty stories feature the titular character, a young dark-haired girl who is equal parts mischievous and clever. Her best friend Rhona is often a foil in the stories, which revolve around quintessential childhood problems such as making one’s allowance go further. They are gentle, droll stories, where the adventure lay in the mundane.
In April 2019, I spent a week doing archival research at Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center. One of the collections I perused was the Street & Smith Records, as I was intrigued by what business records may have been retained for the comic books this company published in the 1940s. In folders filled with pay vouchers for Supersnipe Comics art and stories, I did a double-take when I encountered multiple payments to Jane Krom for art for the Dotty stories. A few quick online searches at sites like the Grand Comics Database failed to result in any hits.
Over the course of the next few weeks—with some gracious assistance from Steven and Rene King Thompson—I got better acquainted with Jane and her story. Public records and newspaper articles helped fill in part of Jane’s story, but her daughter Barrie, who I tracked down, provided some richer details.
Jane Krom was born June 14, 1920, the only child of Charles and Katherine Krom. Her father managed two exclusive seasonal hotels, the Essex & Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey, in the summer and The Flamingo Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, in the winter. At these hotels and through her education at the exclusive Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, Jane found herself part of the upper social echelons. Following her graduation from high school in 1938, Jane attended the Erskine School in Boston, the Katherine Gibbs School in Manhattan, as well as the Traphagen School of Design, also in Manhattan.
Art was a constant in Jane’s life. Drawing, photography, jewelry, and crafts all figured prominently. As a young woman, she painted murals at the Essex & Sussex Hotel, won recognition for her art at the Traphagen School, and worked as an illustrator for a Miami Beach society publication. During her time at the Erskine School, Jane’s beer jacket—a decorated light colored denim jacket that was a form of school spirit in the early 20th century—acquired artwork by future Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Jim Berryman alongside a sketch of the Katzenjammer Kids. In later life, she owned a fine arts and crafts store and exhibited photography.
In 1943, Jane married Allen Halstead Grammer, an alum of Princeton and Harvard, who also served as an officer in the Coast Guard. Her marriage to Grammer helped put Jane’s artistic talent on Street & Smith’s radar. Why? Her father-in-law Allen L. Grammer was then president of Street & Smith. Later, as chairman, Grammer shifted the company away from comic book publishing. Whether Grammer approached Jane about doing art for some of the company’s comics or she approached him or something else entirely will likely remain unknown. Jane’s art for the Dotty comics, however, can now be credited.
There are ten Dotty stories in Supersnipe Comics beginning with June 1945 and ending in February 1947. Of these ten stories, pay vouchers for Jane Krom’s work exist for at least seven of them (August 1945, October 1945, November/December 1945, March/April 1946, July/August 1946, November 1946, and a 7th one for which I’m still uncertain of the issue date). Jane’s daughter Barrie has copies of the May/June 1946, December 1946, and April/May 1947—among some of the others—leading me to believe that Jane did the art for those stories as well, even though I have not yet found pay vouchers to confirm it. If you’re curious, the vouchers were paid out approximately 6 months before the issues’ cover dates.
At $18 per page (about $250 today), Jane’s pay was relatively high, even among Street & Smith artists. Did she color her own work? It’s possible. I have not found documentation suggesting that another artist was paid to do the coloring. Did she write the stories as well? It’s possible that she did, although again, I have not found any documentation to confirm authorship. The vouchers extant in the Street & Smith Records are extensive but not complete.
At the Grand Comics Database, many of the Dotty stories have at the time of this writing been attributed to George Marcoux, who died in April 1946. Marcoux was a protege of Percy Crosby as well as the creator of the Supersnipe character, who headlined the comic books in which Dotty appeared. Jane Krom’s work certainly shares in some of both Marcoux’s and Crosby’s playful and sweet visual realism. Her child characters look and act like real kids: alternately kinetic and languid, wise beyond their years and naïve.
Jane died in August 2012 at the age of 92. Her obituary noted, “Jane was an accomplished painter, jeweler, sculptress, and award-winning photographer, as well as an avid birder. She loved nature, traveling, and getting to know people of all backgrounds and nationalities, passions she enthusiastically passed on to her children. Her family will dearly miss her inquisitive mind, feisty spirit and boundless creativity.” I’m sorry not to have known Jane, but through her charming art for the comics stories about the feisty and funny Dotty, we all can spend some time with her.