Mickey Mouse, by Carla Regalado Teixido
'Finn Fathom, ex frogman', one of the three known 1956 sample strips.

Craig Pineo was an Californian commercial artist and illustrator, mainly working for children's publications and advertising. He did advertising comic strips and created samples of a proposed Sunday comic called 'Finn Fathom, ex-frogman' (1956).

Commercial art and illustration
The only information about Craig M. Pineo's background can be found in a 1956 advertising brochure for The Associated Newspapers syndicate. It says Pineo was 34 years old at the time, making his birth year either 1921 or 1922. A golf player and World War II veteran, he was based in Glendale, California, where he worked in commercial art. Possibly through Johnstone & Cushing, he drew over 50 advertising comic strips for national advertising products, which appeared in the USA's leading newspapers and comic books. One of these was a 1951 series of advertisements for Purex Bleach starring Aunt Sylvia. In a rare occurrence for advertising artists at the time, Pineo was allowed to sign them.

'Aunt Sylvia' advertisement for Purex (1951).

One of Pineo's 24-sheet posters was selected by the Annual Exhibition of Outdoor Advertising Art as one of the 100 best posters of 1947. On several occasions his drawings appeared in the West Coast Art Directors Annual. In addition to his work for nationally known food accounts, he did advertising artwork for Hollywood motion picture studios and for the All Year Club of Southern California. Old newspaper articles show that Craig Pineo also made designs for local businesses and municipalities. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that the artist designed a "saucy-eyed little fat man complete with moustache and yachtig cap and striped T-shirt" called "The Skipper" as mascot for the Newsport Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

'Smokey Bear' poster by Craig Pineo (1957).

Other sources reveal that Craig Pineo made illustrations for children's magazines and books, working in the "Golden Book" style. Together with Betty Fraser, he made drawings for the book based on the Walt Disney motion picture 'Mary Poppins' (Golden Press, 1964), illustrated with photos and art. Also for Golden Press, he made realistic full color illustrations for juvenile books about the animal kingdom, such as 'The Baby Animal Book' (1964) by Daphne Davis and 'Natural History Adventures' (1965) by Marion B. Carr of the American Museum of Natural History. Pineo was also one of the artists of the 'Smokey Bear' posters, used in the Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention program from the late 1950s to the early 1960s.

Finn Fathom Sunday comic
In the mid-1950s, Pineo worked with the scriptwriter Ed Wilson - an advertising agency account executive and amateur diver from Pasadena, California - on a proposed Sunday newspaper comic called 'Finn Fathom, ex-frogman'. Together with his native friend Atlas, this "exciting new hero of a fabulous underworld" (as the syndicate flyer describes him) hunts for sharks in commission of Californian aquariums. When a bored actress leaves her filmset to go for a swim in the lagoon, she scratches her leg on the coral. Her blood attracts the attention of a hungry shark, but of course the heroic Finn Fathom is nearby to slice the fericious sea creature open with his knife.

The only known appearance of 'Finn Fathom' is in a 1956 brochure for The Associated Newspapers, uncovered in 2016 by the Dutch collector Ger Apeldoorn on his Fabulous Fifties blog. Not much is known about the syndicate, except that it was headed by a Joseph B. Agnelli and that it shared its New York address with the Bell-McClure Syndicate and the North American Newspaper Allience. The Associated Newspapers was possibly an attempt to relaunch the 1930s syndicate of the same name - which was operated by Joseph P. Agnelli (Joseph B.'s father?) - but it seems that this new enterprise never got off the ground, as none of the comic strips it carried ever went into circulation.

Finn Fathom on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

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