Wednesday, March 15, 2006

 

Obscurity of the Day: Lord Longbow


Lord Longbow is one in the long line of entries in the blowhard tale-telling adventurer genre. In a category more-or-less invented by the real life Baron Munchausen (read an article about him here in Wikipedia), comic strips and cartoons have used the concept over and over. From one of the earliest animated cartoons, Colonel Heeza Liar, to Major Hoople, to the Underdog show's Commander McBragg, to the latest slightly off-kilter Baron wannabe, Franklin Fibbs.

Lord Longbow was created in 1907 by Richard Thain for the Chicago Daily News. The Daily News' claim to fame is that they were the first newspaper to syndicate a daily budget of comic strips and cartoon panels (starting in 1901). Thain was part of the regular stable of workhorse cartoonists at the News and created lots of other series, but Lord Longbow was by far his longest lasting contribution. Thain first appeared on the News daily comic page in early 1907, and his specialty was substituting for other cartoonists on their features. This was a pretty common practice at the News, and a major headache for a certain bleary-eyed researcher who had to decrypt the tiny blurred signatures on all the strips every single day.

The first Lord Longbow strip ran May 13, 1907, and Thain kept the series going through November 4, 1907. It then disappeared for over a year, finally returning on January 9, 1909. Though Thain was still cartooning for the Daily News, the strip was revived by a fellow who signed himself Rankin. Rankin shares essentially the same story as Thain - he started with the News in 1907, and created many series of his own in addition to subbing on other established strips. Rankin kept Lord Longbow running thorugh August 23, 1915, with occasional subs by (who else?) Richard Thain.

Lord Longbow was syndicated by the Chicago Daily News at first, but the News joined the Associated Newspapers cooperative syndicate in 1911/12 and thereafter the strip was distributed through their auspices. For a long while in the teens the strip was copyrighted to W. Werner. I haven't been able to determine who this is, but the typical practice at the time would indicate that it was probably someone in the front office at the Daily News.

Can anyone positively identify W. Werner, or supply a first name or biographical info on Rankin?

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Comments:
Concerning the mystery “W. Werner”: I too, tried to discover who he was, with no results; I looked thru the indexes of the books on American journalism I own, but no use. If it may be of help, for what I know his copyright begun to spring up around 1913 on Frink’s “Sammy Spankem” and on Ted Brown’s “The Inventor” (you surely know these strips; in the improbable case you don’t, I can send you scans for your blog) and, as you wrote, on the “Lord Longbow” series; simultanously it appeared on a series of tales not in comic form, with generic titles such as “This Week Complete Story”, “A complete Story”, some of which with a woman as a main character. Another series of daily short stories, “Today’s Evening Story” begun around 1921. Last traces of the “Copyright by W. Werner” statement in my clippings date 1923.
 
Hi Alfredo - yes, those other strips were also produced at the Chicago Daily News. I'm betting the text features originated there too. Unfortunately there is no history of the CDN that I'm aware of, otherwise I'm sure we'd find that Mr. Werner was somebody of importance there.

I have checked all my other Chicago newspaper histories in the hope that they mention him, but no luck.

Best, Allan
 
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