Friday, March 31, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: Spence Easley
Here I go saying I hadn't gotten around to scanning any Spence Easley strips, and what shows up in my mailbox hours later but some scans of the strip. Hmm ... I like the way this works. Doggone it, I just can't seem to find time to scan the first and last AP Sunday sections. Any takers?
So thanks to Alfredo Castelli who supplies today's scans. I think he's just buckin' for an extra great goodie package!
Spence Easley by Jack Patton started life as Dolly Burns on May 21, 1928. It was a local feature of the Dallas Journal, a second-tier paper that was really committed to running homegrown cartoons. Patton had already been contributing strips and panels to the paper on a near-daily basis since 1922. His prior feature, correctly identified yesterday by an astute reader, was The Restless Age, a panel cartoon about the wild and wacky children of the Jazz Age. It was jettisoned in favor of the new strip, which plowed much the same ground but with continuing characters.
While Dolly remained the title character until 1933, the Spence Easley character was there pretty much from the start and shared center stage. The characters eventually grew up a bit, as you can tell from the samples shown. Spence and Dolly married, and the strip progressed from a Tillie and Mac mode into more of a Blondie and Dagwood dynamic.
Patton ended the local Spence Easley strip in the Dallas Journal in September or October 1935 (these months are unavailable on microfilm, as are many stretches of the Journal), but eventually started shopping it around to syndicates. Register and Tribune Syndicate finally bit and Spence Easley was resurrected on the comic pages starting April 10, 1939*. Unfortunately for Patton the strip did not catch on and ended sometime in 1940 (the last I can find - once again the Dallas Journal microfilm gaps stymie me - is April 1940). Since the strip was listed in the 1940 E&P Syndicate Directory it presumably made it through the summer as the directory was published in September that year**.
* UPDATE: Jon Ingersoll sends proof that the syndicated Spence Easley debuted on February 27 1939, based on the Boston Globe run.
* UPDATE: Original art to a February 1941 strip has been found, with copyright slug intact. Although I would prefer to see an actual newspaper appearance, it is ALMOST certain that the strip was still running then.