Thursday, January 25, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Beatrice and her Kid Brother Bill
M.T. "Penny" Ross essentially ripped himself off with Beatrice and her Kid Brother Bill, a strip that is really just Mamma's Angel Child with boys instead of girls, and an older sister instead of a mother. And yes, they are boys, though they're rather androgynous looking. Ross took less time on the art of this strip -- where Mamma's Angel Child was always graphically innovative, this strip, though drawn exceedingly well, wasn't one to make your eyes pop out like Ross' bread-and-butter strip.
What's amazing about Ross, to me anyway, is that he was able to get away with cartooning in, if I may be excused for being impolitic, a flamboyantly feminine manner. It's no surprise that many fans have assumed that 'Penny' was a woman. We're talking 1910s Chicago here, not San Francisco today, so I have to wonder how he got along with the rest of the boys in the bullpen. Do I give the folks of those long ago days less credit for openmindedness than they deserve?
Beatrice and her Brother Bill ran from January 11 through May 31 1914, syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.
I've known of people who said they were researching Ross (paper doll folks more than comic strip people) but considering that most of them were still laboring under the belief that he was a woman I can't imagine that they'd have much useful information to share with you.
I know I've come across a few contemporary articles about Ross, but I checked my files and there's nothing there. That means that they currently languish in my mammoth "to be filed" stacks, all but inaccessible.
Regarding the Outcault connection, I've heard Ross named among the multitude that supposedly ghosted Buster Brown at the Herald after RFO left. Do I believe it? Nope. I find no evidence that Ross ever worked in New York; as far as I know he was strictly a Chicago boy.
A Disney connection? That's a new one on me. You'd be much better off enlisting Disney experts for an opinion on that. You might try asking Alberto Becattini.