Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Soapy Waters
Being a baseball fan, I'm a sucker for strips about the grand old game. Soapy Waters, for all its faults, is no exception.
Soapy was a country bumpkin who made it to the majors as a pitcher. The plot is familiar to anyone who has read Ozark Ike, or for that matter practically any baseball strip every created. However, unlike Ike, an Adonis who could do no wrong on the diamond, Soapy was a good-natured lump who was constantly in jeopardy of being cut from the team. Of course he usually came through in a pinch, and he was a much more loveable character for his faults.
The creator, George Stallings, was a Disney animation director in the 30s and 40s. I assumed he was both writer and artist on this feature, but I'm told that the art chores were actually handled by Kay Wright, a Disney animator. Whoever did the art, they did a fine job, and the Disney influence is obvious. Where the strip fails is in the writing. Soapy Waters is occasionally quite funny, but a large proportion of the daily gags fall flat. It's a shame, too, because the strip is a real winner on all counts when the gags work.
Soapy Waters ran from February 7 1955 through April 20 1957. It was syndicated by Mirror Enterprises, the syndication arm of the LA Mirror. The LA Mirror was owned by the Los Angeles Times company. In answer to the correspondent that prompted me to do a post on the strip, the copyright on the strip would now belong to Tribune Media, since they purchased the LA Times. My correspondent says he asked the Trib if they owned Mirror Enterprises material and they said no. Guess that means all those Mirror strips are fair game for reprinters until the Trib gets it head out of its you-know-what.
PS: Alberto Becattini writes privately to tell me that Dick Moores claimed in an interview to have been the inker and letterer on this strip. Becattini also interviewed Stallings, and he says that Stallings never mentioned aanything about Kay Wright being involved with the strip.
Since we're talking about comic strips drawn by former animators, how about samples of "Crawford" by Chuck Jones? That one is pretty obscure.