Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Obscurity of the Day: Do You Know Why
Historians really love to dump on Thornton Fisher as one of the worst hacks of the comic strip world. I'm afraid I don't quite see eye to eye with them, though. Fisher certainly didn't create any enduring classic strips, and his gags were undeniably lowbrow, meant only to be momentary diversions for working class folk. And as long as you compare his work with that of others with the same philosophy I think he holds his own perfectly well.
Fisher flitted from syndicate to syndicate but had his best and most productive years with the New York World circa 1913-19. He has a laundry list of credits, not a single one of which wouldn't qualify as an obscurity today.
Do You Know Why is one of his earliest efforts; it ran from October 4 1913 to June 25 1914. There were no continuing characters, just a little self-contained 4-6 act play acting out the answer to Fisher's title questions. Some strips were real klunkers (I think the top strip here qualifies), while others were perceptive and very witty (I love the second strip, which is timeless -- substitute Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as the subject).
This strip is also a bit of a historical head-scratcher. Fisher was definitely doing work for the New York World at this time, and I've indexed his output from the pages of both their morning and evening editions. This long-running strip, however, never appeared there. I found the indexed run in the Boston Post. The Post bought most of their dailies from the World, yet this strip doesn't carry the typical Press Publishing copyright. So is it a World strip that was produced only for syndication (not something the World was doing at the time as far as I know), or was Fisher also working for the Post, or a syndicate, or self-syndicating, while at the World?
Soon as I figure this one out I'll get to work on that whole world peace issue.