Monday, March 17, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Wimpy's Zoo's Who
I'm utterly fascinated by toppers (those companion features that accompany Sunday strips), and the odder the better. Here's a pretty nifty one titled Wimpy's Zoo's Who. This panel, sort of a topper to a topper, accompanied the main companion strip Sappo to the 'main event' Thimble Theatre (better known as Popeye to the hoi polloi).
This little activity panel featured oddball beastie designs that could be cut out and made into 3-D figures. I bet these fearsome creatures terrorized their share of army men on the living room floor in their day.
Wimpy's Zoo's Who is from a period when toppers were beginning to fall into disuse. After the topper's glory days in the 20s to mid-30s, Sunday sections began to feature more ads and half page strips. These came at the expense of toppers, and they get scarcer and scarcer until many become rare finds by the 40s.
You'll hear historians say that the topper strip was a victim of World War II paper shortages. Don't believe a word of it -- it's the ads that killed full page strips, and that killed the topper. World War II only exacerbated an already bad situation.
Wimpy's Zoo's Who started accompanying Thimble Theatre on November 20 1938 and was replaced by a different panel feature, Play-Store, after December 1 1940. The topper was only included when Thimble Theatre was printed as a full, the tab version didn't include toppers at all.
Doc Winner probably handled the art chores at the beginning and then was replaced by Bela Zaboly sometime in 1939. After Segar's run on the strip ended Thimble Theatre was unsigned until the end of 1939, so exact dates for the artists are unknown.
EDIT: Cole Johnson, whose noggin apparently doesn't leak like a sieve as does mine, reminds me that Bud Sagendorf claimed in "Popeye - The First 50 Years" that he, along with writer Joe Musial, did all the activity panels starting with Wiggle Line Movie (the predecessor of Wimpy's Zoo's Who). Thanks for setting me back on the straight and narrow Cole! You're my very own brain spam filter!