Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Obscurity of the Day: Hubert
You wouldn't think that any feature that ran for fifty years could be classified as an obscurity, but I think Dick Wingert's Hubert may honestly fit the category.
Hubert first came to life in Stars & Stripes during World War II. He was the eternally confused little dope who doggedly tried to do his duty but constantly ran into trouble. It's said that Wingert's creation was almost as popular as Mauldin's Willie and Joe with the GI audience.
After the war Wingert brought Hubert back home in a syndicated panel offered by King Features starting December 3 1945. Hubert made a painless transition from foxhole to suburbia with his dishy wife Trudy, and started out strong enough in sales that a Sunday page was added February 3 1946.
No one expected the panel to last long. Many wartime features tried to adapt themselves to a post-war world and lasted only as long as the nostalgia of returned GIs held out. Seldom did that sentimentality last beyond a decade. Although Hubert lasted much longer, I think his welcome was generally worn out by the end of the 1950s as it's rare to find the feature after that. However, King Features continued to make the feature available to an increasingly tiny number of newspapers for decades more. King is notable for keeping features well beyond their profitable life, whether through inertia or affection for their veteran creators.
Even in the 50s the humor in Hubert was, to put it politely, low-key. The Sundays especially, as you'll see in the samples above, barely even had gags. The panels and strips often seem to set up for a punchline that never really arrives, sort of a do-it-yourself feature where the reader does the heavy lifting. Wingert desperately needed a gag-writer, and if he did have one any pay they were getting was an overpayment. The only assistance that Wingert is known to have had was Tex Blaisdell, who says he assisted on the art in the 50s.
By the 1960s Wingert's artwork was degrading, and by the 80s and 90s there's just no nice way to describe the truly awful clumsiness of it. King Features finally put the feature out to pasture on January 16 1994.
The King Features Weekly Service brought back the panel as a part of its weekly package.
I don't know when they started offering it as part of the Weekly Service, only that by 2003 it was in the package and it still is.
I have. There's a free weekly 'paper' of sorts called Tidbits of Madison County and they run "Hubert" and "Laff-a-Day," along with their up-to-date comics.
Thanks for the info! Guess they draw the line at Breger, eh? I'll add notes to my database that Hubert and Laff-a-Day are definitely being recycled.
Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Gazette
well, they both made ME laugh.
They also run the Spanish-language version of Ziggy.
Wow. I've never seen the print edition of the Onion, but I assume that line-up is purely intended as a mocking of mainstream newspaper comics page humor? As such that's an inspired lineup.
I found a paper that ran the hat trick of Hubert/Mr. Breger/Laff-A-Day.
Go to http://www.smalltownpapers.com/index.htm
and find the Dickey County Leader.
Page 4 of the November 6, 2008 edition.
Of the score or so papers there that carry comics, they are overwhelmingly the KFS Weekly package.
Though I was surprised to find Reid's "Cow Pokes" still running. Any idea when the last new "Cow Pokes" ran?
Never did find a JW offering.
Dick Wingert passed away in a hospital in Bloomington, Indiana, shortly before the end of the strip. He had been living in nearby Nashville, Indiana, known for its artists' colony, for some time. I don't have the date of his death handy. I agree--Wingert's later art is almost painful to look at. It's hard to believe it remained in syndication, but then there's a lot of bad art in syndication even today.
Just an update: Richard Thomas "Dick" Wingert passed away on Nov. 21, 1993, in Bloomington, Indiana. He was born on January 15, 1919, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, so Hubert would have ended 75 years and one day after his birth.