Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: If It Weren't For Father

When I go on my research trips to various libraries around the country I'm always in a mad rush to get as much work done as possible in the short time I have. That means there's precious little time for reading the features I document for Stripper's Guide. That means I miss out on a lot of interesting discoveries like the one we have today in If It Weren't For Father. Sure, I documented it -- it ran in the New York Evening Journal from March 4 1909 to March 1 1910 and it was by Harold MacGill.

But what I would have learned had I taken the time to read a few episodes is that this strip is quite obviously the inspiration behind one of the most popular strips of the 20th century. I won't tell you which one because it will become painfully obvious when you read the samples. The very famous strip in question started just three years later, and whether you call it inspiration or a rip-off, you can bet the famous cartoonist in question was reading this strip since he was at the time working for Hearst's New York arch-rival, Joseph Pulitzer.

Luckily we have Cole Johnson around who actually reads these darn things and made this amazing discovery. Thanks again Cole!


It seems to me that you're onto something here, but ultimately both strips find their inspiration in William B. Gill's play "The Rising Generation," in which an Irish bricklayer from Harlem, played by Billy Barry, rises to the position of employer and then senator - all in spite of his greedy, lowdown "superiors." MacGill translated the idea to the comic page first, apparently. MacManus (who, if you think about it, had made a bit of a career out of parodies and knock-offs) took the idea and actually made it work. MacGill, though, clearly had a diamond in the rough here, and a nice little diamond it was.
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