Saturday, September 05, 2009
Obscurity of the Day: Ophelia and Jake
Here's another relatively recent feature that was never given much chance to find an audience. Ophelia and Jake was, I can safely guarantee, the only syndicated strip ever about a girl and her pet rabbit. The strip was syndicated by United Feature Syndicate from January 25 1988 to August 18 1991. I don't know that I'd call it a great strip, but it certainly had a different hook, and cartoonist Heidi Stetson had a really fine off-kilter sense of humor, especially evident in the second example above.
Maybe newspaper editors blew it off as a Calvin & Hobbes wanna-be, which it certainly wasn't (editorthink: kid plus animal = Calvin & Hobbes). Maybe the resemblance of Ophelia to another comics page character hurt it (editorthink: kid looks like Luann = must be Luann, which I already run or already passed on). Or maybe the target audience was the problem (editorthink: strip about pre-teen girl + pre-teen girls not big newspaper buyers = waste of space). In any case, Ophelia and Jake ran in very few papers in its short run and then hopped off to that big rabbit hutch in the sky.
I had a lot of fun doing this strip, and have always been grateful for the opportunity. Never knew that anyone thought I was copying "Luann", as I never saw that strip until well after I started doing this. I have endless admiration for Bill Watterson as one of the truly great cartoonists of our times (well, ever, actually) but dang, the strips are full of kid + animal set-ups, so it seems a little unfair!
Heidi Stetson Mario
That is the exact point I was trying to convey. Newspaper editors rarely put any deep thought into their choices for a comics page. All they see is surface. I don't KNOW that any editor actually thought any of the things I mentioned, but knowing how little truly intelligent thought goes into choosing a new strip I suspect that unfair, ridiculous comparisons like those I dreamed up were made.
Also loved Nigel's Yo Yo Ma lunchbox. Classy kid!
Our favorite, though, was the turkey chip cookies. We still quote it pretty much every turkey season. (I just described it in a comment on Jef Mallett's Facebook post.)
Thanks for a lot of laughs and chuckles.