Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Phantom Features: Norman by Bushmiller

This is the first installment of a new series I'll do as opportunities appear.

Yesterday I received an email from an ardent Ernie Bushmiller fan. He was having conniptions because he couldn't find any examples of the strip Norman by his favorite cartoonist. Why did he think such a strip existed? Only because several websites refer to it.

Lambiek: "In 1971, Bushmiller produced a shortlived feature called 'Norman'."

AllExperts: "He [Bushmiller] also created a very short-lived strip named Norman, which was syndicated in 1971."

Oddball Comics: "In 1971, Bushmiller created another strip, but unlike NANCY, the new strip, NORMAN was short-lived."

I had to break it to our Bushmiller devotee that he never did a strip titled Norman. So where did these websites get their information? We can trace the problem to Dave Strickler's reference Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists 1924-1995. This book, which does not purport to be anything more authoritative than a transcription of the annual Editor & Publisher Syndicate Directories, says that Bushmiller did a strip called Norman. Why? Because the 1971 E&P yearbook simply has a typo. Instead of crediting Eli Bauer, who really did do a strip by that name, they duplicated the credit from the previous entry in the list, which is, of course, Nancy. Here's the actual E&P entry:
Dave Strickler is not to blame here. He makes no claim that all the features he lists are real ones. His work is just a transcription of what was reported in E&P. The problem is with people who apparently have never heard of the saying "take it with a grain of salt", the imprudence of blindly trusting secondary sources. With no corroborating information, they could have said "it has been reported that Bushmiller did a strip called Norman in 1971". But no, instead they report it as a fact with no caveats.

Just in case you think just maybe Ernie really did do such a strip and I'm just blowin' smoke, here is E&P giving the information correctly in the alphabetical listing of features in the same directory:

I discover misinformation like this all too often on the web. After the first website comes up with one of these whoppers, the misinformation immediately starts working its way onto other sites like a virus. Soon there are so many websites parroting the same BS that readers, like our Bushmiller fan, quite reasonably assume it MUST be true.

Poor Eli Bauer. Since his creation has been so unfairly appropriated from him, let's end this post with a sample of his brainchild:

Hey kids! Know of a phantom feature you'd like to see busted on Stripper's Guide? Drop me a line!


At least NORMAN is like NANCY in one respect: it doesn't make much sense. Mind explaining this "gag" for me?
Eli Bauer was an animation writer, working in east coast at Terrytoons and on some of the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons directed by Gene Deitch. To give another comic strip connection, he also wrote on the animated "Krazy Kat" which aired in 1963.

Here's him imdb page
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