Thursday, February 18, 2010


News of Yore 1950: Keate's Ode to a Dog

Dog Without Message, That's Keate's 'Rufus'
By Jane McMaster (E&P, 8/19/50)

"It's my idea of clean, simple humor," says Cartoonist Jeff Keate of "Rufus," the Sunday romps of a disheveled dog offered by Chicago Tribune-New York News Sept. 17. "I really think there's a crying need for humor. My page won't carry any message."

Mr. Keate's particular brand of humor once led to a magazine cartoon showing four octopuses meeting under ocean, shaking hands and getting all balled up in tentacles. His apt kidding of the social situation brought a lot of letters.

Putting English on It
He's had special success with dog cartoons, too. A pet shop number brought a bonus from the magazine, newspaper reprint and reprint in three books. (Another cartoon with the gag line "Gil-hooley is a stinker" was reprinted in England as "Cedric is a bit of a cad.")

Born in British Columbia, the cartoonist got encouragement from his father, who was in the lumber business but apparently had a suppressed desire to be a cartoonist. "It reached the point when I was a kid that whenever I drew on walls, instead of erasing the stuff, he'd buy frames to put around it."

He came to the U. S., of which he's now a citizen, to go to college at Grand Rapids and to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. But when he graduated in 1936, he tried to get on newspapers without any luck.

While those were the lean years, (he was once down to 25 cents), he generally managed to make $20 to $25 a week cartooning. "And in those days it didn't take much to live," he recalls. "I had enough for the rent and night clubs too."

First Sale Was a Gag
His first sale was to King Features — a gag panel. He was shortly hitting the slick magazines too, but not in full force until he came to New York in 1945. He's now averaging about 20 magazine sales a month. For the last few years he has been doing "Time Out," a daily sports panel for the Publishers Syndicate, which, he says, is profiting from the TV-boomed interest in that subject.

In 1947, he and six other free lance cartoonists began a CT-NYN Syndicate panel, "Today's Laugh." Each participating artist produces one laugh a week.

While gags about vaudeville dogs were popular for a time, Mr. Keate feels the trend right now is toward playing them "straight" which is what he mainly does in the new page. The "Rufus" of the strip, whose antecedents are doubtful, is actually based on Mr. Keate's English setter named "Rufus." As two comic strips already have English Setters, that breed had to be avoided. Another character in the comic is a man "An average, middle-aged, bald-headed type you don't particularly like or dislike."

Like many a successful cartoonist, Mr. Keate is sometimes puzzled at the way readers see things in a cartoon that weren't intended. He once drew a cartoon of a bush growing right next to a tall tree. A tree doctor was bending over the baby vegetation saying, "Kitchy-kitchy-koo." Later, the cartoonist met a young thing who gushed: "Oh Mr. Keate, that was certainly funny, your cartoon showing a doctor getting hay fever!"

[A pair of mysteries in this article -- first, has anyone seen this Rufus feature? Apparently it ran in the New York Daily News' Sunday section for a time, but I can't find even a single example. Second, what is this gag panel he supposedly did for King? I have no such credit for him. Oh, by the way, he forgot to mention that his first strip was actually the very obscure Filbur McFudd for Associated Features way back in 1937. -- Allan]


Hi, this is Ron (Tampa FL). I own a nearly complete run of the 'Brown Boys' strip from around 1935-1936.
I have 115 pages original art plus a few proofs. Appears to be unplublished from American Features syndicate.
Does anyone have additional details on the strip or its creator John Jay Humski. I bought this from an auction site in 2009, and hasnt been much inifo on this forgotten strip.
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