Friday, May 14, 2010
Obscurity of the Day: Happy the Humbug
Happy The Humbug was syndicated by the New York Post Syndicate from November 17 1946 to April 3 1949 as a Sunday-only strip (the strip was not around in 1940 as claimed on Wiki and other websites). The animation-inspired funny animal feature got very little play in the nation's comic sections, a common problem for the features released through the auspices of the New York Post, at least until later on when Bob Hall whipped the syndicate into shape and made a success of it. When the strip was launched the syndicate claimed that a daily version of the feature was to follow, but apparently those plans never gave fruit.
The concept that ended up as the comic strip actually began as a book written by Steve Carlin. Although the book was apparently never published, Carlin offered the idea to NBC Radio as the springboard for a series of Christmas-themed radio shows. According to the TVDays website the Christmas series was a minor hit and a total of 54 radio episodes of Happy the Humbug ended up being produced and syndicated. The same site claims that the comic strip version was already in syndication by 1945, citing an article in Newsweek. If that's the case then I can only guess about when and how it ran, because the New York Post dates came from Jeffrey Lindenblatt who indexed the paper, and I confirmed the start date based on an Editor & Publisher article.
Writer Steve Carlin, who would later in his career create the TV phenom Rootie Kazootie, was fond of groan-worthy punny names (a few samples from Rootie Kazootie -- Polka Dottie and Poison Zoomack). But he really outdid himself on the comic strip Happy the Humbug. There was the Bum Steer, the Frightful Boar, the Monkey's Uncle, the Poor Fish, etc., etc. Carlin wrote the strip to appeal to much the same age group as his later TV show, but threw in a few nods and winks to the grown-ups. As far as I know this is the only syndicated feature with which Carlin was associated.
Cartoonist Myron Waldman, as you might guess from the art, came from the world of animation. His career began at Fleischer Studios where he worked on the Betty Boop and Superman shorts, among others. Later he moved to Paramount where he was head animator. He is best known for his work on the Casper the Friendly Ghost series, done in the same era when he was working on this strip.