Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Joe of the Musical Habit

Since we covered a feature yesterday that is pretty representative of the worst in racism against blacks in newspaper comics, for balance today let's look at Joe of the Musical Habit. In my opinion it is racist only in its depiction of Joe, who gets the standard black face of the day. Beyond that Joe could just as easily been a white guy, which is, I think, a fair yardstick for whether a feature is or isn't racist.

Joe's inconvenient habit is that whenever he hears music he gets the urge to dance. In the sure hands of cartoonist Ed Carey this leads to predictably boisterous and hilarious action. While the joke is, of course, repetitive, the humor is in how the wild action is depicted. I particularly enjoy this example, where Joe's habit seems to be contagious and the hoity-toity assembly joins right in.

Joe of the Musical Habit was a feature of McClure's top-of-the-line version of their Sunday comics section from July 30 to October 1 1905, too short a run if you ask me.It only got full page color billing a couple of times, usually relegated to half-page interior appearances instead.

A tip of the hat and a little soft-shoe to Cole Johnson who provided the sample. Thanks Cole!


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