Monday, September 13, 2010

 

Obscurity of the Day: Howdy Doody

Howdy Doody came to television in 1947 and quickly made neighborhood heroes of kids who were lucky enough to have a TV set. By the fifties kids watched the show religiously and begged their parents to buy all the marketing paraphernalia it spawned.

A comic strip seemed like a natural outgrowth of the series and its marketing plan, sure to make kids whine until pops switched Sunday papers to the one that carried 'Howdy'. United Feature Syndicate got the nod for producing the strip, which debuted on October 15 1950, but the strip didn't sell nearly as well as one might expect.

Credits on the strip are confusing (at least to me, no expert on things Doody). Some websites give Disney alum Milt Neil credit as the creator of Howdy Doody, others say he just designed marketing materials. In any case, when the strip began he was given credit along with Chad Grothkopf. To my eye the art throughout the series looks to be Chad's. Neil's credit (for writing?) only lasted until December 3. Then Chad got sole credit until January 7 1951 when someone named Lee took a share. Lee got a credit on just three Sundays, then Chad once again stood alone. Then on April 15 a new credit was added for someone named Kean. The team of Chad and Kean were credited through the remainder of the run which ended on June 21 1953.

A mere two and a half year comic strip run for this popular TV character seems strange, but then the strip didn't seem to have all that much life to it. The drawing is excellent but the writing is flat and certainly not full of the energy that characterized the TV show. This seeming comic strip natural came and went without much notice.

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Comments:
My understanding (from Jerry Bails' Who's Who and Lieffer and Wares' Comic strip Project) is that the Lee is the Famous Stan Lee of Marvel comics.
I would think that the Kean is Edward Kean, head writer of the Howdy Doody Show. Kean died last month.
 
Wow! You know when the strip was written in the Atomic Age when Howdy Doody tells Santa to drop the presents from his sleigh like A-Bombs, saying it's the modern way of doing things! Santa even calls it fun! What a piece of history!
 
Hi DD -
Is there any confirmation from Stan Lee on that? He was working on My Friend Irma for LA Mirror at the time, seems just slightly odd that he would do a sub job for another syndicate and receive a credit for it.

--Allan
 
Allan, I wrote a comment about the Stan Lee thing, which did not appear. So let's try again. No new information from me, ddd is right to say the source of this is Jerry Bails. Since I have written about Stan Lee's writing career outside of superheroes and am still collecting informationabout the subject, I would love to see these strips. Too bad it's only three. Are there any dailies as well? Usually it is very easy to recognize Lee's style. There is a new book on Lee in the making; I'll ask Roy and Dany to see what they can find out.
 
In the Marvel house fanzine Foom #17 (March, 1977), and reprinted in Stan Lee Conversations (2007), Stan Lee in the interview, after discussing his various comic strips (but not My Friend Irma), gets on the topic of his ghosting western and detective radio shows and some tv shows.
And then... "I ghosted newspaper comic strips. I wrote the Howdy Doody newspaper strip, which I was able to put my name on."
Maybe he dropped signing his name on Howdy because after (rumor has it) ghosting Irma he was able to get a credit on that. Taking the Irma credit and continue ghosting Howdy?
Lee had worked with and edited Grothkopf in 1941-42 at Marvel Comics and supposedly ghost wrote Grothkopf's contribution to Bell's Fast Fiction - the "Under Two Flags" adaptation.
 
Fair nuff, DD, Stan Lee gets his credit on HD!

I also had no idea about him writing Under Two Flags for the "Famous Fiction" strip. More good stuff!

Thanks, Allan
 
Whoops! I posted this in the wrong place, so I'll do it again...

Hello Allan:

Just dropping a line to say that "Kean" was Edward Kean (1925-2010), the main writer on the Howdy Doody TV show. Kean also wrote several HD Little Golden Books and Tell-a-Tales from 1950-55. As for Stan Lee, I very much doubt if he might have actually written the HD page, even just for three weeks.
 
Per comments posted on Amazon a DVD set includes " a remarkable show with Milt Neil the cartoonist on the Howdy Doody comic strip doing team-up drawings with a fellow artist where Milt does one side of a character's head at the same time the other artist does the other side of the head, resulting in a perfectly balanced drawing that looks like the work of one artist".

That sure makes it sound like Neil was mostly on the drawing team along with Chad Grothkopf (the "other artist". So maybe Kean wrote from the start with lee pitching in when needed and credits for writing only added belatedly?
 
I added the question as a sideline, but from all the surces I still can't get the information if this was a Sunday only strip or if there was a daily version as well.
 
Hi Ger --
Sunday only.

--Allan
 
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