Friday, September 10, 2010
Obscurity of the Day: Mazie the Model
Larry Whittington achieved his dubious claim to fame for creating and then abandoning the comic strip Fritzi Ritz, which would later become a huge success under the guidance of its replacement cartoonist, Ernie Bushmiller. Various stories have circulated over the years as to why he abandoned the strip in 1925 -- some said he died, others that he couldn't meet his deadlines. But I'm happy to find that the websites I checked today all had the story right -- Larry dumped Fritzi Ritz in order to create a new strip for the New York Mirror, Hearst's entrant in the Big Apple's tabloid race. Whittington's last Fritzi Ritz daily was May 13 1925.
Whittington wasn't much of an artist but he could draw a passable pretty girl. He stuck with that specialty on Mazie the Model -- pretty much a straight copy of Fritzi Ritz except that Fritzi was an aspiring actress. The series debuted on May 25 in the Mirror. Less than a month later the series was picked up for syndication by Hearst's King Features unit. Faced with a seemingly endless stream of flapper comic strip offerings, most newspaper editors greeted Whittington's effort with barely stifled yawns. Evidently, though, just enough picked up the strip to keep it afloat ... barely. The strip limped along with a small client list of third-string city papers and small town journals until April 14 1928.
The strip had a brief revival in 1930-31 when the backstock was picked up by a reprint syndicate, probably Columbia Newspaper Service, and sold once again to some penny-pinching smalltown papers..
PS -- You may be wondering why I keep referring to the strip by one name when the example above uses a different one. Answer is that for some unknown reason the paper from which the sample originated used a variant title. As far as I know King Features never sold the strip under that name.
Speaking of the sample, is that not one of the worst conceived gags ever? In black and white, in which the strip was universally printed, there is no visual clue that Mazie's hair has changed color. What was Whittington thinking?