Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Milt Gross' Revolving Title Comic Strip

Here's a challenge for you wordsmiths out there. For years I've been trying to come up with a term to describe a daily panel cartoon or comic strip that uses multiple recurring titles. You know the type I mean -- the Clare Briggs, H.T. Webster and Gluyas Williams features are the most famous examples of the genre. For instance, Briggs had in his arsenal When a Feller Needs a Friend, Real Folks at Home, It Happens in the Best Regulated Families, Ain't it a Grand and Glorious Felling and so on. None of these titles was a feature unto itself, they were each just used regularly on his otherwise untitled daily feature. Some purveyors of  this type of feature would add and drop titles over the years, others stuck pretty much to the same ones, and others (T.E. Powers comes to mind) were like a shotgun, adding and dropping recurring titles constantly.

I've called these 'revolving title' or 'multiple title' features, but those are certainly not terms that come trippingly off the tongue. I often wonder what term the creators themselves used, but in all my reading about the form I've never come across a pithy term for the genre. So does anyone know the proper term for these, or failing that, have a suggestion for a term that properly describes them and is elegant and succinct?

Anyhow, while you're grinding your mental gears on that, take a look at this multiple revolving title (ugh!) comic strip series by Milt Gross. Gross' short-running series boasted a mere three recurring titles -- The Meanest Man, I Did It and I'm Glad, and Draw Your Own Conclusion. Considering it ran for just six months I guess Gross didn't need to invest in more.

When Milt Gross left Pulitzer's Press Publishing for Hearst's King Features around September 1930, he was faced with creating new strips to replace his then-current series; this daily-only strip was the successor to Looy Dot Dope. The new strip probably began on October 6 1930, though the Wisconsin News, one of the few papers to run it, ran it ROP, so that date could be a week or two off. The strip ended on March 28 1931, replaced by Milt's new daily (and soon to be Sunday) series, Dave's Delicatessen.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!


How about...

(ARTIST NAME) anthology comic strip
"Revolving title" don't seems so bad to me (but English is not my language...).

Maybe "rotating feature"?
Hi Michael --
When I first saw your very elegant suggestion, I just loved it. I may have even let out a little squeal of pleasure. But I was chastened when I read the dictionary definition and was reminded that the term 'anthology' is often used to imply a multiplicity of authors, and I decided that the last thing I want to do is be obfuscatory. Pity. I loved the origin of the word, too, which apparently was something to the effect of a bouquet of flowers. How nice.

In the trade press, as well as newspaper's own use, these were always referred to with the author's name, as it would be enough to instantly tell the reader what to expect.
Allan, this is the 21st century internet, what does the accepted correct definition have to do with anything?

Oh well, so close.
A polynomial strip? Technically correct, but rather confusing as it is normally used in mathematics.

More correct and not used otherwise: a polyonymous strip. Polyonymous = "Having many names or titles."
Polyonymous!!!! I love it! It'll send a lot of people running to the dictionary, but hey, that's their tough luck. Don't take Latin 101 and you pay the rest of your life.

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