Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Obscurity of the Day: Jasper Jooks
It's a shame, too, because copying Al Capp is no small feat. Baldy Benton had both the art and writing style nailed down, an indication that he surely could have done justice to a more original concept. My hope is that Benton didn't create Jasper Jooks of his own volition, but was directed to copy Li'l Abner by the Post Syndicate. Perhaps the syndicate had the idea that because Capp's phenomenally successful strip was only available in one paper per territory that a knock-off could find a home at all those other papers that missed out on the strip.
If that was the thinking then the syndicate was wrong. Jasper Jooks didn't make it into a lot of papers and seems to have expired just shy of a one-year contract, on March 26 1949.
But as you say, hints of a capable artist with a personal style peek out, especially from the backgrounds. Did "Baldy" do any other strips?
Jess 'Baldy' Benton was born on May 9, 1911 according to the Social Security Death Index (his first name spelled as Jesse). Census information on him has not yet been found. As recorded in the U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946, Benton enlisted on April 17, 1941. He was a Vermont native, single, with four years of high school education, and a commercial artist.
"Jasper Jooks", was covered in Editor & Publisher, Volume 81, 1948 (Google Books search).
Blue Laws, Comic Art Join in 'Jasper Jooks'
By Helen M. Staunton
BLUE LAWS and a territory of New England which never progressed
beyond Revolutionary customs and clothes furnish setting for the new
New York Post Syndicate comic strip "Jasper Jooks," by Baldy Benton.
"Slightly weird," Benton grants of the strip, "But I believe that these
weird things have been enormously successful. Look at 'Berkeley
Square' and 'Brigadoon'," he told E&P.
More than the idea of "Jasper Jooks" is weird. Benton's art with its
grotesque features, accent on action and wealth of detail is, he agrees,
in the comic tradition. Several years an artist and writer for the Bridgeport
(Conn.) Herald and two years in Hollywood, Benton got the idea for his
strip, he said, when he was doing a feature story on blue laws. The idea
stuck with him through a couple of years comics apprenticeship at
Fawcett Publications and "four years, nine months and 29 days in the
Army." Benton has had about 100 short stories published.
"Jasper Jooks," as the strip narrates, was a twin who stayed in the
Appleknock Territory when his brother went to Boston to be an actor.
What with getting put in the stocks, observing curfew and obeying the
laws of Judge Haz Bean, the strip's characters provide action in the
comic and escapist vein. "It has seemed to me that there are some
people who would have rather lived in some other time," explained
Benton mildly. NYP will release the comic April 19.
View his comic book credits at the Grand Comics Database, www.comics.org/credit/name/jess%20benton/sort/alpha. According to the Social Security Death Index, Benton passed away on July 31, 1991; his last known residence was Fanwood, New Jersey.
Please Allan, what is going on?