Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: The Mysterious Island

Contributed by Alex Jay

Raymond J. Witlin was born in New York City on September 2, 1920, according to the Social Security Death Index. The 1925 New York State Census recorded Witlin in the Bronx at 2305 Grand Avenue. He was the first child born to Abraham and Ruth. His father was a salesman.

In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census the Witlin family remained in the Bronx but at different address, 1235 Morrison Avenue. Witlin was the oldest of two sons.

The family moved to Brooklyn where Witlin was a student at Abraham Lincoln High School. (FYI: Frank Frazetta attended the same school in the early 1940s.) The Brooklyn Daily Eagle published, on Sundays, a children’s/young adult section called the Junior Eagle Section. The April 14, 1935 issue published an article about its new comic strip and a profile of its creator.

'Mysterious Island' Makes Junior Eagle Debut

With this issue of the Junior Eagle we bring you the first strip in a regular comic series done especially for us by one of own members—Raymond Witlin, aged 14, who lives at 2817 W. 37th St., Brooklyn. A cartoon devotee from early childhood. Raymond has an unusual talent, riotous imagination and a delicious sense of humor. You’ll find that out soon enough as you follow the amazing adventures of his cartoon characters in that saga of scientific extravaganza, “The Mysterious Island.”

Here's a close-up of our feature cartoonist written by himself. Step right up and say, “Howdy.” Ray!

”I was born 14 years ago, in the congested lungs of New York. My early childhood was rather uneventful, except for a broken nose, which is only a minor detail. Aside from that, I am like all other manliness.

The folks, who always had a hard time knocking out a living, discovered early that I was slightly “lit” on the subject of “funnies,” and since then I have been the family genius. I should say I’m not quite as good as that, but why spoil their fun?

My literary work has always met with the amused “eyebrow lifting” of my teachers. They think it's “cracked,” but then so was a fellow by the name of Edgar Allan Poe. I’m in the sixth term at Abraham Lincoln High School and a confirmed inhabitant of Coney Island, where the dust lies an inch thick and the sun is always shining.

I like baseball, volley ball and swimming. My favorite comic is “Hairbreadth Harry,” stalwart warrior of Justice. My ambition? Well, what do you think?

As for the “Mysterious Island,” I hope you like it. The ideas for this stupendous production have sprung from everywhere—even my own brain. If you have any ideas that you’d like me to use as the story progresses, let me know. And now—on with the show!”

The strip ran for nine consecutive weeks, ending on June 9 without explanation. The following Sunday a new strip, Chief Black Wolf, ran in its place.

Apparently Witlin’s cartooning career did not materialize after high school.

Witlin passed away on December 15, 2002 in Cumberland Foreside, Maine, according to the Social Security Death Index. His obituary was published in the Portland Press Herald, December 17, 2002.

[Allan's note: the images above, which comprise the complete run of the strip, are from digitized microfilm. Although I tried to tease out as much detail as I could, they remain stubbornly ghostly and pixelated. Sorry, but this ain't CSI!]


That's one weird strip!
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