Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Rooftop O'Toole

St. Paul Pioneer Press and Dispatch cartoonist Jerry Fearing and columnist Bill Farmer joined  forces in 1976 to create Rooftop O'Toole, a strip about a kid who delivers newspapers to the White House. Rooftop, the paperboy, pretty much has the run of Washington's hallowed halls and trades quips with politicos of all stripes, along with the ghost of Millard Fillmore, Hilda the White House maid and Homer the gatehouse security man. The strip was unabashedly political but non-partisan.

Initially the strip ran only as a daily in the Pioneer Press, starting on May 10 1976. However, United Feature Syndicate soon decided to add it to their roster and its national debut came on January 3 1977, whereupon a Sunday strip was added. The feature was modestly successful, reportedly running in as many as 80 papers at its peak. However, after a few years United began to chafe at what they considered disappointing sales and suggested that the strip would sell better if the political content was dropped leaving only gags about a paperboy and his dog. Fearing and Farmer rightly considered this a ridiculous proposal, and rather than dilute the strip preferred to let it end. It was an unfortunate end to a strip that had a lot going for it -- a unique theme, excellent art and solid writing

Jerry Fearing in his book Fearing Revisited says the strip ended on August 30 1980.


Fearing recently gave his collection of original art to the University of Minnesota Archives and Collections as the Fearing Collection of Cartoon and Editorial Art. Some of his Editorial Cartoons can be viewed online.
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