Friday, May 06, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Baron Munchausen


As beloved as the famed character Baron Munchausen is, and in public domain to boot, it seems odd to me that his adventures have only once been adapted into a comic strip. Oh sure, there have been plenty of features that had similar characters who told outrageous self-aggrandizing lies, but never did anyone seem to want to dip into the original well.

Well, if it could only be done once, then it's nice that it was done so well. Klaus Nordling, at the very beginning of his cartooning career, did Baron Munchausen as a weekly strip for the tiny Van Tine Features Syndicate. Klaus was barely twenty years old when he tackled the assignment, but his storytelling and artwork were already top-notch. Nordling's appropriately over the top tall tales are accompanied by deliciously witty, highly polished art. No big surprise that Klaus became one of the leading lights of the Golden Age of comic books when he switched over to that genre a few years later.

The strip ran from 1935 (starting before October 14th of that year, my earliest example) and ran until sometime in 1937, probably ending early in that year.


Nordling's early comics work is atrocious and amateurish. Around 1942, it suddenly becomes polished and nuanced--as are these 1935 strips! I wonder why Nordling chose to lower his artistic standards so brutally in the later 1930s?
Well, he did have a week to produce each of these strips, a far cry from the production line environment of comic books, where, what, a page or more a day was the norm?

British cartoonist Dennis Gifford, whom you may know from his various books on the history of comics, drew an adaptation of Munchausen for the British editions of Classics Illustrated (#146). Comic book database has the cover but no other information, not even actual date which i think was late 1950s.

It may have been the only issue of Classics Illustrated ever done in a stylized cartoony style
I am a big Nordling fan. Where did you get the information he is Fred Nordley?
I immediately had a look to find some more and was surprised to see samples ran until februari 1939. But, since at least one of those was one I did see two years earlier, my guess is these are reprints?
Part 1

Klaus Fjalar Nordling was born in Pori, Finland on May 29, 1910 according to a family tree at He was the only child of Gustaf Ribert and Aili Karoliina. The family sailed aboard the S.S. Oscar II from Copenhagen, Denmark on August 22, 1912; they landed in New York City on September 3. Nordling's father was a self-employed photographer as recorded on his World War I draft card. They lived at 4213 8th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.

The Nordlings were recorded in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census at the same address. Nordling's father had been in the U.S. since 1903. In 1930, they lived at 4015 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Nordling's first name was recorded as "Frank" and his occupation was a clerk in the diplomatic industry.

The Ridgefield Press reported the death of his wife, Lilja Heta Tellervo "Tel", on December 5, 2003; excerpts from the article:

Mrs. Nordling was born in Cambridge, Mass., on March 30, 1910, the
second of four children. Her Finnish-born parents, Risto and Milma
Lappala, moved the family to Virginia, Minn., where they established a
Unitarian ministry and raised their children among the forests, rivers
and lakes of the north woods. True to her Finnish heritage Tellervo was
named for a woods-maiden in the Finnish national epic, the “Kalevala,”
and had a deep and life-long love of nature and the outdoors.
Part 2

She was educated as a librarian, and lived briefly in Germany as a
student until the imminent outbreak of World War II brought her back to
the United States. Besides being fluent in Finnish, she also became
proficient in German. She met Klaus Nordling, a cartoonist and comic
book artist, while she was working as a translator for a Finnish newspaper
in Brooklyn, N.Y. They married in March 1937, and lived in Brooklyn and
Minnesota until moving first to Redding [Connecticut], and then in the
mid-1940s to Florida Hill Road in Ridgefield [Connecticut], where Mr.
Nordling worked at his home studio.

According to Who's Who in American Comic Books 1928-1999, Nordling began his career as a gag cartoonist and caricaturist for Americana Magazine in the early 1930s, and then produced Baron Munchausen in the mid-1930s. The late 1930s saw his entry into the comic book field. An overview of his comics career is at Wikipedia; a list his comic book credits is at the Grand Comics Database.

During the mid-1950s the newspaper, Bridgeport Telegram (Connecticut), reported on his theater work as an actor and director. Nordling passed away on November 19, 1986, in Ridgefield, Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Death Index.
Hi Ger --
Nordling himself in Alter Ego #60 claims it as his work. Where did you find the strip appearing later? It should indeed be reprints, but I'd like to check it out if its online.

I found a run on NewspaperArchive, very spotty on a paper that appeared daily, but only had a full page of strips every week. Except for one week, where they had two. It also looks as if they did do a regular paer on Sunday, but none of wednesday. I didn't clip the name, because a 1941 search of Nordley will get you (or me) there.
I think Denis Gifford's Classics Illustrated was April 1962...
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