Monday, February 04, 2013
Obscurity of the Day: Sammy Spankem
George Frink is another one of my favorite cartoonists -- a guy who produced prodigiously and always sought to create something original, rather than just ripping off the other guy's ideas. In Sammy Spankem, one of his later weekday series at the Chicago Daily News, he takes some hoary concepts and stirs them all together into something different. By 1908, when this strip debuted, people were quite familiar with the various comic strip kid types -- you had the bullies, the prank-pullers and the nancy-boys -- and among fathers you had the mean ones, indulgent ones, and the generally clueless sorts. Frink takes a sort of a nancy-boy type kid, but makes him into an unwitting prank-puller. In complete innocence Sammy asks his clueless father for something, in which father invariably indulges him -- then the prank comes off, getting the father conked, robbed or what have you. Finally, in an unexpected turnabout, clueless indulgent daddy whales the tar out of the kid because he can't see that he was to blame for his own troubles by indulging the boy.
Although the concept is original, Frink probably ran with it too long; over five years. However, part of Frink's amazing ability was to keep a very simple idea fresh. As you can see from these 1912 examples, Frink can still do a funny turn on the concept.
Sammy Spankem first appeared on March 7 1908, and has the distinction of being Frink's last published series strip on September 13 1913, other than a very short stint at World Color Printing in 1915 (which was likely just reprints or leftovers from years earlier). As with his other Chicago Daily News strip, Frink was occasionally spelled by other cartoonists. Richard Thain contributed a single strip in 1909, R.B. Fuller one in 1910, and someone who signed himself 'Fitz' did a few strips in 1912.
Tomorrow: an Ink-Slinger Profile of Richard Thain