Monday, March 18, 2013
Obscurity of the Day: The Handy Man from Timbuctoo
Carl "Bunny" Schultze came up with Foxy Grandpa, he seemed to have all but scraped his idea barrel clean. Even when he created a new series, a rare event, as he did with The Handy Man from Timbuctoo, the strip ended up following the same general plot as a Foxy Grandpa episode.
The series initially seemed to have really interesting possibilities when it debuted on August 14 1904 (top sample) in Hearst's New York American. A mysterious man, so hairy that only his eyes peek out from under the thatch, along with his pet tiger, emerge from the ocean onto an American beach. According to the title they have presumably just swum over from Africa -- never mind that Timbuctoo is over a thousand miles inland, or that tigers are not native to Africa at all. Such niggling details aren't important, because the series immediately devolves into the familiar plot where kids try to pull a prank, and the handy man and his tiger, as stand-ins for Foxy Grandpa, turn the tables. Ho hum.
Schultze signed this strip as CAW for some reason. In my book I contended that, based on what I'd seen of the strip, I didn't think that CAW was Schultze. That was based on looking at these strips on microfilm, far from optimal for art spotting. Seeing these samples from Cole Johnson, though, I can now see that they are indeed Schultze, and so retract my earlier statement. That leaves open a mystery as to why the cartoonist elected to do the strip under a pseudonym. Perhaps, and this is just a wild guess, he was assisted on the series and didn't feel he should take credit -- I do note on some strips a certain lack of finish that might go along with that theory.
The series sputtered out quickly, the last episode under the title running on November 6 1904. However, Schultze brought the handy man and his tiger into the Foxy Grandpa strip for two episodes, on November 13 and 20 (see bottom sample), before banishing the pair back to the middle of the Sahara.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!
Cole sent me a Foxy Grandpa ad strip from 1904, but it wasn't signed CAW. It does, however, have that same vaguely unfinished look about it. Schultze's style certainly, but just slightly rough in the details. I could easily believe that the roughness is because Schultze didn't have his heart in it (much like with the Handy Man strip).