Monday, April 29, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Odd Fact

 When I finally managed to find proof that this elusive newspaper panel cartoon existed, I had the dumbest thought. To wit, "Wow, finally I have proof that the great Will Eisner did a newspaper comic -- how cool is that!" I hate to admit just how long that thought rolled around in my pea-brain before the inanity of it finally dawned on me. Sheesh.

So anyway, now that my confession is out of the way, let's get on with Odd Fact, by the great *ahem* newspaper cartoonist, Will Eisner. In the 1970s, after his involvement with P*S ended and before he started doing his popular and critically acclaimed graphic novels,  Eisner was casting about for opportunities. He did some illustrated books seemingly designed to appeal to the supermarket checkout line buyer (my favorite -- How To Talk To Your Plants) and he created Odd Fact.

I know little of the background of this panel cartoon, and it holds some mysteries for me. What I do know is that Editor & Publisher listed it in their 1975 and 1976 syndicate directories, crediting Register & Tribune Syndicate for distribution. That's the only indication of that fact, since Eisner evidently talked the syndicate into distributing his feature while allowing him to retain his copyright. That's unusual to say the least, especially since Eisner's name, quite frankly, didn't carry much weight to a newspaper syndicate in the mid-70s.He must have done some very smooth talking to the syndicate to get that treatment.

If the Milwaukee Journal is any indication, and it is the one place I've found Odd Fact running, syndication began on October 6 1975. That date is open for revision, since E&P's directory, published in July 1975, would seem to indicate it might have been available earlier.  I do know that Eisner used a 1975 copyright slug well into 1976, so when you see January and February dates with a 1975 copyright on them, don't be fooled -- they are from 1976.

As for an end date, I'm no more certain. I've seen some originals with May 1976 dates, but the latest I've seen actually running are from March 1976 (again, in the Milwaukee Journal).  However, since E&P advertised the feature again in July 1976, other papers may have run it longer.

The final odd fact about Odd Fact is that there is a book of the feature. Titled Odd Facts and published by Tempo/Grosset & Dunlap, it is a collection of Odd Fact panel cartoons (minus the masthead) plus additional text-only pieces. The copyright is 1975, but there is no publishing date, and there is no reference to the availability of a newspaper feature. It seems likely that the book pre-dates the newspaper feature, and perhaps was used by Eisner as a marketing tool to demonstrate to the syndicate that there was reader interest in Odd Fact.

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