Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Obscurity of the Day: Stranger than Fiction

One of these days I just have to count up all the Katzenjammer Kids rip-offs and all the Believe It or Not copies and see which feature was more imitated.

Today we have another one for the Believe It or Not column. This one is titled Stranger than Fiction, and it was the Brooklyn Eagle's entry, distributed by Watkins Syndicate. The creators were a pair of Eagle bullpenners, Walter Galli on art and Richard W. Thomas supplying the amazing facts.

The Brooklyn Eagle had hardly any luck selling features to other papers. I don't know if Watkins Syndicate had a sales force at all, but if they did then the salesmen really needed some help from Zig Ziglar. In 1939, for instance, Watkins advertised in E&P a whole batch of really snazzy sounding new features, but not a one of them ever seemed to have made it into a paper (including the Eagle itself!).

Stranger than Fiction began as a daily on April 1 1934 (a great omen!), and a Sunday page was added on January 12 1936. The Sunday was the first to expire, on April 4 1937, with the daily sputtering out soon after, on June 5. For some reason the panel was advertised in the 1935 E&P listings under the title Oddities. I've never seen the panel itself actually using that title.


I wonder what the Charles Hiller item is supposed to be about. The only Charles ("Chuck") Hiller ever to play Major League Baseball didn't reach the majors until 1961, twenty-four years after this panel ceased publication.

Even if the Charles Hiller referenced here was a nonplayer, he still would have had only four years in which to serve all of the then-eight American League baseball teams. (The AL didn't become a major league until 1901, with eight teams, and Hiller retired in 1904 according to this strip. The National League started in 1876.) That would have required a lot of job-changing in a short time.

I wonder if perhaps the first two words of the strip's title were superfluous?
Perhaps that 1935 Oddities oddity was just a text filler? Maybe just the block of type underneath the panel for use as space allowed?
After all Stranger than Fiction's Sunday topper (Big Little Things)was running as a short text column of factoids under Thomas' name in 1935 and 1936.

Noticed you didn't list Galli's (weekly?) panel Did You Know in The Book. It ran in 1970 in Saturday's Troy Times Record and Sunday's Niagra Falls Gazette. It followed the pattern of offering little nuggets of information but focused on thoroughbred horses, his signature was even followed by the initials NYRA.
Hi Joshua -- I'm shocked ... shocked to be told that the Stranger Than Fiction crew's facts are not perhaps as factual as some would like.

My guess is that by "major" they probably meant anything but that. He probably played on a bunch of local clubs.

Or they got the name wrong.

Or they got the number of teams wrong.

Or they made it up.

Hi DD --
My policy for the book is generally to list only advertising comics when they are of significant historical or artistic interest. Galli's Did You Know series, which is obviously a sponsored giveaway, didn't really seem to rise to that level.

On the other hand, if someone else were to do the research into just exactly how long it ran, this lazy guy would be happy to credit them and include the info in the 2nd edition.

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