Monday, July 21, 2014


Obscurity of the Day: Heeza Boob

You really have to hand it to Mort M. Burger. His cartooning ability wasn't much better than your typical fourth grader. But would he let that stop him? Heck no. He was a man with a dream to make it as a professional cartoonist. 

What Burger lacked in artistic ability he almost managed to make up in salesmanship and energy. Although Mr. Burger has very few credits that made my book, his doggedness and chutzpah are certainly worth remembering.

Speaking of my book, the only credits for Burger you'll find there are a few minor series he penned for the New York Evening World in the early 1900s. But that under-represents his time at the World, because his style (well, perhaps style is too strong a word) is recognizable on literally hundreds, maybe even thousands, of those little one-column spot cartoons that adorned the evening paper in those days.

After his time at the World I lose track of him for a long while, but then in the 1910s he keeps himself constantly in the public eye by showing a flair for self-promotion. He started sending out press releases to industry journals for every event in his life, and often they printed them. From these we could (if we had a really good searchable version of E&P and The Fourth Estate, et al) probably track him on practically a monthly basis.

I have on file articles in which he was running an advertising art company, a photo reproduction studio, and even (I kid you not) a cartooning correspondence school. He would also occasionally promote a new comic strip series, presumably self-syndicated though he tended to puff the press release up with a high-class syndicate name.

Heeza Boob, which he seems to have self-syndicated, appears to have been a daily strip though I have not yet found a paper that ran it with great consistency. Alex Jay found it appearing with pretty good regularity in the Salem Capital Journal, and from there we offer tentative running dates of August 11 1915 to December 2 1916.

Thanks to Mark Johnson, who found some reasonably clear PDF newspaper pages from which our samples are taken. As rare as these strips are, we could all wait forever to find actual tearsheets.

Tomorrow, Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile will fill us in on Mort Burger's life story much better than I ever could.

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