Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Obscurity of the Day: Jerry the Juggler

I tend to not give Stanley Armstrong much credit. He had the thankless task of continuing the great George Frink's Slim Jim and the Force, and there's just no one who can, in my mind, compare with Frink in the reality-rattling lunacy of that classic strip.

Before Armstrong took on that thankless task, one of his few published series was Jerry the Juggler. It was only recently that I got to take a serious look at this Armstrong effort, and I have to admit, Armstrong certainly seems to have written material that's a lot like Frink's even before he was contractually obligated to do so. These Jerry the Juggler strips are ridiculous, silly and utterly pointless, but Armstrong was evidently enjoying himself, and that really shines through. I guess I have to hand it to World Color Printing -- when they had to replace George Frink, they found the right fella.

Jerry the Juggler ran in the Chicago Tribune's Sunday funnies section from March 2 to August 10 1913.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for some of these samples!


Well you've got to give 'snaps' to Armstrong for having the marbles to take over a property that was rapidly becoming the Spinal Tap drummer of early Sunday pages.

What did you think of Ewers short stint on the strip
Do you know if those (alleged) meat sticks and the ol' car-jacker's helper were named after our comic fugitive or did the moniker 'slim jim' precede the strip?


IMHO Ewer's Slim Jim pretty much just tried to follow in Frink's mold. Although Ewer was one helluva cartoonist, I think he didn't really show off his own chops there as much as he maybe should have. In other words, he should have turned the amp up to 11, but he didn't.

Regarding Slim Jims (the heart attack inducing snack), that's a great question, one I have looked into periodically only to find that the history of that skinny sausage snack is rather foggy. One thing is certain -- no one puts the invention of the snack Slim Jim any earlier than the late 1920s, and it sure seems like the brand might not have actually become a real player until the late 40s. So probably nothing to do with our comical Slim Jim.

The Oxford English Dictionary offers as the first definition for "slim jim" as "a very slim or thin person," cited to Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).

The OED also cites a 1916 use of "slim jim" to refer to a food, but not the contemporary meat product. James Joyce used the term in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and later explained it as referring to "a kind of sweet meat made of a soft marshmellow jelly which is coated first with pink sugar and then powdered ... with cocoanut chips. It is called ‘Slim Jim’ because it is sold in strips about a foot or a foot and a half in length and an inch in breadth."
For some reason (Good Old Days magazine, maybe?) Armstrong's Slim Jim was the first I had seen of the strip, and I have seen more by him than Frink and the others.
Not saying he was better than the others, but I was always happy with his work and enjoyed it.
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