Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Obscurity of the Day: Jack and Lil
In the mid-1920s The Gumps was one of the most popular comic strips in the newspaper world, and so of course imitators sprouted like weeds in a garden. One of these imitators that failed utterly to take off was Jack and Lil by H.F. Voorhees. The strip seeks to emulate The Gumps with a similar continuing storyline featuring a wacky family. To further trade on The Gumps fame, Voorhees draws the male characters quite freakishly, while the women are relatively normal. That's really where the resemblance ends, though. From there on, for better or worse, Voorhees cuts his own trail.
The 'worse' is that Voorhees seems incapable of organizing a sensible continuity. He jumps all over, as you can see above in this two week sequence. But that's really not of any great consequence, if you ask me, because on the 'better' side we have the creator's great facility with snappy dialog and slang. These are delightful strips to read and savor, even if we only have half a clue what in the world is going on. Voorhees really should have been a gag-a-day man, because the only thing that seems to trip him up is long-range plotting.
I also love the running bit regarding Madame Zaza's radio show. The madame, who apparently we will never actually meet, has famous guests including (see above) Paul Whiteman the orchestra leader, and Rin Tin Tin the movie dog. These strips are filled with great patter from her front man, whose name I never learned.
Jack and Lil was syndicated by the John F. Dille Company, just a few years before that hole-in-the-wall syndicate hit the jackpot with Buck Rogers and could then hobnob credibly with the big guys. Jack and Lil ran from sometime in 1927 to sometime in 1928 (my run ends June 2 in mid-story). I'd love to hear from you if you have any more definitive running dates than that.
Sadly, as far as I know Mr. Voorhees never had another syndicated comic strip credit, but I understand Alex Jay is working on a profile for him, and we'll all learn more tomorrow.