Thursday, November 26, 2015
Obscurity of the Day: Nutcracker U
Although John Pierotti had a long, varied and fruitful career in cartooning, the only newspaper strip for which we can definitely credit him is Nutcracker U, which debuted October 2 1950. (Hippo and Hookie still has not been proven to have made it into papers, and Pier-Oddities was a sports panel).
Nutcracker U was self-syndicated by the cartoonist, who characterized taking this route to newspapers thusly: "That means footing all the bills, and when a cartoonist does that, he either is crazier than most cartoonists, or he believes implicitly in his product. The latter part of that sentence applies to me." Pierotti had, in my opinion, good reason to take a gamble on Nutcracker U. The delightful art, drawn in a style perfectly suited to the new smaller 4-column size standard in the 50s and on, stood out among all the competition. If that wasn't enough, what red-blooded male reader could peruse the funnies without being drawn to Pierotti's pulchritudinous women? Oh yeah, and the plot and gags were kinda cute, too.
Despite hitting on all cylinders, selling a self-syndicated strip to newspapers is pretty darn close to impossible, and the workload is mind-boggling. Pierotti had this to say about the experience: “...I syndicated my own strip called ‘Nutcracker U’, until I ran out of money and nerve. Worked practically twenty-four hours a day for a year and a half.” Pierotti gave up the strip on October 27 1951.
I sympathise with Pierotti over the rigours of self-syndication. I tried it myself, forty years ago, and it was not only loads of work, it was also quite discouraging, because I took it personally every time a paper cancelled. Amazingly, I lasted about five years, but finally enough was enough. It probably would have been more profitable and satisfying if I had drawn my strips on the sidewalk with chalk.
Naturally I had to look into your mention of self-syndicating, and what a surprise to find you are the creator of an old favorite of mine, Neil the Horse! Don't know if you're aware, but I included the strip in my book even though it doesn't really qualify (no U.S. syndication that I know of). As I said in the listing, I included it anyway because I am a fan.
I'd very much like to get definitive info on the running dates (I have Sep 1975 - sometime in 1979) and any other info you'd share. Would love to do a Stripper's Guide post about it too, if you have any scans you could share (I think I have maybe one or two tearsheets in my files, if that).
Anyhow, great to hear from you!