Thursday, January 14, 2016
Obscurity of the Day: Dick and Jane
For today's post, we have a guest writer! John Lund is a big fan of the obscure strip Dick and Jane by Chuck Roth, and wrote me with a lot of detailed information, and even provided the samples you see above. So, take it away John ...
I am writing to tell you that I went to The University Of Massachusetts Amherst library to see a copy of your book, “American Newspaper Comics: An Encyclopedic Reference Guide.” The night before, I did research on the title and author of the book, checked to see if it was at the university, and wrote down the code number, to save time before I arrived. Sources said that this book covers pretty much every U.S. newspaper comic strip, and what little I've read of people's reviews at Amazon.com, it sounded to me like a reference book, a type of source I enjoy.
Mainly, I was curious to see if it mentioned one of my all-time favorite obscure comic strips, “Dick And Jane.” Sure enough, I found that it was mentioned, but was surprised to see my name mentioned as well, something I didn't expect. It also mentioned a fanzine called “The Funnies Paper,” which I received in the mail back in the later 1980's.
I am writing to update information about the “Dick And Jane” comic strip. I eventually came to the conclusion that it is likely that daily episodes from February 4 to March 16, 1985 likely never existed. The reason I came to this conclusion about the end dates of “Dick And Jane” is because, eventually, I found out about some other comic strips that had their Sunday runs end on a different week than when their daily runs ended. One example is “U.S. Acres,” which ended its daily run on April 15, 1989 and its Sunday run on May 7 that same year. The run of the “Dick And Jane” comic strip series is likely this: daily strips – March 5, 1984 through February 2, 1985, and Sunday strips – March 4, 1984 through March 10, 1985.
I am positive that the last Sunday strip is March 10, 1985, because The Arizona Daily Star seemed to have published every later Sunday episode, and did not seem to publish it beyond this date. Also, another Sunday paper, The Lincoln Journal-Star, seemed to have stopped publishing the Sunday run on the same date. As for the end of the daily run, this date is likely February 2, 1985, the last daily episode that appeared in The Lincoln Journal. By 1985, it seems that “Dick And Jane” appeared in fewer newspapers, although it appeared into 1985 in the Journal. It is likely because they began to run “Dick And Jane” on October 22, 1984—later in the strip's run. If most papers began to run “Dick And Jane” earlier, I find this quite unusual that the Journal began it later.
Other newspapers that ran “Dick And Jane” were: The Boston Herald (March 4, 1984 – December 23, 1984, except for the Sunday episodes of August 5, September 9, and November 18); The Springfield Evening Daily News (April 2, 1984 – September 29, 1984, except for May 28, July 4, and September 3); The Springfield Sunday Republican (May 27 – September 23, 1984, except for June 24 and August 19); The Columbus Republic (Editor & Publisher of May 12, 1984, says that this comic and “The Neighborhood” were published in large size in this newspaper at the time); the Tampa Tribune (according to Jim Ellwanger at the rec.arts.comics.strips newsgroup); the Sacramento Union (dropped the strip in early December 1984, and carried it Sundays as well); Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph (ran it on Sundays around November 1984, to my knowledge); Winnipeg Free Press (ran it on Sundays from April 8 through September 2, 1984 in three-row format—including the picture of the schoolhouse next to the title); The Philadelphia Inquirer; Detroit News; and The Dallas Times-Herald (about the last two newspapers mentioned, it is unknown to me if the comic ran at all in them).
I also have some information about the cartoonist who did “Dick And Jane,” Chuck Roth. For many years, he ran a greeting card company called Roth Greeting Card Company in southern California and a design company called Roth International, probably until about the somewhat later 1980's. I also have an idea when he was born and when he died. According to records that I've found on a few websites that seem to match, he was apparently born on January 28, 1921 (though one source says February) and died on January 1, 1989. Some of these same records indicate that he was born in Canada (or specifically in Toronto), and died in Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, California. One record also mentions about a “civil” on the date of October 14, 1949, whatever a “civil” is. Perhaps when he became a U.S. citizen? Some records even mention his Social Security number, although one record that I find odd is that the state SSN issue is New Mexico, although he lived in California. These records refer to him as Charles Roth, or sometimes Charles Sollie Roth, and also say that his mother's maiden name is Zilberman. I was able to find an article about how he died, of which I have a photocopy. It said that he was suffering a heart attack, but did not want to bother the paramedics, so he attempted to drive himself to the hospital, but died before he could get there.
I first saw the “Dick And Jane” comic strip two weeks after it debuted, discovering it in The Boston Herald. I instantly took a great liking to it. I became such a big fan, in fact, that I actually remember what happened in every last episode for each date. I collected “Dick And Jane” mostly from The Boston Herald, but had to get a couple of the Sunday strips from The Sunday Republican, three daily strips (July 23-25, 1984) with dates whited out in The Boston Herald from Sacramento Union microfilms, plus one that had a printing glitch (August 1, 1984) in The Boston Herald from The Sacramento Union as well, and, whatever daily strips that did not appear in The Herald, I got from microfilm of The Lincoln Journal, and Sunday strips not from my local area at all from microfilms of The Arizona Daily Star.
The comic strip started out with four characters: Dick, Jane, little Sally, and Spot. At the end of the strip's run, it had five characters. Puff was introduced on November 25, 1984.
I am disappointed that CARTOONIST PROfiles never published any articles about “Dick And Jane” or its cartoonist Chuck Roth. I would have loved to find out more about both of them. The only promo article that I know of was in the March 24, 1984, edition of “Editor & Publisher.” They even had a picture of Chuck Roth.
I have been doing some work on my own website, uploading some comic strip episodes that I created myself. If you're curious, the website address is http://www.johnlundscomics.com.
Thank you John for a great (and very complete!) write-up about Dick and Jane!