Monday, February 08, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Illustrated Sunday School Lesson

When you think about long-running comic strips drawn throughout their life by the same cartoonist, you probably don't have Illustrated Sunday School Lesson pop to mind. But it is a near-champion, following relatively close on the heels of Charles Schulz' Peanuts and Ed Payne's Billy the Boy Artist.

Illustrated Sunday School Lesson debuted on December 26 1931, and Alfred J. Buescher handled the art for the next forty-two years, penning the final strip on February 24 1973. The strip was a weekly offering for Saturday religion pages and usually gave pretty barebones accounts of Bible events. My impression is that they were written to make sure no denomination could possibly take exception to them, so philosophy is eschewed in favor of dry retellings of events. Buescher's art also gives the production a generic feeling. Although Buescher was a good cartoonist (his editorial cartoons for Hearst are often good if rarely great), in this strip he seems to be dead set on exhibiting no stylistic flavor or showing any action beyond the occasional pointing hand (there's a LOT of those, see above).

The strip was initially offered under the auspices of the Central Press Association, until Hearst discontinued use of that brand. It then moved to King Features. Buescher outlasted three writers on the strip -- the Reverend Alvin E. Bell through 1938, Newman Campbell through 1966 and R.H. Ramsay through 1971. Buescher himself apparently managed the whole production for the last few years. I guess he ought to have known his subject pretty well by then. After Reverend Bell the other writers did not take a byline on the strip, and their credits were determined through the author listings in the Editor & Publisher yearbooks.

Tomorrow look for Alex Jay's Ink-Slinger Profile of Alfred Buescher.


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