Wednesday, February 03, 2016

 

Obscurity of the Day: Looping the Loop


If you are a serious cartooning fan, E.C. Segar's Looping the Loop, drawn for the Chicago Evening American,  is well-known by name but certainly not by sight. To my knowledge, only a few scant samples of the feature have even been printed in cartooning history books or seen online (try Googling it and you'll see the very same sample on a plethora of websites). The sample above is the only one I have in my collection, and the tearsheet is so fragile and tattered that a small section near the bottom of the cartoon, in the newspaper's fold, has disintegrated. But beggars can't be choosers.

It's a shame we don't have more Looping the Loop samples to peruse, because the feature chronicles an incredible evolution from the startlingly amateurish Segar of the Chicago Record-Herald, to the bright upcoming Hearst star of Thimble Theatre. It's almost impossible to believe that it is the same cartoonist. In this seminal feature Segar all of a sudden seems totally self-assured in both his writing and art. The jazzy, playful, and confidently-drawn strip above shows that Segar was ready for the big-time.

Looping the Loop offered Segar's very rah-rah reviews of Chicago entertainments, like the vaudeville acts discussed in the sample above. Whether he was instructed by the Chicago American to be a booster I don't know, but from the admittedly tiny sample I have seen, Segar seems to like everything he sees. It is probable that the American was trying to stimulate advertising sales from Chicago's burgeoning entertainment venues, so no shows were to be panned, just needled good-naturedly.

In Nemo #3, Bill Blackbeard (who is one of the few who have ever had access to a good run of the Chicago Evening American), says that Looping the Loop began on June 1 1918. Blackbeard doesn't offer an end date, but does say that Segar left for New York "late in the winter of 1919", which would seem to indicate that the series ended sometime around March or so.


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I have 30 or 40 Looping the Loop brittle tearsheets from 1918 and 19. In one, Segar reviews the silent film Turning the Tables with Dorothy Gish which was released in early November of 1919, so he did this daily strip right up until he left Chicago and moved to NYC and Thimble Theatre at King Features.
 
Segar moved to NYC in late 1919 and Thimble Theatre first appeared on December 19, 1919. The panel pictured here of the Lady Sitting Next to Me are caricatures of Segar and his wife Myrtle.
 
Lucky you to have so many Looping strips!

Blackbeard seemed to be of the opinion that Segar moved to NYC quite awhile before Thimble Theatre debuted. That seemed a little odd to me. I don't get the impression that Hearst was the type of organization that would have given him six months or more to develop a strip. My guess is they would have said "Just copy Minute Movies, kid, let's get this show on the road".

If you've got Looping the Loop in November 1919, it seems like Segar moved to NYC after Thimble Theatre had been given the thumb's up at headquarters, which makes more sense.

Thanks, Allan
 
Segar also drew special cartoons for the Chicago American sports page in October 1919, attending both home and away games for every Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds World Series game (known as the Black Sox Scandal). Pretty solid evidence that he was still in the Windy City until late 1919.
 
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