Monday, June 20, 2016
Obscurity of the Day: Wild Rose
|(Final strip of the series)|
Journeyman cartoonist Art Huhta struck it big in 1946 when the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate accepted not one but two of his features -- quite the jackpot. Mostly Malarky, a daily panel that he ghosted for Wally Carlson, and Wild Rose, a Sunday-only strip, both began in April of that year.
While Mostly Malarky became a modestly successful feature, Wild Rose struggled to find an audience, a look, and a voice. When Huhta began the strip about a backwoods beauty, he labored mightily to draw it in a semi-realistic manner (see top sample). The art was delicate and lovely, but it proved to be more than Huhta, who was much more comfortable drawing in the bigfoot manner, could produce on a weekly basis. By mid-1947, Huhta had all but given up and reverted to his native style.
When the strip debuted on April 7 1946 it also featured a continuing storyline. Huhta tried to blend a light dose of hillbilly humor with overly serious plots, and the combination was just plain klunky. Odd thing was that this wasn't the only post-war CTNYNS debut strip to be like this -- we just covered John West here recently, which was basically the male equivalent of Wild Rose -- enough with the serious hillbillies, guys! I have to wonder if the powers-that-be at the Tribune in 1946 were big fans of radio's Lum and Abner, because that seems to be the tone both strips strove for. Eventually Wild Rose changed its tone to something more akin to Li'l Abner, and then eventually pretty much dispensed with continuing storylines altogether.
So it took a long while, but eventually Huhta got into his comfort zone, with bigfoot art and straight gag format, but while the strip was now on an even keel, it still wasn't a feature that was going to exactly wow newspaper editors. Like many of CTNYNS's post-war Sunday strips, it may well have never managed a single sale outside of the Tribune-owned newspapers.
In 1951, Carlson and Huhta got CTNYNS to add a Sunday page to their Mostly Malarky offering, and that put the writing on the wall for Wild Rose. She got to finish out the year, ending on December 30 1951 (final strip shown above).
You can read more about Wild Rose and Art Huhta over at Screwball Comics, and see lots more samples of the strip at Ger Appeldoorn's Fabulous Fifties blog.