Thursday, November 03, 2016
Obscurity of the Day: Figments
Dale Hale spent most of his cartooning and writing career working behind the scenes. He did a stint as Charles Schulz's assistant (helping with everything except the Peanuts strip itself of course), he ghosted the Yogi Bear and Flintstones comic strips for long stretches, and worked extensively in television animation.
One of the few times he got a byline of his own was with a newspaper strip he created titled Figments. The idea was simple, funny and an infinite source of gags --we take a look into a character's mind to see what they are thinking. While Hale particularly enjoyed examining a kid's skewed perspective about some aspect of the adult world, everyone was fair game. Although the strip was not really cast-driven, there was actually a family being portrayed -- mom. dad, three kids, and a dog.
The strip seemed like a winner, and I don't imagine Hale had much trouble finding a syndicate to take it on. It was Iowa's Register & Tribune Syndicate that got Hale to sign on the dotted line, and the strip premiered on May 3 1971. Oddly though, not a lot of papers picked up the new offering. Hale stuck with R & T until January 1974, and then switched to the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. At this time the strip's client list seemed to grow a bit, but it still wasn't exactly becoming a blockbuster.
I don't know who dumped who, but sometime in 1976 Figments came to an end. Or did it? Although I consider that to be the end of the strip, Dale Hale has been quoted saying that Figments ran until 1988. Examining that claim, we find that the Editor & Publisher syndicate yearbooks have the strip advertised as available from Manson Western Features in 1976-78, Dickson-Bennett Features 1981-84, Whitegate Features Syndicate 1985-86, and American International Syndicate from 1987-1994. Problem is that these are all syndicates which offered lots of features, none of which I've ever found in any mainstream newspapers. I hesitate to use the term fly-by-night, but let's just say that they all seemed to be spectacularly unsuccessful at placing their features. Or maybe their specialties lay elsewhere -- perhaps they sold to newsletters, company publications, foreign publications, like gangbusters?
I find it hard to believe that Dale Hale would have wasted his time producing the strip for these syndicates. My guess is that he offered his five years worth of dailies through these folks as reprints. If they sold them, great, if not, no harm. I've tried to contact Dale Hale to clear this up, but unfortunately have not gotten a response.
If you'd like to see more of Dale Hale's Figments strips, check out his website.