Monday, November 07, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Little Liz

It is hard to understand the thinking that went on at NEA, the syndicate that offered newspapers a giant package of material for one low price. How did they decide when and if they should add a particular new feature?

Little Liz is a good example of the sort of feature that makes me scratch my head. It was a tiny 1-column cartoon that was obviously meant only as a hole-filler. There was certainly no desire or hope to rock the world with Little Liz, as the syndicate barely promoted it, and the creators were not given any credit. So what possessed them to put it in the package? Surely if clients were begging for hole fillers, NEA offered many other options. So why Little Liz? Well, I guess a perfectly valid answer is "Why not?".

The itty-bitty 1-column feature Little Liz ran from October 22 1951 until some undetermined date in 1965.  The art was by NEA bullpenner Walt Scott, and the writing was by Marjorie Johnson, who in the sole promo I've seen, was billed as "well-known in the west for her sharp-edged wit."

Originally Liz was probably supposed to be a discernable character, but Mrs. Johnson had a penchant for writing whatever came into her head, whether or not it made any sense to be coming out of a little girl's mouth. Her sayings were quite pithy and playful, often wise, and sometimes downright snarky. Occasionally they were even memorable. She is often cited in quotation books for a particular Little Liz saying -- "A race horse is the only animal that can take several thousand people for a ride."

In 1965 the panel was upgraded from its traditional tiny one-column size to a regular full-size two-column panel. This apparently didn't interest NEA's client papers, and finding examples in this format is like looking for needles in a haystack. The change apparently was a last-ditch effort for some reason, and Little Liz was cancelled that year.


Maybe it's just 2018 eyes looking at a 1955 comic, but I can't help seeing a double meaning that perhaps wasn't intended. Liz is in the fore ground of a beach scene, holding a hand over her mouth as two men in swim suits stand behind her. The caption is 'Whether you go to the attic or the beach,you'll find the darnedest things in trunks.'
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