Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Next!

Some cartooning fans are fascinated by the question of who is the worst (successful) newspaper cartoonist of all time. I think a pretty solid nomination for that title should belong to William Paul Pim. He is a patently awful cartoonist (the samples above should be all the proof you need), yet he worked at several major newspapers, and sold two successful long-running features to major syndicates. What his employers saw in him I can't imagine, and why newspapers bought and ran his syndicated offering is a mystery, too. More power to you, though, Mr. Pim, you are the living embodiment of the Peter Principle.

Today's obscurity, a panel Pim produced for a short while titled Next!, is a mystery of several different sorts. The drawing is, of course, awful, but it is the gags that fascinate me. Many of Next's gags go right over my head and would be right at home on the Comics I Don't Understand blog. Or do the gags just not make much sense, and it's not me? Geez, I dunno. I get the main gags in the bottom two, but every one of those "Put 'Em Next" lines may as well be written in Sanskrit for all I get out of 'em. A lot of it is obviously intended to be wordplay, but it's utterly opaque to me.

Next! was a regular feature of World Color Printing's weekly black and white page from at least 1926 through 1933. I see lots of panels repeating over those years, so Pim apparently didn't actually create all that many of these, and WCP just recycled and re-recycled.

It is my guess that Next! does not originate on those WCP weekly pages, though. My guess is that they were produced for some other syndicate or newspaper earlier on, and re-sold to WCP. I have no documentary proof of that, but it's just my Spidey Sense tingling. Does anyone know if they actually originated elsewhere?


Okay, I can figure out the last two jokes, though they're not especially funny. The others baffle me. Is the one with the policeman a Prohibition gag (cop thinks the boxes are full of hooch)? The "Put 'em next" blocks are simple puns, unrelated to the main gag. But what the heck does "Put 'em next" mean anyway?
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