Monday, November 14, 2016


Toppers: Indian Slango

 When the new feature Big Chief Wahoo was introduced in 1936, it's slapstick shenanigans were light-years away from what it would untimately become -- the hard-boiled adventure strip Steve Roper and Mike Nomad. It featured a W.C. Fields rip-off character, The Great Gusto (who was originally meant to be the star of the strip), a wacky Indian, Big Chief Wahoo, who embodies just about the ultimate in bad stereotyping of Native Americans, a kid tag-a-long, and soon enough, the beauteous Minnie Ha-Cha, an Indian princess.

The broad humor written by Allen Saunders and the simple art supplied by Elmer Woggon, seem not likely to have become a big hit, but somehow it did. And when the strip began to falter a bit, Saunders wasted little time in rejiggering it for whatever genre he fancied would keep the strip in papers. Thus did the strip become not only enduringly popular, but a great subject for trivia quizzes.

The topper panel Indian Slango, which was usually just a little text box as seen above, is barely a footnote to the complicated history of this comic strip. The panel featured Chief Wahoo's colorful terms for everyday things. As a commentary on Indian names, it was disrespectful I suppose, but Saunders actually came up with some pretty darn colorful and whimsical little zingers, as seen in the sample above. Unfortunately, Indian Slango was mostly made up from reader submissions, and you sure could tell why Allen Saunders got paid, while his readers didn't.

Indian Slango debuted with the Sunday page on January 10 1937. Eventually it would share space with several other panel features, one of which, Big Chief Wahoo's Dizzy Dictionary, sounds identical but was actually a rebus feature. Indian Slango was the last of these panels to appear on the Sunday page, on April 28 1940.


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