Monday, February 06, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Little Joe Says
There seemed to be an almost insatiable appetite in the 1920s newspaper offices for little one-column panel cartoons, and the syndicates were only too happy to oblige. Most of the little one-column jobs were of the 'pithy sayings' variety, whether voiced by flappers, Asians, mammies, or most any other stereotype you can think of.
Perhaps a character that wouldn't immediately come to mind is Little Joe, a weird cross of portly middle-aged man and baby that is as creepy as they come. While the sayings were sufficiently pithy, the drawings of the man-baby could be downright disturbing. It's his little tiny feet that were often depicted that really set the hair on the back of my neck a-tingling.
Little Joe Says was an NEA daily offering that debuted on February 21 1924. The first five days of panels were untitled (by mistake?) so Little Joe didn't actually get his moniker until February 27. Although the panel was seldom signed, it did happen enough that we can track credits. The first artist to work on the feature was 'Storm', whose signature appeared rarely from February to November 1924. Thing about this 'Storm' fellow is that his art looks just exactly like that of the next artist, Larry Redner. My guess is that 'Storm' is just a pseudonym.
Redner stayed on the daily feature until June 19 1926, when he stepped aside to give Charles D. Small a whack at it. Small didn't last too long, because he was taking over Salesman Sam at this time, and his last work appeared on February 5 1927. Irving Knickerbocker became the final artist on Little Joe Says, and his tenure was the longest. The weird man-baby was put to bed permanently on March 7 1930.
I worked at a newspaper in the days just after cold type replaced linotype, but before pagination. The guys in Composing pasted up pages using layouts sent from the Copy Desk. PR produced scores of strange little filler ads so Composing always had something at hand when an article or an ad didn't fill the allotted space, and it was too late for the Copy Desk to provide a short item to fit. I never saw cartoons used as filler -- they only ran as scheduled features.
Some papers ran these little guys as standard daily features, but others definitely ran them ROP. Yet others seemed to have a standard daily spot assigned for them, on the editorial page say, but if something else ran long, they got the boot.