Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Obscurity of the Day: Tradin' Paint
When it comes to sports, if it doesn't involve nine innings and a lot of spitting, you've pretty much lost me. Auto racing I find particularly sleep-inducing. It's like watching afternoon rush hour, except in an oval instead of a straight line. The occasional punctuation of a horrendous crash fails to win me over -- as exciting as it may be, watching it makes me feel like one of those rubber-necking morons who have to slow down for a long loving look at the scene of a car accident on the road.
That being said, I think that Geof Brooks' comic strip Tradin' Paint, subject matter aside, is quite an impressive accomplishment. Brooks was a big-time NASCAR fan who also loved to cartoon, so he quite reasonably sought to combine those two passions. His first taste of success in drawing racing toons was when they began to be accepted by Winston Cup Scene, a weekly newsmagazine of the sport. He came up with the character of Leadfoot McRae, a hapless NASCAR driver, and quickly developed a following.
Not thinking that the national syndicates would be interested in his concept because the NASCAR fan base is primarily in the southeast US, in 1995 he decided to try self-syndicating Leadfoot (the strip's title at the time). He garnered about six subscribing papers, but more importantly his strip was noticed by a Universal Press Syndicate salesman, who was impressed.
Universal Press Syndicate saw that interest in NASCAR was exploding across the country, so they felt the strip was worth trying nationally. Brooks was signed up to produced one daily-style strip and a Sunday per week. The daily-style strip was intended to be a fit for a newspaper's weekly NASCAR page, a round-up of the week's racing that was a pretty common sports section feature. About thirteen papers, predictably mostly in the Southeast, picked up the offering which debuted sometime in February 1997. A few biggies were in the mix -- the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Knoxville News-Sentinel.
With NASCAR fever at its height in the late 1990s, the sign-up was probably less than either creator or syndicate had hoped. What the problem was I don't know, but maybe newspaper editors felt that NASCAR interest was a fad that would shortly subside, or maybe they didn't want to make space in their Sunday comics sections for a strip with a niche audience. In any case, after two years Brooks and the syndicate decided to wave the checkered flag on the career of Leadfoot McRae.
PS: If anyone can supply specific start and end dates for Leadfoot or Tradin' Paint, I'd love to hear from you.