Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Obscurity of the Day: Gabby Gertie

In the 1900s and 1910s, it was practically a law that every syndicate had to have a Katzenjammer Kids copycat. In the 1920s, it was flapper panels. Although the International Syndicate of Baltimore was barely even registering a heartbeat by 1927, even they managed to distribute a Flapper Fanny competitor. Theirs was titled Gabby Gertie, and it was penned by Irma Harms. Ms. Harms provided some decent art though I wonder how much of it was actually cribbed from Ethel Hays. She also sometimes managed a decent gag, but often the captions offered more of a mystery than a chuckle. I offer the above examples as proof, three of which elicit from me a "huh?"

The feature debuted on August 22 1927 as a daily panel, but since many of International's clients were small papers, you'll also see it often appearing weekly or somewhere in between. In 1930 it seems like the syndicate may have given up the daily version and cut the panel back to weekly frequency, as it stopped running in daily papers that year. The writing was on the wall, and the syndicate seems to have given it up in September of 1931.

That wasn't quite the end of Gabby Gertie, though, as the backstock of the panel seems to have been sold to Western Newspaper Union. You can find the panel popping up as late as 1935 in little weeklies.


Panels like this drive me crazy until I figure them out. Some of these are real head-scratchers.

1. "Her baring is worn way down" puns the low-cut bare-backed dress and worn machinery bearings. I can't figure out what the second part has to do with it. "Her cash won't pay the bills." Another pun? Cache?

2. I had to Google for this one. "Heart balm" is a term for the money won in a breach-of-promise lawsuit (for our younger readers, it used to be possible in some states to sue someone if they promised to marry you but backed out).

The next three are understandable. Not particularly funny, but understandable.

6. "The girl who makes funny faces and strips.": The woman at the drawing board is drawing comic strips. She also removes some of her clothing (strips) in shady places but she doesn't remove too much. She knows where to draw the line...and drawing the line brings us back to cartooning. It's actually rather clever. Just not very funny.
Beating your head against those captions, you're really taking one for the team, Smurfswacker!

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