Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Toppers: Nippie -- He's Often Wrong

I'm going to start right out by confessing that I never really understood the popularity and longevity of Mickey Finn. I've forced myself to read a little of it in the spirit of giving it a fair try. Based on that experience my main takeaway was that it seemed so low-key as to be practically no key at all. It had gags but they weren't especially funny, and it had soap opera but wasn't particularly dramatic.

What it was, I suppose, that made it popular was being directed with pinpoint accuracy at (1) the Irish, and (2) those in law enforcement -- two audiences that have significant overlap, and form a pretty good sized audience in east coast and midwest cities. Combining that with Lank Leonard's (later Morris Weiss's) really attractive but never flashy art, and apparently you have a success on your hands that can last over four decades.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. No, it's Mickey Finn's long-time topper strip, Nippie -- He's Often Wrong. This topper was the only one ever used with Mickey Finn if you don't count the little one-panel factoids about the armed forces and sports that were included in 1943-46. Nippie - He's Often Wrong was introduced along with the new Mickey Finn Sunday page on May 17 1936, and ran atop the strip every week for over a decade, ending July 28 1946. After this date Mickey Finn eschewed toppers altogether.

This topper strip should win some sort of award as the most repetitive and unentertaining topper ever to be associated with a mainstream Sunday strip. Every week it was exactly the same thing. We begin with Nippie about to do something dangerous or just plain asinine, then he hears counsel from some onlooker suggesting that he not do it, then he does it anyway and gets his comeuppance, often involving grievous injury.

There is no attempt to be funny. Never. Just the same three-panel tragedy every week, with the unspoken moral being: if you are a moron you might want to listen to other people's advice. There's no telling how many times Nippie would have been dead in the fourth unprinted panel of the strip, but it would have been often. Like in the example above, in which he sleds into heavy traffic, and hits a moving car. Doesn't that sound like the sort of story that ends with a child-size coffin being bought?No matter how many times Nippie should have been visiting St. Peter, unfortunately for readers, he was revived for another go the next week.

Lank Leonard's assistants may have had a hand in producing Nippie -- He's Often Wrong. In the years that this topper ran, known assistants were Morris Weiss, Ray McGill, Johnny Vita, Allie Vita, and  Larry Tullipano


I can't disagree with you on either of your points about both Mickey Finn and Nipper That being said, I've always been oddly fond of both, perhaps because I find the feature so non-threatening I find it mildly reassuring. And I've taken to saying "I'm very often wrong", in tribute to Nippy.

Mostly I'm amazed that the Irish of the time tolerated the grotesque antics of Mickey's unemployable apelike Uncle Phil. The only stereotype of the Irish that he didn't embody was in spite of his frequent visits to Clancy's he wasn't a drunk.

During the war when everyone was expected to do their bit he was moderately rehabilitated, at least to the point where he could hold a minor position of authority as Sheriff.

Curious about the Lucky Bucks Play Money at the base of the page. I've seen them here and there, but always featuring characters from the strip on the page. Here we've got Mickey, Pluto, and I think Old King Cole from a Silly Symphony. Production error or emergency filler, I'm guessing.

Digging around, it seems somebody has done a book about them but can't find any general articles. Was this a syndicate initiative?
The Silly Symphony Lucky Bucks indicate that this page is from the New York Sunday Mirror, which used the play money from several different strips as margin filler when they hadn't a long skinny advert (like "Babby Ruth" or Doane's Pills) to fill the space.
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