Monday, July 23, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Big Scalper
In the laundry list of racist stereotypes that filled our Sunday sections back in the early days of the 20th century, the Native American made surprisingly few appearances. However, when Myer Marcus set his sites on an 'Injun' strip, he sure made up for any lost opportunities elsewhere in the funnies. His character, Big Scalper, is a completely out of control ignorant and violent man-child, an embarrassment that at least reminds us how far we've come in a century.
Though stereotypes can be funny in spite of themselves, that's certainly not the case with Big Scalper. Marcus's poetry is excruciatingly bad (rhyming "o'er" with "before"? -- yech!), and the gags are barely worthy of the name. That's probably why the Philadelphia Inquirer treated Big Scalper as an extra strip that rarely made it into their Sunday section. It was distributed in the syndicated version of their section, though, and ran much more often in out of town versions. Between its first appearance in the Inquirer on June 6 1906 and its last on June 20 1909* it appeared there no more than 3-4 times per year. I've never indexed its appearances in a syndication paper, but it must have been available quite often if certainly not every week. I even have a November 25 1906 section from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat where they ran two Big Scalper episodes in a single section!
* Source: Philadelphia Inquirer