Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Obscurity of the Day: O. Henry's Short Stories

O. Henry's stories are some of the most beloved and popular American literature this side of Mark Twain, so it's no surprise that they eventually found their way into the kingdom of comic strips. Interestingly enough, the same syndicate, McClure, offered comic strips based on Twain and O. Henry.

Unlike the much better received Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, which had a successful run of a decade and a half, O. Henry's Short Stories was not embraced by newspaper editors or readers. No wonder, though, when the series distilled most of the stories down to two or three daily strips in length. Granted, Porter's stories are short, but to boil down a beautiful story like The Love Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein into two daily strips is a criminal offense. What's next -- the complete Shakespeare plays in three weeks? Considering that I see no copyrights on the strip to the estate of O. Henry, I have a sneaking suspicion that these adaptations were unlicensed. Maybe McClure thought they could get away with thievery if they were quick about it?

I have yet to find a newspaper that ran the strip with perfect consistency, but the Brooklyn Eagle came close enough that I offer this index as my best guess. The scripts are uncredited (as well they ought to be), but the two cartoonists who double-teamed the series did take credit:

TitleArtistStart DateEnd Date # of Strips
The Cop and the AnthemJohn Hix6/11/286/13/283
Jimmy Hays and MurielJohn Hix6/14/286/16/283
A Double Dyed DeceiverJohn Hix6/18/286/23/286
Tobin's PalmJohn Hix6/25/286/28/284
Iky's Love PhiltreBertram Elliott6/29/286/30/282
Springtime a la CarteBertram Elliott7/2/287/3/282
The Ransom of MackBertram Elliott7/4/287/7/284
The Skylight RoomJohn Hix7/9/287/11/283
Sisters of the Golden CircleBertram Elliott7/12/287/14/283
Service of LoveBertram Elliott7/16/287/19/284
Lost on Dress ParadeBertram Elliott7/20/287/20/282
Buried TreasureBertram Elliott7/23/287/26/284
Makes the Whole World KinBertram Elliott7/27/287/28/282

Here's a quick comic strip quiz for you: what other comic strip is based on a character created by O. Henry?

Tomorrow, Alex Jay weighs in with a profile of Bertram Elliott. You'll find his profile of John Hix here.

Didn't Joe Kubert (and School) feature Jim and Della in an adaptation of The Gift of the Magi for an NEA Christmas strip?
But I'm sure you're thinking of a different character.
A hero portrayed by Warner Baxter and Jimmy Smits, among others?

Incidentally, said hero owes little more than his catchy name to O. Henry. In the single story the author wrote, he's not a nice person.
The final panel of "Lost on Dress Parade" on July 21 1928 in the EAGLE says "Next story: Buried Treasure" so I don't believe there's a missing strip
Said another way, "Lost on Dress Parade" has 2 episodes
And though the EAGLE does indeed credit Elliott on "Lost on Dress Parade", a later printing in the SAN BERNADINO COUNTY SUN credits Hix. Bit the comic strip editors aren't known for their accuracy :)
Thanks to Jeffrey Lindenblatt and Art Lortie, who both separately cleared up the mystery of the missing strip. Post has been updated.
Donald Benson takes the prize for IDing (in a coy way) the strip I was thinking of. DD, you get a double bonus for coming up with one I wasn't thinking of. --Allan
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