Monday, October 29, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Adventures of Inventor Wheelz and his Wonderful Dummy
Groundbreaking comic strips can sometimes be found in the darndest places. Here we have a very early quasi-robot comic strip from 1903, long before the term 'robot' even existed. While others usually called them mechanical men in those days, cartoonist Donald F. Stewart more modestly called his a dummy. However, he's a wind-up mechanical man and that makes him a robot in my book.
Stewart was a cartoonist for the Detroit Free Press, and as far as I can tell this is the only comic strip series he ever penned for the newspaper. The series ran for four episodes from February 22 to March 15 1903, the entire run of which are displayed above. The first episode gives the inventor the name Wheels, then switches to Wheelz for the balance of the series.
There's an unfortunate repetitiveness to the strips, in which each week the dummy attracts the ire of a half-witted cop, and hijinks ensue. This is much like the later robot strip Percy - Brains He Has Nix, which usually followed the same formula.