Monday, November 26, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Middle Class Animals
In 1970 Hugh Laidman, an accomplished illustrator and commercial artist, came up with an interesting and original idea for a comic strip. Middle Class Animals offered readers a talking animal comic, but with the twist that the animals are drawn in a straight illustration style. While the description may make it sound kinda meh, in execution I think the idea had a lot of merit. Laidman's strip, which debuted on May 18 1970* via the MacNaught Syndicate, really stood out superbly on the comics page. The eccentric combination of word balloons and realistic drawing just seems to catch your eye. You find yourself reading the strip just to find out what the heck is going on there with that odd juxtaposition.
Unfortunately, while readers were drawn to Middle Class Animals, the actual reading tended to leave them a bit underwhelmed. Laidman was a wonderful illustrator, but unfortunately as a gag writer he wasn't so terrific. Way too many of his gags fall flat, leaning heavily on the art to make up for it. It's too bad that McNaught did not exercise a more active editorial hand, because with the assistance of good gag-writers the strip could have, at least in my opinion, turned into a pretty major hit.
McNaught further hobbled the strip by giving it an identity crisis. I quite like the title Middle Class Animals, which is a terrific name for a 1970s strip that offers a lot of hip references. However, they for some bizarre reason had newspapers running it under other titles. I'm aware of one paper that ran it as Us Animals, one that used the title Ani-Malcontents, and as you can see above, one used the title Animal Crackers, which is not only a klunky name but also trademark infringement since Rog Bollen's strip used the same title. How do you create buzz about a strip that runs under any old name some comics editor dreams up?
With too many cards in the deck stacked against it, Middle Class Animals seems to have ended its run after two years, on May 13 1972**.
* Source: Editor & Publisher, May 9 1970.
** Source: Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on Long Island Press.