Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: The Rag Tags and Bob Tail
Arthur Lewis, who apparently went by the name Allen Lewis when working on more serious art projects, did just a little newspaper cartooning work. He shared duties on Nervy Nat with James Montgomery Flagg, and produced one comic strip series of his own creation, The Rag Tags and Bob Tail.
The Sunday strip was produced for the New York Herald's comic section from March 12 to July 16 1911*. This kid gang strip was interesting in that half the four-man crew were minorities -- an Asian and a Native American -- and they were not exclusively used as the butt of jokes. Granted, there is some heavy duty stereotyping going on here, but the kids play together and sometimes the Chink and the Papoose (they seem not to have had real names) get the better of the white kids, Jimmy and Eddy. This is a far cry from the typical kid gang strip in which the entire gang is as white as the driven snow, or there is a single minority character who functions only as a club mascot and target of derision. The Rag Tags and Bob Tail is no classic by any means, but did at least offer readers the concept of the races living together in something a little like harmony.
By the way, it took me awhile to suss out that Bob Tail is the dog, so I'm going to save you the trouble in case you're as unobservant as me.
* Source: Ken Barker's New York Herald index.