Tuesday, December 04, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: The Jollys' Bull Pup
T. O. McGill is known to have worked for the New York Evening World at least 1903-1911, and perhaps much longer. The only bit of biographical data I've been able to find on him is that he was named as manager of their art department in 1908. Except for that one little mote of knowledge, all the evidence I can find for his existence are the comics he produced for the Evening World. He created eleven series in that nine year period, and the only one that ran more than a handful of times was The Jollys' Bull Pup. so he must have been primarily active in other art duties for the paper, and comic strips were just an occasional sideline. Not to worry, though, as Alex Jay has turned up quite a bit of material on him, which we'll be acquainted with tomorrow.
McGill's style is a bit reminiscent of the Evening World's star cartoonist of the time, Maurice Ketten, and the fellow he in turn emulated, T. E. Powers over in the Hearst camp. McGill's artwork is spare, angular and uses a flattened perspective that harkens back to woodcuts. Anatomy is definitely not his strong suit. And yet, there's something about his very low-key work that really appeals to me. Maybe it is how this purely functional, unadorned art style so perfectly complements his gags, which are very dry indeed. Take the second example above; a different cartoonist would make each panel all about the slapstick of people looking for their lost items. While McGill gives a nod to that, the humor he prefers to catch is in the impassive face of the bull pup viewing his handiwork with neither joy nor malice. The pup can't even really draw the connection between what he did and what has resulted. He's simply found an interesting pastime in collecting items and bringing them to the basement, completely unaware that this will have any effect on the humans. The humor is quiet but feels very true ... or perhaps I read too much into the work. McGill certainly produced more than his fair share of dopey not-even-really-gags like the top example.
The Jollys' Bull Pup ran as a weekday strip in the Evening World from October 15 1908 to September 6 1909*.
* Source: New York Evening World