Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Unsophisticated Oscar
Today we look at Unsophisticated Oscar, which is both an obscurity and a mystery.
The creator of the strip, who went only by 'Gregory' or 'Greg', had real potential as a cartoonist, but he got himself a syndicated daily strip when he was several Landon lessons short of being competent. His gag ideas were usually pretty standard stuff, but they were executed with a real sense of fun. If his drawing was better the strip could have been worth readers' time.
The earliest I can find Unsophisticated Oscar is in the Taunton Gazette in August 1913. The strip was a seven-column daily, with a text drop column bringing up the rear. The strip carried no syndicate stamp but appeared in a smattering of newspapers all over the country, so it was most likely not a self-syndication effort (which I would expect to have a more regional subscribership).
As 'Gregory' faced the dreaded deadline doom day after day his artwork improved over time, and when the the strip ended on April 4 1914* it was starting to look downright respectable. In fact, 'Gregory' had improved so much that he had a comic strip called Curiosity accepted by the New York Evening World. Unfortunately it only managed a two week run before it was dumped. Greg then got a weekly strip into the New York Herald, but it only lasted about four months. After that he falls off my radar. 'Greg' continued to be seen in newspapers until well into 1915, but that was only because the anonymous syndicator of Unsophisticated Oscar sold the strip in reprints at least that long.
Our two mysteries today are the ID of 'Gregory', which is a tough nut to crack, but also the identity of the syndicate that distributed Unsophisticated Oscar. I can usually take an educated guess at a syndicate based on the tyesetting of the strip title and from other strips that appear with it in the same papers.
In the case of this strip, there is only one clue: it is the same syndicate that also distributed Milt Gross' Mr. Henry Peck. Their formats are identical, and they appear in many of the same papers. Unfortunately, the syndicate of Gross' strip is also unknown.
* Source: Helena Independent