Wednesday, May 13, 2020


Obscurity of the Day: Tucker

Joe Martin has had a long career as a syndicated comic strip creator, and was once even crowned by the Guinness World Record people as the most prolific newspaper cartoonist*. His first foray into the newspaper cartooning biz didn't turn out too well, though.

On April 24 1978** Joe Martin's first syndicated strip debuted, a daily and Sunday offering distributed by Field Enterprises titled Tucker. The concept was simple; Tucker runs an employment agency and deals with all manner of oddball clients. With such a rich vein of humor to mine, Martin should have had a successful strip on his hands. I like the strip well enough; the only criticism I would make is that Tucker is saddled with a brainless idiot client/pal named Bustout, and I find him about 90% annoying and only 10% funny. Would have liked to see him given the pink slip. Otherwise, a good strip with pleasant art and good gags. Nevertheless, it was not to be. After only two years in syndication*** Field evidently pulled the plug.

According to Joe Martin in Cartoonist Profiles #123, he self-syndicated Tucker for a short while after Field dropped the strip. I haven't seen a self-syndicated version of the strip anywhere, but Martin certainly does like self-syndicating -- he took over syndication of all three of his strips in 2005. Has anyone seen the self-syndicated Tucker?

* A declaration like that seems an invitation for a footnote full of nitpicking from me, but I have to admit the Guinness people may well have the situation dead to rights. In 2000, the year that title was bestowed, Martin had three seven-day per week strips running -- Willy 'n' Ethel, Cats with Hands and Mister Boffo.  I certainly can't come up with any cartoonist who can make the claim of producing 21 syndicated comic strips every week -- can you?

** Source: Washington Star

** I can trace the strip through the end of March 1980, and I'm guessing with a second anniversary coming up the next month, Tucker got the axe. Does anyone have a definitive date?


According to the 300 paper list. Three papers were running Tucker in 1980. Here is the rundown. Irving Daily News was running it by March 31 but that where the paper information comes to end. The Vancouver Sun ran the daily to April 5. The last paper Journal Gazette (Mattoon, IL) ran the daily until April 12.
There's a week a Tucker's Job Emporium dailies at the Boffo website, along with samples of some other dead strips.

If memory serves, Martin's son had a strip some years ago. It was a bit like Calvin and Hobbes, except the kid's imaginary friend was clad in black bodysuit and mask like a superhero/villain. We had it in the San Jose Mercury News, replacing B.C. There was a reader backlash, small but of unusual vehemence. The complainers claimed we were replacing a "Christian" strip with satanic one. B.C. came back and the new strip vanished from the Merc; I don't know if it persisted elsewhere.
The strip you have in mind is "Tommy" by Jay Martin, here:

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