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?
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.