Saturday, November 26, 2005


Obscurity of the Day: Scary William

First of all I have to explain (in case you haven't read the sample yet) that Scary William is not a kid who scares people. He's a scaredy-cat of the nth magnitude - he's scared of everything. So we have a bad title for starters. The stories - well, in pretty much every strip William gets scared of something all out of proportion. Good for a few laughs? You bet. Problem is the strip ran for 13 years. So on the story front we also come up empty. Ah, but the art!

Harold Knerr's Scary William debuted on 11/26/1905 and ran until 6/2/1918. He did this strip in addition to his (incrementally) more well-known Philadelphia Inquirer strips, The Fineheimer Twins and Mister George And Wifey. Of course, Knerr left all his Inquirer strips behind when in 1914 he got the call from New York that Hearst wanted him to take over Katzenjammer Kids, replacing the now out of favor Rudolph Dirks. Little must Knerr have known that he'd been audtioning for the job for the last decade with his Katzies ripoff, the Fineheimers!

The Inquirer ran reprints of Scary William and Knerr's other strips for awhile after he left, then apparently assigned a new cartoonist to the job. Or did they? While it is true that Knerr's signature disappears from all three of his strips, the art style hardly fluctuates. Perhaps it looks a little bit more rough ... or could it be rushed? I've wondered for years whether Knerr kept this as a moonlighting job even after being promoted to the bigtime. Suppose I'll never know...


Hello, Allan----Wasn't SCARY WILLIAM created by C.M.Payne, and then given over by Knerr when Payne made his short-lived move to McClure in 1906?--Cole Johnson.
Hello Allan---Just to fine tune it a little further, C.M.Payne did SCARY WILLIAM from Nov. 26, 1905 to June 10, 1906. June 17 is by unknown, Then By Knerr from June 24, 1906 to Oct. 25, 1914. Hugh Doyle does the strip from Aug. 16, 1914(Mixed in with Knerr episodes at first) to June 2, 1918. ----Cole Johnson.
Pardon me---I meant to Joe Doyle, not Hugh Doyle.-------C.J.
Hi Cole -
Thanks very much for the comments. I looked over my old indexing notes from the Inquirer and I did note that a few of the strips in that timeframe were actually signed by Payne (as you well know, a lot of the Inky strips were, maddeningly, unsigned). Somehow that bit of info never made it into my final listing for the strip. D'oh!

One odd bit gleaned from a look-see through that index is that I noted the 5/27/06 installment appeared to be signed "G--". Did I misinterpret the microfilm?

Regarding the Joe Doyle credit, did you actually find something signed by him, or is this art-spotting. I for one really can't tell much difference before and after Knerr left.

Again, thanks for the great info!

HELLO AGAIN----Even though clearly Payne's work, the SCARY WILLIAMs for 5-27 and 6-3-06, as well as the BEAR CREEK FOLKS for 6-10-06, have a "G--" where the signature would usually be. CORRECTION: 6-10 and 6-17-06 SCARY WILLIAM are unsigned, but I suspect these two were whacked out by Shellcope, as ol' Redw took over BEAR CREEK at this time, 6-17-06 to 1-20-07. (He didn't sign it until 12-2-06.)----Doyle does lots of emphemeral art in the INQUIRER, always signed, so it was easy to know who the artist is. Doyle tries to copy Knerr's style at first, but loosens up soon enough. Look at the distinctive lettering in the strips. After Knerr split in 1914, the two-man syndicate of Gal and Doyle made for some dull reading. Things slid to the point where the Inky didn't even run all their own stuff in the flagship paper!-----INKYLY YOURS, Cole Johnson.
Regarding Bear Creek, I made a note while indexing that this, yet another maddeningly uncredited strip, seemed to be a tag team affair between Shellcope and Payne in the later oughts. What say you on that rank amateur art-spotting? Any idea when GAL took over?

Were you aware that Bear Creek ran in the NY World's "Fun" magazine in 1913-14? Always struck me as supremely odd that the World paid for that item in spite of having their own in-house staff supplying practically all other cartoon content.

Hello Allan----I don't have anyone but Payne doing BEAR CREEK FOLKS from 1-27-07 to 12-8-12. The first Gal episode is 12-15-12. Many episodes may not be signed, but I feel very safe in assigning artists. It's easy differentiating Payne's fascinating style from the rather different Shellcope's. (Why did Shellcope draw the bear cubs as black? What's with the constant flop-sweat in every panel of JIMMIE THE MESSENGER BOY?)----Do you have any of the titles and dates of the BEAR CREEKs that showed up in FUN? ---Cole J.
I'll assume your well-practiced eyes are better than mine at spotting the difference between all these Marriner wanna-bes.

Regarding the Fun magazine, I was able to find just one buried not-too-deep in the mounds of mouldering newsprint. It is the July 27 1913 edition, and the title is "Two Summer Showers, All In One Day". The art is signed by Payne so that becomes a little less mysterious since he was doing S'Matter Pop for the World by that time, so he must have been on staff.

That, however, makes me realize that he wouldn't, then, have been doing Little Possum Gang for the Inky until 1915, as I had him down for. Had that been taken over by someone else?

--Allan, who threatens never to run out of questions
I FEEL YOUR PAYNE---The BEAR CREEK FOLKS in the "FUN" supplement. The title of the episode never appeared in the INQUIRER, so it looks like Payne did a new group for Pulitzer. I believe that Payne, Dirks and Outcault-like, felt he owned the characters, and brought them where ever he went. You remember his short-lived stint at McClure with them in 1906 {I think they were called something else there, like "POSSUM HOLLOW FOLKS" or something, I forget--),and of course, the characters re-appearance in the late 20's in the Sunday S'MATTER POP? episodes.-----Payne's last POSSUM GANG was 12-1-12, then Gal did'em from 12-8-12 to 7-20-13, and then Doyle from 7-27-13 to the end in 1918..... Allan, I'm just delighted to be a part of your worthy project. Ask all you want!--------Cole "Kid Trubbel" Johnson.
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Friday, November 25, 2005


Obscurity of the Day: When Dreams Come True

Clare Victor Dwiggins, better known simply as Dwig, was one of the most prolific and talented cartoonists of all time. Today he's best remembered for his Tom Sawyer/School Days strip, and his Ophelia character.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Dwig created dozens of different series, some of them short-lived like our obscurity of the day, When Dreams Come True. This series ran in the New York Evening World (syndicated by Press Publishing Company) from 10/21 to 12/24/1912.


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Thursday, November 24, 2005


(Sorta) Obscurity of the Day: Captain And The Kids

What's obscure about The Captain And The Kids? Nothing about the Sunday, which ran for 55 mostly successful years. What is obscure is the daily version which not many have ever seen. The daily Captain And The Kids debuted on October 1, 1934 and ran until sometime in 1939 (can anyone supply a definite end date?). It is likely to have been ghosted by Bernard Dibble for Rudolph Dirks.

For some reason, even though the Sunday version of the strip was very popular during the 1930s, the daily never took off. It ran in a very short list of papers.


Hello, Allan----Howabout the even more obscure daily Katzenjammwer strip in 1918? ----Cole Johnson.
Hi Cole -
Yup, that series is pretty darn obscure. Started on 5/28/17, and may have been the first strip to use the new King Features copyright. Ended sometime in 1919 (don't have a definite date on that).

Send me your email address, would ya?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Happy Thanksgiving with Downstown

Downstown by Tim Downs started in the Indiana University Daily Student college paper in 1975. Universal Press Syndicate picked it up on 3/24/1980 and ended 2/1/1986. These dates are based, respectively, on runs appearing in the New York Post and the Los Angeles Times. Anybody seen the strip running earlier or later?

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Sunday, November 20, 2005


Pat Sullivan

Pat Sullivan is well-known as the creator of Felix The Cat. However, because of his bad treatment of Otto Messmer, who actually drew the Felix comic strip, a popular legend has grown that Pat Sullivan could not draw at all - that he just used his sharp business skills to co-opt Messmer's considerable talents. His lack of cartooning ability is not true, as the above sample of his work proves.

I won't rehash Sullivan's bio at length here (you can read a very well-researched account of his life in John Canemaker's Felix - The Twisted Tale Of The World's Most Famous Cat). Sullivan got his start in American comic strips by effectively duplicating William F. Marriner's cartooning style on Marriner's Sambo And His Funny Noises, a long-running McClure Sunday section feature. Sullivan also did several strips on his own, all done in the Marriner style - a few for McClure and some additional daily-style features for the New York Evening World. Great-Idea Jerry, seen here, ran 7/17/1912 to 4/5/1913.

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