Sunday, December 10, 2006
Obscurity of the Day: The Affairs of Jane
Hello Americans, this is ersatz Paul Harvey ...
Murat Young was a stenographer and art student in Chicago in 1921 when he heard that the NEA syndicate in Cleveland was looking for a pretty girl strip, a new genre that would take off and practically define the newspaper cartooning of the 1920s. Murat wasted no time in working up The Affairs of Jane, and it was accepted by NEA, which offered Murat the less than princely wage of $22 per week to draw the strip.
Jane was a struggling actress in low-budget pictures, but she dreamed big, imagining herself one of the leading lights of the cinema. Vain, coquettish, and a bit crude, Jane may have been too realistic a flapper for the smalltown audience to which NEA catered. Murat was none too happy with his weekly paycheck, either, so there's no surprise that The Affairs of Jane was a short-lived strip. It began on Halloween in 1921, and ended on March 18 of the next year, a run of less than five months.
But Murat persevered, succeeding in placing another short-lived strip called Beautiful Bab, this one with the Bell Syndicate. That strip caught the eye of William Randolph Hearst, and when his eye is caught careers have a way of taking off. Murat was encouraged to submit a new strip to the Hearst organization, and eventually he succeeded with Dumb Dora. This was yet another flapper strip, and it did quite well in syndication. Perhaps it was helped out just a bit when Murat decided to drop his rather foreign sounding first name, going thereafter by a nickname.
Though Dumb Dora was doing well, Murat was the restless sort, and he developed one more strip. He stuck with his strength, pretty girls, and this strip, launched in 1930, became the most successful strip ever to appear in American newspapers. It was not an immediate success, though, until Murat had his flapper heroine get married to a bumbling fellow and settle down in marital bliss.
The girl's beau was Dagwood, and she, of course, was Blondie. And Murat, under the nickname Chic, became one of the most successful cartoonists of all time.
And that is the rest of the story. This is ersatz Paul Harvey ... good day!
EDIT 1/9/2018: As reported to me by Art Lortie, the actual start date of the strip is a week earlier, 10/24/1921. I had the start date based on the NEA archives at OSU, but apparently the first week of the strip had been pilfered from the books. That was a not too terribly uncommon occurrence with important and interesting strips like this.