Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: The Lesson The Bible Teaches

Good thing there's no commandment against being a copycat. Or is that covered under the coveting clauses? The Lesson The Bible Teaches seems to have been created to compete with the surprise 1954 success of John Lehti's Sunday bible strip, Tales From The Great Book.

The creators of this feature completely missed the reason for Lehti's success. Lehti's feature, at least within the confines of Bible stories, was full of action, whereas The Lesson The Bible Teaches was utterly static, a series of talking head panels with enough yada-yada to make most Sunday funnies readers pass right by to find Pogo and Peanuts.

The Lesson The Bible Teaches made its pilgrimage into the Sunday comics section on September 25 1955 (a year and a half after Tales From The Great Book debuted). It was distributed by Hall Syndicate and was "by permission of the International Council of Religious Education." A Google of this organization results in a list of very long dry PDF documents. Turns out this researcher isn't committed to the project to the extent of reading them to find out what this council was all about.

The author of the strip, R. Paul Caudill, was a preacher, missionary and writer. You'll find a capsule bio and photo of him on this Wake Forest Alumni News page.

If there is a bright spot in this strip, it's the well-drawn art. Despite being hampered by scripts full of talking heads and long soliloquies, artist Ralph Keenon managed to make the strip look attractive, though perhaps a little stiff. I can find no information or other credits for this Keenon fellow. Is it my imagination or does Keenon's art look an awful lot like the work of Jay Disbrow?

Unlike Lehti's livelier competition, The Lesson The Bible Teaches was a flop, and deservedly so. The latest strip I've been able to find is from November 1956, and I assume it didn't last much longer than that. Anyone know a definite end date?


There was another in this genre, in 1948 the sunday Des Moines Register ran a thing called Jack and Judy in Bibleland. Two modern American Sunday school children return to the ancient holy land and see for themselves selected biblical events take place.
Hi Anon -
That was another Bible strip with nice art by a relative unknown (William E. Fay). For some reason those religious strips usually have excellent art.

Allan, I don't know if it was true in every case, but apparently Catholic-oriented "Treasure Chest" comic books paid very well back in the day, providing work for Reed Crandall, Joe Sinnott, Murphy Anderson, etc. On the Protestant side of the divide there was David C. Cook's adaptation of Bible stories, with fantastic art by Will Eisner alumnus Andre LeBlanc. But this was for comic books, which I know is somewhat off topic.
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