Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Obscurity of the Day: In Bugville

Paul Bransom's New York Journal bug cartoons account for the bulk of his newspaper work. Much like his contemporary, Gus Dirks, he concentrated on depicting anthropomorphic bug society virtually to the exclusion of all else. My guess is that the tradition of 'bug artists' probably came from Palmer Cox and his Brownies. Although the Brownies weren't insects, the idea of tiny creatures having a civilization all their own seemed to please young and old readers in turn of the century America. Undoubtedly a weighty tome is just waiting to be written on the psychology of it all.

Bransom's bug comic strips formed into a coherent series starting on October 7 1903, when the title In Bug House began to be used on a frequent basis. That title passed out of favor in March 1904, and the next regularly recurring title, Happenings In Bugville, started June 3 1905. In 1906, the year of our samples, Bransom had set his sights on one particular cast member of the bug society, and the final running title became Troubles of the Lover Bug. The series ended on November 20 1906.

Along the way several other running titles popped up sporadically, including Bugville Nursery Rhymes and Items from the Bugville Bugle. A case could be made that there are several discreet series here that Bransom should get credit for in the Stripper's Guide index, but tough. The titles on his cartoons were all over the map, and they all had the same subject, even if handled in a number of different ways. The one relative constant in his titles, especially the one-shots, is that they would end " Bugville" (A House Fire in Bugville, A Birthday Party in Bugville, etc.) so thus the reasoning behind my blanket title for the series.

This was Bransom's last newspaper comic-stripping job. In 1907 he graduated to working for the slick magazines, book illustrating and fine art. Click here for a a good overview of his career.

A tip of the hat to Cole Johnson, supplier of today's samples.


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