Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Goops

You wouldn't think that a feature whose main characters were drawn with a compass would make a big impression on readers, but Gelett Burgess' Goops enjoyed a surprising run of popularity in the early part of the previous century.

Gelett Burgess was primarily a writer and poet. His best known work is the poem The Purple Cow:

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

In 1900 he published the book Goops and How to Be Them, in which he described the behavior of naughty children and accompanied each little poem with a cartoon of a globe-headed kid in the act of displaying their signature behavior problem. The concept caught on and the books became popular gifts from parents to their little monsters, er, children. Whether Burgess' Goop poems ever inspired these rugrats to straighten up and fly right seems doubtful, but the books themselves would at least serve as good paddling instruments if all else failed.

At least four follow-up volumes were published between 1903 and 1916, and in that period Burgess branched out to produce a daily newspaper panel featuring his creations. The first Goops series was distributed by Associated Newspapers and the best documented dates I can offer are March 3 1913 through September 14 1915.

After a long fallow period, Burgess resurrected his orb-faced brats in a second series that was distributed by the Chicago Tribune. This series ran from September 3 1923 to April 24 1926 as a daily panel, and as a Sunday comic strip from February 17 to May 18 1924.

I hasten to add that all the information about newspaper appearances of the Goops that appears above is likely incomplete. I have found examples of Goops panels showing up in some of the darnedest places, often just running once or twice in newspapers as early as the oughts and as late as the 1940s. My tendency with most of these stray appearances is to chalk them up as reprints, old stock, specials distributed by a publisher on the occasion of a new book, and so on. But something gnaws at me that I'm still not getting the full picture of the Goop newspaper history. Perhaps there is some dedicated Goop-ologist out there who can fill me in.

PS -- I am not the type of Goop-headed individual who goes around Googling my own name. I am, however, gripped by an intense fascination with the links you folks use to get here to the Stripper's Guide blog, and check my 'referrals' list on a regular basis. I see this not as ego massage but as market research, er, yeah, market research, that's it. To my constant dismay, a truly amazing number of my visitors arrive here hoping to find a very different kind of stripper ... but I digress. One of the referrals I just saw was from Wikipedia. Many kind (and discerning) folks have linked to this blog from various subjects there, so that was nothing out of the ordinary. What was unusual was the Wiki page from which this particular questing soul had arrived. It turns out, believe it or not, that there is a Wikipedia biography of li'l ole me! Really, I'm not kidding, you can go and look. And I swear on a stack of New York Evening Graphics that I didn't write it. So I'm walking around a little puffed up at the moment, realizing that I now stack up with such luminaries like Alexander the Great, George Washington, the guy who talked fast on toy commercials and the key grip on She Gods of Shark Reef.

In observance of this great honor, I hereby promise to henceforth wear a tie whenever I write a blog post. If I ever make the Encyclopedia Brittanica I'll consider wearing pants, too.


The only other character I can think of who is drawn with a compass isn't in the comic-strips (that I know of). It's "Scrooge McDuck" as drawn by Don Rosa in comic books, using a compass for Scrooge's little glasses. I've actually seen him draw the character that way ...
Congrats on the noteriety...but let's not hope for a world where bloggers have to wear pants...that's almost like having a real job.
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