Thursday, March 10, 2011


Obscurity of the Day: Frolicky Fables

If you need to bone up on hip 1920's slang, look no further than Frolicky Fables for the graduate-level course.This swingin' strip, filled with tongue in cheek advice for the Lost Generation, began in the New York Mirror on November 23 1925, and was distributed elsewhere by Premier Syndicate, the imprint reserved mostly for Hearst's scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.

We encounter a credit problem with the strip because of its rarity. Jeffrey Lindenblatt provided the start date, and credited the feature solely to Victor "VEP" Pazimino. However, as you can see from these 1926 samples above, Pazimino has the byline, but the art was by Wesley Morse. Was Morse doing the art on the strip from the outset? I dunno, because 1925 examples of this strip are rarer than hen's teeth and I don't have access to the microfilm of the Mirror. It's perfectly reasonable that Jeffrey might not have noticed the Morse signature -- after all, VEP was a cartoonist, so why was he only providing the prose on this feature? I most likely wouldn't have noticed either, especially since the male characters actually look rather like VEP's work.

The mademoiselles, on the other hand, are vintage Morse, the cartoonist whose main claim to fame was for drawing many of the X-rated Tijuana Bibles of the era. His aptitude for drawing sexy girls is here on constant display. Morse really wasn't much of a cartoonist, but he certainly loved to draw those sweet 'n' slutty girls of his.

Just before the strip ended on April 10 1926 there was another intriguing turn to the Frolicky Fables story. On March 29, all of a sudden, the strip can be found in quite a few papers (no less than four that I know of). In each case the strip replaces Barney Google. Wha-? The Steubenville Herald-Star offers an explanation in their March 27 issue:

Mr. Aesop bas been a long time dead. True, his fables are still pearls of wisdom. But a pretty girl with her wisdom of pearls is far more entertaining. That is why you will enjoy Frolicky Fables by Vep. This is a new comic strip which dresses up the wisdom of the ages in the costume of the flapper of today—short skirts, rolled stockings and everything. You will enjoy this dally fillip of philosophy which replaces "Barney Google and Spark Plug" on the Herald-Star Comic Page, until the recovery of Mr. DeBeck, the artist, who was taken suddenly ill.
Oh, well okay. Well, no, actually not okay at all. Barney Google did not in fact go on hiatus on the 29th. Plenty of other papers continue it as normal the next week. On that date a new story began in the strip in which Barney travels to California to purchase Spark Plug's foal, seemingly business as usual in DeBeck's spot. But then the next week, starting April 5, Barney Google disappears from ALL papers I've checked. And on April 12 he's back, now with a human foundling in tow, as if the story had proceeded without us the previous week.

So I'm mystified by the whole thing, but that's the reason Frolicky Fables got it's two weeks of fame, running in lots of papers and giving us the opportunity to see it outside of the Mirror.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!


Allan, Victor Pazmino was my great uncle and it is quite possible that he did the majority of the strip, while the female character was drawn by Morse to get the proper vintage look the strip needed for the character. Glad to have stumbled across your post. - H.D. Timmons
Hi, Allan,

I've seen examples from as early as Nov 1925, and they are indeed drawn by Morse. But he didn't begin signing his work on the strip till Jan 1926. Hope this clears things up a bit.
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