Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Obscurity of the Day: The Wishbone Man
H.C.Greening was an old-timer in the comic biz by the 1920s; he'd been around since Yellow Kid days, and though that was less than thirty years before, it probably marked him as a bit of a fossil. His success in the 1910s was limited to various incarnations of his crazy robot strip, Percy, and that funny but repetitive feature got him through the whole decade but came to an end in 1919.
By the 20s it appears his reasonably well-known name wasn't even an asset. On The Wishbone Man, his last newspaper strip series, he went by the name Cornell Greening.
Or maybe he was just a little sheepish. I first find The Wishbone Man as a product of the CV Newspaper Service, quite a step down from Greening's previous post at the New York Herald. This syndicate was the byproduct of a rather brattish young fellow who wanted to be a journalist over the objections of his fabulously rich family. Cornelius Vanderbilt IV started a modest but feisty chain of newspapers in 1923. Unable to secure the use of syndicated material for his newspapers, he started his own syndicate. Neither the syndicate nor the newspapers did at all well and the CV Newspaper Service is about as obscure as they come. Based on the chain member San Francisco Daily Herald, The Wishbone Man had a very short run, less than two months, from December 10 1923 to January 26 1924. Yet a reprint book was issued by the Century Company based on this run, which seems outlandish for such an ephemeral item.
A clue may lie in Richard Marschall's write-up on Greening in the World Encyclopedia of Comics. He says the strip was with McClure Syndicate. I have not found any evidence of this, but perhaps there was a McClure run before the CV run. (As an aside, he also seems to say that the strip may have been known as Eb and Flo during that run).
After leaving the Vanderbilt organization and publishing the book, the feature shows up again, this time at the very bottom of the barrel -- Bernarr MacFadden's New York Evening Graphic. The strip runs there from February 22 to November 13 1926 (these dates are from the Philadelphia Daily News, a part of the MacFadden chain, and may not be the same dates as the home paper).
Greening's final strip may have been well-travelled, but it's not all that great, and besides, it's just a little creepy. Children making wishes by pulling on a weird old dude's legs strikes me as something that would have parents chasing down the author with torches and pitchforks these days. As a diversion for the smaller kids in that simpler time, though, I'm sure it was well-received and Greening need not be ashamed of his last feature (only a little abashed at the venues in which it ran).
Also interesting is the fact that Greening made a few Percy cartoons for JR Bray in the late 'teens, you can see the art from one on my pal Tom Stathes' Bray Animation Project website.