Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Obscurity of the Day: Norb
Reading Norb without any knowledge of whence it came, you'd might well guess that it was an unusually lucid strip from a later issue of Zap Comix. It does seem rather drug-induced, what with the chameleon narrator and all. But no, this was a comic strip actually accepted and distributed by King Features Syndicate
Two very high-profile names were on the masthead of Norb. Tony Auth, who contributed the art, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Daniel Pinkwater, writer, is a well-known children's book author and NPR commentator. The two of them came together with the idea of creating a comic strip that harkened back to the humorous serial strips of the past, the great Thimble Theatre being their specific inspiration. The globe-trotting adventures of a wacky scientist and his teenage sidekick put the ball in motion.
Whether Auth and Pinkwater succeeded in their endeavor you can decide for yourself if you have the means -- a compilation book of the strip is available, but scarce and pricey. My opinion is that the strip, while a valiant effort, mostly demonstrates that even accomplished creators can't work miracles in the tiny confines of modern micro-strips. While the Sundays are pretty cute, the dailies (you can see some here at the Comics Journal) just can't keep a story moving forward very well in their tiny confines.
Norb began on August 7 1989, and ended one year later on August 4 1990. Pinkwater says that they actually signed a two-year contract with King Features, but they just couldn't stand to hear the complaints and general abuse from newspaper editors anymore, and bailed a year early with the syndicate's blessing.