Friday, November 09, 2012


Obscurity of the Day: Luke McGlook

As you probably know by now, I'm a sucker for baseball strips. Luke McGlook is one of my favorites in the humorous baseball genre, despite the fact that it was, to be honest, turned out as cheap hackwork. World Color Printing, the syndicate responsible, had trouble keeping decent artists on their mainstay product, the pre-printed Sunday comics section. So you can imagine how they scraped the bottom of the barrel when it came to daily series, which were pretty bad sellers for them, and for which the company couldn't seem to form any sort of consistent marketing plan.

Despite those odds, Luke McGlook is a minor treasure, at least in my opinion. The baseball content is knowledgeably written and at the same time funny, the doofus main character is a dope but a very likeable dope, and the art, while perhaps never to be confused with the work of Winsor McCay, has a sense of fun about it that I find delightful.

The original run of Luke McGlook, which was variously subtitled The Brainy Bean Boy and The Bush League Bearcat, seems to have begun on May 24 1915. The cartoonist was a fellow who signed himself Budsee. Who is Budsee? Well, I've floated the thought before that E.C. Segar was known to respond to the nickname 'Bud' on occasion -- so Budsee -- Bud Se...gar -- seems a dim possibility. But I have to nix my own brainchild. Because Segar couldn't draw his way out of a paper bag in 1915, and his distinctively awful early style just doesn't match this work.

So that brings me to my second guess. This one is based on the fact that sometime in 1916 Budsee left the strip, and was replaced by Carl Ed for the remainder of the run (believed to end October 28 1916). As you can see from the samples above, there is not a heck of a lot of difference between Budsee and Ed art. Same figures, same parallel linework to indicate sky -- in fact the only significant difference seems to be that Budsee likes drawing detailed backgrounds while Ed is a minimalist (take my word for it that the one Ed sample above is representative of his typical work on the feature).

Could Budsee by Carl Ed working in secret? If so, why did his work become less detailed when he decided to take credit? And why was he working in secret in the first place -- I have no record of him working for another syndicate in 1915? Was Ed known to his friends as Bud, and Budsee -- Bud C. -- Bud Carl -- is some clue to his identity?

Nope. I don't buy any of these explanations. Then finally it came to me that Budsee, if you look at the art style, is a pseudonym that's perfectly easy to see through. Budsee -- Bud C. -- Bud Counihan! Counihan drew this way, the name fits, and he was gainfully employed at the New York World at the time, thus the reason for the cloak and dagger act! His exit from Luke McGlook in 1916 even makes perfect sense -- he had finally started a consistent daily strip for the World in January of that year (Henry Hasenpfeffer) that made it impossible for him to keep up with the moonlighting. 'Scuse me while I pat myself on the back.

Luke McGlook may have only had an original run of a year and a half, but World Color Printing was by no means going to let all those strips go to waste. When they created a weekly black and white page of comics for smaller papers in the 1920s, Luke McGlook came out of mothballs and ran on that page for over a decade -- at least 1924 - 1933 that I've found so far. They even sold it off to another of those cheesy reprint syndicates, National News Service, who seems to have also been selling it occasionally in the 1920s.


I'm just writing an account of the English comedian Bud Flanagan, who took ship to America in 1910. He later toured Australia, New Zealand and South Africa before returning too England in 1915, when he enlisted. The point of the dates is that according to one account he worked as a prizefighter billed as "Luke McGlook from England"). Which if true predates the comic strip character by at least a couple of years.
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