Monday, September 07, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Jim Martin

Here's a special Labor Day obscurity for you, straight from the pages of the Daily Worker. As we know, Labor Day is a commemoration of the American labor movement, which in turn was heavily influenced by so-called radical political organizations like the Communists, Socialists, Wobblies and others.

The Daily Worker, which began publishing in 1924, was a newspaper published by the American Communist Party. The newspaper reported on mainstream news stories with a heavy-handed Communist political slant. While the newspaper was undeniably highly partisan to its cause, and the writing so clunky that it is truly painful to read, it must be said that the Worker was valuable in at least one way. When very few mainstream papers would take the side of the worker, frivolous editorializing to the contrary, this newspaper reported truthfully on the horrors encountered by laborers when they were pushed too far and struck for better conditions. You'll find very few other papers that were willing to report on the beatings and murders endured by those yearning for a fair deal from their employers.

Surprisingly enough, the Worker did occasionally run comic strips. Of course, the strips were seldom actually funny, hamstrung as they were by the Worker's political message that permeated everything they did. By far the longest-running was Little Lefty, which we covered here way back in 2006, and which sometimes actually managed to be slightly entertaining.

More typical of the Worker's comics is Jim Martin, the tale of a man who becomes active in the labor movement. The politically-charged strip ran in the Worker from August 21 1933 to January 30 1934. The art was by a fellow named Walter Quirt, who showed no particularly great gift for cartooning. The story was first credited to Howard Newhouse, but that credit disappeared after two weeks, and Quirt presumably took care of both art and story from then on.


The latest labor movement comic strip is Joe Hill: His Story by editorial cartoonist Pat Bagley. It ran in the Salt Lake Tribune August 30 - September 4, 2015. Online at
I've read the narrative twice at the beginning of the strip and it just doesn't sit right.
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