Monday, July 11, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: What Dick Did, Or How Mothers Worry

When I checked to see which of the very prolific Hy Gage's series I had covered on Stripper's Guide, I was flabbergasted to find out that not a single one has. So let's cure that huge gap in the blog's curriculum vitae today with What Dick Did, or How Mothers Worry.

But first, a few words about Mr. Gage. His name, I presume, is a pen-name unless his parents had a great sense of humor about their offspring. He burst on the newspaper cartooning scene at the turn of the century and in the next two decades had series accepted by practically every syndicate that existed. He was evidently a Philadelphia resident, as a huge amount of his work was done for them. In fact, he managed to have his work appear in every major Philly paper at one time or another. In addition to a prodigious output of comic strips, he also produced editorial cartoons, book illustrations, and humorous text pieces. In the 1920s his output fell off greatly; he produced only a few series plus editorial cartoons. However, I do find indications that Gage got interested in animation work in those years, so perhaps that's what kept him busy at his usual fever pitch. I find no evidence that he was producing newspaper work after the early 1930s, but there is an unsubstantiated claim on one cartooning website that he came back to newspaper cartooning for a couple series in the 1940s.

Gage could work in a few different styles -- a very clunky bigfoot style, almost amateurish, that he used for most of his comic strip work (as above), and a highly polished lovely style that he used for editorial and illustration work. Undoubtedly the slapdash style he used on comic strips was his method for cranking out a lot of material quickly.

Getting back to What Dick Did, it was produced for the Boston Herald Sunday comic section from March 17 to December 29 1907. It was a one-joke strip, but a pretty good one. Little Dick's mother is quite the 'helicopter parent', a century before that term was coined. Her dark fantasies of what might happen to him once he's out of her sight allow Gage to draw a fun fantasy sequence in every strip. It's unfortunate, though, that Gage signals the fantasy portion by laying on a dark tone above the art, making the strips look quite muddy. I think the caption "This Is What She Thought He Did" would have been quite enough to keep the reader from being confused.


Gage was doing spot art and eds at The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin at least into 1942. F.O. Alexander said that when he started there in December 1941, he met Gage and even worked along with him. It seems like they were probably breaking Alex in to replace Gage. If you spot any copies of the Bulletin from the 1930s to early 40's, you will see Gage's daily mini-editorials on the left side "Ear" in the masthead.
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