Monday, April 01, 2019
Obscurity of the Day: Skeets
As a young cartoonist right out of college in the 1920s, Dow Walling showed promise with several syndicated comics. The features' short lives had as much or more to do with their small distributors (Johnson Features, Editors Feature Service) as their own qualities. Then at the dawn of the 1930s, Walling landed at King Features where he was tried out as the artist on a new feature (Nutty News, written by Ed Roberts), which tanked. Then was tapped to take over the ailing panel cartoon, Room and Board*, which he worked on for eight months before being replaced.
Finally Walling hit paydirt, or at least a steady job, when he created the kid strip Skeets for the New York Herald Syndicate. It debuted on May 1 1932** as a Sunday only feature. Walling's creation, an unassuming pale facsimile of all the other kid strips, succeeded mostly in never making weaker readers hurt themselves due to too much uncontrolled laughter. The strip was never widely syndicated and never gained a daily version, but apparently made the syndicate and Walling happy enough to keep it going for almost two full decades, flying under the radar the whole time.
Despite his rather light work load, Walling apparently couldn't handle it on his own by the 1940s. Al Plastino says that he and Jack Sparling helped out on the strip***. Skeets was finally cancelled, last running on July 15 1951. No word on whether Walling voluntarily ended the feature or it was cancelled.
* The Room and Board title was later resurrected for Gene Ahern, when he jumped ship from NEA to bring a bald-faced copy of Our Boarding House to King.
** Source: start and end dates from Jeffrey Lindenblatt based on the New York Herald-Tribune.
** Source: Alter Ego #59.
As for killing off Room and Board (version one), He should not be blamed for it, he was good with the panel, but in what would seem a paranoid lack of faith in their cartoonists, the King Features/Central Press editors kept replacing the man behind the pen before they could get very far with it. The instability just didn't appeal to clients, and the feature only lasted four years. Walling was actually the second to last artist on it, the final one being Herman Thomas. I wrote a more in-depth peek at the panel here: