Monday, May 27, 2019


Toppers: Simple Sylvia in Gags and Gals

The cheesecake artist Jefferson Machamer, looking for a steady paying gig during the early years of the Great Depression, accepted an offer from Hearst's New York Mirror to contribute a weekly color Sunday page to their paper. Naturally the chosen subject was the female sex. Machamer had a marked preference for statuesque beauties, and at least for humor purposes he loved the mercenary gold-digger type, so Gags and Gals abounded with those "Machamer Girls."

In addition to the gag panels that dominated the page, Machamer included a strip, never named, in which the artist, using a rather cruel self-caricature of himself, chronicled his experiences with women. This unnamed strip could be considered a topper, I suppose, but since I've never once seen Gags and Gals cut down to half-page format (in which that strip would be lost), I think of it as an integral part of the feature.

I can trace Gags and Gals back to 1932, with the earliest example in my collection being from September of that year. However, since Mark Johnson tells me that the Sunday Mirror debuted on January 10 1932, it wouldn't surprise me if Gags and Gals was there right from the start (can anyone supply some facts to go along with my guesswork?).

The strip doesn't seem to have been offered in syndication until late 1933, and it ran in very few papers until 1936, when it finally started accruing more of a substantial client list. The new popularity of the feature probably had something to do with its translation into a series of movie shorts that began making the theatrical rounds in early 1936. Here's a fun installment of the series:

Soon after this new spate of popularity began the feature finally added a real topper, presumably at the request of newspaper clients trying to fit Gags and Gals into different formats. The new topper was titled Simple Sylvia and it debuted on February 14 1937.The feature was really just a 'more of the same' for the Gags and Gals package, starring one of Machamer's Amazonians beauties.

Simple Sylvia was later joined by another topper, Bubbling Bill, and both lasted until the end of the Gags and Gals feature on February 6 1938.


Hello Allan- I have a copy of the complete first issue of the Sunday Mirror, and G&G is a no show. Oddly enough I have a copy of the last one too, (13 October 1963.) It's been said the Mirror never made a profit.
The film included in your posting has the title of Gags & Gals but it is not the one from 1936, which was one of a short series of Jefferson Machamer-starring short subjects made in the waning years of the Educational Pictures studio. What the film shown here is from the 1940's. Official Films served the home use and film library markets. They licenced second hand Hollywood products like old Columbia or Hal Roach shorts, and Vanburen and Terrytoon cartoons, often giving them new titles. The only credits there are for "Zarek & Zarina" are to some "Soundies", and "Gags and Gals/ Male Order" seems to be retitled Soundies too. (Soundies were short musical films that were seen in a coin-op contraption called a "Pan-o-ram" that was supposed to replace juke boxes, but it was a bad idea, and the machines were in constant need of repairs, so they were only around 1940-47.)
Mark, your comment sent me looking for a REAL Gags and Gals short, and I'm delighted to say I found one, now seen above. The print quality is hideous but nonetheless I found it very entertaining.

Thanks, Allan
Also Mark, any chance you could tell me what DID appear in that first NY Mirror Sunday?

Thanks, Allan
Here's the breakdown:
Bumps/Pete by CD Russell
Honeybunch's Hubby/Smatter Pop by CM Payne
Tailspin Tommy by Forrest
The Lovebyrds/Etta Kett by Robinson
Silly Symphonies/Mickey Mouse by disney
Tarzan by Foster
Phil Fumble/Fritzi Ritz by Bushmiller
Fisher's Foolish History/Joe Palooka by Fisher

I know that's the first Mickey Mouse sunday, Maybe the first also for Etta Kett and Pete (the Tramp)?

Just for the record, the last Sunday Mirror's line up:
Lil Abner by Capp
Steve Canyon by Caniff
Mickey Finn by Leonard
Henry by Anderson (Liney)
Rex Morghan MD by Bradley & Edgington
Dan Flagg by Sherwood
Kerry Drake by Andriola
Life' Like That by Neher
Priscilla's Pop by Vermeer
Better Half by Barnes
Apartment 3-G by Kotzky
Emmy Lou by Links
Louie by Hanan
There Oughta be a law by Shorten & Whipple
Our Boarding house by Freyse
Out Our Way by Cochran
Joe Palooka by Depreta

Palooka was in every single Sunday Mirror section!

As a show of just how poorly the Mirror was doing, in all this, there's only one ad in the whole section.
The following week The New York Daily News would add 6 pages to their comic section taking many strips from the Mirror -

L'il Abner
Kerry Drake
Rex Morgan
Dan Flagg
Apartment 3-G
Mickey Finn
Joe Palooka

Steve Canyon would be picked up by The New York Journal-American.

I forgot to add that in the black and white pages of that first Mirror were the page of "It Is to Laugh" by Ving Fuller, which was seen here back on May 6; and "The Sunday Mirror Puzzle Page" by A.W. Nugent.
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