Monday, July 01, 2019


Obscurity of the Day: Craig Kennedy

Arthur B. Reeve came up with the idea of a detective who solves crimes through the use of science, and started publishing stories chronicling the adventures of Craig Kennedy in 1910. He debuted in, of all places, Cosmopolitan magazine, which obviously wasn't exclusively a women's magazine back then (or am I being chauvinistic that women generally don't care for scientific detectives?).

Reeve seemed to have an endless well of stories up his sleeve, and Craig Kennedy went up against literally hundreds of nefarious criminals in his career. By the mid-1920s, though, the public seemed to have a waning interest in the square-jawed science geek. It was time to try broadening his horizons from books and magazines -- why not try his luck in comic strip form? Reeve (or one of his ghost-writers) teamed up with artist Harry J. Flemming to create a series of Craig Kennedy stories for the McNaught Syndicate starting in June 1926. The stories were reasonably well-written and didn't dawdle about -- each case was typically wrapped up in a mere two weeks. The art was quite deft, very much presaging the sort of thing we would see when the adventures strips really came into their own in the 1930s and 40s.

The strip ran in very few papers, but the longest run found is in the Syracuse Post-Herald, in which Jeffrey Lindenblatt was able to index the following stories:

Start DateEnd DateStory Title
6/7/19266/19/1926The Studio Mystery
6/21/19267/10/1926The Green Curse
7/12/19267/24/1926The White Hand
7/26/19268/7/1926The Beauty Shop
8/9/19268/28/1926Dead Men Tell Tales
8/30/19269/11/1926Mystery of the Gray Flapper
9/13/19269/25/1926The Dream Murder
9/27/192610/9/1926The Truth Drug
10/11/192610/23/1926The Second Hand Girl
11/8/192611/20/1926The Perfect Crime

Although Craig Kennedy didn't make much of a splash in the newspaper world, it really wasn't for lack of quality. You might say that it was a strip just a little ahead of its time.

PS: If you think this strip is rare, you ain't seen nothing yet. There was a second version of Craig Kennedy syndicated three years later -- now that one is rare with a capital R. More on that one of these days ...

PPS: In the samples above, one of the suspects has a flashback and narrates her tale as it unfolds in word balloons (you'll have to read it to get how odd that comes across). Although at first I thought, oh, how silly these neophyte comic strip writers are, they don't get how comic strips work. Ha! But y'know, I ended up rather liking that off-balance feeling it gives to that flashback. It's really quite disorienting and weird!


Another paper than ran it was Hearst's Chicago Herald and Examiner, but If I recall, they only had it for about three months.
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