Monday, May 25, 2020
Obscurity of the Day: Men Who Made The World
Once J. Carroll Mansfield's Highlights of History proved itself a surprise hit, other syndicates began dipping their toes in the history comic strip genre. John F. Dille was keenly interested in educational features anyway, so he was one of the first to jump in with a me-too strip.
Dille's offering was called Men Who Made The World, and the daily strip offered biographies of important figures in history. The strip debuted as early as September 21 1925*, though many papers started it later. The strip began under the helm of Granville E. Dickey, who was billed as an historian, but whose only other credit I can find is editing Dille's weekly college humor round-up page. Art was provided by a complete unknown, Chester Sullivan. In a bizarre twist, Dickey's name was stricken from the feature after a mere five dailies and the new writer was "Dr. Elliott Shoring, Noted Eminent Historian." That eminence is debatable, or at least I can find no other proof of the fellow's existence other than this single credit.
Despite being put together by a pair of questionable unknowns, the strip was actually pretty darn good. They started off with a biography of Alexander the Great, which managed to be both entertaining and quite thorough. The bio ran for 33 strips, with lots of well-written text accompanying Sullivan's reasonably attractive art.
When Alexander the Great ended, a much longer bio of Napoleon ensued, but the art chores were taken over by Dick Calkins, a Dille go-to guy who would later rocket to fame as the artist on Buck Rogers. Calkins was a good fit for the assignment, since his art tends to look a bit like woodblocks out of a medieval manuscript, a nice look for a history feature.
The next story was Joan of Arc, which caused some clients to rename the strip Personalities that Made the World given the subject personage. Many clients seem to have given Joan a pass; whether that was an anti-Catholic bias, an anti-woman bias, or just because the art on this story was by a rather unappealing anonymous hand (or two, actually -- I think Calkins might have been brought in to finish off the story), I don't know.
For the remainder of the series, though the art was very rarely signed, I'm pretty confident that it is mostly or all Dick Calkins. Here's a rundown of the stories and their lengths:
|Story||Artist||# of Strips|
|Joan of Arc||Anonymous artist possibly followed by Calkins||27|
|Julius Caesar||Dick Calkins||45|
|Fernando Cortez||Dick Calkins||59|
|George Washington||Dick Calkins||55|
|King Richard I||Dick Calkins||55|
|Sir Francis Drake||Dick Calkins||60|
|Peter the Great||Dick Calkins||48|
|Louis the XIV||Dick Calkins||41|
I have yet to find a paper that runs this strip with perfect regularity or runs all the stories, but if such a paper were to exist, the series would have ended on April 16 1927. Although Dille closed up shop for new biographies, he certainly didn't stop trying to sell the ones he had. I have seen parts of this series running in papers as late as 1947!
* Source: Windsor Star