Wednesday, January 06, 2021


Obscurity of the Day: Jack the Giant Killer


 Johnny Gruelle was a very prolific newspaper cartoonist in the years before Raggedy Ann became his ticket to fame and fortune. Some of his best work was at the New York Herald, where he created the very long-running series, Mr. Tweedeedle. That series began in 1911 and ran for eight years, an extremely impressive run in those days. 

Surprisingly, Gruelle did little else for the Herald in that long peiod. Only two other series are known, one of which is today's obscurity, Jack the Giant Killer. Jack is not much older than a toddler, and in his fantasy world he and his dog, Dumplins, are professional giant wranglers. The pair are able to best a giant with ease; the combat is over so quickly it is carried out between panels. 

This series is so gosh-darn adorable it seems a pity that Gruelle abandoned it after a mere five episodes, from August 6 to September 3 1911. As much effort as he expended on this strip and Mr. Tweedeedle, though, perhaps he simply didn't have time to do both. 

Several housekeeping notes: in my book I miscredit this strip to the New York Tribune and credit it to Charles Twelvetrees -- get out your White-Out to correct those embarrassing errors. 

Second, I was perusing the Johnny Gruelle wiki entry, and if you are a Wikipedia editor, please oh please correct the ridiculous statements that Gruelle worked at the Tacoma Tribune, Toledo News-Bee, Pittsburgh Press, Spokane Press and Cleveland Press -- all the material being referenced is syndicated stuff from NEA, where Gruelle worked in much of the latter half of the 1900s. Sheesh.

Allan, welcome back after completing the home renovations. Isn't it amazing how those type of projects quickly, and exponentially, expand?

This is my first exposure to the JTGK strip which is cute, funny and beautifully rendered. Dumplins, with his occasional droll comments, is a hoot.

FYI, your book lists Charles H. Twelvetrees as creator of the Jack the Giant Killer strip, without mention of Johnny Gruelle.
Did Mr. Twelvetrees write the strip?

Bob Carlin
You see that with a lot of Literary Digest Herblock cartoons from the mid-1930s, crediting him with all sorts of Scripps-Howard papers, when in fact he worked for NEA.
Newspapers themselves assumed that since they subscribed to a feature, they could say the cartoonist worked for them, and that would be technically true. In a chain like the Scripps-Howard Corporation,(or earlier, "The Scripps-McCrea League") the papers and the syndicate were part the same organization, as was King Features, Premier Syndicate,INS, etc.and the many papers in the chain were all part of the Hearst Corporation. So I guess the mentality was, you work for one part of the whole, you work for all parts of the whole.
As for the Literary Digest, perhaps without going any deeper than whatever paper the item was clipt from, the credit would be assigned.
Bob, I plumb forgot to mention that much bigger error. That came from Ken Barker's NY Herald index. Double oopsy.

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