Monday, August 16, 2021
Obscurity of the Day: Wisdom of Wiseheimer
Why are the funnies so well-populated with fools, idiots and numskulls? Well, they can be funny of course, but they're also easier for the cartoonist to write. It's perfectly within a writer's intellectual capacity to write for characters that are dumber than the writer, but how does a writer create a believeable character who is smarter than they are? There's always the stock wacky scientist, I suppose, and the head-in-the-clouds intellectual, but in those cases the writer doesn't prove the characters are smart, they're just assumed to be.
Munson Paddock set himself a harder task in Wisdom of Wiseheimer, a weekday strip syndicated by the New York Evening Telegram from November 9 1907 to January 8 1909. His character, Wiseheimer, is presented with a sticky situation of some kind in each episode, and comes up with a brainy way to solve the problem each time. His favorite tool is reverse psychology, which probably didn't even exist as a term in 1907, but doesn't use it as a crutch -- Wiseheimer truly is wise, and comes up with smart and witty solutions to fit the problem.
Congratulations, then, to Munson Paddock, who was either a smart fellow who could write characters on his level, or a fellow of average intelligence who could actually write above his IQ.