Wednesday, June 22, 2022


Toppers: Bughouse Fables


At the beginning of 1926, when the Hearst syndicates decreed that all their Sunday pages would add topper strips, almost all the cartoonists started off with a topper series that was short-lived, and then, after a few months, they came up with series that would run for years. I have no idea why that was, but you can pick pretty much any Hearst Sunday page and you'll see the pattern.

Barney Google is a perfect exemplar of that pattern. Before he settled on the long-running classic topper Parlor, Bedroom and Sink (later Bunky), DeBeck began with a one-shot on January 10 1926 titled Useless. The next week DeBeck decided to inaugurate a Sunday version of his daily panel Bughouse Fables, a feature he'd been doing since 1920. I can certainly imagine DeBeck had a store of ideas for the feature that couldn't really work in the panel format, so a strip version allowed him to use up those otherwise unworkable ideas.

Bughouse Fables was a delightfully wacky feature in which people would react in unexpected ways to situations. The topper strip above is a perfect example. We're all ready for the cop to go ballistic, and the gag is that he goes the opposite way.  

Although adapting Bughouse Fables as a topper seems like a great solution to needing an extra feature, DeBeck, like most of the Hearst cartoonists, didn't stick with his first series. The Bughouse Fables topper ended on May 9 1926, replaced by Parlor, Bedroom and Sink.


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