Monday, July 18, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Bobbie and Bessie in Search of Fairyland


Eleanor Schorer was very productive at the New York Evening World in the 1910s, specializing mostly in romance and children's material -- as was the norm for women cartoonists of the day. We've featured her work here quite a few times over the years.

Here is a kid's strip Schorer produced in 1911, her first year at the New York Evening World. Bobbie and Bessie in Search of Fairyland ran once a week on Saturdays from July 22 to October 21. The strip chronicles the adventures when a pair of small children set out from home to find fairyland, which they read about in a picture book. The pair encounter all sorts of fantastic characters, like King Neptune, the Sun Goddess, and the Man in the Moon, all of whom help or hinder the kids in their quest to find fairyland. Finally in the last strip the children are struggling mightily to get to fairyland, which is now in sight, only to realize that fairyland is their own house, and the fairies are their mother and father. 

As the kids are put to bed father starts telling them a bedtime story, and we are told that these stories would begin running in the Evening World each week. This story series, which was not in comic strip form but a printed short story with illustration (which we don't track here), ran under the title Sandman Stories. It ran only a few months before it disappeared, perhaps because there was already a syndicated newspaper children's story running under the same title. 

PS -- I call this feature a comic strip, but really it is one of those things that fall into that grey zone inhabited most famously by Prince Valiant, and Tarzan in the early years before they began using word balloons. Thus, to be exact I should probably use the term illustrated story or some such. But unlike a printed story with one illustration (like Sandman Stories), features of this type seem to me to be acknowedging and embracing the comic strip form, though they refuse to go all the way there.



Another comic of this hybrid sort is the British feature, Rupert. I grew up with the dear little bear, and absolutely adore the stories. I have always thought of it as a comic strip, even though technically it is not. But I think this sort of thing (including Prince Val) qualifies, in that the story progresses in sequential pictures, and the text is intertwined with the pictures. Neither element makes sense without the other.
I had the good fortune to interview (by phone) the chief creator of Rupert, Alfred Bestall, back in the 1970s. He was very old, but was a sharp and erudite man, and very friendly. As one would hope
Hello Allan-
The Queen of this sort of "illustrated story" type of fantasy, was Grace Wiedersiem/Drayton. This technique went back as far as Toodles & Pussy Pumpkin, about 1903, and Captain Kiddo,few years later, and the many iterations of Dolly and Bobby that went into the 1930s.
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