Monday, September 05, 2022
Obscurity of the Day: The Genius
Magazine cartoonist Dick Oldden took his whack at newspaper comics with The Genius, a delightful strip about a professor and his lab assistants. Oldden's stylized art was a perfect fit for the small 4-column daily strips of the 1970s, and his Sundays fairly leapt off the page with their bold graphics, unusual limited colour palettes, and modern sensibility. So what went wrong? I'm not quite sure, but my bet is that the gags, which sometimes offer disappointly conventional punchlines, fail to follow through on the avant garde look of the strip.
Oldden's cartoons were often seen in The New Yorker and other top flight magzines of the day, and those tended to be more surreal gags, so readers familiar with Oldden might have felt he was phoning it in for the strip. However Oldden was a purchaser of gag material and Sam Gross has claimed that he did much of the gag-writing*. Gross' sense of humour would have been a perfect fit for Oldden's style, but maybe he just couldn't write quality material fast enough for the rigours of a 7-day a week strip.
The King Features daily strip debuted on May 14 1973, with the Sunday following on May 20**. After four years of tepid sales, Oldden and King chalked this one up as a failed experiment on May 8 1977***.
*Source: Cartoonist Profiles #135
** Source: Syndicate brochure, also Editor & Publisher, April 14 1973.
*** Source: Hayward Review.