Saturday, October 01, 2022


Herriman Saturday: April 27 1910


April 27 1910 -- Herriman notes the 'blue flu' happening around L.A., people taking the day off to go see Jack Johnson train for the upcoming Fight of the Century.


Reading this endlessly suspenseful saga, here om StrippersGuide, I became overwhelmed by curiosity about who would win. Then one day, I realised that the fight had already happened, 112 years ago! So I looked it up, and now I know. But I will not reveal it here, in case anybody's laying bets.
Since I was wondering, I looked it up. Jack Johnson had "Li'l Artha" as one of his nicknames, inspired by his middle name which was Arthur. Cartoonist Tad Dorgan gave him that nickname.
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Friday, September 30, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Our Own Oddities


Among the hundreds of those 'neat stuff that happened here' features, it's surprising how many of them ran in color in the comics section. That was pretty darn valuable space, and I guarantee every syndicate salesman who came to your town would gladly waste the feature editor's day with all the reasons that he would be better off with his syndicate's latest Sunday strip. Most features editors are of the superstitious, cowardly type who would break down under that sort of cross-examination by the third or fourth salesman. 

The features editors at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch get a tip of my hat for resisting all the naysayers who must have driven them nearly batty for over fifty years -- yes I said five-oh. But maybe their spines were stiffened some by the fact that they were being told to dump a feature that was originally suggested by Joseph Pulitzer II, and you don't need to get in trouble with people of that surname at the P-D. 

Our Own Oddities, which was first titled St. Louis Oddities, debuted on September 1 1940, drawn by Ralph Graczak, and was written mostly from reader submissions of odd and amazing facts about the area. Graczak had been a staff artist with the P-D since 1933, and had previously done another reader-submission feature, the pun based Dijever. Graczak's new feature made him by far the receiver of the most mail of any P-D staffer, and the popularity of the feature seldom seemed to wane.  Graczak took it upon himself to investigate each item submitted, often lugging a press camera out to people's homes in order for them to provide him with photographic proof of their reported oddities. 

Graczak remained on staff with the P-D until 1980. At age 70, he was ready to leave his other newspaper work. But Our Own Oddities, that he could not leave. He continued working on that feature as a freelancer until he was 81 and the feature was 51 years old. The feature last ran on February 24 1991. Most likely the death of his wife in 1990 finally took the last of the wind out of his sails. Graczak died in 1997.


At 51 years, could this be the longest running obscurity you've featured on your blog?

It's amazing how a comic that run for literal decades can flow under the radar like that, although this comic at least has an excuse that it's a local feature, rather than nationally syndicated (I imagine there are people in St. Louis who remember this fondly).

I'm wondering what's the most "recent" obscure strip you've featured. I know you included a few that came out post-2000.
My bar for obscurities is not at all precise, but I have definitely covered some long-running features under that banner. Adventures of Waddles comes to mind (28 years), Amy (31 years), Illustrated Sunday School Lesson (42 years). I'd swear there was another 50+ year one, but I can't think of it. I think Billy the Boy Artist would qualify, and that's 56 years.

I've been mulling starting a new category of blogpost for strips that ran a long time under the radar. They're not really obscure, they're just sort of unmemorable, and certainly neglected by fans and collectors. Amy would have fit, and I also think of things like Morty Meekle, Trudy, Winky Ryatt, The Smith Family, etc. Strips like this ran in a decent number of papers, but they inspired no real fan following. Why did they run so long? What did their creators think of doing them? What kept them in a decent list of papers? Looking for a snappy category name for these things and I can't some up with anything I like.

Oh, and newest obscurity. I think that might be held by Penn's Place, a local Philly strip.

"Smith Family" is one of those strips I wouldn't mind knowing about. Absolutely lively artwork in the samples I've seen.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2022


Toppers: Bertha the Siberian Cheesehound


Boob McNutt began as a quite extraordinary new Sunday page in 1918*, featuring a dim-witted fellow who was intent on committing suicide. I know it sounds horrific, but in the hands of Rube Goldberg it was hilarious. Unfortunately, Goldberg eventually worked through that vein of black comedy and the strip evolved into a sort of domestic comedy, where Boob's naivete gets him into mostly uninspired silly situations. 

The strip would eventually rebound around 1927 into a looney adventure storyline that offered Goldberg much better raw fodder from which to make comedy hay. But in between, the strip was quite frankly deathly dull. 

On January 25 1925, Goldberg added a dog named Bertha to the McNutt household. On May 3 1925, the dog began talking in "dog language", with asterisks translating the nonsense into English. It could have been a cute idea, but 99% of the time the translations weren't even intended to be funny, they were just pointless comments on the situation.

When the Hearst Sundays added toppers in 1926, on January 10 Goldberg gave Bertha the top of the page, added a very Goldbergian breed name (earlier in the main strip she'd been called an Egyptian Wafflehound), and continued the mostly pointless conceit of translating her dog language.

The title Bertha the Siberian Cheesehound seems like it would be an entry point to some inspired Goldberg lunacy, but it wasn't. Perhaps recognizing that the strip was terribly weak, it ended after a little over six months, on July 4 1926. It was replaced by a new two tier topper, Bill.

* Many published histories insist that it began in May 1915; it did not.


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Monday, September 26, 2022


Obscurity of the Day: Handy Andy


There have been four different comic strip series titled Handy Andy, and today for the third one we've run here as an Obscurity of the Day, we cover the most obscure of them all. 

In 1919 the World Color Printing preprint Sunday comic section consisted of two original pages -- full pages of Slim Jim and The Kelly Kids, and two pages of reprints purchased from defunct syndicates. The Kelly Kids was drawn by Charles Kahles, who did not (at that time) take credit for the strip. As 1919 progressed, the art became sloppy on The Kelly Kids, and I'm not even sure if Kahles was still doing it, but dashing it off, or if someone at WCP was trying to ape his work. 

Finally, after a few especially awful installments of Kelly Kids, the strip was replaced starting on December 28 1919* with a substitute, a new version of Handy Andy. A very different sort of Handy Andy had appeared in the WCP sections of 1904-05, and then a more similar series ran in 1908-09. The new series sported crisp art by the excellent Jack Wilson, who had done a number of earlier series for NEA, but after that seemed not to be able to find a place to settle down.

The gags are about what you'd expect -- Andy tries to be handy around the house on DIY projects, but ends up making things much worse than they were. The idea isn't original, but certainly the sort of material that people relate to quite well. 

Handy Andy was strictly made as a fill-in, though. On April 11 1920 The Kelly Kids made their return (actually announced in the masthead of Handy Andy the previous week) with much reinvigorated art by Kahles. Why did Kahles need three months off? There's a story we'll probably never know. 

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan.

* Source: I can find no paper that ran the complete WCP section on the last week of 1919 or first week of 1920 for some reason; this start date was determined by using the Arizona Star, which ran the section late but by a known degree.


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Sunday, September 25, 2022


Wish You Were Here, from a Grace Drayton Copyist


Here's card #3 from the 1910 Campbell's Kids series, inspired but not drawn by Grace Drayton. These cards came in two varieties, this version adds the text "10 cents a can".


The condensed soup and tomato sauce, etc. that Campbell's produced all had the two long gold torches on either side of the gold medal on the label until about 1942. Then they were gone, I don't know why, as ancillary causualties of World War Two.
I think with the supply complications (Lucky Strike Green's case notwithstanding), there was a move to simplify things because of he war; it also just plain may have been a refresh.
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