Wednesday, February 01, 2023
The Experiment of Ozark Ike's Whodunits
I love baseball, and my favorite baseball strip, hands down, is Ozark Ike. Ray Gotto's art completely blows my mind, and the stories are entertainingly ridiculous. I even forgive the hillbilly motif, which you just couldn't escape in the 1940s when everyone who could hold a brush was trying to steal even a small taste of the juggernaut that was Li'l Abner.
Ozark Ike began as a daily in 1945, and it found enough editors who appreciated it that a Sunday was added on July 27 1947. When the Sunday debuted, though, it didn't fold itself in on the daily stories, nor did it start a separate storyline of its own. Instead Gotto had the idea to make it a totally self-supporting feature in which his characters would act out a famous event in sports history, with a gag thrown in for good measure. The feature was titled Ozark Ike's Whodunits.
I quite like the idea since it sidesteps the whole knotty problem of setting up separate or blended contiuities with the dailies. And boy is that a major problem. If you run shared continuities, Sundays either become a boring recap of the week's events, or if they advance the plot, you force editors who bought your daily to either add the Sunday, or if they have no room for it, to drop the daily.
If you go with the separate continuity option, you can be less likely to sell a newspaper on both the Sunday and daily because readers can be confused by the multiple stories they are supposed to follow. Sure, if you're Steve Canyon you can get away with it, but if your strip is struggling to get newspaper sign-ups, adding a Sunday can be a sort of zero-sum game while leaving you with a lot more work.
So Ray Gotto and I both think his solution is genius, but evidently we are adding up this marketing equation and coming up with the wrong answer. Ozark Ike's Whodunits lasted only about six months, and on February 1 1948 the Sunday was retitled simply Ozark Ike and began running a separate continuity from the daily.
Did that work out for it? Well, Ozark Ike was never a huge success, but it did garner a pretty decent roster of clients, so hard to say. What do you think is the ideal way to handle a continuity strip on Sundays and dailies?
PS: If you don't know the answer to the sample Whodunit above, I'm not telling you. It's only one of the most famous events (if it really happened!) in baseball history. So either you're a baseball fan and you know it already, or you couldn't care less.
Root always maintained that Ruth never called his shot, because if Ruth had, he would have thrown the next pitch at his head.