Friday, March 24, 2023


Obscurity of the Day: Shantylane


The earliest recurring theme of American newspaper comics was the 'race of little people' trope, starting right from the beginning when a ripped-off copy of Palmer Cox's Brownies was quickly replaced by the slightly less plagiaristic Ting-Lings in the Chicago Inter-Ocean in 1894. Later on The Teenie-Weenies pretty much cornered the market on this motif. 

But that doesn't mean they had the playing field all to themselves. On July 18 1926, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat inaugurated their own race of little people on the back cover of the Sunday magazine. The series was called Shantylane, and the wee ones in this case were wooden dolls with ape-like heads, and they lived in a land that seemed to be cobbled together out of scrap lumber. 

At the beginning each instalment offered some verses by Allen Metelman, who went by 'Allen Met' on the series, and a lovely full-page cartoon by 'Vic Vac', the pen name of Victor Andrew Vaccarezza. 'Met' dropped out after March 6 1927, and from then on it was a solo for "Vic Vac', who eventually tried out continuing storylines after a long stretch of gags and verses. 

Vaccarezza has managed to keep a low profile in cartooning histories, but it's not for lack of ability. His work, which often uses a black background to make his colour work really pop, was well-known in St. Louis, where he was in the bullpen at several papers over the years, but pretty well unknown elsewhere. He eventually did get one syndicated credit for June Bride, a feature that came and went with all the stealth of a ninja on a moonless night.

Shantylane ran in the G-D for a little over two years, occasionally missing a Sunday, but ended on October 28 1928, for reasons unknown. There seems to have been a feeble attempt to syndicate the feature (I found it running for awhile in the Winnipeg Tribune).


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