Monday, January 29, 2024
Obscurity of the Day: Sherman on the Mount
American Greetings, the #2 greeting card company in the world trailing behind Hallmark, was on a real roll in the 1970s and 80s creating running characters that appeared not just on their cards but were also merchandised on pretty much any object on which an image could be printed. Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, the Care Bears -- these were all cooked up at American Greetings. Even good ol' Ziggy was born there.
In 1979 Walt Lee (artist) and Mike Fruchey (writer) brought a proposal for a new character to American Greetings, this one for the consumer who likes a little religion with their treacle. Sherman on the Mount is a monk with a sweet disposition, a quick wit, and a running conversation with the nicest and most supportive God around -- no smiting or condemning to Hell in Sherman's world. Sherman is just filled to bursting with love for everything, so he feels no compunctions about taking silver for appearing on stickers, music boxes, figurines, pot holders, coffee mugs, sheet music, etc. etc.
Sherman never quite took off the way some of American Greetings other 'personalities' did, but on September 7 1986* his visibility got a boost with a new daily and Sunday comic strip syndicated by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Fruchey, whose writing role had been usurped by the corporate writers at American Greetings, presumably was allowed to come back as writer, not just a copyright holder listed on the masthead.
Sherman on the Mount debuted with a solid new strip client list (150 papers according to Fruhey) and included some high profile and high-paying client papers. It seems to me that the strip was set up to become a perennial sort of half-forgotten feature, one that offered the sort of quick, good-hearted but vapid gags that could sustain a strip for the grandma audience. And you know what happens with grandma strips -- a newspaper that dares drop them is going to catch, er, a darn good talking-to.
For good or ill, Sherman never got the chance to become a newspaper fixture. By 1986 when the strip debuted American Greetings had already cut way back on new Sherman paraphernelia; they obvious had lost interest in him. Evidently selling the comic strip was not enough to encourage them to make another attempt at turning Sherman into the next Ziggy. My guess is that the strip was cancelled on October 2 1988** because American Greetings felt it wasn't worth their time and effort to oversee.
* Source: Elmira Star-Gazette
** Source: Boston Globe