Saturday, February 03, 2024


One-Shot Wonders: Gags by Herriman et al, McClure 1901


An early McClure section gagfest which ran in the Thanksgiving week issue of November 24 1901. 

Going clockwise from upper left, we have a gorgeous drawing by Bert Cobb with a rather hoity-toity gag referring to the Dead March from Handel's Oratorio "Saul". Cobb is an almost completely forgotten master. Next we have a funny Thanksgiving gag by William F. Marriner; then a well-worn boarding house gag by Mark Fenderson, and finally George Herriman, with an over-long gag line that isn't really worth the trip. But I do like the cartoon very much. Love how the tramp has wedged himself into the gate. I do wonder what the thingamajig is on the step, though (no, I don't mean the old maid).


It looks like a boot scraper - I'm sure the old lady didn't want dirty boots in her house. Cliff
ah, yes! Thanks.
A tree in a pot, already in 1901! Any earlier sightings?
The Dead March from Saul isn't really such a hoity-toity reference. It was the standard funeral march at the time. And my, that Marriner duck looks very Gooseberryish, doesn't he?
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Friday, February 02, 2024


Obscurity of the Day: Snoozer


Normally it's a treat for me to feature George McManus on the blog as he's one of my favorites. Today's obscurity by McManus, though, is such a misfire that I half want to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. But Cole Johnson sent me scans of this rare series, so after letting it sit and grow moldy for years, I'm going to air it out and let you have a look. It proves, I guess, that even a genius like McManus can have his off days. 

McManus already had a pair of really popular stips running at the World in 1906, The Newlyweds and Panhandle Pete. Nevertheless he was still throwing new ideas up to see if anyone would salute. Suffice to say there was little saluting going on when Snoozer started appearing in the New York World's Sunday comic section on January 28 1906*. The plot is that this kid Snoozer falls asleep a lot. We see his dreams, we see the trouble caused by him falling asleep, and then we get the big zinger when Snoozer says, "Not Yet!" Not one aspect of which manages to be funny in this strip series.

Snoozer ran until May 6 1906*, and you can bet no one missed him when he stopped showing up in The Funny Side. Especially since he got canned in favour of a new McManus strip that was anything but a clunker, Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland.

* Source: Ken Barker's New York World index in StripScene #14.


The title of this strip is a perfect example of truth in advertising.
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Wednesday, January 31, 2024


Toppers: The Sunny Side


King Features went to a Sunday strip model that generally included three features in 1933. You got the main strip, the strip topper, and then they added a panel to the mix as well. That panel started out mostly being an activity feature (see Funny Films), but when that fizzled some creators switched over to panel gags. When the Funny Films topper was dropped on Felix, creator Otto Messmer replaced it with The Sunny Side, a panel where the gag was that something bad seemed to be happening, but the reader, and sometimes the character, could see that things were about to look up. 

The Sunny Side didn't last long, and my guess is that it was seen at the syndicate as offering a little more adult-skewed gags than they'd like to see on a property like Felix. The panel only ran on the Sunday from February 24 to March 31 1935*. After that the third topper feature was dropped on Felix, with Laura going back to taking the complete upper third of the page. Although it too would soon be changed to a new strip, Felix never went back to offering a double-helping of toppers. 

Addendum: I didn't realize when I wrote the post about the Laura topper that Messmer finally dropped the gags about the parrot learning to repeat phrases. As you can see in the sample above, by 1935 that strip was engaged in a light continuity with the parrot now inhabiting a funny animal world, not interacting exclusively with humans. The post has been corrected. 

* Source: Columbus Dispatch.


Hello Allan-
That this happened during the short-lived period when the Hearst Sundays went Tab, (February-August 1935, I believe)is significant.
If the "Funny Films" seemed more effort than they were worth, shrinking them to half size made them even more so. Replacing them with one panel gags seemed to be an easy to create, easy on the eyes solution.
Most of the Hearst guys were happy to do Panels to fill the space, DeBeck had "Knee-High Knoodles", Ad Carter had "Dream Land", Young had "Carnival", and McManus had "How to Keep from getting Old", et cetera.
The ones that stayed cut-out activities, like Knerr's Jigsaw Puzzles and the paper dolls seem to have had so many clients outside the Hearst chain, they were going to be seen mainly in regular full size format.

Excellent point Mark!
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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. 

I can find exactly zero information on Walt Lee, perhaps because he shares the name of another earlier cartoonist. I did find a short bio of Fruchey here (scroll to page 9). . 

* Source: Elmira Star-Gazette

** Source: Boston Globe


I've found a few bits on Walt Lee. There's an obit of a friend of his that indicates both went to Liverpool College of Art, in England, which is now part of Liverpool John Moores University. The December 24, 1984 edition of the Ukiah Daily Journal (on has a front page bit on Lee, indicating that he and his wife moved to the United States from Liverpool in 1960 (thus linking up to Liverpool College of Art). That newspaper also has a picture of Lee working at his drawing desk. Lee apparently had been working at an advertising agency in Liverpool before being recruited by A.G. as an illustrator, and he lived in Cleveland before moving to Potter Valley, CA (a rural area north of San Francisco) ca. 1976. The October 30, 1986 Elmira Star-Gazette has an interesting column by a local rabbi on the strip. The Indianapolis News in September of 1986 had a "comics watch" asking readers to choose between Mary Worth and Sherman, an interesting push for the strip at a late date. The August 10, 1988 Buffalo News indicated that Lee was discontinuing Sherman to pursue other projects. Newsday, in February and March of 1987, had a sharp back and forth in the letters, with one reader calling the strip a "blasphemy." The Kansas City Times, in November of '86, also had Sherman on a ballot, and the Detroit Free Press did in October. Sounds to me like the syndicate might have been fishing.
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Sunday, January 28, 2024


Wish You Were Here, from Cobb Shinn


Time to inflict another Cobb Shinn card on you. This one has no maker credit, but was postally used in 1910. In this case Shinn's art is not bad at all, but he manages to mystify us with the three ring design, the acres of whitespace, and the sand dune scenery. Why, Cobb, why?


There's something very Cobb about the face. She does actually look a little like an old maid.
Nothing about that card makes any sense to me. Why would there be a lone child in the middle of a desert writing herself off as an old maid at such a young age. Boggles the mind really. And who would have an occasion to use it. What sort of occasion matches that. I have no idea.
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