News of Yore: Buck O’Rue Launched



BuckO’Rue, A Wild West Travesty, Appears

By Jane McMaster, 1951

The cowboy trend in comic strips had doubtless reached an inevitable point. Generally speak­ing, what had to come was a burlesque of shoot-em-ups. To get down to cases, come it did Jan. 15 under the title of “Buck O’Rue.”

And the new daily and Sunday offering of Arthur J. Lafave syndicate, Cleveland, mixes more than the standard number of satiric hi-jinx. Buck O’Rue, the celery tonic drinking, high-minded, pluggeroo shooting hero (a pluggeroo is when the bullet goes straight down the barrel of the other gun) is about what you’d expect for this type concoction. His dilapidated horse “Reddish,” object of the hero’s affections nat­urally, is not too surprising either (although he has an exceptionally expressive equine face.)

Incidental Nonsense
But unusual is the generous sup­ply of incidental characters and the strip’s use of humorously macabre trappings. In Mesa Trubil, ruled by Badman Trigger Mortis, the hero talks to Skull-face Skelly (who obviously came straight from an iodine bottle) while a quiet black-coated char­acter, not previously introduced, takes the hero’s measurements. Four panels later (next day to readers) the sombre measurer of­fers Mr. O’Rue a delooxey funeral for 20 bucks payable in advance.

The scene of this sideplay was Club Foote, Trigger Mortis’ head­quarters in which the badman, boots and cuffs bulging with aces, gambles with his tough henchmen (called “Guardian Angels”). In a one-panel view of Club Foote (“Shore a on-healthy lookin’ place!” says the hero) Buck and the reader see 10 incidental char­acters, each contributing mainly atmosphere and a different be­nighted expression.
All’s Well with Deacon
In the tussle between good and bad, perennial adventure strip theme, the hero naturally lines himself up with Deacon Duncan, the leader of the decent and re­spectable folks, and his daughter, ‘Dorable Duncan. The plot op­portunities seem unbounded. Mesa Trubil (which has civic slogans like “Not responsible fer bodies left over 30 days,” and “Come visit our cemeteries”) is in the West but is not part of the U. S. It seceded in 1861 and Washing­ton said “Good Riddance.”

Ob­viously Buck will have to do some­thing about the “town without a country” and election notices that read: “The annual election for mayor will be held in the usual place, at the usual time and with the usual result.”

The Wild West travesty was composed by Dick Huemer, who was born in Brooklyn and was a Walt Disney staffer for about 20 years. Mr. Huemer writes the con­tinuity and does the layout.
Paul Murry, another former Walt Disney man, draws the com­ic. The two work in Hollywood.
The starting list for the strip, which hasn’t been widely promot­ed yet, includes the Los Angeles Mirror (which took it as a re­placement for “Hopalong Cassidy”), Detroit News, Cleveland Press, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Possible TV Show
Before it had been running a week, an advertising agency had shown interest in a possible tele­vision show based on the charac­ters and one paper that had signed for nine months had requested a two-year contract.

Arthur J. Lafave believes from his own survey that the strip has a Charlie Chaplin audience:
“Some see the satiric overtones, others take it at face value.”

Mr. Lafave himself is inclined to fall into superlatives when dis­cussing the characters in the strip. Some characters worth watching: girl named Lillian Rustler who manages to rustle because dumb beasts as well as men follow her around; some paleface Indians who speak with a British accent, have tea every afternoon at 4.

Obscurity of the Day: Do You Remember?



Erwin L. Hess made a cartooning career based on nostalgia. His long-running weekly panel cartoon titled The Good Old Days featured homespun images and reminders of the past. Though Hess could not be classed as a master cartoonist, he more than made up for any technical lack with the obvious amount of research and painstaking effort that went into getting every prop and costume absolutely correct in his intricately drawn panels. For Hess every detail in every panel had to be as accurate to the times as a vintage photo.

The Good Old Days was inaugurated in 1946 and ran until 1981, so it is certainly not an obscurity. However, I recently discovered these samples of an earlier version of the feature, titled Do You Remember?. It ran in the Milwaukee Journal in 1938. A little biographical sleuthing turns up that Milwaukee was Hess’ hometown, so presumably this was produced as a local feature for them. Unfortunately in the scant material I have on Hess there is no mention of the feature, so I have no idea how long or how often it ran. With the few samples on hand it appears that the feature ran more often than once a week. Given the intricately drawn panels, I can’t imagine it was a daily though. Does anyone know more about Hess or this panel series?

News of Yore: 1951 Comic Strip Poll

Blondie, Alley Most Popular In 2,500 Votes

Roanoke, Va.—Two weeks of balloting among readers of the Roanoke Times and World-News in the “Comic Strip Popularity Contest” ended with 2,500 votes being cast.

The winners:
Blondie in the World-News.
Gasoline Alley in the Times.
Uncle Remus in the Sunday Times.

The Bumstead strip received 1,920 votes and piled up 7,551 points (on a placing basis of 5-4-3-2-1) while the Alley folks got 1,665 votes and 5,685 points.

Other Favorites
Others in the top five favorites were:

World-News: Dick Tracy, 1,734 votes, 5,872 points; Smilin’ Jack, 1,291 and 4,195; Henry, 1,249 and 2,856; and Little Orphan Annie, 942 and 2,814.

Times: Joe Palooka, 1,508 votes, 4,729 points; Grandma, 1,240 and 4,521; Terry & Pirates, 1,132 and 3,750, and Steve Roper, 1,323 and 3,698.

One of the surprises was Or­phan Annie’s edging out Li’l Abner in almost a photo-finish for fifth place. The Yokum lad got 921 votes and 2,686 points. Another oddity was that Mickey Finn re­ceived more votes (948) than either Orphan Annie or Li’l Abner but so many were third, fourth or fifth position votes that Mickey wound up in seventh rank with 2,306 points.

Trailing in the World-News poll were: Moon Mullins, 662 and 1,523; Toots & Casper, 361 and 721; and The Gumps, 232 and 460.

Back of the top five in the Times were: Rip Kirby, 1,172 and 2,934; Dotty Dripple, 884 and 2,553, and Mary Worth, 932 and 2,505.

Uncle Remus got 973 votes and 3,626 points in capturing the honors among the “Sunday only” comics. Others in the top five were: Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, 828 and 2,910; Donald Duck, 864 and 2,364; Steve Can­yon, 658 and 2,266, and Mickey Mouse, 675 and 1,892.

Most Ballots from Papers
Trailing in order back of the top five “Sunday only” strips were:

Rusty Riley, Bringing Up Father, Ozark Ike, Buz Sawyer, Smitty, Katzenjammers, Tim Tyler, Polly & Her Pals, Flash Gordon, Popeye, Elmer, Room & Board, Tillie the Toiler, and Just Kids.

More than 1,000 women cast ballots in the poll, about 850 men, 325 boys and 300 girls.

M. W. Armistead, III, assistant to the publisher of the Roanoke newspapers, found the contest, which he directed, proved so popular he had to increase his staff of tabulators. It was conducted with minute attention to details.

The ballot was carried several times in each paper, and ballots were placed in the lobby of the newspaper office, along with a ballot box. The bulk of the returns came from ballots clipped from the papers and mailed in but several hundred ballots were left in the ballot box.

Least Popular
At the opposite poles from Blondie and Gasoline Alley, which won the “most popular” titles in more than 2,000 reader ballots, came Tillie the Toiler and Flash Gordon.

Tillie, who ran 36th in popularity ranking, got almost the same number of votes from men and women, but boys disliked her more than girls.

The newspapers’ pollsters said the order of the unpopularity “‘amazed” them because some of the “most popular” funnies drew many negative votes. The order of unpopularity was given as follows: Tillie the Toiler, Flash Gordon, Room and Board, The Gumps, Ozark Ike, Toots and Casper, Just Kids, Steve Canyon, Elmer, Polly and Her Pals, Dotty Dripple, Rusty Riley, Barney Google, Terry and the Pirates, Little Orphan Annie, Li’l Abner, Katzenjammer Kids, Popeye, Tim Tyler (tie), Grandma (tie), Moon Mullins, Mary Worth, Rip Kirby, Bringing Up Father, Buz Sawyer, Smilin’ Jack, Smitty, Uncle Remus (tie), Henry (tie), Steve Roper, Mickey Finn, Joe Palooka, Mickey Mouse, Dick Tracy (tie), Donald Duck (tie), Gasoline Alley, Blondie.

Obscurity of the Day: The Crime Octopus

The Crime Octopus, as you can read in the ad above, was a limited run strip written by none other than Walter Gibson, the creator of the Shadow. The strip was to tell the history of mob activity in the U.S. Apparently newspapers weren’t too interested in a historical strip about mob activity, and the strip is exceedingly rare. The only paper that is known to have run it, and then I only know it from a promotional ad they ran, is the Detroit News. The ad says they would start printing the strip on April 15, 1951. Not having reviewed the microfilm of that paper, I don’t know if they really did, or whether they printed the complete series.

Does anyone have a run of this strip?

Miscellany Day

Another busy day here in Holtz-land, so I’m going to do a miscellany post.

First, Giuseppe Scapigliati has contacted me asking for an ID on this original comic strip from 1915. I sheepishly had to admit that though it looks very familiar I just can’t place it. Can you help him?

Second, in response to my plea, Aaron Neathery has posted five episodes of the Gasoline Alley radio program. Download them from here and enjoy!

Third, correspondent Philippe Gabillard and I have been discussing the comic strip Babe Bunting by Roy Williams. He tells me the interesting information that the strip was ghosted by Kemp Starrett in 1939-40. What neither of us can verify is the existence of an earlier, ‘original’ version of the strip, possibly titled Bebe Bunting, by Fanny Cory. E&P references it in their syndicate directory, and Ron Goulart writes about it as if he’s seen it, yet I’ve never found a single example. I’ve indexed the Philadelphia Evening Ledger, its supposed home paper, and it just simply isn’t there. Has anyone seen this phantom feature?

Fourth, I got this message about cartoonist Alfred “Pam” Brewerton from Michael Britt, who can be contacted at mbritt@gpb.org. Can anyone help him out? :

Brewerton was not only a cartoonist but a photographer as well. In some research I’m doing on a documentary, he was part of the 1909 Good Roads Tour, sponsored by the Atlanta Journal and New York Herald. He took some pretty remarkable photos on the tour as well as created some pretty insightful cartoons of the motorists. If someone has any idea as to where any archives of his photography my exist, I would be greatly interested.

And finally, thanks to R.C. Harvey with whom I dined last night for a very enjoyable evening. I found out that he’s never been to this blog, but he promises to visit soon. So I guess we’ll have to stop saying nasty thing about him. RC’s new biography of Milton Caniff titled Meanwhile… is coming off the presses even as we speak. I got a sneak preview last night and I can tell you that it is definitely a must read. Order now!!!!

News of Yore: Jackson Twins Debuts



Jeepers! Philology Helps in Teen Strip

By Jane McMaster, 1950

when an editor questioned the authenticity of teen-age chatter in “The Jackson Twins,” new McNaught syndicate comic. Car­toonist Dick Brooks took the mat­ter to authorities. He got the teen­agers of the Westport, Conn. high school journalism class to take a look at his work.

They gave him a better than passing grade: they found little fault with the tone of the strip, thought the slang words for the first four weeks were 85% okay.

But the cartoonist’s philological findings were rather startling in some cases:
You might have guessed that “Wallflower,” that well worn term for unpopular misses, is pretty well done for. Modern teens would say: “She’s strictly for the birds,” or “She’s a deadpan.”
But “glamourpuss” seemed to Mr. Brooks a fairly sprightly han­dle. Teens didn’t agree. They prefer: “She’s a doll,” “She’s sharp,” or “She’s a queen.” “He’s a square” may sound more up-to-date to you than “He’s a pill.” But the Westport gang holds out for the medicinal over­tones.

And “Jeepers,” an expression you might think comprises 50% of the average teen’s vocabulary if you listen to radio much, is strictly for the birds, according to older teens. A 12, 13 or 14-year-old might say “Jeepers,” but a 17-year-old probably wouldn’t.

Trend Away from Cuteness
Westport teenagers and others at Bridgeport and Norwalk high schools passed up “Corny” for “Crummy,” and “Buzz me” for “Give me a ring.” They suggested “Momps” might be a little too cute an appellation for mother. In fact, Mr. Brooks thought he detected a trend away from cute, gimmicky talk.

The Westport cartoonist has made some changes as a direct re­sult of the teen advice; but he hasn’t followed suggestions blind­ly. He’s a crotchety old antiquari­an of a little over 30, and some­times thinks he knows best.

Mr. Brooks also had to veto some advice from real-life Toni twins, Jane and Janet Leigh of Port Chester, N. Y. who were on hand at the syndicate the other day for some promotion pictures. Some of the strip action involved jealousy between Jan and Jill Jackson, the teen age twins. (“Tweens,” Mr. Brooks calls them.) The Leighs say identical twins wouldn’t be jealous of each other—one wouldn’t mind if the other went out with her beau, etc.

“But heck, I’ve got to have com­petition for story purposes,” says Mr. Brooks.

The Leighs, who appeared in the Toni ads and went on an ex­tensive Toni tour, have been val­uable in giving other pointers, however. And it seems they’re a special type of twins that just hap­pens in one out of four sets of identical twins. They’re mirror twins: the right side of one’s face matches the left side of the other’s face.

Mr. Brooks, besides being an avid researcher on tweens, seems to have gotten his daily and Sun­day comic off to a good begin­ning. It first appeared Nov. 27, and several large-city newspapers used it.

Mr. Brooks studied sculpture, life drawing, landscape painting before he taught himself cartoon­ing evenings. He sold his first newspaper feature—a weekly half page drawing summing up the local news in cartoons—to the late Boston Evening Transcript in 1940.

While serving in the Navy in WWII, he drew and wrote a book “Elmer Squee,” the saga of a timid little Naval recruit. He served for a year as Bob Mon­tana’s assistant on “Archie,” McClure’s teen-age comic.

He believes he’s unique in hav­ing a strip about identical twins who are girls. (Several boy-and-girl twin sets are in comics). And the Westport cartoonist has a goal of not patronizing his teen-age subjects. In fact, he has a healthy respect for the age group: “You’ve got to be on your toes to get up in front of them to talk,” he says with a bit of awe in his voice.

Quickie Post Today

I’m ludicrously busy today so no time for a proper post. Here’s an ad for Dick Calkins’ rare Zackie Wack strip, I’ll talk about Zackie some other time.

Also, it has been pointed out to me that the last two posts did not include a “Post A Comment” link. This is not my doing — Blogger is screwing up somehow. Considering that Blogger added a few features over the last couple days I’m not surprised — free software = untested software. This post today will tell me more about the problem. The last two posts were saved as drafts, while I’m composing this one and posting directly. We’ll see if there’s any difference.