Obscurity of the Day: Alma & Oliver

Ah, now here we have the real goodies! Alma & Oliver is by all reports George McManus’ very first continuing comic strip. I’ve been looking for a sample of this strip for years now without any luck. Cole Johnson to the rescue!

Though the strip is mentioned in practically every cartoon history ever written I was beginning to think it never actually existed, much like the oft-mentioned Swinnerton’s “Little Bears and Tigers” which just turned out to be a misheard reference to Little Bears and Tykes. These same cartoon histories usually cite Alma & Oliver as running in 1900, but Cole informs me that this is definitely not the case. He cites running dates of September 28 1902 to April 12 1903. Swift-thinking blog readers will already realize that makes Alma & Oliver McManus’ second strip — Burglar Pete turns out to be his very first! At least ’tis so until Cole comes across with some other undocumented rarity!

By the way, this strip is a great example of needing to see samples. I always assumed, and I think some histories may even indicate, that the titular Alma was a woman. Given McManus’ minor fame in St. Louis for his Gibsonesque glamor girl drawings it seemed a reasonable assumption that his first strip would feature a pretty gal. Not so, not so!

Obscurity of the Day: Burglar Pete

Here’s Burglar Pete from Cole Johnson’s St. Louis Republic archives. I’d never seen this one before; a George McManus production that lasted just three episodes. The third and final episode has Pete getting a new moniker — Toothpick Pete.

The strip ran on 8/17, 8/24 and 8/31 of 1902.

Obscurity of the Day: The Gay Boys

Awright, awright, quit yer snickerin’. Serious historianship goin’ on here. No, this isn’t the first alternative lifestyle newspaper comic strip; that wouldn’t happen for, oh, about 90 years or so. Though I always wondered about Alphonse and Gaston…

The Gay Boys was by H.F. Thode and ran in the St. Louis Republic from July 13 1902 through May 31 1903. The Republic at this time mostly ran McClure Syndicate material but usually reserved a page for in-house cartoonists. Thode got the lion’s share of the limited room in these days, initially sharing space with a very young and raw George McManus. McManus left for New York during the run of this strip and thus it became the only continuing local feature in the Republic for the latter part of its tenure.

Many thanks to Cole Johnson for these scans. The Republic is a paper of some fascination to me, especially because McManus got his start there. Unfortunately the microfilm of the Republic is missing many Sunday sections and my information on the newspaper’s features has more holes than Swiss cheese. Cole has an impressive file of these sections and has consented to go through them for the benefit of myself and you blog readers. Expect to see more goodies from the Republic coming up soon!

Herriman Saturday

All four of these cartoons appeared in the Examiner’s Sunday edition of March 10 1907, a rather incredible performance for any cartoonist. The first and last were both full page width!

Of particular interest is cartoon #3 (“Are You a Worker…”). This is Herriman’s first appearance on the syndicated Hearst Sunday editorial. Usually at this time the cartoons accompanying this preachy Sunday tradition were penned by Robert Carter, but occasionally others would fill in. It seems as if Hearst, or at least Brisbane back in New York, were starting to take note of our man Garge.

Obscurity of the Day: Teddy, Jack and Mary

After Tom McNamara’s long-running Us Boys feature ended (use the Search function to find a month long reprint of that strip here on the blog) he got a berth at the Chicago Tribune with a very similar feature titled Teddy, Jack and Mary. The Sunday-only feature commenced on May 19 1929, about six months after the end of Us Boys.

I’d love to know if McNamara got canned at Hearst or if the Tribune offered him more money. If the latter then McNamara really got shafted, because after the one year of appearing in the Trib McNamara became the subject of a reader referendum. For three months his strip alternated with a new Sunday kid feature titled Little Folks by Tack Knight. Readers were invited to vote for the strip they liked best, and when the ballots were counted Teddy, Jack and Mary got a very public heave-ho in favor of Little Folks.

What a way for McNamara to end his long career — a flogging at the hands of the readers themselves. The last Teddy, Jack and Mary, in which McNamara did not get to tell his audience to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, appeared on August 24 1930.

News of Yore 1951: Spector’s Coogy Graduates

‘Coogy’ Sunday Page Due from Herald Tribune

Cartoonist Irving Spector crossed the country 13 times in three years awhile back and there­by became infatuated with the desert in New Mexico and Ari­zona. “I remember everything in vivid detail,” he says. “I can draw it without seeing it.”

That helps explain the locale of his Sunday page, due May 27 from the New York Herald-Tribune Syndicate. The char­acters apparently stem from 20 years of animated cartooning and the result: “In animation, you get so you consider that animals are people.”

Mr. Specter’s career goes back almost, but not quite, to the age of 14. At 14, he tucked some of his drawings under his arm, hied from his home in Los Angeles to the Walt Disney studio, in Holly­wood—only to learn that Mr. Disney was “out.” He came back that night though and noticing a light on at the back, gathered his courage and walked right into a story conference attended by, among others, Walt Disney.

“They all seemed amused and Mr. Disney was kind.” says Mr. Spector. “He told me there’d be a place for me at Disney’s when I finished school.”

As a matter of fact, the car­toonist (who has recently taught motion picture cartooning at the College of the City of New York) didn’t finish school. He left with half a year still to go at the age of 16, got a job with Universal Studios. A year and a half later he went to Disney’s as an assis­tant. and, at 20, he became an animator for Columbia Studios.

As a writer later for Warner Bros., he helped in the develop­ment of the “Bugs Bunny” type of humor (zany, wacky humor as opposed to sweet, cute animals, he explains.)

Mr. Spector’s animals, none of which struck us as sweet, include the title character, which has rather faint resemblance to a cougar and serves mainly as the interlocutor of the piece. Others are Big Moe, a bear; a tortoise; and Arresting Sam, a deputized dog.

The cartoonist, who is now con­nected with Famous Studios as a writer, started the strip as a small-sized Sunday filler in December.

Obscurity of the Day: The Wish Twins and Aladdin’s Lamp

The Wish Twins are an obscurity by association. The strip ran for five years in the New York Herald, almost always as an inside third-page with only one spot color. Meanwhile on the other side of that sheet was usually something by Winsor McCay. Not quite well-drawn or interesting enough to compete with the master, they are ignored like the wallflowers at a dance. If you can afford to buy Little Nemo tearsheets you’re among the few with access, but who could tear their eyes away from the full-color full-page glory of Nemo long enough to peruse the sparse monotone color of the third page Wish Twins on the reverse?

The creator, W.O. Wilson, was a regular of the humor weeklies where he was never a star player but did turn out good cartoons. He spent most of the 1900s at the New York World where he penned this feature as well as a number of others that hid in the section’s interior. His one breakout strip was Madge the Magician’s Daughter which he did for the Philadelphia North American; this strip has lately been the subject of a Hogan’s Alley article.

The Wish Twins ran in the Herald from October 30 1904 through January 5 1908. You’ll find more samples of this strip over on Barnacle Press.

Obscurity of the Day: The Zanities

The New York Daily News, for reasons I don’t fully understand, made a habit of including filler strips in their Sunday comics sections. Since they had free and easy access to all the Tribune strips I don’t understand why they needed to do this — they could always run one of their usuals in any format they might need, or pick from a list of strips they didn’t usually run.

Whatever the reason was, they did run filler strips, often in series but occasionally one-shots. Above you’ll find one of each. The Zanities, by a rather long in the tooth Thornton Fisher, showed up in the section on widely dispersed dates at least as early as 1949 and as late as 1955. Fisher’s salad days were way back at the New York World in the 1910s.

Bus Stop
by Adam Barth seems to have been a one-shot, though not having indexed the Daily News Sunday sections I couldn’t say for sure.

Obscurity of the Day: Radiobituaries

Here’s another one of those radio page features that were showing up amid the circuit diagrams and frequency lists in the 1920s. This one is from Audio Service, one of several syndicates that specialized in populating these pages.

I know very little about the rather morbidly titled Radiobituaries — it ran at least in June-July 1927 and possibly longer and it was signed by someone named Lawrence. Beyond that ya got me.

Tip o’ the tam to Cole Johnson who supplied these samples of a feature previously unknown to me.