The Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz Day 5

1. When Peanuts was first offered to newspapers in 1950, the marketing focus was not particularly on the quality of art or writing on the feature. What was the big selling point that the syndicate was trying to push with the strip?

2. Original creator names often stay on their features for a long time after they die. Can you name the feature that still carries the name of its originator even though he died wa-a-a-y back in 1949?

3. What famous and sometimes controversial cartoonist added ‘columnist’ to his resume in 1961? And for extra points, he didn’t do the column for his regular syndicate, United Feature. So which syndicate distributed it?

4. Certain old-time comic strips, especially those in the ethnic press, once had the odd habit of populating the edges of each of their panels with seemingly random three-digit numbers. These numbers were of great interest to some readers. They weren’t dates and they weren’t strip numbers. What were they?

5. Most people think that Bil Keane’s Family Circus originated the oft-repeated Sunday gag where a dotted line shows the circuitous path of one his characters, usually Billy, through the neighborhood. However, a much earlier feature called Footprints in the Sands of Time also used the same motif. It was a Sunday topper — what two strips did it accompany?

The Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz Day 4

1. A famous newspaper editor once told a young cartoonist who brought in a strip proposal, in part, “why don’t you try putting a dress on that kid?”. Mythology, perhaps, but who was the editor, who was the cartoonist, and what was the resulting blockbuster feature?

2. Jim Ivey, venerable editorial cartoonist and contributor to the Stripper’s Guide blog, also did the lovely scratchboard illustrations for what feature of the 1970s?

3. Comic books don’t have all the hyper-muscular fun; newspaper comics have had their fair share of superheroes. Name the character who was arguably the very first comic strip superhero from wa-a-a-y back in 1902.

4. World Color Printing, major preprint comic section producer of the 1900s and 10s, lost interest in that part of their business in the 20s when they won a lucrative printing contract. What national publication did they start printing that caused them to put their Sunday comics business on auto-pilot?

5. Speaking of preprint comic sections, the George Matthew Adams Service tried to do one in 1935. What oddball space opera strip headlined their line-up?

The Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz Day 3

1. Can you pair up the strip stars with their girlfriends? Give me the fellas who pursued (or were pursued) by Ooola, the fair Belinda, Lillums, and Echo.

2. We all know about the ubiquitous NEA syndicate. But wht does N.E.A. stand for?

3. William Randolph Hearst didn’t generally like to run material from other syndicates in his newspapers. But for what Bell Syndicate strip did he have such a soft spot that he not only allowed it to run in many of his papers, he demanded it?

4. Famed comic book man Stan Lee was involved with quite a few comic strips over the years. Not many of them set the newspaper world on fire, but one that ran only in 1976 was by far his least successful outing. What was the title of the feature, and what unusual (at least in this country) comics style did it employ?

5. Here’s a real toughie. What Chicago cartoonist of the 1910s died when he slipped off a high-rise window ledge? Here’s a hint — his death helped further the cartooning career of E.C. Segar, who took over his strip. For mega-bonus points, what other soon to be famous cartoonist filled in on the strip in between our victim and Segar.

The Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz Day 2

1. In a bid to revive interest in a strip that was considered way over the hill, King Features hired underground cartoonist Bobby London to take over. What was the strip, and what happened to end the experiment?

2. Here’s one to see whether you’re reading the new NBM Bringing Up Father book. The Jiggs’ son was seldom seen in the strip, and was usually referred to as simply “Sonny”. But in 1913 he had a real name. What was it? And for extra points, how did McManus often misspell the family’s name early on?

3. An adventure strip cartoonist, an influential Midwest editorial cartoonist and a comic book star cum moviemaker all share the same name. What is it?

4. Hank Ketcham might have thought he was coming up with a unique name for his panel Dennis the Menace but on the very same week another Dennis the Menace made his debut over in England. But that’s not the question. I want to know who did the very short-lived first American newspaper comic strip called Dennis the Menace in 1943.

5. Jud Hurd, the much-missed publisher of Cartoonist Profiles, was also responsible for the art on two long-running syndicated panels. Name them.

The Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz Day 1

1. It’s a pretty rare thing for two comic strips to get combined into one. Laredo and Jane is one of those weird cases though. What two strips were combined to make this ‘Frankenstein strip’?

2. One of the most famous animators in the world, Chuck Jones, took a swing at doing a comic strip feature in 1978. It failed miserably. What was the title?

3. Ohio State University’s Cartoon Research Library received the huge collection of which well-known comics researcher and writer? The collection was so huge they usually speak of the volume of it by what measurement?

4. Dick Turner turned out the panel feature Carnival for over 40 years. But he didn’t originate it. Which cartoonist did?

5. One comic strip tried to get us all to learn a little Spanish while reading the funnies. The Sunday version of the feature included a panel called “Painless Spanish”. What was the name of the main feature?

Jim Ivey’s Sunday Comics

Jim Ivey’s new book, Graphic Shorthand, is available from for $19.95 plus shipping, or you can order direct from Ivey for $25 postpaid. Jim Ivey teaches the fundamentals of cartooning in his own inimitable style. The book is 128 pages, coil-bound. Send your order to:

Jim Ivey
5840 Dahlia Dr. #7
Orlando FL 32807

Also still available, Jim Ivey’s career retrospective Cartoons I Liked, available on or direct from Jim Ivey for $20 postpaid. When ordered from Ivey direct, either book will include an original Ivey sketch.

The Big Announcement

Press Release — Stripper’s Guide Index to be Published
For immediate release

Allan Holtz, well-known in the comic strip fan community for his articles on comic strip history for magazines and books, and for his Stripper’s Guide website, announces that his “Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels” is now under contract to be published by University of Michigan Press. The book is a compendium of the vital statistics about comic strip and panel series that have appeared in American newspapers. A product of over twenty years of research, the books contains information on over 7,000 unique series from 1894 to present. For each feature the title and running dates are listed, along with dates for each artist, writer and syndicate involved. Alternate titles, format and frequency are detailed, along with a list of reprint books.

Unlike previous reference works on the subject, Holtz’s Guide takes into consideration the vast amount of misinformation that has been published about newspaper strip history. Therefore he does not include any feature that he hasn’t seen himself. “One of the reasons I started working on this book many years ago was that I got frustrated with those references. There were so many mistakes in them. It seemed like every time I looked something up there was no agreement between sources, and many times my own collection, small as it was at the time, would prove the information wrong or incomplete. The worst was when they’d write about some feature and then I’d find out that no such feature had ever actually run in newspapers.”

Holtz’s plan of attack, after first verifying that features did actually exist in newspapers, was to gather information from all the secondary sources he could find but then verify and correct the information based on primary sources. That meant twenty years of poring over newspapers on microfilm in addition to amassing a huge personal collection of newspaper comics. How much time did he spend in libraries? “There are librarians all across the country who recognize me on sight. My wife hasn’t had a proper vacation in twenty years. Any time I have off from work becomes a trip to a library somewhere around the country with wife in tow as research assistant.”

Holtz calls the Guide a community effort at heart. “I’d like to make it clear that this work is not the product of one guy. I could never have done it alone. Not only have I built my work on pioneering researchers of the past, I’ve been lucky to discover a community of dedicated and knowledgeable comic strip fans who selflessly gave time and effort to tracking down information on my behalf.” Every piece of data contributed to the listings is credited to the researcher responsible, and Holtz also credits the newspapers and reference works in which each nugget of information was discovered.

The book includes not only mainstream features, but also local features and the products of the ethnic press. “I’ve done my best to leave no stone unturned, ” says Holtz of the project. “I will never be able to call this reference absolutely complete. There are so many oddball newspapers out there, so many local and obscure features, that the well will never go dry.There are always new leads to track down and more papers to review.”

So why publish now? “Besides finding a publisher crazy enough to take it on? Many years ago a fellow collector was looking over what I had documented so far — at the time it was only a ‘mere’ couple thousand features. He asked how many features in all it might be possible to document. Wanting to impress him I threw out a crazy number — 7,000. He was suitably impressed and I’d just set myself a very high bar to hurdle. And yet, twenty years later, I hit that crazy number. It’s time.”

Allan Holtz writes about newspaper comics in Hogan’s Alley magazine, the NBM “Forever Nuts” series of classic strip reprint books, and his popular blog, Stripper’s Guide ( He is a resident of Tavares, Florida.

The release date and price for the “Guide to U.S. Newspaper Comic Strips and Cartoon Panels” have not yet been set. The book is expected to be approximately 800 pages, and images of many of the features will be included on CDs or DVDs sleeved with the book. The title, which was long presumed to include Holtz’s well-known “Stripper’s Guide” moniker, has tentatively been neutered in deference to the sensitivities of library and school buyers.

*** END

I’d like to take this moment to thank all you wonderful folks for the invaluable help you’ve given me over the years. Like the press release says, I couldn’t have done it without you. Two people must be singled out. Their thank yous cannot wait for the acknowledgements in the book:

Jeffrey Lindenblatt. Without your expertise and untiring research on New York newspapers this day would have taken years longer to get here. Not to mention your friendship, cheerleading and constant support. You’re the best!

Nancy Goldstein. If you hadn’t gone to bat for me with your publisher I have no doubt that my book proposal would still be sitting in slush piles. You are an outstanding scholar and an incredibly generous person.

So now what? Since I live near Orlando, it ain’t a trip to Disneyworld. No, I’m taking my wife for a proper vacation, nowhere near any library. We’re leaving Monday and we’ll be out of touch for two weeks. So, you ask, what the heck are youl going to do without a blog post to read every day? Fear not! I have prepared a special treat for you.

For the next two weeks, Sundays excepted, we’re going to have the Stripper’s Guide Super-Quiz. Each weekday morning, assuming Blogger’s auto-post function doesn’t louse things up, you’ll get five trivia questions about newspaper comics. They’ll range in difficulty from medium tough right on up to mega-expert class, a selection from throughout the range each day. I’ve tried to pose questions that you can’t just answer with a quick Google search. The answers to the week’s questions will appear on Saturdays. There aren’t any prizes other than bragging rights, so don’t be shy. Shout out the answers by hitting the comment button on the posting. Be the first to post the right answer and feel smug all day long. There will be the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, love won and lost, wars fought and peace made.

Obscurity of the Day: Buttons and Fatty

For years and years Buttons and Fatty was the marquee strip of the Brooklyn Eagle‘s children’s section. When it made its bow on December 26 1909 it was just titled Buttons and it was a pretty nondescript feature about a sweet but inoffensively mischievous kid. In 1913 his buddy Fatty gained title billing as well.

Al Zere, who did a lot of features for the Eagle over the years, was at the helm until March 24 1918 when he went off to serve in World War I. The Eagle made a pretty big deal over his going, giving the kids regular updates on his tour of duty with Uncle Sam. The strip was handed over to Hal Merritt who kept up the franchise until December 15 of that year. When Merritt left the strip went on hiatus until Zere returned from Europe to a hero’s welcome. He started rewarming his chair at the Eagle and the strip was revived on July 13 1919. But Zere must have been restless because he left again, this time without any fanfare. His last Buttons and Fatty strip ran December 5 1920.

A new cartoonist took over the following week, and Zere was quickly forgotten by the kids. M.E. Brady introduced long involved continuities into the strip (see the above for the tail-end of one) and the Eagle started having good luck syndicating the new more robust strip. Throughout the 20s and early 30s Buttons and Fatty was a popular adornment to the new Sunday kid sections that were becoming quite popular at papers around the country. Brady, who always signed himself “MEB”, stuck with the strip for the rest of its life except for one short vacation in 1925 when fellow Eagle stalwart Phila Webb spelled him for a month (June 28 to July 26 1925).

The downfall of the strip came when it was reformatted at the beginning of 1933. For over 20 years the strip had been a tabloid page, a perfect fit for the kid sections that had sprung up at papers all over the country. On January 8 1933, though, the Eagle changed it to a full newspaper page and the feature immediately disappeared from all those client newspapers. Perhaps the Eagle gave up on the syndication business temporarily, or maybe they were too dense to provide a tabloid format to their clients, but in any case they drove a stake through the heart of that strip. The strip continued until June 17 1934, but it was a dead man walkin’ for that last year and a half.

News of Yore 1950: It’s Howdy Doody Time!

UFS Signs ‘Howdy Doody’ Page

By Jane McMaster (E&P, 7/8/50)

TV’s “Howdy Doody” has had about everything a little cowboy puppet could want. Friends (an estimated audience of 5,000,000
small and large fry see him five days a week); memorabilia; music; and regular trips to the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.

But this week United Feature Syndicate announced plans to win him more friends. A “Howdy Doody” Sunday page will be ready for newspapers in early fall.
Just to get the record straight on the “Howdy Doody” phenomenon, flourishing since 1947, we went to see Martin Stone of Martin Stone Associates. Mr. Stone, whose penthouse offices on 58th St. overlook Central Park, is co-owner with Bob Smith of the “Howdy Doody” TV show. He’s co-producer (with Roger Muir of NBC) of the show and controls the licensing rights.

“I think this is significant because it’s the first time a character originated on television has gone into the comic strip field,” said Mr. Stone looking toward the end of his office decorated with embattled books. Another show of Mr. Stone’s is “Author Meets the Critics.”

The radio – video producer hastened to point out that he hadn’t forgotten “Hopalong Cassidy,” that other TV star. However, Hoppie was known in books, movies and radio long before he hit the home flickers. On the other hand, “HD,” he said, is indubitably a TV baby.

“I’m not sure it won’t be the beginning of a trend,” commented Mr. Stone of TV-comic strip get-togethers. “The impact of TV on children, especially, but adults too, is fantastic.’

Mr. Stone said he’d been approached about a possible newspaper strip from time to time but he’d held off until he could develop one in his own office. The Sunday page, result of over a year’s work, will carry the byline of “Chad” but will be the joint work of Chad Grothkopf, artist, and Milt Neil, writer. Both are members of Martin Stone Associates staff.

As an added fillip, the Stone office expects to do a bang-up promotion job in newspaper towns. “Howdy Doody,” puppet friends and Actor Bob Smith will be on hand for personal appearances at launchings of the strip.

Obscurity of the Day: If It Weren’t For Father

When I go on my research trips to various libraries around the country I’m always in a mad rush to get as much work done as possible in the short time I have. That means there’s precious little time for reading the features I document for Stripper’s Guide. That means I miss out on a lot of interesting discoveries like the one we have today in If It Weren’t For Father. Sure, I documented it — it ran in the New York Evening Journal from March 4 1909 to March 1 1910 and it was by Harold MacGill.

But what I would have learned had I taken the time to read a few episodes is that this strip is quite obviously the inspiration behind one of the most popular strips of the 20th century. I won’t tell you which one because it will become painfully obvious when you read the samples. The very famous strip in question started just three years later, and whether you call it inspiration or a rip-off, you can bet the famous cartoonist in question was reading this strip since he was at the time working for Hearst’s New York arch-rival, Joseph Pulitzer.

Luckily we have Cole Johnson around who actually reads these darn things and made this amazing discovery. Thanks again Cole!