Here’s a fine example of a strip that was doomed from the start. The General had a great concept – the misadventures of a statue come to life – but the life cycle of the idea was necessarily short. Just how much can you do with a concept where the characters can’t leave their perches? Not only did the strip limit itself to being acted out on a block of marble, but the concept was further hamstrung by the mute title character. Most of the text of the strip was provided by a narrator.
J.P. Arnot, who is responsible for a whole slew of well-drawn strips in the 1910s and 20s, started The General on March 3, 1919. The first six months or so of the strip was fresh and delightful. That’s about when Arnot hit the wall. The strip started getting repetitive, and Arnot even resorted to bending his own rules (note the general getting off his perch in the third example) .
Arnot started this strip just at the time when long-running daily strips were starting to become the norm, squeezing out the ‘less than dailies’ and the intentionally short run strips. My guess is that he never intended The General to be a long-running daily, but he got caught up in the new trend and had to soldier on with the strip well past its natural lifespan. Arnot and the syndicate finally let the strip, completely wrung out of ideas, end on July 15, 1922.
I’ll be running The General samples here for the next few days. I think even in the latter part of the run that the excellent art and delightful concept are still eminently worthy of an extended look. Enjoy!