J. Carver Pusey, marginally famous for his 1930s Sunday and daily comic strip Benny, still has a small coterie of fans who admire his deft cartooning style and knack for pantomime. Benny was a strip about a little mute vagabond who wore an oversize coat. Before Benny, though, Pusey had a long run with another pantomime strip about a put-upon cat. The earlier strip was titled Cat Tales.
Cat Tales is a bit of an enigma, as is just about everything about the publicity-shunning Pusey and his creations. It started out in or before 1917 as a seldom seen offering of the Associated Newspaper co-op syndicate. Being with Associated means that the strip was almost certainly done for one of its member papers, but Pusey is only known to have worked at the New York World and supposedly the Philadelphia Inquirer (I say supposedly because I’ve never seen any evidence of his working there myself), neither of which were members. Cat Tales does show up at the Associated-member Philadelphia Bulletin, but not with enough regularity that I’m ready to place him in their bullpen.
Anyhow, the strip goes back at least to September 1917, the earliest I’ve seen, and perhaps farther. Although the strip was undeniably clever and attractive, Associated Newspapers co-op members sure didn’t seem to think much of it. It is seen rarely in those days and continues that way well into the 1920s. It’s so seldom seen that it would not surprise me at all to find that the strip went through periods, perhaps long ones, when production was ceased.
Sometime in the 1920s, though, Cat Tales switched to the nascent United Feature Syndicate, and thereafter isn’t quite as stealthy about its mere existence. However, the daily strip was dropped sometime in 1929 shortly after Benny began its syndication through Press Publishing, the syndicate of the New York World. With the aid of a more energetic syndicate, Benny became a modest success. Between the success of Benny, and a short stint of Pusey writing for the Marx Brothers, evidently the always barely above water Cat Tales was considered expendable.
That’s not the end of the story though. Sometime in 1930 (or perhaps even in 1929) the Benny strip gained a Sunday color adjunct, and Cat Tales was revived as the topper strip for it. This second (or maybe third or fourth?) chance for Cat Tales lasted until December 1932 or early 1933 when it was phased out of the topper spot in favor of a new Benny companion strip, Opportunity Knox.