Being over a hundred years old, Muggsy could certainly qualify as an Obscurity of the Day, but I think he is a better fit for Under The Radar since the strip had an incredibly long run for those days, two whole decades.
You may be thinking to yourself, if the strip ran that long, and I’ve never heard of it, was it some local thing? Nope, it ran in lots of higher profile papers. What makes it utterly forgotten is the fact that it was pretty literally the SAME DARN GAG for its whole long run. The question, then, is why it lasted so long, and for that question I have no answer, but I’d sure like to know why myself.
Muggsy, as you’ll see when you peruse the samples above, is not only the same gag over and over, but the art is clunky to boot. The cartoonist, Frank Crane, came onto the comic stripping scene in 1900 with this full-fledged style of his, and it never grew or changed appreciably over his entire career.
Muggsy may have only had one joke, but he didn’t have only one syndicate. He debuted in the Philadelphia North American on December 1 1901* and ran there until April 20 1902. Crane was actually a much more important player at the New York Herald at this time, and apparently decided Muggsy was too good for the less auspicious comic section of the North American. He moved the strip to the Herald starting there on May 18 1902.
Whether the Herald tired of the strip, or the North American balked at the loss, it remained there only a short period. It ended in the Herald on August 24 1902, and reappeared in the North American on October 12.
From then on the strip ran consistently, 99% of the time as an interior half-pager, in the North American section, except for one long hiatus from April 15 1906 to August 25 1907, coinciding with Crane taking on some extra work for the Boston Herald with Val the Ventriloquist.
Muggsy kept up his ultra-repetitive shenanigans until the Philadelphia North American‘s Sunday comic section ended on July 4 1915**. At this point Crane went back to the New York Herald, where he tried out several new strips. None of them caught on though, and Crane seems to have retired from newspaper cartooning in 1916, and he died in 1917.
But even that couldn’t keep Muggsy down; World Color Printing bought the backlog of quite a few North American strips and ran Muggsy in reruns from 1916 to 1920, rounding out the total run for this strip to a nice even twenty years.
* Sources: All dates from Philadelphia North American, except New York Herald dates from Ken Barker’s Herald index, and World Color Printing info from various papers in my collection.
** A comic section I’d dearly love for my collection — the North American strip characters all get blown to kingdom come by fireworks.