Obscurity of the Day: Susie Sunshine

If there’s one thing you could depend on from the Graphic Syndicate, it was that pretty girls would be found in abundance in their comic strips. Ah, the Graphic. My favorite newspaper in the whole world. The New York Evening Graphic, which begat the Graphic Syndicate, was the wildest and wackiest newspaper that ever saw print. Helmed by physical culture fanatic and pulp magazine baron Bernarr MacFadden, the paper eschewed the normal journalistic standards in favor of raving sensationalism and lurid lechery. Think of it as a combination of the National Enquirer and Playboy, but without the polish.

If you’d like to learn more about the Porno-Graphic (a popular nickname for the paper in its day) I refer you to any of these fine memoirs and histories:

The New York Graphic – The World’s Zaniest Newspaper by Lester Cohen
Sauce For The Gander by Frank Mallen
My Last Million Readers by Emile Gauvreau
Dumbbells And Carrot Strips by Mary MacFadden and Emile Gauvreau

All are out of print, but can be found used on ABE Books.

Anyway, on to the strip at hand. Susie Sunshine was a bubble-brained flapper, just another in a seemingly endless flow that seemed to issue from the syndicates in the mid-20s. This one started sometime in 1927 (specific date unknown because very little of the Graphic survives on microfilm), and ended December 14 1931.

Earl Hurd created the strip, and exhibited a heretofore unseen ability to draw curvaceous beauties. Hurd’s comic strip heyday was in the teens, when he did the Sunday Brick Bodkin’s Pa for the New York Herald, and several daily-style strips, most prominently Trials of Editor Mouse, for the affiliated Evening Telegram. He seems to have left the comic strip field in the mid-teens (did I read somewhere that he got into the animation game?), but came back over a decade later to plumb the bottom of the syndication barrel at the Graphic.

For reasons unknown, Hurd left the strip in mid 1930, and it was taken over by Al Zere, who took a swing at a whole lot of syndicated strips over his long career. Zere, too, didn’t stick, and in 1931 the strip was taken over by Dick Richards.

In 1931 the history gets a bit murky, because at some point the Graphic Syndicate lost the strip to the World Feature Service (syndication arm of the New York World). This change seemed to happen on 8/24. However, the World was in the midst of its death throes at the time, and the Graphic continued to run the strip until the end of 1931 – whether it was running reprints or new material I don’t know. In any case, Dick Richards renamed the strip as The Boomers at the start of 1932, and the strip continued with United Features (which took over all the World’s syndication).

The title changed again, to The Doodle Family, in April 1934, and Ben Batsford took over the strip. Shortly thereafter, the strip changed titles again, this time to Frankie Doodle, and this final (I hope) incarnation lasted through sometime in 1938 (my last samples are from August of that year).

Now I must admit that I have not taken a good enough read of all these different versions to see if there is any thread of a plot or characters that follows through the whole history, so it’s impossible for me to say whether we have one long-running strip or as many as four entirely different strips. Has anyone read enough of these to venture an opinion?

[Update 1/12/2011: Just figured out that Susie Sunshine began in May 1927, and was initially syndicated by King Features. The Graphic seems to have taken over the syndication late that year or maybe early the next.]

3 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Susie Sunshine

  1. you wote: He seems to have left the comic strip field in the mid-teens (did I read somewhere that he got into the animation game?)

    Pardon if you’re joking – but yes, Hurd is rather famous in the animation game, he invented the animation cell, and patented it on December 19, 1914. Up to the start of computer animation, that is how animation was done for the next 90 years.

    Hurd worked on his own work 1915-1916, worked for J. R. Bray 1915-1919, Paul and John Terry around 1919, Bray 1921-1922, His own studio “Hurd Productions” in 1922-1925, back to Bray in 1925-1926, – returning to animation in the 1930s, dates unknown for Ub Iwerks,1934-41 for Disney (worked on Snow white, released 1937 Fantasia released 1940, Mickey Mouse, Pluto).

    Steven Rowe

  2. Hi Steven –
    Nope, not joking at all. Got my hands full trying to be the comic strip expert; leave the other stuff to those with the brain cells to spare. Thanks for the Hurd resume!


  3. I just found an envelope full of Suzie Sunshine / The Boomers comic strips with the caption by my grandfather: Comic strip by Hutton (alias Dick Richards) in 72 papers nationally 1931-1933. My grandfather was Hugh Hutton, political cartoonist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1934-1970. He never was syndicated according to my father due to restrictions by Walter Annenberg. Any thoughts?

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