Obscurity of the Day: Professor Otto and his Auto

I really get a kick out of early comic strips about cars. The cartoonist of 1902 was still coming up with an iconic cartoon image for the new transportation medium — some cartoonists drew them essentially as cubes with the driver perched precariously on top, others hadn’t figured out how to reduce the complexity of the automobile to a cartoon and drew them in almost blueprint detail.

George Herriman, in Professor Otto and his Auto, had the iconic form pretty much down pat here in 1902 — four giant balloon tires with an inverted bathtub in the middle. This cartoon shorthand would stay pretty much the standard for decades, even though the actual vehicle designs varied widely in that time.

Professor Otto and his Auto roared to life in the New York World on March 30 1902, and lasted at least until December 28 of that year. Ken Barker’s World index is spotty on 1903 dates, as the microfilm he was working with failed to include comic sections for a lot of 1903 Sundays. Does anyone know of a 1903 installment of this strip?

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