News of Yore: Strip Fusion

Here’s an interesting series of articles in which there is a debate about characters from one strip appearing in another. Tempest in a teapot? Oh, yeah, but interesting to see what a lather editors can get into over the smallest innovations.

EDIT: Art Lortie comes to the rescue and supplies the strips where Dixie and Joe Palooka do a crossover appearance. THANKS ART!!

Artist “Loans” Character
E&P, 1/6/40
There is a spirit of comradery among McNaught Syndicate artists as the following little incident we picked up at McNaught’s New York office this week illustrates. Striebel and McEvoy, who do “Dixie Dugan” for McNaught had gotten their star character into a tight fix by making her the manager of a handsome chap who doesn’t really want to be a boxer but through circumstances is considered one. And he doesn’t know anything about the manly art. The problem was to get him a teacher.

McEvoy hit upon the idea of getting the comic strip world champion, “Joe Palooka,” also drawn for McNaught by Ham Fisher, to teach Dixie’s boy friend. Fisher obliged and the “Dixie Dugan” strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka training Dixie’s friend. In collaborating, Striebel drew his characters and indicated the action and Fisher put Palooka through his paces with his own pen. McEvoy, as always, wrote the dialogue.

In the little exchange of pleasantries during the incident, Ham Fisher said in the strip that “Joe and Knobby (were) drawn especially for my pals,” while Striebel and McEvoy noted under their signatures in the last panel of the Jan. 6 strip: “Many thanks, Ham Fisher, for letting Joe help Dixie out of her predicament.” Incidentally, we can’t recall ever hearing of a stunt like this before. (Allan’s note: it happened a lot in the 00s and 10s, but became frowned on after that.)

Editors Split on Fusion of ‘Strips’
By Stephen J. Monchak
E&P, 2/17/40
Last month McNaught Syndicate created an entirely new situation in the field of comics when Ham Fisher “farmed out” his character, “Joe Palooka,” for three days to the continuity of “Dixie Dugan,” drawn by Striebel and McEvoy. The Dixie Dugan strips of Jan. 4-6 showed Palooka (drawn in by Fisher) in a heroic role in the Striebel-McEvoy feature.

Was this unique action an interesting innovation or an unwarranted liberty on the part of the McNaught Syndicate which handles both strips, the February Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, which organization showed keen interest in the transposition, asks?

The Pros and Cons
The Bulletin devotes a page to the views of its members and of that of Robert B. McNitt, McNaught editor, and because of the unusual nature of the symposium’s subject, this column quotes some of the editors’ comments. M. V. Atwood, associate editor, Gannett Newspapers, stated:

“Should Joe Palooka step out with Dixie Dugan? Search me! I didn’t think newspapers would stand for radio commercialization of comic strip characters, which newspapers had developed. But they did. Some even seemed to think that the radio presentation was good promotion.

“If Dixie Dugan is in one paper in a city and Joe Palooka in a competing paper in the same city, which one loses? Which one benefits? I am no Solomon, only an editor.”

Bingham Liked It
To Barry Bingham, publisher, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal and Times, McNaught’s experiment “appealed … as a pretty clever stunt.” He would not mind seeing it carried a little further in the world of comic strips, he said, adding:

“It is nice to imagine what would ‘happen to ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ for instance, if she were suddenly given the benefit of ‘Popeye’s’ protection. In other words, I think it is a good thing for the comic strips to deviate a little from the accustomed pattern.”

The Bulletin quoted H. R. Pinckard, Sunday editor, Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Advertiser, as follows: “You horrify me. Dixie Dugan and Joe Palooka doing the same strip! I hope you’re not teasing me! (What a lousy pun.)”

Young’s Reservation
Dwight Young, editor-in-chief, Dayton (0.) Journal-Herald, in part, commented:

“Figured purely on a selfish basis I have no objection to a character from one of the comics that we use occasionally stepping into the continuity of another comic that we use. You will note that I stipulate ‘comics that WE use.”

“I think fads like this should be discouraged. If one of my opposition’s comic characters should be introduced into one of the strips that we use I would kick and keep kicking until I got satisfaction – or I would cancel the strip.”

As the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel carries neither of the McNaught strips in question, the incident under consideration had no personal concern for Arthur K. Remmell, managing editor, but he feels that in this case and others, syndicates take too great liberties.

McNitt Comments
Rebelling against what he termed the “rankest kind of practices” indulged in by “too many syndicates,” Mr. Remmell told of his recent experience with a syndicate. A financial writer changed syndicates. Someone else wrote the column thereafter and although he cancelled the later column the syndicate insisted he pay for the service.

The syndicate favored the Fisher-Striebel-McEvoy collaboration, Mr. McNitt said, because it is McNaught’s policy to pioneer new experiments with newspaper features. He said he did not know whether Palooka and Dixie would appear again in the same strip and that, with one exception, “the reactions we have received have been favorable, several editors having welcomed the innovation as an opportunity to promote their features.”

3 comments on “News of Yore: Strip Fusion

  1. Wondering if you got the Dixie Dugan/Joe Palooka strips that they mentioned the feature?
    Would love to see that!

  2. Unfortunately I don’t have the Dixie Dugan dailies for January 4-6 1940. Anyone care to pull them out of Proquest or some other online resource to share?


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