United Feature Syndicate’s newest comic strip has the rare distinction of being written by a newspaper publisher and drawn by an editorial cartoonist. What’s more, the strip features a talking mule who will be venturing into the newspaper business in a month or two.
The mule, of course, is Francis, already famous—or notorious—as a result of two best-selling books and two hit motion pictures. Francis is the brainchild of David Stern, publisher of the New Orleans Item, who is writing the continuity for the comic strip.
Artwork is by Cliff Rogerson, former free-lance artist and one-time assistant to the late Billy “Barney Google” DeBeck at King Features Syndicate. Mr. Rogerson has been editorial cartoonist for the Garden City (L. I.) Newsday since 1946.
Though most people regard Francis as a rather imaginative piece of fiction, Mr. Stern, who
has the innate veracity of a publisher, maintains that the mule really exists. He claims to have met him after the war in the South Pacific, where Mr. Stern was connected with the Middle Pacific edition of Stars and Stripes.
He further claims that the adventures detailed in two books, “Francis” and “Francis Goes to Washington,” are straight from the mule’s mouth. At any rate, the books and the two movies based on them did well. Two more Hollywood epics on Francis are due to be released this year, with more to come later.
As a United Features strip, Francis made his six-a-week newspaper debut this week. A Sunday page is in the works [never happened – Allan]. In the strip Francis is a tough ex-Sergeant who “has seen everything, done everything twice, and doesn’t like it.”
For the first 10 weeks of the strip, Francis and his side-kick, ex-Second Lieutenant Peter Stirling, will be exposing themselves to the hazards of the television industry. On the basis of advance proofs, Messrs. Stern and Rogerson take a dim view of the new medium. Next stop will be a newspaper sequence, which may be protracted for some time, unless the boys in the city rooms holler too loud.