Obscurity of the Day: If

If you just take a passing glance at Walter Wellman’s If strips, you assume you’re in for some saccharine little versified tales of little boys frolicking in fantasy land. But then you read one and that whole hypothesis goes out the window. Wellman, loose screw that he was, seems to have taken a dare from some bullpen wag to create a strip guaranteed to give kids nightmares. If my vote counts, Wellman won the bet.

If, in which a boy named Willie (of course) is tortured by inanimate objects and animals bent on his destruction, is truly deranged. Given that it ran in the Boston Herald‘s comic section near the end of its run, you start to understand where ol’ sourpuss William Haskell was coming from when he called the section “vulgar” and “tawdry.” If ran from March 17 1907 to January 12 1908.

Walter Wellman was an incredibly prolific cartoonist with an immediately recognizeable style, but he’s under-represented in my Stripper’s Guide listings because he spent a good portion of his time on non-series work. Even some of his series are so quirky that they’re hard to track. Luckily in the Sunday color sections at least he toed the line and produced coherent series.

Her’s another Wellman series, Oh, Where, Oh, Where, Has That Willie Boy Gone (see what I’m talkin’ about with all those darn kids named Willie?).

5 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: If

  1. Injury to the Eye motif!

    These things are creepy. They differ from the typical bad-boy strips in that Willie isn't a bad boy. All the things he "pays for" are respectable everyday events (save maybe for carving initials into a tree).

    Now I'm afraid to use my pens and pencils…

  2. Part 1

    Walter Jesse Wellman was born in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire on May 25, 1879, according to his World War II draft card. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census he was the second of two sons born to Frank and Mary; they lived in Jaffrey.

    In the 1900 census Wellman lodged in Boston, Massachusetts at 83 Montgomery Street; he was a student. His entry in the book "Register of Former Students" (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1909) said, "Wellman, Walter J., IV, '02. Cartoonist-Publisher, 395 Broadway, New York, N.Y."

    Wellman illustrated a set of postcards on women's suffrage which were printed in 1909. The original art to one of the postcards can be viewed at Heritage Auction, historical.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=6006&Lot_No=47132.

    Wellman and wife Matilda lived at 2125 Manhattan Avenue in New York City, as recorded in the 1910 census. He was a cartoonist for a publisher. His entry in the 1918 book, "Descendants of Thomas Wellman of Lynn, Massachusetts" said:

    WALTER JESSE WELLMAN…was born at Dublin, N.H., 25 May 1879. He
    married in New York City, 14 June 1905, Matilda Richie, daughter of Hiram
    and Eliza Jane Richie. She was born at Mt. Kisco, N.Y. No children.

    Mr. Wellman graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
    1902, and is a cartoonist in the employ of New York papers and many
    magazines. He resides (1917) at Montvale, N.J.

    He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His description was medium height, slender build, blue eyes and light hair color.

  3. Part 2

    In the 1920 census Wellman was misspelled as Welming. He and his wife lived on Fairview Avenue in Montvale. His occupation was cartoonist for magazines. Wellman placed an ad in the April 25, 1920 issue of "The Editor, the Journal of Information for Literary Workers" (Ridgewood, New Jersey).

    Let me create a new COMIC STRIP or page
    for your HOUSE ORGAN or other publication.
    I'm doing this kind of work for dozens of high
    class house organs now, and I can give you
    just what you want.
    Send copy of your publication and
    ask for particulars.

    WALTER WELLMAN, CARTOONIST
    Montvale, N.J.

    In 1930 the Wellmans remained in Montvale but lived on Hillcrest Avenue. He was a commercial artist. Wellman said he was self-employed when he registered with the draft board on April 25, 1942; he was 62 years old. The date of Wellman's passing is not known.

  4. Walter Jesse Wellman was born in East Jaffrey, New Hampshire on May 25, 1879, according to his World War II draft card. In the 1880 U.S. Federal Census he was the second of two sons born to Frank and Mary; they lived in Jaffrey.

    In the 1900 census Wellman was a lodger in Boston, Massachusetts at 83 Montgomery Street; he was a student. He has an entry in the book "Register of Former Students", published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1909, on page 327: Wellman, Walter J., IV, '02. Cartoonist-Publisher, 395 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

    Wellman and his wife, Matilda, lived at 2125 Manhattan Avenue in New York City as recorded in the 1910 census. He was a cartoonist for a publisher. He has an entry in the 1918 book, "Descendants of Thomas Wellman of Lynn, Massachusetts"; from the chapter on the ninth generation:

    WALTER JESSE WELLMAN…was born at Dublin, N.H., 25 May 1879. He
    married in New York City, 14 June 1905, Matilda Richie, daughter of Hiram
    and Eliza Jane Richie. She was born at Mt. Kisco, N.Y. No children.

    Mr. Wellman graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
    1902, and is a cartoonist in the employ of New York papers and many
    magazines. He resides (1917) at Montvale, N.J.

    Wellman illustrated a set of postcards on women's suffrage which were printed in 1909. The original art to one of the postcards can be viewed at Heritage Auction, historical.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=6006&Lot_No=47132.

    He signed his World War I draft card on September 12, 1918. His description was medium height, slender build, blue eyes and light hair color.

    In the 1920 census Wellman's surname was misspelled as Welming. He and his wife lived on Fairview Avenue in Montvale. His occupation was cartoonist for magazines. Wellman placed an ad in the April 25, 1920 issue of "The Editor, the Journal of Information for Literary Workers", which was published in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

    Let me create a new COMIC STRIP or page
    for your HOUSE ORGAN or other publication.
    I'm doing this kind of work for dozens of high
    class house organs now, and I can give you
    just what you want.
    Send copy of your publication and
    ask for particulars.

    WALTER WELLMAN, CARTOONIST
    Montvale, N.J.

    In 1930 the Wellmans remained in Montvale but lived on Hillcrest Avenue. He was a commercial artist. Wellman said he was self-employed when he registered with the draft board on April 25, 1942; he was 62 years old. The date of Wellman's passing is not known.

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