Obscurity of the Day: Inbad the Sailor

Sometimes destiny plays a cruel trick on us. Take the example of Wally Wallgren. If ever there was a fellow who was unfit and undesirous of any connection to the military, it was Wally. He was, to put it charitably, a free-spirit. He did not recognize authority, he was lazy, he was unable to keep a schedule, and he was a compulsive smartass. The one thing he seemed to take really seriously and to pursue with gusto (besides cartooning) was drinking. Let’s just say that Wally sure as hell wasn’t officer material.

So naturally fate ensured that Wally’s entire adult life ended up entwined with the military. When he wasn’t in uniform, he was cartooning about military life. And here’s where it all started, in 1911, with Inbad the Sailor. Why Wally chose a sailor for this series I cannot fathom. It’s not really germane to the idea, other than providing a pretext for an ever-changing setting. And this was long before the military should have even been on his radar (he was drafted for World War I). But he did, so I get to tell you that this is Wally Wallgren’s very first military-themed strip, a portent of the next 30+ years of Wally’s life.

Inbad the Sailor, a strip about a tender-hearted tar who gets the snot beat out of him all over the world for trying to do good deeds, ran in the Philadelphia North American from January 1 to June 18 1911.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!

Tomorrow: an Ink-Slinger Profile of Wally Wallgren by Alex Jay

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