Obscurity of the Day: Jasper

After the short run of Ossie Tittle, which we covered yesterday, Frank Owen wasn’t soured on newspaper features. In fact, he made the smart move to introduce a feature with a built-in audience.

Owen’s first big splash was a cartoon called Philbert, which regularly appeared in Collier’s magazine, one of the top gag cartoon markets. It was a huge feather in young Owen’s cap. So when Ossie Tittle died in infancy, he decided to do a newspaper series starring his Philbert character. For reasons I don’t know, he changed the name from Philbert to Jasper, and the daily-only panel cartoon had a modestly long run, from June 7 1937 to August 7 1943, distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

Philbert/Jasper is a rather bizarre series, and I think Cole Johnson described it best:

Owen had a really dumb sense of humor, many times boiling down to meaningless non sequiturs. Who are these people? Parents of a Tom Thumb-like tiny mutant? Jasper is a tiny neck-less, shoulder-less hunchback who can’t talk and who seems to have the power to make his parents/owners do the most pointless, bizarre things, like build their own battleship, fly a giant kite, or dress in a suit of armor.

I guess you better just call the panel screwball, because if you try to make sense of it you will get a headache, just as it evidently did Cole. If you just accept that Jasper is some sort of quasi-uber-tot with powers far beyond those of mortal men, the panel is sometimes chuckle-worthy. Cole and me, though, we’re headed off to the medicine cabinet for some Tylenol.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for some of the samples, and the prose!

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