As we continue with Foster Follett week, here’s a feature of his which is notable for its graphic device. Here Follett used a panel cartoon as a centerpiece showing the climax of the action, and then added vignettes around it that form the whole into a comic strip, that is, a running visual narrative of the whole story. As simple as this conceit is, I can’t think of any other example of a strip being constructed in this manner, at least on a consistent basis. The closest I can think of are the newspaper Sunday magazine comic strips, which broke the action down into a series of vignettes, but those each stand alone, there is no real visual narrative flow between ‘panels’ as there is here in Follett’s The Bumble Puppy.
The subject of the strip isn’t itself unusual; the tale of yet another fellow who can’t seem to ever catch a break. The title, however, is another point of interest. The word ‘bumblepuppy’ was apparently first coined near the beginning of the 19th century. It referred either to a game played with rackets and a tethered ball, or a sort of primitve pinball-type game, depending on the dictionary you reference. Later on, it was used to refer to someone who plays card games without any particular sense of strategy. It is in that sense in which Follett probably heard it. And then, apparently mulling over the interesting word, he decided it would make a great title about a young man who can’t seem to quite get along in the world — a “bumble puppy”.
The Bumble Puppy ran in the New York World‘s comic section from December 29 1907 to March 8 1908, too short a visit if you ask me.
Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scans!