Obscurity of the Day: Bad Bill, the Western Wildcat

Vic Forsythe was always fascinated by the Wild West, and it often showed up in his comic strips. Early in his career, long before his big success with Joe Jinks, he was one of the hired hands in the bullpen of the New York Evening World. He cranked out a lot of material in those early days, and was already trying out Western themes on occasion. His first actual Western strip is this one — Bad Bill, the Western Wildcat. Here Vic turns the stereotypes on their heads. There’s a runty little milquetoast of a sheriff, a fellow who looks like he’d be more at home in a CPA office than keeping the peace in a lawless Western outpost, and a rootin’-tootin’ outlaw named Bad Bill. But Bad Bill doesn’t run roughshod over the pipsqeak sheriff. Turns out the lawman has a backbone of iron and a shootin’ iron that always hits its mark. Every time Bad Bill gets up a good head of hell-raising steam, the sheriff calmly and quickly puts it out.

Bad Bill, the Western Wildcat ran in the Evening World for just a short time — November 10 to 29 1911. Vic already had a well-received strip that was running regularly there — Flooey and Axel — and though he would often try out new ideas like Bad Bill, they always seemed to peter out pretty quickly.

By the way, did you notice that Vic’s artwork at this time bears a very distinct resemblance to George Herriman’s of the same period? Well, considering that Vic came to New York from Los Angeles, where he would have seen Herriman’s work on the Los Angeles Examiner, and possibly even worked there with him for a while, I guess that stands to reason … 

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!

3 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Bad Bill, the Western Wildcat

  1. Thanks for posting this obscure Forsythe piece. I have been fascinated by him for years. Do you have any scans of Flooey and Axel? I've never seen it ror even know what it was about. On the IMDb website there is a fragmentary listing for a Short Comedy 1915 silent film Flooey and Axel

    Forsythe is listed in the cast as playing himself. Other players had fairly long silent, and in some cases talkie careers. Of note Margery Wilson who was an actress and film director in the silent film era and Max Davidson, a character actor from Germany, who played comical Jewish roles in many films including at least one Hal Roach Our Gang episode. He also starred in a series of short silent films.

    The movie appears to be among the many lost silent films, with no synopsis listed.

    Here is the IMDb link:

    Again thanks for the post.

  2. Hi Mark —
    I'll cover Flooey and Axel here one of these days, but for now if you want to see the series, you can read it to your heart's content over on the Library of Congress website, in their run of New York Evening Worlds.

    Best, Allan

  3. Thank you so much for the info to go to the Library of Congress', New York Evening World's archives to see the Vic Forsythe Flooey and Axel strips.

    Just lost the ebay auction on 2 Original Forsythe dailies for a strip called Orville Nertz, dated ca 1940's. Not sure if it ever was published. I can email the images to you if you would like.

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