Obscurity of the Day: Mr. Smarty

I can’t tell you a whole lot about J.P. Collins. He first comes onto my radar when he had a weekly strip running in the New York Evening Telegram in 1906-07, then again for a short period in 1909 with the same strip in the same paper. There was no way this gig was paying his rent, so maybe he did other work at the paper as well.

Then he got a more full-time gig with World Color Printing, where the rest of his known work was done in the period 1909-11. His longest running feature there was Mr. Smarty, an eminently forgettable strip about a kid who gets in trouble by outsmarting himself. Why Collins called the kid ‘Mister’ is anyone’s guess.

In Mr. Smarty (once our sides stop hurting from laughing at the gags), we can see that while Collins wasn’t a great cartoonist, he did have some slight facility for aping other styles. The top sample here, for instance, is definitely derivative of William Marriner.

If and when we ever get into the question of ‘Sterling’ on this blog (the mystery person(s) who signed World Color strips on occasion), we need to remember J.P. Collins, as I think we may find him to be, as the cops say, ‘a person of interest.’

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the samples!

2 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Mr. Smarty

  1. "MR. SMARTY" might not be an especially memorable strip, but you have to be impressed by the artistic freedom they had a century ago that would alow a full page with big, odd sized panels to fill at the artist's whim.

  2. The variety of artwork is great and at first jarring. I didn't like what I was unfamiliar with at one time. Mr. Smarty – great stuff. The heyday of color sundays – has lasted nearly a century? (I haven't looked at a Sunday paper in quite some time.)

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