Obscurity of the Day: Don’t Let the Camera Fool You

If you are a big fan of Polly and her Pals, Cliff Sterrett’s family strip that sports wildly stylish art, you may know that there is a problem with collecting the Sunday strips. Starting with the Sunday of April 12 1936, the topper strips to Polly (Sweethearts and Wives/And So They Were Never Married) were only included with the broadsheet full version of the strip. The tabs, which until then had included both Polly and topper, dropped the topper in order to print the main strip’s panels at a larger size.

That unfortunate decision means that a serious Polly collector has only one format that affords them a complete version of Sterrett’s strips: the broadsheet full. To make matters much worse, by 1936 full page versions of strips were getting scarcer and scarcer, as most broadsheet newpapers switched to using half-page format Sunday strips. A few major strips would still rate a full page in the late 1930s, but frankly Polly (as much as we appreciate the strip now) was not really an A-lister back then. In a nutshell, finding Pollys from the late 30s and 1940s with toppers intact is as tough as finding a Dilbert t-shirt at the King Features Syndicate’s Christmas party. 

To give you an idea of the scarcity — while I am by no means a Sunday Polly collector, I do know to snatch up late Polly fulls when I happen to chance upon them. Yet I have just two fulls from 1938 and later in my collection.

Okay, so now the preamble is finally out of the way. Why I am telling you all this is to make sure you can properly appreciate the rarity of what you see above. Collector Greg Matthews sent me this image, asking why this topper titled Don’t Let The Camera Kid You (or Reel Life / Real Life) wasn’t included in my book. I was, of course, very  surprised to see that Sterrett, seemingly out of the blue, decided to run a different topper in 1939 for awhile, and asked Greg for any information he could offer. Greg told me, based on his own collection of Indianapolis Star fulls, plus Sandusky Register material he found online, that this topper ran off and on in 1939, on these dates: 7/16, 7/23, 7/30, 8/13, 8/20, 9/24 and 10/1/39.

So there you have it. Just goes to prove that even a relatively popular strip from a major syndicate can be the source of an obscurity of the day, and an especailly rare one at that. I don’t doubt that there are other rare late Sunday toppers out there that have so far escaped my detection. Have you seen one?

Big thanks to Greg Matthews for the information and the scan!

2 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Don’t Let the Camera Fool You

  1. Hi Joe —
    Newspaper cartoonists generally draw originals about 1.5 to 2 times printed size, but there's plenty of exceptions. Colors are applied later in the process, generally cartoonists do not color originals, except sometimes a color guide. You can see thousands and thousands of examples of comic strip original art at the Heritage Auction website, and on comicartfans.com.


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