Obscurity of the Day: Dawn O’Day in Hollywood

Dawn O’Day in Hollywood was a semi-precious gem of a strip that, unfortunately, was rarely seen by anyone except the readers of the Chicago Tribune. After the end of World War II, the Tribune tried out quite a few rather interesting series in their Sunday sections, some of which they ran for years. However, they seemed to have no luck in selling them to other client papers. Why? I dunno. They certainly had no trouble selling the old guard (Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy et al).

Dawn O’Day debuted in the Sunday Tribune on October 2 1949. It was a light-hearted strip, tap dancing around the genres of soap opera and adventure, but always with lots of levity. Starlet Dawn O’Day and her manager Wally Crackle romp through tinseltown hijinks, getting into hot water with crazy old faded stars, murderous directors … you know the drill. Dawn sometimes exhibits dumb blonde tendencies, but generally she’s a gamer with a good head on her shoulders and witty repartee always at the ready.

If you took the art styles of George Wunder and Frank Robbins and mashed them together, you’d end up with the style of creator Val Heinz. His art is quite stylized, yet more attractive and inviting than either of his influences, both of whom can take a little bit of getting used to, if you don’t mind me saying. There are probably art swipes involved, but I definitely think Heinz creates something that is quite a bit greater than the sum of its parts. With only a third page at his disposal (EDIT — it appears that Heinz was drawing these to a full tabloid format according to the E&P yearbooks. The Trib apparently just cut them down to thirds after a brief period as halves in the first months of the run. Did anyone ever run the full tab strips? Unknown at this time.), he makes every square inch work for effect. Great character design, ever-changing camera angles, interesting backgrounds, you name it, he does it well. According to a Tribune article, Heinz learned cartooning as an assistant to Frank King; that may be so, but the influence of King is nowhere to be seen here.

The strip must have appealed to someone at the Tribune, because in spite of the scarcity of client papers (did it have any other than perhaps a few in the Tribune chain?), the strip was granted the addition of a daily strip on September 18 1950. Evidently it was on a one-year contract, as it disappeared from the Tribune on Saturday September 15 1951.

The Sunday, though, ambled along, seemingly getting the approval of Tribune folks if no one else. Finally, though, in 1954 several of these no-client strips were led to the chopping block. On May 30 1954, the strip came to the end of a storyline, promised a new one, but did not appear next week. Oddly, though, it reappeared one last time on June 27, already well into the middle of the next story. Maybe there was at least one other paper still running the strip, because Ohio State’s Bill Blackbeard Collection lists Sundays for August 29 and September 22 in their collection. Only problem is that September 22 is a Wednesday, so I don’t know how well we can trust their records. Anyone know of a client paper that ran it to the bitter end?

10 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Dawn O’Day in Hollywood

  1. I've seen samples of this strip over at Ger Apeldoorn's blog, and I am puzzled by Val Heinz. His artwork, though admittedly derivative, is polished and professional. I've never seen anything else by him, though. You'd think he'd have had a more visible career. I even speculated Heinz was a pseudonym for someone else, but I think not. Do you know any more about him?

  2. I am seeing more than a bit of Mel Graff as well. My next stop in the ether is the Fab Fiddies for more. I'm lovin heinz.

    And The older I get the closer Frank Robbins and Johnny Hazard get to the top of my favorites (I didnt say 'best')
    Wunder was terrific except for the faces. Latter day Terry reads well and was pretty damn fun.

    But those faces..ugh

  3. I have an almost complete run (especially of the first years) in the process of being scanned and prepared. Some in three tiers even, which makes my think that althugh the strip was almost always shown in two tiers it may in fact have been produced in three for a long time. I will have a look what I have of those last few months/weeks. In the first year you can see Hein
    z' style move from what I would call 'the Chicago style' to that of the Caniff school.

  4. Thats's the funny thing. I thought I only had the Chicago tribune. But apparetnly not. I bought the whole lot as a set of cuttings from a seller. And now I am wondering (and not at home to check) if I wasn't mistaken and was it only thrtee tiers with some in half page format to preserve the three tier strip on the back?

  5. Well, at least the first four I have on this computer from October 1949 are three tiers. After that it's all two tiers. A format change or a different paper? I will have to look when I am home.

  6. You mention the same starting date as my first one. So you are saying that your October 2, 1949 copy is two tiers? In that case mine should be from a different paper and the paper name may be on the tear sheet.

  7. Hi Ger —
    I don't have any samples from the first couple months; my start date was based on microfilm indexing.

    As to format, though, your half-pagers prompted me to check the source I should have checked before opening my big mouth. According to the E&P yearbooks in which the available formats are listed, poor Val was drawing these up as FULL TABS, only to have the Trib chop them down to thirds! What a shame.

    Wonder if anyone has seen a Dawn O'Day original so we can verify that.


  8. Difficult to understand now, but some papers back then financed and carried certain strips exclusively – by choice.

    Lee Elias once explained how the NY Daily News did not want any other paper carrying his BEYOND MARS. They considered being the sole source to be a selling point. So he was paid well enough but there was no hope for growth.

    They did sell the material for reprint in other countries.

    Mike Feldman

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