Obscurity of the Day: A Reel of Nonsense

In the very limited genre of comics that were designed to run all (or most of) the way across an 8-column newspaper broadsheet in a very thin strip, the one that we see most often is most commonly seen without a title, a credit or an artist signature.

Although there are plenty of  things I don’t know about the strip, I can supply all of the above — the official title (or one of them) was A Reel of Nonsense, the creator was Bert Link, and the syndicate was World Color Printing. The original run of the strip, as best I can tell, began on April 30 1917. A very similar strip, titled A Reel of Nonsense in Our Own Movies ran for awhile in 1916, but it was done with very simple stick-figures and I think it is a separate and different series (besides the preceding I know exactly zilch about it).

Anyhow, A Reel of Nonsense only ran through about July 1917 (at least in the Philadelphia Evening Telegraph, the best and most complete run I have discovered), and that may have been practically the sum total of it. However, World Color Printing really seemed to love the idea of a page-wide strip, and re-used it sporadically on their weekly black-and-white pages throughout the 1920s, and also used it as sort of a bonus strip along the bottoms of some of their Sunday pages in the 20s and 30s.It was also sold to other papers to use in like manner.

Could a strip that ran for only a few months have been recycled that heavily and for that long? It seems unlikely, but what I do know is that beyond that original run, Link’s name doesn’t appear on the strips and they are untitled. Perhaps they were recycled incessantly, or maybe Link decided he didn’t want the credit anymore, or maybe new artists (all anonymous) were contracted to create further episodes.

What I do know is that trying to figure all this out, by cross-referencing strips ad nauseum, is not the way I plan to allocate precious days and weeks of my remaining lifetime.

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