Found! The Debut of Associated Press Sunday Comics

One of the white whales I’ve been chasing for years has been the start date of the AP Sunday comics. Locating examples of them is about as likely as finding sirloin steaks on the menu at an Indian restaurant. They were quite amazingly unpopular, and it’s bizarre that the AP offered them year after year despite a ridiculously short list of subscribers.

My presumed target start date has always been based on a passing mention by Ron Goulart, who stated in one of his books that the Sundays debuted in October 1941. For the longest time the earliest I could document was based on a few scattered examples I found from late 1942. Then came a breakthrough, courtesy of Jeffrey Lindenblatt, who found that the New York Post started running the Sundays in March 1942 (as documented in this 2008 post).

Armed with the information that the Post was an early adopter, I kept my eyes peeled for an actual Sunday section (the microfilm of the Post sadly does not include the Sunday comics). After years of watching and waiting, I was lucky enough to find some early Oaky Doaks strips from the Post on eBay. They were color photocopies, but beggars can’t be choosers. Turned out that R.B. Fuller was numbering his Sunday strips in 1942. Based on the numbering, I was able to figure backward to come up with a possible start date of November 30 1941. Knowing that strip numbering can be an iffy basis for making assumptions, and the fact that it didn’t jive with Goulart’s claimed start date, I didn’t take that information to heart.

Flash forward to now, and Jeffrey Lindenblatt has once again rung the bell, coming up with what I believe is all the proof anyone could need that the start date for the AP Sunday section is indeed November 30 1941. Lindenblatt found that the section debuted in three newspapers on that date. In each paper the debut was preceded with a news story from the AP hailing the new Sunday comics.

Here’s the transcribed news story, as found in the Deadwood Pioneer Times, Corvallis Gazette Times and the Santa Cruz Sentinel Sun:

The Story of the AP Color Comics

Thirty-five million people can’t be wrong! They can’t be wrong in 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, South America.

Thirty-five million read AP comics, and a large share of these have been reading them for 10 years.
Now AP’s great daily comics are available for the first time in color. They will appear in [name of paper], beginning next Sunday, November 30 — eight knockout pages, ten knockout features.

AP Color Comics were started because readers asked for them. Readers like the soldiers at Fort Jackson, So. Car., who adopted Quin Hall’s great army character, “Private Peter Plink” as an honorary member of the outfit; readers in Mexico who find Pap’s Sport Slants “Una Gran Cosa” (great stuff); readers in Los Angeles, and Lynn, Washington and Wilkes-Barre, Baltimore and Bangor, New York and New Orleans. 

Recently, a Pennsylvania editor wrote the AP Feature Service in New York, where AP Color Comics are produced:

“We have just taken a poll of school children to determine their favorite. They picked AP’s “Dickie Dare” and “Scorchy Smith” in first positions against all other strips we have been using.”

But AP’s new Color Comics offer not only the best entertainment for children — adventure without horror — AP comics offer something for every member of the family.

Here’s the lineup:

Page One — Modest Maidens by Don Flowers. Don draws streamlined “gals” and his gags are just as fresh as the latest fashion. Show girls and shop girls, stooges and stars feature this page.

Page Two — Scorchy Smith by Frank Robbins. This is the answer to the airman’s heart and what real American boy isn’t a pilot at heart these days? Right now Scorchy is engaged in aerial reporting in an incredibly high adventure. It’s clean cut, red blooded entertainment.

Page Three — Oaky Doaks. Here is adventure of another kind, the hilarious story of a self-made knight in a medieval setting. Oaky Doaks is the latest addition to King Arthur’s court and he is making things the merriest around the round table they’ve been for centuries.

Page Four — Two lively features, Things To Come by the nationally popular cartoonist, Hank Barrow, and Neighborly Neighbors by Milt Morris. The first is a preview of the World of Tomorrow thru an artist’s eyes. The second is life “Down East” in Peters Corners, revolving around the explosive Horsefeathers Peters.

Page Five — Patsy in Hollywood. This is the only juvenile feature using the adventure and glamour of Hollywood as a regular setting. Little Patsy Cardigan is the new first little lady of Flickertown and she manages to get into an incredible series of adventures making movies. She’s a natural in color.

Page Six — Two more top features, Sports Slants by Pap’, the country’s number one sports cartoonist; and Homer Hoopee by Fred Locher. Look for Pap’s Memory Mirror to see just how much you really know about sports. Homer Hoopee is the All-American husband, getting into the customary domestic difficulties with friend wife, mother-in-law and unpredictable nephew.

Page Seven — Strictly Private by Quin Hall. This is the army comic that scooped the field just a year ago and has been scooping all the competition since. Private Peter Plink is popular from Honolulu to Hackensack but he’s most popular with the soldiers themselves.

Page Eight — Dickie Dare. Another red-blooded adventure page — and the ideal of the real American boy. While Scorchy Smith burns up the air, Dickie Dare sails across strange seas into all sorts of thrilling escapades. Dickie is the last page of this new color comics section starting in the [name of paper] next Sunday morning, but you’ll probably find yourself turning to him first.

In two cases, the microfilm for the newspapers failed to include the actual Sunday section. Luckily, the Santa Cruz Sentinel Sun did, so here you go, the debut color comics section of  the Associated Press. Note that you can just make out a “#1” designation on some of the strips. The continuity strips start new stories for the Sunday section separate from the daily stories, though they seem to be trying to downplay that.

Page 1 – Modest Maidens by Don Flowers
Page 2 – Scorchy Smith by Frank Robbins

Page 3 – Oaky Doaks: note that Fuller doesn’t sign; Bill Dyer is believed to have ghosted Sunday until 1944
Page 4: Thing To Come by Hank Barrow (new feature for the Sunday section) and Neighborly Neighbors by Milt Morris, sporting a temporary extra title bit of “Down East With…”

Page 5: Patsy in Hollywood (Sunday version of Adventures of Patsy); unsigned art presumably by Charles Raab who was on daily at this time. I see no particular evidence here of Noel Sickles who was assisting Raab in this era.
Page 6: Sport Slants, a new feature by Tom Paprocki who was the AP’s sports cartoonist and occasionally used this tile in his daily cartoons; and Homer Hoopee by Fred Locher

Page 7: Strictly Private by Quin Hall

Page 8: Dickie Dare by Coulton Waugh

5 comments on “Found! The Debut of Associated Press Sunday Comics

  1. Nicely done! Always satisfying to see a hunch confirmed in such a manner.

    I take it (I think I've read somewhere) that the AP destroyed its comics archives?

  2. Wow. I've not checked into that. I'm sure that someone with half a brain — more than I have apparently — would have inquired with the AP at some point. They sure do have a lot of great material that deserves reprinting. I love Oaky Doaks and I've always been intrigued to read more of Coulton Waugh and Odin's Dickie Dare.


  3. I see no sign of Nickles or Raab in the Patsy Sunday. Raab actually had a very specific way of drawing faces. Sickles only came in to do layouts one day in the week, but he was so good and fast that his influence was huge. Still, it has also lead to un underappreciationg for Raab, who was quite capable on his own (and probably the main force behind Charley Chan).

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