Obscurity of the Day: Natural Selection

When a heart problem induced Dr. Scott Henson to retire from medical practice in his 40s, he made a less than obvious choice for a new career – cartoonist. Henson came up with a cartooning pseudonym — Russ Wallace* — and took his considerable cartooning skills to the Charleston Gazette, where he was offered a job as their editorial cartoonist. Henson/Wallace’s style owed a lot to the likes of Jeff MacNelly, but his work was so strong that the term ‘derivative’ seems unfair.

Despite his medical condition, Wallace was not content to be ‘just’ an editorial cartoonist, but took on another major assignment when he succeeded in getting a daily and Sunday panel cartoon titled Natural Selection accepted by Creators Syndicate in 2000**.  The new panel offered edgy gags that owe a little to Gary Larson, as well as another of henson’s cartooning heroes, Charles Addams.

Henson gave up the Sunday version of Natural Selection on December 29 2002, but the daily continued in a small but respectable number of papers until June 30 2007 (with reprints distributed until July 28 2007)***. It is unclear if the plug was pulled on the panel due to low sales or if Henson’s health had become too much of an issue. Henson died in June 2012 at age 52.

* Henson chose this name as an homage to  Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered the concept of natural selection independently of Charles Darwin in the 1850s.

** Specific start date is unknown. St. Louis Post-Dispatch starts it on November 6, but promo article they ran that day sort of says it was already in syndication by then.

*** Source: D.D. Degg

3 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Natural Selection

  1. Small correction: my mentioned of the ending of Natural Selection
    noted "the panel's > penultimate < cartoon of July 27, 2007."

    My other mention of the panel:
    by Russ Wallace
    2000 (?Autumn?) – June 30, 2007
    Creators Syndicate
    [reprints ran July 2 – July 28, 2007]

  2. I wrote to Henson/Wallace during the middle of his comic's run. He was evidently jumping in on his cartoon career despite his health, because he told me he was trying to get a second comic syndicated, about talking dogs.

    He said a syndicate was interested, but it never got off the ground for some reason.

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