Obscurity of the Day: Mike and Ike – They Look Alike

 

 Today we think of Rube Goldberg as a cartooning institution — in fact some think of the name as merely an odd term for overly complex inventions — but there was a day when even the great man was struggling to make a good living. 

Rube Goldberg’s famed daily cartoons began in the San Francisco Bulletin, then he moved to the big time at the New York Daily Mail in 1908. He was a sports cartoonist at this time, but soon he became far better known for the running gag series that he tacked onto his main cartoon. Foolish Questions, in particular, caught on like wildfire. But being syndicated by such a minor paper (by New York standards), Goldberg faced an uphill battle for nationwide recognition, and more importantly, the moolah that went with it. 

Presumably with the blessing of the Daily Mail, Rube shopped himself around to do Sunday series with various syndicates. In his early years he had series published by World Color Printing, the Chicago Tribune, and the McClure Syndicate. 

For McClure he produced Mike and Ike – They Look Alike, a series about incredibly dumb yet wildly imaginative twin brothers. The twins were originally created for a short-lived series he penned for World Color Printing in 1907 calleed The Look-a-Like Boys.* McClure was running on fumes when Goldberg offered his services in 1913, so they were probably dancing in the hallways to have him on board. Yet in the period that they had Rube, the McClure Sunday colour sections only seemed to shed clients at a faster and faster pace. It wasn’t Rube’s fault, though — Mike and Ike – They Look Alike was vintage Goldberg, crazy, bizarre, whipsmart and often side-splittingly funny. How McClure managed to make lemons out of that lemonade I cannot fathom. 

Mike and Ike – They Look Alike ran in the McClure Sunday colour sections from March 9 1913** to February 1 1914***, not even finishing out a one year contract.

Thanks to Cole Johnson for the scan. 

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* Don Markstein says the characters date back even earlier, to Rube’s San Francisco Bulletin cartoons, but I have no proof of that, and sadly the Bulletin doesn’t seem to be online. 

** Source: Boston Herald

*** Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press

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