Category : Obscurities

Obscurity of the Day: Travelin’ Ted

Travelin’ Ted was a weekly panel cartoon that ran in the Chicago Sunday Tribune‘s travel section each week from September 17 1950 to March 2 1952. Each episode would offer information about a particular vacation destination, including a special tip from the panel’s mascot, Travelin’ Ted himself.

The creator, Ray Hudson, was employed by the Tribune as a designer, and apparently he was responsible for the much of the very attractive graphic content of their Sunday travel sections, supplying art for advertisers who contracted with the paper for ad design services.

As far as is known, this was Hudson’s only foray into newspaper cartooning.

Obscurity of the Day: Sambo Remo Rastus Brown is Now a Policeman

Today Clare Briggs is mostly remembered, by those who remember him at all, for his daily series with running titles like When a Feller Needs a Friend, The Days of Real Sport, and Somebody’s Always Taking the Joys Out of Life. What is seldom recalled is that in his days at the Chicago Tribune he created a long-running and popular Sunday series titled Danny Dreamer. That was a strip about a kid who’s imagination was compared in each episode with considerably different reality.

After about four years milking that plot, Briggs tired of it and shifted the focus to Danny’s father, who luckily enough also turned out to have a vivid imagination. Shortly after making that switch, though, Briggs seems to have realized that Senior was too generic of a character for the comics section, so he gave him a wacky black sidekick to liven things up, and dropped the reality vs. imagination schtick in favour of physical comedy with the inevitable racial overtones.

That sidekick was Sambo Remo Rastus Brown, and he came completely equipped with all the hoary black stereotypes typical of the era. Brown’s role in Danny Sr.’s life is never fleshed out, but he seems to live with the Dreamer family, so perhaps he was what was then called a “hired man”, sort of the male version of a maid, tasked with all manner of male-oriented work around the house.

After almost a year of Dreamer Sr. and Brown sharing the spotlight, Briggs decided that Sambo Remo was the only real draw and so he put the whole Dreamer family out to pasture. Since the new star needed to go out on his own, Briggs decided it would be hilarious to have a black man as a policeman. Not that black policemen were totally unknown in this era, but it can be safely assumed that their patrols were generally limited only to black neighborhoods.

In the new series, with the unwieldy title of Sambo Remo Rastus Brown is Now a Policeman, much of the comedy would come from Sambo Remo interacting with white folk who don’t take well to him being a figure of authority. Since you can easily imagine how those gags went, I’ve decided to instead include the above superb fourth-wall breaking strip that is not at all typical fare for the series.

Sambo Remo Rastus Brown is Now a Policeman, which I count as a separate series though it has family ties to Danny Dreamer, ran from October 13 1912 to February 23 1913.

A minor mystery about this series: for some reason Briggs never signed the strip once it gained this new title. It certainly appears to be his work, so I don’t know why there would have been such an abrupt change.

50% Obscurity, 50% Mystery Strip: Chester Gould’s Panel Cartoon Series

Chester Gould, later of Dick Tracy fame, spent several years at the Chicago Evening American in the mid-1920s honing his craft and producing a slew of material. Unfortunately this early work by Gould is little known, and the histories I’ve read only talk of it in vague generalities and offer a lot of incorrect information. To that problem I have not been immune, and the information about early Gould material in my own book ticks both boxes — it is vague and offers incorrect information.

For instance, I have since learned from Jean Gould O’Connell’s book about her father that The Radio Catts and The Radio Lanes (which I list separately) are actually the same strip — it went through a title change partway through the run.

O’Connell also shows a few samples of an untitled panel cartoon series Gould produced, but doesn’t really say anything about it in her text. She seems to consider these editorial cartoons, even though most of them are strictly gag-oriented.

I recently got a sampling of the cartoons, all of them dating from August 1925. Although some are vaguely and limply editorial in nature, like the bottom example here, most are strictly playing for laughs. In fact, there was at least one running title used (Things That Can’t Be Done) that would seem to indicate that Gould was trying to achieve something at least adjacent to the Briggs/Webster mold.

Based on this sampling I believe there was a series worthy of listing in my book, though my information is essentially a mere few shards of a smashed pot. O’Connell’s book seems to show a sample of the feature from 1926, so I gather it ran a good long while. I also note with some bemusement from my examples that they are copyrighted to just about any newspaper Hearst owned, the choice apparently being based on nothing more than what the typesetter took a fancy to at the moment.

If anyone knows of a source for good primary source information on Gould’s early series, I’d sure like to know about it. I confess that I haven’t kept up with the various Dick Tracy reprint books, wherein there might very well be the occasional article about his early work. Of course, the ideal solution would be a trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield Illinois, the only library that has a substantial amount of Chicago Evening American microfilm, albeit missing some important months. Sadly, crossing the Canada-US border in these days of covid is a major undertaking and I won’t be making that trip anytime soon.

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

Obscurity of the Day: Tilly Tawker

 

 
 
C.A. Voight became an anchor cartoonist at the Boston Traveler seemingly out of nowhere, but then again if his recorded birthdate is to be believed, he was just 21 years old at the time. His only earlier series*, hardly worthy of the name since it ran just twice, was Tilly Tawker, drawn for the New York Evening World on February 28 and March 9 1908. Above you witness the entire run.
Tilly Tawker is quite breathtaking. It’s very hard to imagine a wet-behind-the-ears kid producing such sumptuous art with wonderful animated anatomy and expressions, well-developed gags and immaculate pacing. This is the sort of work cartoonists aspire to eventually produce after years in the profession. How the Evening World let this kid out of their grasp is anyone’s guess, but escape he did.
 
* In my book I credit a 1902 series from the Evening World to C.A. Voight. It does looks like it could be his early, raw-boned work to me, but it is only signed “Voight”, a not terribly uncommon name, and if his birth date is to be believed, he would have been published in one of the important papers in the country at the age of fifteen. Not impossible, but certainly somewhat improbable.

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