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Out Our Way – Born 100 Years Too Soon

J. R. (James Robert) Williams’ Out Our Way panel first appeared in newspapers on March 20, 1922, 100 years ago today. It’s not-always-tender look at the travails of regular folk became hugely successful.

Per Brian Walker:

“In 1936, Williams had 700 daily and 242 Sunday clients, the most of any syndicated feature.”

Here are the first six Out Our Way daily panels (click images to embiggen).



   

The comic feature was almost fully formed at its creation. Give it a couple years and those lengthy captions would shorten to less than a half dozen words. Still famous sub-titles like Born Thirty Years Too Soon, Why Mothers Get Gray, The Worry Wort, Heroes Are Made – Not Born would appear regularly with corresponding circumstances.

As Ron Goulart described the comic:

“[I]t commented in its quietly humorous way on small-town life, factory work, the cowboy’s lot, and the joys and sorrows of childhood … He drew in a homespun style, giving the impression he had taught himself to draw by studying the panels of Tad and Briggs. He added something of his own though, a kind of amused sympathy for his characters; Williams was especially good at catching the attitudes of defeat, frustration, and restless yearning.”

 

From Coulton Waugh (closer to the source in 1947):

“This queer and homy-looking little job has a gigantic syndicated circulation. Many of the faces look more like chipmunks than human beings, and the figures are drawn with a clumsiness that would be repellent if it were not so real. It is the realism that gets you in ‘Out Our Way,’ and the tenderness. One of the strongest points about this comic is that the tenderness never becomes mush … Sentimentalism is given a hard tumble in this panel: for better or worse one is forced to look directly at some of the cold motives which underlie many actions of men.”

Comic Book Plus has a collection of Out Our Way panels and strips from 1922 to 1937.

 

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