CSotD: Step back while I step out

I’m on my way out to Columbus for the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists convention and CXC, so was trying to come up with a post I could do in advance. DD Degg’s marking of Dick Tracy’s first strip, December 4, 1931, reminded me of how many great cartoons were running in newspapers back then.

So here is a selection of Sunday funnies from that date, with notes from Toonopedia and Lambiek Comiclopedia. They’re a pair of valuable historical information, and highly infectious places to poke around.

Blondie was still a single girl, and that isn’t Dagwood.

In 1931, Chic Young had just handed over his strip Dumb Dora to Paul Fung so he could focus on Blondie. The term was already in parlance, but the strip made it much more popular.


Ella Cinders was picked up for a film and several other offshoots.


Elmer was popular, but cartoonist Doc Winner had a far more varied career.


Gasoline Alley is famous for moving more-or-less in real time. In 1931, Skeezix was still a kid.


The saga of the Katzenjammer Kids is a tangle between an original artist and a syndicate that refused to let him leave, as well as a study in the limits of artistic ownership. At this stage, the important thing to keep straight is that “The Captain and the Kids” was the work of Rudolf Dirks, who had created, then lost, the Katzenjammers.


A major strip, George McManus’s Bringing Up Father was the story of an unrepentant blue-collar Mick who struck it rich, and his lace-curtain Irish wife who wanted nothing to do with her own working-class roots or her husband’s rough-edged pals.


Mutt and Jeff creator Bud Fisher was, like McManus, one of the cartoonists who became a celebrity for his work.


As Toonopedia says, Polly and her Pals “became the template for Boots & Her Buddies, Fritzi Ritz and a host of other strips about pretty girls and their flirty adventures.”


Percy Crosby’s Skippy was a fabulously popular strip in its day, but its history has since been dominated by Crosby’s daughter’s crusade to prove that Skippy Peanut Butter made unfair use of the strip’s name and font design.


Elzie Segar was at the helm of Thimble Theater in 1931, and a sailor introduced two years earlier had taken over the 12-year-old strip.

Fontaine Fox’s Toonerville Folks inspired kids’ rides of the famous trolley at a number of amusement parks.


Winnie Winkle the Breadwinner put a popular face on working women, in a strip that was mostly a continuity strip about her difficulties, but, as seen here, had its light moments as well.

Gotta catch a plane. Stay tuned for AAEC/CXC coverage here in the days to come.

9 thoughts on “CSotD: Step back while I step out

  1. Newspapers.com

    It’s a little pricey but good for those who need it or are into tracing family roots

  2. When asked who were influences for him as a cartoonist when he was growing up, Charles Schulz always said first and foremost that it was Percy Crosby. He loved the line work and said he tried hard to imitate it.

  3. “Polly and Her Pals” deserves much more recognition and remembrance than it gets. Your example here isn’t particularly special, but some of Cliff Sterrett’s Sunday pages were works of beauty and high cartooning art, up there with the best of Frank King’s celebrated “Gasoline Alley” or Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” Sundays. Sterrett is one of my top five or six all-time greats and my go-to example of a cartoonist who never got the respect he’s due.

  4. “No swearing”, it says. Can we employ Pogo-style Billingsgate? Rowrbazzle!

    I met the British Punch cartoonist Russell Brockbank, known here for his work in Road & Track. I still owe several of his originals.

  5. @Robb McAllister
    I’m probably too late for you to see this. But archives of many newspapers that carried classic strips are available for free.

    Two main ones are google news
    and Chronicling America

    Google News has several papers with a tun through at least 1969. Here are some:
    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (through at least 1969)
    Pittsburgh Press (through at least 1969)
    (New London, CT) Day (through at least 1969)
    Ottawa (ON) Evening Citizen (through at least 1969)
    Reading (PA) Eagle (through at least 1969)
    (Salt Lake City) Deseret News (through at least 1969)
    San Francisco Call (through at least 1969)
    Sarasota Herald-Tribune (through at least 1969)
    (Spokane) Spokesman-Review (through at least 1969)
    Toledo Blade (through at least 1969)
    Youngstown Vindicator (through at least 1969)
    Newark (NJ) Sunday Call
    Toledo Bee

    Chronicling America has more pre-1923 than after, but here are some papers I’ve found that go at least into the 1930s or 1940s
    (Washington) Evening Star (up to 1963)
    Bismarck (ND) Daily Tribune
    Brownsville (TX) Herald
    Detroit Times
    (El Centro, CA) Imperial Valley Press
    Henderson (NC) Daily Dispatch
    Indianapolis Times

  6. Consider Google News is run by a company that was built on searches, the search function for it is really bad (or maybe it is me).

    I can’t find any way to search on a specific newspaper, or specific dates, which makes it almost useless.

  7. @Hank I agree, the search at the google newspaper archives is pretty close to useless. As a resource for browsing for old comics, though, I find this to be a quite useful.

  8. 11 days late, but I had to ask, is this Ed Mack on Mutt and Jeff?
    I can certainly see how Al Smith who is said to taken over in 1933 was influenced by Mack’s work.

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