Fritzi Ritz was introduced to comics readers of the New York World one hundred years ago – October 9, 1922 – and is still appearing in the funny pages, admittedly as second fiddle to her niece Nancy instead of the star of the comic strip these days. Though on occasion she does get the spotlight.
Though the strip is most closely associated with Ernie Bushmiller it was cartoonist Larry Whittington who created the character. Hogan’s Alley introduces Larry and Fritzi as prelude to posting the 1922 dailies.
Whittington’s work reflected his journeymanlike but undistinguished talent; his Fritzi Ritz was rooted firmly in the idioms of the era. Flapper humor was one of the pop-art signatures of the Jazz Age, and strips showcasing attractive ditzes—notably, written by men working in an industry almost completely bereft of women—were commonplace.
In 1925 Whittington sought fame and fortune with the Hearst organization and left Fritzi. Pulitzer’s Press Publications replaced him with Ernie Bushmiller, a New York World staffer, who would indeed garner fame and fortune as a cartoonist, though not with Fritzi.
Larry’s last signed Fritzi Ritz was May 14, 1925 (Thursday),
Ernie’s first signed Fritzi Ritz was May 18, 1925 (Monday):
You’re guess is as good as anybody’s about the two unsigned strips – Did Press Publ. erase Larry’s name from the 15th and 16th strips? Did they get a New York World bullpen artist to do two strips? Did Ernie Bushmiller do them but not sign them?
Anyway as mentioned above Fritzi didn’t suddenly begin appearing in dozens of newspapers when Ernie took over, although the strip did get a Sunday page in 1929. On October 6 of that year to be exact.
It was in 1933 that Ernie introduced the spark that turned the comic into a best seller.
On January 2, 1933 Nancy moved in with Fritzi and a legend was born.
As with Snuffy Smith and Barney Google, Steve Roper and Chief Wahoo, Winthrop and Morty Meekle, and many others the new character became the star attraction. Within a few years Fritzi was taking a back seat to Nancy and by the end of the decade the daily strip was retitled Nancy (gradually and at different times in different newspapers).
Below, from The Ventura County Star Free-Press, are the dailies from September 9 and 10 of 1938.
Though others would run with the Fritzi Ritz title for years after 1938.
1938 is an important year for another reason – that is the year Nancy got a Sunday page. But the Fritzi Ritz Sunday page continued Nancy having replaced Bushmiller’s Phil Fumble Sunday strip. Fritzi Ritz would continue as a Sunday comic until September 24, 1967 (below) as best as can be determined.
Now, stripped of her own strip, Fritzi continued as a supporting character in Nancy. As time went on Fritzi became a less frequent presence depending on the artist and ghosts doing the Nancy strip. In the mid-1980s Jerry Scott took over and gradually changed the art to a bigfoot style where Fritzi and adults didn’t fit. Once fully Jerry-mandered Fritzi, when she made the strip at all, became an off-panel voice.
When The Gilchrist Brothers, Brad and Guy, were recruited in 1995 to recreate Nancy in a more retro style Fritzi returned in a big (and sexier) way.
And while Gilchrist ended his tenure on the strip with Fritzi marrying Phil, that has been reconned out and a single Fritzi remains a part of today’s Nancy strip, though again back to a supporting character rather than a co-star.
Fritzi Ritz now joins The Weatherbird, Walt and Skeezix Wallet and Olive Oyl and Barney Google and Ginger Meggs as characters continuing to appear in new episodes a century after their debuts.
The longest running newspaper comics with at least 100 years of new strips now stands at
The Weatherbird 1901 – present
The Katzenjammer Kids 1897 – 2006
Gasoline Alley 1918 – present
Champs and Chumps/Ripley’s Believe It or Not 1918 – present
Barney Google and Snuffy Smith 1919 – present
Thimble Theatre/Popeye 1919 – present
Ginger Meggs 1921 – present
Fritzi Ritz/Nancy 1922- present
The next centennial is Blondie which began on September 8, 1930.