After a decade as a struggling cartoonist, minus a couple years as a World War I doughboy, Frank Willard found his meal ticket with a “vulgar” character in the tradition of Mutt and Jeff and, more explicitly, Barney Google (which Willard had spent some time assisting on during those earlier ten years).
Moon Mullins debuted 100 years ago on Tuesday June 19, 1923 trying to be a part of the boxing world.
Moon soon settled into Emmy Schmaltz’s boarding house with other disreputable characters.
At a time of newspapers signing exclusive rights to comics strips for their circulation territory and when even small towns had two newspapers, Moon Mullins became successful as the Barney Google alternative for the competition.
The continuity of schemes and intrigues gave way to gag-a-day strips as the 1940s wore on. While the art became smoother and less complicated as assistant Ferd Johnson began taking on the majority of the cartooning duties.
After Willard’s death in 1958 Johnson would finally be allowed to sign the strip.
Ferd would eventually recruit his son Tom to help on the strip but the handwriting was on the wall as the new wave of comic strips with simpler art and modern sensibilities (Peanuts, B.C., Tumbleweeds) began replacing the old timers. Moon Mullins would end on June 2, 1991, a very respectable 68 year run. Though still too soon for Ferd.
The daily had a proper send off:
The June 2, 1991 Sunday not so much:
One lasting legacy of the strip is what guys with the surname Mullins are certain to be called:
Obituary information for Robert “Moon” Mullins
Obituary for Noah “Moon” Mullins
Gerry “Moon” Mullins reflects on training camp
Moon Mullins’ Barber Shop
Richard Clayton “Moon” Mullins
Hall of Fame inductee Paul ‘Moon’ Mullins
further reading: Chicagology covers the strip from beginning to end.
further reading: The Digital Comic Museum presents 1940s Sunday pages.