Featuring Jimmy Swinnerton, Ernie Bushmiller, Fred Opper, and Rose O’Neill
The Many Loves of Jimmy Swinnerton
Jimmy Swinnerton’s life was even zanier than the comic strips he created (including Sam and his Laugh, Professor Nix, Little Katy and her Uncle, Mount Ararat, Mr. Batch, Mr. Jack, Little Jimmy, Canyon Kiddies, The Daydreams of Danny Dawes, and Rocky Mason, Government Marshall.)
Depending on how we count, Swinnerton had somewhere between four and six wives. His biographer claimed that Swinnerton also “had a lady friend hiding behind every sagebrush on the desert,” but let’s confine ourselves to his wives.
Ernie Bushmiller, Married to One Wife and One Comic Strip (more or less)
For Bushmiller, the “snapper”—his term for that final panel that makes you chuckle—was everything. The shorter the mental distance the reader had to travel from the setup panels to the punch line, the better. His strip, he often said, was for “the gum-chewers,” and he encouraged his acolytes and assistants to “dumb it down” at every opportunity. Given the sophistication of his work, “dumb” seems to have meant “simplify.”
During his lifetime, Bushmiller never got the respect paid to his broadsheet-page peers. But among veterans of the counterculture, whose work appeared in alt-weeklies and independent comics, his accomplishments were taken seriously at least as far back as the 1970s.
Frederick Opper, the Classic Cartoonist!
The other day, Andy Konkykru of Andy’s Early Comics Archive sent me some scans of cartoons from Hearst’s Chicago Examiner. They’re too good not to share with you. First up is a batch of cartoons by Frederick Burr Opper…
Rose O’Neill, the First Lady of American Comics
The Sordoni Art Gallery at Wilkes University has an amazing exhibit on the works of cartoonist, illustrator, artist and writer Rose O’Neill. O’Neill, who died in 1944, is credited as the first female cartoonist published in the United States.
O’Neill retained the rights to her creation and made a fortune using them in books as well as advertising for companies like Jell-O. She also did unrelated illustrations for books and magazines like Puck. The exhibit covers the whole range of her illustrated life.
Mike Rhode’s Comics DC presents a review of Sordoni’s Rose O’Neill exhibit by Bruce Guthrie with a link to Guthrie’s more than 500 photos from the exhibit. Plus a revue and link to the Aug. 25 – Oct. 8, 2023 exhibit.