Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Dr. Seuss

Hejji, by Dr. Seuss

To be fair, this one isn't quite as unexpected as the last three, but the newspaper comic strip he created is obscure enough that I thought it was important to cover.

Dr. Seuss is, of course, mainly known for his work in children's literature, but much like Johnny Gruelle he got his start in cartooning and illustration. He began as a magazine cartoonist, and his cartoons first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post and in the humor publication Judge. He also did quite a few advertising illustrations for Standard Oil, NBC, General Electric, and others. His first book, "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street," was published in 1937. He did quite a lot of political cartooning during World War II, and after the war he would begin his children's book career in earnest. However, in between all of this, for a period of less than a year, he wrote and illustrated a mostly forgotten newspaper comic strip called "Hejji."

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot written about Hejji anywhere, either on the internet or in books. Biographies I've read of Dr. Seuss don't even spend very much time discussing it. It's tragic, because Hejji is beautiful to look at and very fun to read.

The strip began in April 1935 as a Sunday feature, and only ran until June of that year. Hejji, the title character, seems to be some kind of Middle Eastern traveller who arrives in the mysterious land of Baako. While there, he meets the ruler of the land, The Mighty One, and goes on a few adventures with him. While more of an adventure strip than a comedy or gag strip, it does blur the line with its absurd situations, characters, and locations. It would also prove fertile ground for ideas and images that Seuss would use in his later work. It includes some very familiar looking elephants, some turtles stacked on top of each other, and eggs being hatched by those who do not normally do so. The art is in the wonderful style one would expect from Seuss, and his dialogue balloons and lettering add a bubbly flair to it all. It really is a joy to behold.

Beholding it, however, has become a bit difficult. It's never been collected and reprinted by itself, though it does exist in a collection called "The Golden Treasury of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics," though that book is currently out of print. The editor, Craig Yoe, had posted some scans on his website, the blog of the International Team of Comics Historians (ITCH), but that website doesn't seem to exist any longer. Thankfully, you can still take a look using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, which is how I was finally able to do so. The title of the blog post says "Part One," though from what I gather the strips posted there are the entirety of the run. You'll notice that the strip appears to end right in the middle of the story, but it seems that's because King Features Syndicate cancelled the strip quite abruptly. I guess we'll never know what happened.

For more information:

Hejji at Toonopedia

Dr. Seuss at Comiclopedia

Chris Sims writes about Hejji at Comics Alliance

Read Hejji at the ITCH blog, courtesy of the Internet Archive

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