Blog: comic strips

Comic Strip History: The Teddy Bear

"Drawing the Line in Mississippi"

While I've previously written about political cartoons coining political words, like Gerrymander and McCarthyism, it isn't the only kind of word that political cartoons have been known to originate. Oddly enough, not only have political cartoonists gone on to create children's toys, but in the case of the teddy bear, a cartoonist was the inspiration for a toy craze that continues to this day.

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, known to most as "Teddy," travelled to Mississippi to settle a border dispute between that state and Louisiana. As a gesture of goodwill, and knowing the president's love of hunting wild game, the governor of Mississippi organized a black bear hunt. It lasted for a few days, but during that time Roosevelt was unable to find any bears himself. The hunting guides had been tracking a bear cub with their dogs for two days, and were finally able to catch and restrain it. Since the president hadn't been able to find any himself, and they wanted him to have a successful hunt, they brou…

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Comic Strip History: McCarthyism

Herblock's McCarthyism cartoon

As we've seen with the Gerrymander, it seems that words coined in relation to politics have incredible staying power, especially when describing things that politicians continue to do. Associating an image with a word, as is done with political cartoons, also helps to cement it in people's minds. It also helps a great deal if the word refers to a particular well-known person. Such is the case with another political buzzword, McCarthyism.

While for some the word only brings to mind a particular time and place, it's still used by many today to describe certain undesirable political tactics. It generally refers to a political attack or character assassination of a political rival by means of wild, unsubstantiated claims about them. The man who lent his name to the word was Republican senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, who in the 1950s claimed to have an extensive list of people in the US government who were communist infiltrators. This led to large scale investigations of his claim, which never bore any f…

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Comic Strip History: The Gerrymander

The Gerrymander

Words continue to be widely used as long as they remain relevant and useful. Since redistricting solely for party advantage, also known as gerrymandering, is still quite the common practice, the word remains with us and will most likely remain for the forseeable future. The word is not as old as the practice it describes, but it does go all the way back to an 1812 newspaper illustration.

The story goes that members of the Democratic-Republican party in the Massechussetts legislature drafted a redistricting proposal which created a winding, snaking district map. Upon seeing this map, either at a dinner party or in the office of a newspaper editor, the creator of the illustration added a mouth, feet, wings, and a tail to it, creating a picture of a dragon-like monster. Someone remarked that it looked like a bit like a salamander, added Gerry's name in front of it, and the term "gerrymander" was born. The resulting illustration was printed in the Boston Gazette in late March, and was later widely distributed…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Bob Kane

The Little Major by Bob Kane

For many years, I've relied on a blog called The Stripper's Guide, written by Allan Holtz, for much of my information on very obscure and unknown comic strips. Most times, when I'm researching various comic strips or creators, things that I find there can generally also be found in at least one or two other places online. Unfortunately, in the case of Bob Kane, I must rely solely on the information from The Stripper's Guide, because it seems to be the only place on the open Internet that any solid information can be found on the newspaper comic strips he created.

Bob Kane was the artist and co-creator, along with Bill Finger, of the comic book character Batman. Kane drew the Batman newspaper strip for three years, starting in 1943, and that's fairly well known. While writers and artists behind comic books didn't always work on the newspaper strips with their characters in them, it wasn't unheard of. Certainly nothing about that is obscure or unexpected. Going a bit deeper, Kane also worked on some project…

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Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Joe Kubert

Tales of the Green Beret

Fans of mainstream comic books will no doubt be familiar with the name Kubert from one place or another. Younger readers may be familiar with either Andy or Adam Kubert and their comic book work, and older readers will most likely know of Joe Kubert, their father, and his extensive contributions to the medium. It's possible, however, that they may not be aware of Kubert's history with newspaper comics, and especially how extensive it is.

Tales of the Green Beret

Joe Kubert is probably best known for his work on war comics with characters such as Sgt. Rock and The Haunted Tank, his Silver Age revival of Hawkman, or his work on various DC Comics titles over his 70 year career. He's also fairly well known for founding the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, located in Dover, New Jersey. The school boasts some fairly famous and successful alumni, and is still in operation.

Interestingly, the school's mascot, Tor, is actually a comic book character that Kubert originally created for the St. John Publishing Company, and wh…

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