Blog: comic strips

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…


Unexpected Comic Strip Creators: Johnny Gruelle

Mr. Twee Deedle, Dolly, and Dickie

This one is a bit different from the previous two unexpected creators, because whereas those two were already famous for other things before becoming involved in comic strips, Johnny Gruelle became famous for something else after he had already been working in comic strips for quite a while.

Gruelle is most famous for creating the children's toys Raggedy Ann and Andy, as well as writing and illustrating storybooks to go along with them. He also wrote and illustrated quite a few other children's books that were not related to Raggedy Ann, including a couple collections of fairy tales. Raggedy Ann was created and patented as a doll in 1915, and she first appeared in Gruelle's books and illustrations in 1918. Andy didn't come along until 1920. Previous to this, however, Gruelle had quite the career as a newspaper cartoonist.

Starting in 1903, he worked at the Indianapolis Star doing political cartoons and caricatures. Around this time he also began work at a couple of newspaper syndicates, the World Color P…


Unexpected Comic Strip Creators - Zane Grey

King of the Royal Mounted

The story of our next unexpected comic strip creator will probably sound similar in many ways to the one I wrote about Dashiell Hammett. In fact, this post would more appropriately be called "Unexpected Comic Strip Bylines", because although Zane Grey was involved in the production of a comic strip for a short while, his name was used to promote it, as well as other products, for quite a long time after he left.

Zane Grey was best known for writing western novels which generally depicted a romanticized version of the Old West, with larger than life cowboy heroes and noble but savage Native Americans. His books were extremely popular, influenced many writers after him, and were adapted into all different types of media, including radio, film, television, and a comic strip. The comic strip began in 1932, and began as an adaptation of his most popular novel, "Riders of the Purple Sage." Seven of his novels were adapted over the course of its two year run, and while Grey himself did not write any of the words…


Unexpected Comic Strip Creators - Dashiell Hammett

For the most part, comic strips are created by people who are mainly known for creating comic strips. The lay person who is not well-versed in comic strip history may not even know the names of the creators of most of the comic strips they read, and if they do know them they don't know them for anything else. There are, however, some comic strips that were created by people who were famous for other, entirely unrelated things. Sometimes this is because they had a personal interest in creating a comic strip and in doing something different from what they had been doing. Other times it's because a newspaper syndicate wanted a big name in order to promote their new feature.

Such is the case with Dashiell Hammett.

Hammett is mainly known for his novels about hard-boiled detectives (a term supposedly coined by Tad Dorgan) such as The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. If you haven't read him, you certainly know the Humphrey Bogart version of his character Sam Spade from the movies. This was popular stuff in the 2…


Comic Strip History - Tad Dorgan

I've written previously, a few times, about language and idioms that first appeared in comic strips. For the most part, cartoonists are known for one or two things that they popularized and which have stayed around for years. Rube Goldberg had his machines, Al Capp had Sadie Hawkins Day, and George McManus had his newlyweds. Some, like Billy DeBeck, have a few more.

Then there's Tad Dorgan.

Dorgan was a cartoonist in the early 20th century who was best known at the time for his sports comic strips, such as "Indoor Sports", as well as his comic strips about dogs, like "Judge Rummy" and "Silk Hat Harry". He always signed his work as "TAD," although those were actually his initials. His real name was Thomas Aloysius Dorgan.

He is also a problem. He's credited, in more than one place, with either coining or popularizing a very large number of phrases and idioms. Some of them have gone out of style, some are still in common usage, and some have gone out of usage and have had a resurgence. As a comic strip hist…

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