Monday, June 28, 2010

Only Ribbing

Tuesday Comc Strip Day

The fifties and sixties are full of shortlived comic strips no one remembers. Some of them are flops, that fizzled out after a year or so. Some ran for decades and still have left no footprint on the landscape of memory. One of those is Dave Gerard's Will-Yum, which I have shown here some time ago, which seems to have been overtaken by Dennis the Menace in the national consciousnous. Others were maiden efforts by cartoonists who found fame later on, like the eleven year daily cartoon series by Bud Blake (before he developed Tiger) or Mel Lazerus' daily panel Li'l Ones. Some strips have been hindered by the blandness of their later years. Frank O'Neill's Short Ribs seems to have suffered from having been just not good enough. Interesting enough to have run for over twenty years, this daily strip with gags set in different ages centered not around a recognizable set of characters, but around the jokes. Every gag seems to have consisted of two characters walking around in the Wild West, the Middle Ages, on the Moon, In Russia and other set pieces, exchanging jokes. Although most of the settings returned with alarming frequency, no characters ever emerged. No characters means no licnecing and that means there are no other ways for the strip to have gotten famous. Some creators say the development of durable characters is what seperates the good strips from the bad, but I am sure the licensing factor is just as important. After all, it's Snoopy most people know from Peanuts, not the mellow life view of it's creator as shown in his daily jokes. This has lead to the fallacy that all a good strip needs is characters and I disagree. Characters is what brings the audience to the strips. But good jokes, well drawn slapstick and a noticable point, is what makes the strip last. Then again, there is no joke like a good character joke...

So Short Ribs is not the best strip I have ever shown here. But it is deserving of more attention than it has been geting over the last decades. It started in November 1958 and ran at least until well nto the seventies. I lost track after that. I am starting with the first week and ending with some much later Sundays.


Mat Barton said...

Thanks for sharing this strip. I really enjoy reading the comic strips you're able to dig up. These drawings and colors are really nice. The gags are pretty tiresome, but it's still a fun read. Cheers!

Bhob said...

I think the diversity of characters was the premise. What they had it common was that they were short.

Mike Peters is a wildly funny cartoonist. O'Neal never makes it to the Peters plateau. His gags somehow seem predictable or pointless. Loud snow? A car that goes to the top of the hill and then rolls back?