Sunday, June 14, 2015

Digging For Oil

Saturday Leftover Day.

So many great strips, so little time.

I have been looking into the beginnings of E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre. That alerted me to the fact that in 1916 he is supposed to have done the Charlie Chaplin Comic Capers strip for the Hearst company. I found two notices of it online. One (Wikipedia) saying he started on March 12 (On March 12, 1916, the Herald published Segar's first comic, Charlie Chaplin's Comedy Capers, which ran for a little over a year) and one (Lanbiek's Comiclopedia) that mentions February (Segar, who had no formal art training, was hired by the Herald as the artist of the daily 'Charlie Chaplin's Comedy Capers' strip, which he drew from 28 February until 15 July 1916. His run on the Sunday strip lasted longer, from 12 March 1916 till 16 September 1917).

After looking myself I found all sorts of samples of this strip in various papers, going back to late 1915. Most were not signed and those that were had a different name on it, Carothers. After that, there is another quite competent artist, who doesn't sign at all. His run seems to go through the supposed starting date of Segar's version. There is a gap in April-May, but the in the end of June a new artist appears, who starts out as a rather poor imitation of Bringing Up Father's George McManus, but sometimes signs as ECSegar, our Elzie.

Now, people more suited than I to this time period have probably researched this more completely. In fact, Allen Holtz wrote this about it: "The great E.C. Segar (creator of Popeye, dontcha know) started his career doing some rank amateur work on the comic strip Charlie Chaplin's Comic Capers. That was for the Chicago Herald's J. Keeley Syndicate in 1916-17. His work was really awful -- there's just no nicer way to describe it. It was so bad it managed to kill a comic strip starring the most popular entertainer in the world -- that's pretty darn bad." Which probably is why he didn't show any samples. I am sure he has the real dates as well.

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