Ask the Archivist: TOP COMICS OF 1926
Hello, loyal subjects of the Comics Kingdom,
In today’s excursion into yesteryear’s yucks, we zero in on Sunday, 10 January 1926. On that date, the Hearst comics started an evolutionary change.
For many years, Hearst Sunday offerings would take up a full four-fifths of a page, with a long single panel striding the top, with a sort of editorial comment on the action below. On that day ninety years past, the space was converted into a second, smaller strip, so you’d actually have two for the price of one. A long time ago, a cartoonist of those days, Franklin Osborne Alexander, who worked for one of our long-ago competitors (The Ledger Syndicate) told me that several years after the Hearst top comics made good, his feature (Hairbreadth Harry) had to start having a second feature on the Sunday page as well, “So they could sell it to clients as two strips, and charge more. We still only were paid for one.” One would assume the talent was treated better at King Features, though the increase in actual titles was proudly marketed in the selling of our comics.
Since all of them only lasted a short time, it makes it seem the artists might have been rushed into it. Many eventually just settled on some tried-and-true earlier-created characters to fill the top space, like Swinnerton used Mr. Jack to adorn Little Jimmy, and Segar would bring back Sappo for Thimble Theatre. Only several of our top strips began the top comics that day, what could be regarded as the major titles that would be mainstays of the Hearst chain’s section. The secondary titles like Just Boy, Felix and Freddie the Sheik, would acquire their toppers in the months to follow.
And now, on to our Mail Bag:
To Allan Wood-
Years ago, the Weekly Service didn’t much concern itself with comics; mainly there was a page or two of feature, or rather, non-hard-news photos, short stories and puzzles. Maybe an editorial style cartoon about high prices or the weather might be offered. There were lots of magazine-style items in the same vein as the Hearst chain’s American Weekly Sunday supplement. Same style artwork, same type fonts, etc. The papers I’ve seen that had “Here And There” were smaller city papers that used them without any special place inside.
I think an obvious drawback was that in those smaller venues you’d find such a large size cartoon took up too much space in a low page-count publication.
To Mike Smith-
Yes, the prices for goods seen in old papers can sometimes be breathtaking. It’s hard to believe that once, a two-pound can of coffee went for 54¢, a new model Studebaker sedan went for $810, and postage was 3¢ a letter. But also remember that in 1941, a decent job might bring home only $50 a week.
Yours until the next time,
THE KFS ARCHIVIST.