A Fantasy Comics Page for The Holiday That Gets No Respect

Comics creators sometimes gave nods to the calendar in their ongoing newspaper strips. Year-in and year-out, many comics did special installments of their features to commemorate Christmas and, a week later, the farewell to the old year and the welcoming of its successor. Comics with a strong streak of patriotism saluted holidays like Independence Day, Armed Forces Day, and for a time, V-E and V-J Days.

But Groundhog Day? Fuhgedaboudit. The comics trade showed no love to that special early February day when millions of hearty northerners, fatigued by battling weeks of the subzero cold, ice, and snow that Ole Man Winter loves to dish out, looked to the humble groundhog for a sign that spring might soon be on its way. An event that has its roots in the 19th Century and is worthy of being marked on each year’s new calendars never seemed to excite the cartoonists who offered readers their daily dose of excitement and humor.

What did comic strips offer their audiences on that day when the woodchuck was acclaimed for something other than chucking wood? We thought you’d never ask — so, just for you, we prepared this fantasy comics page from February 2, 1935 …

As always in these fantasy pages, we try to combine a mixture of old favorites and more esoteric strips, and this one is no different. In addition to installments of The Bungle Family and Skippy (look for Volume 4 in our series reprinting Percy Crosby’s groundbreaking creation in the months ahead!), we’re serving a helping of Wally Bishop’s Muggs McGinnis, only a year before he renamed the series Muggs and Skeeter. Note how Bishop called attention to his residence in St. Petersburg, Florida; it was located near the home of another famed cartoonist, Barney Google‘s Billy DeBeck.

Artist Fred Locher (1886-1943) is on hand with an installment of his story-strip, Homer Hoopee. Having formerly done Cicero Sapp for the New York World throughout much of the 1920s, Locher launched Homer on March 17, 1930 and produced it until his death, after which the series continued under the guidance of other hands. Sid Smith’s popular soap opera The Gumps features rich Uncle Bim and Millie off to rub elbows with high society, leaving a certain kind of green salve to ease the pain of Millie’s poor Mama, whose injury prevents her attending. (Mama was poked in the eye by a doorknob when Bim unexpectedly opened  the door — surely she couldn’t have been snooping, could she?) Venerable Mutt and Jeff are represented, using a gag that would continue to get big laughs for decades in various Looney Tunes cartoons and TV comedy/variety show sketches.

We’ve also provided examples of Coulton Waugh’s Dickie Dare (mentioning in passing that some newspapers continued to credit the strip to Milton Caniff, even though Waugh was clearly signing his work each day!), a very nice Alley Oop, fun with Felix the Cat, and a wonderful, wonderful E.C. Segar Thimble Theater (commemorating the fact that I’m currently in the midst of re-reading Segar’s brilliant Popeye work). Now here’s the kicker: you’ll be seeing more — much more — of one of these strips in this space in the days to come! Keep clicking our way for a sizable dose of … well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

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