1920s Comic Strip Classics

Comic Strip Classics Stamps

During the 1920s, Americans sought escapism by reading comic strips that took them to far-off places via realistic travel scenes. Milton Caniff revitalized newspaper adventure strips with his cinematic graphic techniques and bold, realistic narratives.

Herrman wasn’t required to do much with Krazy Kat (#3000e). He used an image from the 83-page proposal and made it smaller.

Barney Google (#3000i)

Like Mutt and Jeff, Barney Google started out on the sports pages. But it took off when the diminutive hillbilly with big “banjo” eyes, a mustache and bow-legged horse Spark Plug moved to the rural hamlet of Hootin’ Holler.

The strip is responsible for several phrases now in the American vernacular, including sweet mama and heebie-jeebies. But as the popularity of Snuffy Smith grew, Barney was slowly written out.

Little Orphan Annie (#3000j)

In 1924, Gray submitted a strip about an orphan with a rich guardian to the Chicago Tribune syndicate. Initially conceived as a boy, the character was changed to Annie, a rambunctious girl identifiable by her curly red hair.

Annie defied traditional gender stereotypes as she wandered the world battling criminals and corrupt authorities. She eventually made the jump to radio in 1930, appealing directly to children and establishing kids as a new market for products such as Ovaltine.

Toonerville Folks (#3000g)

A clattering trolley line once crisscrossed Pelham, New York, and this was the inspiration for cartoonist Fontaine Fox’s famous strip. His daily look at the quirky folk who lived in Toonerville (and whose rickety trolley car “Meets All Trains” was commanded by The Skipper) inspired movies, books and games.

Fox’s idiosyncratic style, with slight bird’s-eye perspectives and embellished stick figures, made the strip uniquely popular.

Gasoline Alley (#3000h)

With Baby Skeezix’s arrival on Walt Wallet’s doorstep in February of 1921 Gasoline Alley took on familial overtones. King’s clean lines and routine shading suited the strip’s homey, everyday preoccupations.

After King’s death the strip continued under Dick Moores and Jim Scancarelli. Scancarelli’s treatment of the characters is in keeping with King’s approach, but more focused on characterization. It retains the same essential wholesome, small town America ambiance.

Li’l Abner (#3000q)

The strip’s central character, Abner Yokum, was a mean-spirited hillbilly who displayed acid-tongued wit and intolerant of hypocrisy. He faced villains who employed the world’s dumbest gimmicks, including Bomb-Face and a Chippendale chair.

Al Capp’s northeastern accent flavored the dialogue, which featured nonstop “creative spelling” and malapropisms. He also used prompt words to accentuate speech: chuff!, smack!, gasp!, etc.

Terry and the Pirates (#3000r)

A wide-awake American boy, Terry Lee, visits then-contemporary China with his two-fisted reporter pal, Pat Ryan. They meet George Webster “Connie” Confucius, a guide and interpreter.

Other characters include Nasty, a rich heiress who drives Terry crazy; Captain Judas, a debonair criminal who clashes with the heroes several times; and Papa Pyzon, a corpulent crime boss who works for the Axis during World War II.

Nancy (#3000o)

Reuben Lucius Goldberg had an engineering degree but quit to pursue his real passion – cartooning. He created a series of crazy inventions like the one illustrated on this stamp.

Herrman liked the first image he saw for Nancy but wanted her and Sluggo to take up more of the frame. He found a panel that worked perfectly. He had to simplify the background a bit but it looked great.

Flash Gordon (#3000p)

This racy serial about the space hero has influenced countless sci-fi works. For example, George Lucas modeled his Star Wars heroes’ costumes after the Flash Gordon characters.

A washed-up basketball player finds a new purpose in life when he and pretty travel agent Dale Arden wind up on the planet Mongo. There they encounter Emperor Ming and his lusty daughter Princess Aura.

Little Nemo in Slumberland (#3000c)

Unlike other popular comic strips of the time, which featured rambunctious brats wreaking havoc, Nemo was a genteel alternative. This full-page weekly strip, which ran from 1905 to 1914, is considered McCay’s masterpiece.

Its ornate visual architecture, use of color, blending of words and images, and shifting panel size create effects unique to comics. Among these are the sense of voyaging and discovery.

Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye (#3000k)

The strip that introduced readers to the sailor boy made its debut on January 17, 1929. Before Popeye’s introduction the strip revolved around Olive Oyl and her enterprising boyfriend Ham Gravy.

After Segar’s death in 1938, Tom Sims and Bela Zaboly created longer stories for the strip. These strips shared elements of narrative continuity but did not have individual titles. Bud Sagendorf took over the strip in 1959, writing shorter standalone strips and series.

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