Screwball Sunday: George Herriman and Stumble Inn

Welcome to Screwball Sunday. Here you can get your weekly fix of absurdist-driven comic strip comedy. Each post will share new art and information related to Screwball! The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. In a recent podcast episode devoted to a discussion of screwball comics, cartoonist Noah Van Sciver (Blammo, The Hypo, Fante Bukowski) asked me if I thought George Herriman’s art was influenced by the time he spent in the 1920s in a guest office at the Hal Roach film studio in Culver City, California.

Today’s page, almost certainly created at the Hal Roach studio, is a good demonstration of the probable influence of film techniques on Herriman’s art. The eye-catching third tier close-up sequence is very cinematic and unusual for this period in newspaper comics.  While single-panel close-ups are not so hard to find, an integrated multi-panel sequence of them is much rarer.

Each of the Stumble Inn Sundays has a thin banner of bonus Herriman art at the top. Due to space and format reasons, these are cropped from Screwball!’s 16-page reprint section of this never-before reprinted and little-seen strip. Today’s example of the unrestored page includes the wonderful original banner art, showing the industrious butler bug Wilfrid using a toothbrush to scrub off what appears to be a painted-on tie on his master’s suit.

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