Foo a Little Ballyhoo

We’ll be back in this space later in June with a fourth offering of rarely-seen artwork from the Iron Gate 25th Anniversary volume. Meanwhile, we’ve recently found some other pieces we think you’ll find interesting …

In the heyday of comic strips the launch of a new feature in one’s hometown newspaper was often Big News, and it was not unusual to see prominently-placed advertisements promoting the rookie addition to the cartoon lineup. Here, in chronological order of their debuts, are the greetings a half-dozen LOAC favorites received in their nascent days:

An ad for America’s Spunkiest Kid from 1924, when when her story appeared in only the New York Daily News “Pink Edition.” In those days the Daily News published multiple editions each day; the “Pink Edition,” or “bulldog,” was the day’s final release, typically hitting the streets around 9:00 PM and costing two cents. Sports fans were especially devoted to the “Pink Edition” because it carried the late baseball scores in a time when the St. Louis Cardinals were the most westwardly-located team in the major leagues! Annie, of course, graduated from the “Pink Edition” to full syndication and became one of the so-called “crown jewels” of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate.
One year later, the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Telegraph announced the arrival of Skippy to its comic strip roster. Notice how, in the Telegraph‘s eagerness to include a mention of Skippy’s prior appearances in then-best-selling Life magazine, the tone of the promotion shifts from “You don’t know Skippy?” to “You’ve seen him countless times in … Life …” No one ever said a ballyhoo had to be internally consistent!

Miss Boopadoop earned this full-column vertical ad circa 1930 in the Danville, Virginia Bee, the sister paper of the above-mentioned Register, where Blondie would be featured. Given the way Blondie’s popularity would eventually explode, Danvillites (a more flattering reference than “Danvillians,” we’re sure you’ll agree!) were getting in on the ground floor of a good thing. Today, the paper is still being produced, merged as the Danville Register & Bee and continuing a publishing record that began in 1896.

The second of the CT-NYN Syndicate’s “crown jewels” is represented here, with a full-page New York Daily News ad from December, 1931 touting the arrival of the Dick Tracy Sunday page. Tracy’s familiar overcoat earned its yellow coloring in the Sundays, and by 1990 it was so cemented in the public consciousness that it served as a centerpiece for marketing Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy motion picture.
We close with two promos from that greatest of all years for newspaper comics, 1934. This lush Thursday, February 8th ad in the Scranton, Pennsylvania Times promoted the then-highly-promotable Dashiell Hammett as the writer of the new Secret Agent X-9 feature, and provides a mention of artist Alex Raymond. almost as an afterthought.
And we tag out eight months later, as the Chicago Tribune devotes almost a full page to provide readers with an advance look at the first six days of Milton Caniff’s spanking-new Terry and the Pirates. Growing in popularity and prestige almost constantly during its twelve-plus years under Caniff’s stewardship, Terry quickly became CT-NYN’s third “crown jewel” — and in 2007 became the first-ever LOAC release!

A final note about the title of this posting — the “ballyhoo” refers to the promotional nature of these six advertisements, and yes, “Foo” is a nonsense word originally coined by madcap Bill Holman in his delightful comic strip Smokey Stover, but in this case I snagged the entire title from an early-1940s song title by one of the 20th Century’s great showmen, Cabell “Cab” Calloway. And thanks to the miracles of modern technology, you can see a “Soundie” of Cab and some of his orchestra members performing the song right here. Hi-de-hi-de-hi!

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