2-D Celebrities

    I thought today we might just glance at three celebrities who can be remembered by heir postcards.  Each was responsible for a lot more cultural baggage than that: bits of our language, tie-in merchandise, musical history, and all that.  But even at that, they are nowhere NEAR as big as once they were.

    E.F. Outcault was looking for fame: it helped make his case.  One of the first successful; cartoonists (The Yellow Kid, considered by many to be the first American comic strip, was his) and he was also the one of the first cartoonists to go to court to discuss whether the characters je created belonged to him or to the newspaper he worked for.  His plans did not involve a lot of sharing with the newspapers.

    When he had his next hit with Buster Brown, he went all out.  No one had really explored the paths into merchandising that he mapped: both Buster Brown and Tige, his dog, were seen on dozens of different products, of which the Buster Brown shoes were the longest lived.  Outcault was not blind to the appeal of postcards, either, and advertised his lectures with cards people would recognize even if they didn’t recognize his name.

    Buster Brown, though it may be difficult to see here, was considered wildly cute by dozens of readers, an everyday boy who, despite the advice of Tige, would get into trouble every day, and generally wind up getting spanked, finishing the strip off with a half-mock explanation of why he deserved the spanking.  He’d do things differently today.

    Also cute, and also constantly in trouble was F. Burr Opper’s happy Hooligan.  His antics made the word “hooligan” a part of the national lingo, and made him one of the first comic strips adapted to live action movies (though Charles “Bunny” Schulze’s Foxy Grandpa beat him to that). 

His outfit even made a popular Halloween costume, as seen here..

    Even his side characters got into the act, with Alphonse and Gaston and their odd insistence that the other go first, entered the language as well.  So did one of their other running gags, their habit of crying out “Oh, would that I had remained in dear old Ottawa, Illinois!” or “How I desire at once to be transported to that lovely old Dundee, Iowa!” when confronted by angry lions or pursuing police, or both.  This habit weas immortalized in the song “Oh, How I wish I was in Peoria!”

    Cuteness and mischief being key, there was no doubt that Bonzo would hit it big.  At first a character acter in the full-page cartoons of George Studdy, he branched out into animated cartoons (perhaps beating Feliz the Cat to the punch.”  From his debut around 1922, he provoked choruses of “Awwww!” from all who beheld him.

    Exactly what breed of dog Bonzo is remains a mystery, though both bull terrier and pug have been suggested.  Bonzo figurines, Bonzo Dog Food, and Bonzo place settings were available throughout the civilized world.

    He also inspired any number of cartoonists to produce Almost-Bit-Not-Quite Bonzo cartoons.  And anyone who remembers off-the-wall rock group The Bonzo Dog Doo=Dah band (“Urban Spaceman”) will know just how far cuteness will carry a character.

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