Thursday, May 10, 2018
Obscurity of the Day: Roger Bean, Revisited
|First Roger Bean comic strip, April 22 1913|
It's a decade later, and that post has accrued a number of pretty interesting comments, some of which rightly take me to task for errors and omissions. Now that the Indianapolis Star is available through newspapers.com, its about time for me to make some corrections, and while I'm at it, pass along some of the heartfelt eulogies that ran in the Star when Jackson suddenly died in 1934 (come back on Monday for that post).
Some new and corrected info. Warning, number three is a doozy if you are a Gasoline Alley fan:
1) I then said that I could find no trace of there ever being a Roger Bean Coffee. Since then I have indeed found that the coffee brand did exist, and seems to have debuted on store shelves in late 1915. The coffee brand, which was local to Indiana, ceases to be advertised in early 1923.
2) I said that the strip ended on September 23 1933, based on the run in the Chicago Daily News. Turns out that the strip ran in its home paper and a few syndicated outlets right through Jackson's death, and ended with the last strips he'd completed on the day of his death. The final strip actually ran on June 23 1934.
|The final Roger Bean strip, June 23 1934|
3) I said a decade ago that I saw no evidence that characters aged in Roger Bean, though legend had it that they did. Since then several correspondents have told me that it is indeed true that characters aged in the strip. Now here I go again possibly putting my foot in my mouth, but my impression is that Jackson aged the children in the strip, but the adults pretty much stayed the same age. Nevertheless, I stand corrected that characters did indeed age in Roger Bean.
Aging characters was thought to be an innovation created in Gasoline Alley, but evidently Frank King was not the first to come up with that idea. That, however, is not the only parallel between Gasoline Alley and Roger Bean. And here it gets a bit uncomfortable. The Bean's first child, Woody, was an orphan that they found in a basket on their doorstep in the middle of the night. In 1914.
I'm not going to say it, but now we're all thinking it. My admiration for Frank King knows no bounds, but this is very unsettling. Evidently Jackson was too nice a guy to make a public issue of it, but ...
|Woody arrives on the doorstep, December 25 1914|
|Gasoline Alley, February 14 1921|
To give an idea of its staying power, "Pearls Before Swine" sometimes has the cartoonist trying to wheedle into his wife's good graces by presenting himself as a doorstep baby.