Birmingham Historical Comic Strips -- Birmingham News, The Fifties


In January, Big Sam Houston (part of the They Died with Their Boots On series) was replaced by John Paul Jones. In March, the strip was pulled altogether and replaced by Tom and Jerry, which ran elsewhere in the paper. Popeye was dropped in May, along with some ad space on the comics page, and replaced by a family-based humor strip called The Orbits, thoughtful detective strip Rib Kirby, multimedia star Dixie Dugan, who was a bit long in the tooth by this point, and a big-eyed kid gag strip called Willie Dee.

The Orbits, William Juhre, none listed
Tom and Jerry, Fred Quimby, Loews
Willie Dee, Vic Green, Register and Tribune Syndicate
Dixie Dugan, J. C. McEvoy and J. H. Streibel, McNaught Syndicate
Rip Kirby, Alexander Raymond, King Features Syndicate


In January, Danny Hale was dropped to make room for Pogo. A couple of years ago, there was a BBC radio short series called The Museum of Everything. The series was a compendium of sketches hung together with a loose framework involving your museum guides. Each time the guides would say the words, "Gift Shoppe", there would be this tremendously impressive glissando intended to show that this was clearly the most important thing you would hear all day. The first time Pogo shows up in the newspaper, the microfilm reader makes that noise.

I'll admit that some of this is personal taste. I'm not as fond of the style of humor common through the '20's and early '30's, with its big setup punch lines and character reactions that serve as laugh tracks at times. Then in the mid-30's, the industry moved toward adventure and soap strips, which also don't grab me quite as much as good humor. Although some other strips had appeared by 1951 which are still in the paper today, Pogo really comes across as the first modern humor strip, and it really stands out in context.

At the end of March, The Orbits was dropped to make room for Annie Oakley and Tagg.

Pogo, Walt Kelly, Post-Hall Syndicate
Annie Oakley and Tagg, Bill Ziegler, Mirror Enterprises Syndicate


Tom and Jerry went away in February. Willie Dee went away in November, to be replaced by Judge Parker, who was, not at all by accident, to law what Rex Morgan was to medicine. In December, Annie Oakley went away to be replaced by a historical strip named Louisiana Purchase.

Judge Parker, Paul Nichols, Publishers Syndicate
Louisiana Purchase, John Chase, Chase-New Orleans States


In August, Ozark Ike was dropped to make room for a teen comedy called The Jackson Twins. In September, Louisiana Purchase ran its course and was replaced by a nautical adventure strip called Marlin Keel. In December, Rusty Riley ended and wasn't replaced immediately.

The Jackson Twins, Dick Brooks, none listed
Marlin Keel, George Shedd, Post-Hall Syndicate


1954 was a big year, as the space/readability pendulum swung back toward readability. Several strips were dropped, and the new page layout was interesting, as panels and four-panel square-presented strips were intermingled with horizontal strips in an alternating format that was a bit more distinctive than the usual two-column layout. Dropped during the course of the year were Dixie Dugan, Joe Palooka, The Jackson Twins, and Marlin Keel. Off the Record came back to full-time status, Strictly Business was promoted from occasional appearances on the business page, Dennis the Menace was added, and a new panel called The Girls was added. In addition, in July the author credit for Steve Roper was changed to William Overgard, and, in October, the author credit for Bringing Up Father was dropped.

Strictly Business, Dale McFeatters, Publishers Syndicate
Dennis the Menace, Hank Ketcham, The Hall Syndicate
Off the Record, Ed Reed, Register and Tribune Syndicate
The Girls, Franklin Folger, none listed


In February, Bringing Up Father was dropped to make way for a working-class gag-a-day called Soapy Waters. In April, Buz Sawyer was dropped for something called Mr. Rumbles, which was one of the odder strips I've seen -- think Apartment 3-G with a leprechaun and you get the general idea. In September, Soapy Waters was dropped and replaced by Dondi, the long-running big-eyed kid. In October, Mr. Rumbles made room for Beetle Bailey, who was already in the army by the time he showed up in the News.

Along with that, I'm listing a start date of September 1955 for Marmaduke, although that's a judgment call. From around this time until around the end of 1958, Marmaduke (boy, that's a big dog) would show up in the classified section (where Steve Roper and Rip Kirby had been hanging out since the page redesign in 1954) whenever there was enough space, usually 3-4 times a week.

Soapy Waters, George Stallings, none listed
Mr. Rumbles, Jack Sparling, none listed
Beetle Bailey, Mort Walker, King Features Syndicate
Dondi, Edson and Hasen, Chicago Tribune


Strictly Business went away, more or less (it actually moved back to occasional tiny appearances on the business page) in June, replaced by a teen-boy-featuring panel called Seventeen. The author credit for Rip Kirby was dropped in November.

Seventeen, Bernard Lansky, Mirror Enterprise


A Smokey the Bear strip ran from June through September. In September, a new strip was added with great fanfare called It's Me, Dilly. Done under an alias by Kerry Drake artist Alfred Andriola, it was billed as a working girl humorous soap but was basically cheesecake punctuated with blonde jokes.

Smokey the Bear, Wes Wood, Columbia Features
It's Me, Dilly, Alfred James and Mel Casson, The Bell Syndicate


In September, the much-touted Dilly was replaced by Sky Masters, an astronaut-themed adventure strip drawn by Jack Kirby.

Sky Masters, Kirby Wood, The George Matthew Adams Service


In August, they began to run Gil Thorp on the sports page. In September, they grouped together several panels and small strips that had been running occasionally throughout the news section and built a quarter-page or so section called The Laffin' Place. Included on this were Doctor Bill, Ginger, The Better Half, and Uncle Charlie, along with a couple of unnamed or shiftingly-named panels. All of these were insubstantial gag-a-days. In December, they got rid of Sky Masters and added a neighborhood comedy called Willie Lumpkin.

Doctor Bill,Jack Tippit,General Features
Ginger,Getterman,United Features Syndicate
The Better Half,Bob Barnes,Register and Tribune Syndicate
Uncle Charlie,Peter Laina,The George Matthew Adams Service
Willie Lumpkin,Lee and DeCarlo,none listed

The Sixties

Last Updated: August 22, 2007