Birmingham Historical Comic Strips -- Birmingham News, The Thirties

The thirties were a tumultous time for the News' comics page, just as they were for the rest of the country. Whether in response to the events of the Depression and the gathering clouds of war in Europe and the Pacific, or just because of a new sense of direction in the industry, gag-a-day strips became less common and serial strips, whether adventure or soap opera, became much more commonplace.

1930: No changes.

1931: The only change for the year was that Bringing Up Father's copyright changed to King Features Syndicate in late December.

1932: The big change in direction began Valentine's Day, which fell on a Sunday that year. Mutt and Jeff, which had been in the paper since around 1915, and Rube Goldberg's Goldberg Says were dropped, and three new strips debuted:

Tillie the Toiler, Russ Westover, King Features Syndicate
Bound to Win, Edwin Alger, The Bell Syndicate
Pam, W. L. Brewerton, A. W. Brewerton

In April, a fourth new strip was added:

The Nebbs, Sol Hess, The Bell Syndicate

At this time, way back in 1932, the battle for real estate on the comics page, with the concomitant tradeoffs between strip size and number, began. Before this point, the paper had always run six strips on the comics page, with any additional strips running on other pages in the paper. The six strips filled the page top to bottom and filled about the right two-thirds of the page. The move to seven strips in 1932 was handled by reducing the vertical size by roughly 1/7, which did distort the imagery by a bit. When The Nebbs was added, it was first placed on a separate page, but soon they moved it to the comics page and handled the problem by returning everything to its proper aspect ratio and using the new horizontal space to move the titles and author listings to the end of the strips rather than between strips.

Additionally, in February, the copyright for Polly and Her Pals changed to King Features Syndicate.

1933: In September, they added a new strip, running separately in the paper:

"Dan Dunn, Secret Operative No. 48", Norman Marsh, Publishers Syndicate

1934: At the end of 1933, they dropped Barney Google and Toots and Casper and replaced them with these two:

Popeye, E. C. Segar, King Features Syndicate
Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, Walt Disney Enterprises

Mickey went into the vertical stack on the comics page, which placed seven strips in that list. The titles were moved back to between strips, and the horizontal size was kept the same, which reduced the amount of page that the stack took to about 60%. Popeye ran in a square format, generally 2x2 panels, along part of the left side of the page. Dan Dunn, who looked remarkably like Dick Tracy, stayed elsewhere in the paper for now.

In April, Pam was replaced by this:

Joe Palooka, Ham Fisher, McNaught Syndicate

In November, Bound to Win was replaced by a different (or renamed; it's hard to tell with Alger) Edwin Alger strip called Ben Webster's Career.

1935: In February, The Nebbs was replaced:

Apple Mary, Martha Orr, Publishers Syndicate

1936: In May, Polly and Her Pals ended its long run and was replaced by Henry, while an FBI strip called War on Crime began to run above Popeye in a square format. In addition, a sports panel called Time Out! began to run on or around the sports page:

Henry, Carl Anderson, King Features Syndicate
Time Out!, Chet Smith, Publishers Syndicate
War on Crime, Rex Collier, Ledger Syndicate

In November, War on Crime was replaced by a humor strip:

Big Chief Wahoo, Saunders and Woggon, Publishers Syndicate

At some point during '36, Dan Dunn crowded into the comics page, leaving eight strips in the vertical stack. This was mostly accomplished because improved printing techniques had increased readability to the point where the between-strips margins could be reduced.

1937: No changes.

1938: Proving, perhaps, that synergy goes back a long way before the MBA became virulent, in September Apple Mary was replaced by a working girl soap called Jane Arden. This was accompanied by several articles on the casting search for the actress who would play Jane in the soon-to-be-made film version (the film was finally released in 1939 to moderate critical acclaim). By Christmas, Jane was gone and Mary was back, now listed as Apple Mary and Dennie:

Jane Arden, Monte Barrett and Russell Ross, Register and Tribune Syndicate
Apple Mary and Dennie, Martha Orr, Publishers Syndicate

1939: In August, Ben Webster's Career finally took off, to be replaced by Blondie:

Blondie, Chic Young, King Features Syndicate

In October, the creator's credit for Popeye was dropped; the space was left blank.

In December, Apple Mary and Dennie became Mary Worth's Family. There's some dispute, well covered in the Toonopedia entries for the two strips, about whether this was a renaming or a replacement. The syndicate stayed the same. The artist changed. Mary Worth looked an awful lot like Apple Mary, but then Dan Dunn looked an awful lot like Dick Tracy. The storylines changed a lot, but Apple Mary was very much a Depression strip about suffering, so it had to change. The syndicate claimed it was a new strip:

Mary Worth's Family, Dale Allen, Publishers Syndicate

The Forties

Last Updated: June 6, 2007