1995 32¢ Comic Strip Classics
- Third sheet in the Classic Collection Series
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Series: Classic Collections
Value: 32¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: October 1, 1995
First Day Cities: Boca Raton, Florida
Quantity Issued: 300,000,000
Printed by: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Panes of 20 in sheets of 120
Perforations: 10.1 x 10.2
Why the stamps were issued: The Comic Strip Classics sheet was the third issue in the Classic Collection Series. There was push to create a stamp to honor American comics as early as the 1960’s, but didn’t get real consideration until 1993. With the 100th anniversary of the comic The Yellow Kid, a comic committee, and an 83-page proposal the USPS finally agreed.
About the stamp designs: Even though only one stamp was approved, Terrence McCaffrey, head of stamp design, thought there was no way to honor American Comics with one single stamp. Therefore, he had a list of all proposed stamps and had Carl Herrman, art director, mock up a sheet of 20 stamps. McCaffrey wanted all the stamps to be taken from original panels by their respected artist. Herrmann worked on going through thousands of panels to find comics of the 20 chosen that showed the central theme of the comic in one panel with clean lines. Then with the help of American Color, that colorizes most of the comics in American newspapers, he was able to colorize them with accurate color choices, even those that were outdated.
The Yellow Kid (#3000a) – Herrman found a panel that he wanted to use, but it was rather busy. He was able to remove the very action-packed background and leave just the main character holding on to his dog with a cloud of smoke.
The Katzenjammer Kids (#3000b) – This was one of the only stamps that had to be redrawn for the stamp. Herrman got in touch with John Dirks, son of Rudolph Dirks who was the original artist for the strip, and he agreed to draw the strip in his father’s style. John Dirks used to help his father draw and is a professional cartoonist himself.
Little Nemo in Slumberland (#3000c) – Since the comic strips had such fine line and lots of detail it was hard to get everything into a small stamp and have it still translate. Since each strip ends with the boy waking up upon falling out of bed, it was decided that this would be the image for the stamp. This worked well especially since the name is long and had to have room to be legible.
Bringing Up Father (#3000d) – Sometimes there are certain aspects of a comic that must be included to do it justice. That is just what happened here for Bringing up Father. Mort Walker, creator of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois who had been campaigning the US Postal service since the 1960’s for cartoon recognition, thought that Jiggs in the cartoon should be wearing his silk hat. He also thought Maggie should be portrayed in a more positive manner. Herrman had to go with something else, but found a perfect solution which depicted this cartoon in the exact way it should.
Krazy Kat (#3000e) – This stamp image was one that came directly from the 83-page proposal. Much wasn’t needed to turn this design into a winner. It was simplified a touch and Herrman added a heart to symbolize Krazy Kat’s unrequited love, but that was all.
Rube Goldberg’s Inventions (#3000f) – This was another image that was in the proposal and worked to best illustrate a complicated device or procedure that complicates that action. There was a Goldberg panel that was titled “Professor Butts’ Simple Appliance for Putting Postage Stamps on Envelopes,” but the image wouldn’t work on a small scale.
Toonerville Folks (#3000g) – The image used for this stamp was Fontaine Fox’s famous Toonerville Trolley. Herrman shortened the rope to which the anchor is attached to keep it all in frame.
Gasoline Alley (#3000h) – Since the setting was usually a garage, Herrman wanted to make sure there was a car depicted. After getting advice that the characters should faces should be seen, he found a panel that worked perfect. However, the comic was in black and white and Herrman had to search through dozens of Sunday comics to find the color of the car.
Barney Google (#3000i) – The panel finally found for this stamp, Herrman said, “it was almost as if it was made for the stamp format.” It was everything they needed to capture all the importance of Barney Google.
Little Orphan Annie (#3000j) – Rich Marshall, the leading consultant on the project due to his extensive knowledge and collection of cartoons and comic strips, supplied the comic for this stamp. Herrman liked the way a different panel was illustrated, but the one Marshall supplied was the favorite with everyone else.
Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye (#3000k) – This pane of Popeye wasn’t drawn by the original artist, Segar, it was drawn by his assistant, Forrest C. (Bud) Sagendorf. Carl Herrman tried to find an original pane with the same action and clean lines, but couldn’t. Finally, he decided to go with the Sagendorf illustration. This is the only stamp that puts the USA 32 in the illustration and in different font. The font they chose was cartoon.
Blondie (#3000l) – It was a definite that this stamp was going to picture the usual Dagwood colliding with Mr. Beasley the mailman. The first attempt showed Dagwood running off after colliding, but they wanted him more front and center. The moment of impact was decided on with all characters the central part of the design.
Dick Tracy (#3000m) – There were no other option even considered except showing Dick Tracy with his “two-way wrist TV.” This was the last image that was taken pretty much exactly from the proposal.
Alley Oop (#3000n) – Was another easy image. There were some changes that needed to be made to get approval from Newspaper Enterprise Association, the controlling syndicate, but was only that Alley Oop be the large central image. All the illustrations that were given to USPS for consideration had great artwork and strong lines according to Carl Herrman. This is the only stamp with the 32 in white.
Nancy (#3000o) – Even though everyone loved the first concept of Nancy and her sick-kick, Sluggo, wearing one pair of dark sunglasses, it didn’t fully take up the frame. To utilize the stamp space better another image was chosen. Colors were changed to reflect the current color pallet of the comic. This is the only stamp that has the name going vertical up the side of the stamp.
Flash Gordon (#3000p) – This is the only stamp that has someone other than the main character front and center. Instead, Flash Gordon appears more in the background on a round screen. An original was decided upon instead of one that had to be redrawn.
Li’l Abner (#3000q) – The image chosen for this stamp was taken from a book of 1943 strips published by Kitchen Sink Press – the complete Li’l Abner. Carl Herrman centered the image and changed Daisy-Mae’s blouse to the original color.
Terry and the Pirates (#3000r) – It was hard for Carl Herrman, who admired this comic since childhood, to find a panel that would work for a stamp. He finally settled on a panel in which not much had to be done besides shrinking the title and moving the jet over a bit.
Prince Valiant (#3000s) – Carl Herrman used two panels to achieve the right design for this stamp. He wanted Prince Valiant’s features to be seen and not hidden under a helmet like his first idea. The banner on the comics that say “In the days of King Arthur,” Herrman wanted to include, but it the words were lost when shrunk to stamp size, so it was left off.
Brenda Starr, Reporter (#3000t) – The first purposed design showed Brenda on her bed crying with a man standing in the back. This was nixed due the indication of abuse. The Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) said she was a reporter and should be shown in a newsroom or something. So, the image shown on the stamp replaced the other. Herrman took out one of the characters from the background and Tribune Media Services, the strip’s syndicate made him change out her head and then it was done.
Special design details: There is a spelling errors on the back of the stamp pane on the Little Orphan Annie stamp. Close to the end of the paragraph the word “indispensable” is misspelled “indispensible.”
About the printing process: In order to include the text on the back of each stamp, it had to be printed under the gum, so that it would still be visible if a stamp was soaked off an envelope. Because people would need to lick the stamps, the ink had to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as non-toxic. The printer also used an extra-fine 300-line screen, which resulted in some of the highest-quality gravure stamp printings in recent years.
History the stamps represent:
The Yellow Kid
Although comic panels and caricatures had appeared earlier in Britain and elsewhere, it is American R.F. Outcault who is regarded as the “Founding Father of the Comic Strip.” His strip Hogan’s Alley, which made its debut in February 1895 in the New York World, is generally considered to be the first American comic strip.
Originally begun as a single panel depicting New York slums in all their squalor, the strip featured a number of lowlife characters, including “The Yellow Kid. He was a big-eared, a gap-toothed hooligan who communicated by dialogue printed on his yellow nightshirt.
The Katzenjammer Kids
Appearing less than two years after The Yellow Kid, Rudolph Dirks’ comic is the oldest comic strip in syndication. Featuring the antics of Hans and Fritz, the strip was modeled after the German cartoon series Max and Moritz, drawn by Wilhelm Busch.
A native of Germany himself, Dirks began his career selling cartoons to Life and Judge, before creating his successful strip in 1897. Combining sequential panels and talk balloons – a first in comic history – Dirks produced what many consider to be the first “true strip.” He also originated conventional comic symbols, such as motion lines, sweat beads, and stars denoting pain.
Little Nemo in Slumberland
A masterful artist, Winsor McCay exceeded the conventional limitations of the comic strip to create this comic. It is a surrealist panorama of a boy’s adventure in dreamland. Employing brilliant colors and imaginative compositions to heighten the dreamlike state of his principal character, McCay took readers along with Nemo into fantasy worlds of both beauty and danger.
The first strip to be drawn in a realistic style and to utilize quality color printing, this comic made its debut in Pulitzer’s New York Herald in 1905. When McCay moved to Hearst’s paper in 1911, he simply retitled his strip In the Wonderful Land of Dreams and continued Nemo’s nocturnal adventures until 1914. In 1924, Nemo reappeared in the Herald and remained there until 1927.
Bringing Up Father
George McManus created a number of comics with varying degrees of success before he came up with this comic in 1913. The strip told the saga of Jiggs, an Irish-American bricklayer suddenly made wealthy by the Irish sweepstakes, and his socially ambitious wife Maggie. Readers of all walks of life could identify with the henpecked Jiggs and eventually the strip became popularly known as Maggie and Jiggs. Jiggs’ habit of escaping from Maggie’s fancy parties to eat corned beef and cabbage popularized the dish.
This strip was one of the most widely syndicated strips of the “Golden Age of Comics,” appearing at the height of its popularity in 500 newspapers in 20 languages in 71 countries.
Kat loves Mouse. Mouse, who dislikes Kat, angrily tosses bricks. Kat takes this as a sign of affection. Kop secretly loves Kat, which gives him extra reason to enforce law and order. This was the comics’ “eternal triangle.” Although few understood Krazy Kat, everyone knew its creator, George Herriman, was a genius.
The strip began as a cat-and-mouse chase in Herriman’s Dingbat Family strip. In October 1913, Krazy got his own strip, and thus started the imaginative fantasy life of Krazy, Ignatz Mouse, and the other inhabitants of Kokonino County.
Ironically, Krazy Kat, which has become the most highly-praised of all comic strips, was not very popular during the years it ran in newspapers. Having only a few dozen subscribers, compared to hundreds for its better-known contemporaries, the strip mainly owned its existence to the fact that publisher William Randolph Hearst was an avid follower. The strip ended with Herriman’s death in 1944, and it wasn’t until years later that Herriman’s genius was recognized.
Rube Goldberg’s Inventions
In 1904, Reuben Lucius Goldberg received his degree from the University of California School at Berkley. He pursued a career in engineering, but quit after six months to take up his first love – cartooning. His engineering degree, combined with cartooning talent, led to a lifelong series of crazy inventions including the automatic napkin which appears in the artwork on the stamp.
An immensely prolific cartoonist, Goldberg created many features throughout the years. Among the best-remembered are Foolish Questions, Mike and Ike, The Foolish Inventions of Prof. Lucifer G. Butts, Lala Palooza, and Boob McNutt. The latter ran for nearly 20 years, making Goldberg one of the highest-paid cartoonist in the country. In addition to his numerous features, he also produced sports cartoons, political cartoons, and even won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial cartoons. In 1946, he founded the National Cartoonist Society and in recognition of his achievements, the group’s annual top award was named the Reuben in his honor.
Fontaine Fox’s strip chronicled the doings of the eccentric characters who inhabited suburbs. His daily panels appeared in the Chicago Post as early as 1908, before the Wheeler Syndicate began distributing the strip nationally, but the strip is generally considered to have begun in 1910. What a Sunday page was added a decade later, both the daily and weekly features were distributed under the name Toonerville Folks.
Besides the Skipper in his famous doodle-car, other Toonerville folks included tough-kid Mickey McGuire, the Powerful Katrinka, and the Terrible-Tempered Mr. Bang. Skipper Silas Tooner and his out-of-control trolley inspired numerous toys, movies, and games. And eventually the trolley car – “The Toonerville Trolley That Meets All Trains” – became just as famous as any of the human characters. In fact, over time, the term “Toonerville Trolley” became synonymous with an antiquated street railway.
This comic is the oldest strip being distributed by the former Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. Created in 1919 by Frank King, the strip began as a single panel devoted to the country’s then new fascination with automobiles.
However, comics focusing on the family were also becoming extremely popular, and so on Valentine’s Day, 1921, the infant Skeezix appeared on Walt Wallet’s doorstep. Although meant as a passing storyline, Skeezix became a permanent character, and “Uncle Walt,” as he became known, went on to marry Phyllis Blossom. The rest, as they say, “is history.” Rather than employing the comic license of perpetual youth, Kind enhanced the reality of the strip by allowing his characters to age.
Barney Google is probably the best known in a marvelous parade of characters created Billy DeBeck. Other popular characters included the racehorse Spark Plug and hillbilly Snuffy Smith. Barney made his first appearance in a sports-oriented strip called Take Barney Google, F’rinstance which appeared in major Hearst morning papers in 1919. Although a hen-pecked family man, Barney still had a roguish sensibility.
In 1922, a wistful, knock-kneed racehorse named Spark Plug entered the scene, and the strip changed its name to Barney Google and Spark Plug. The story of a perpetual loser and his racehorse changed somewhat, as did the name of the strip, when Barney met up with the hillbilly Snuffy Smith in 1934.
Little Orphan Annie
In 1924, Captain Patterson of the Chicago Tribune, continuing his search for a new comic, accepted a submission by artist Harold Gray, about an orphan kid with a billionaire guardian. Little Orphan Annie reputedly began as a boy, but was changed to a red-headed girl by Patterson himself. A restless, rambunctious waif, Annie traveled around the world accompanied by her faithful dog Sandy. Often caught up in intrigue and adventure, she used her wits and the intermittent protection of her benefactor Daddy Warbucks to survive.
Gray often incorporated his political views into his story line, and throughout this career Little Orphan Annie remained a highly personalized presentation. His stories were often infused with heavy doses of perseverance, courage, goodwill, and independence, making Annie as responsible as anyone for keeping up the nation’s spirit throughout the Great Depression.
During its prime, Little Orphan Annie was considered one of the top five strips in newspaper polls. No doubt Gray’s annual road trips across America, taken to maintain his feel for the common folk who were the real stars of Annie’s stories, contributed to the strip’s popularity.
Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye
Elzie Crisler Segar’s Thimble Theatre, which began in 1919, had a relatively undistinguished beginning. Primarily featuring the spinsterish Olive Oyl and her brother Castor, the strip ran for nearly a decade before one-eyed, pipe smoking sailor named Popeye made his first appearance. An overnight success, Popeye immediately captivated the strip’s growing audience, and before long a series of other memorable characters – J. Wellington Wimpy, Swee’Pea, the Sea Hag, and the Jeep – followed.
A self-taught artist, Elzie Segar grew up loving the newfangled motion picture. On sidewalks in front of the local theater, he drew comic-strip versions of current movies in chalk for friends. So not surprisingly, his legendary masterpiece, Thimble Theatre, began as a parody of movie serials. With the introduction of the popular Popeye his feature became so successful, that within a few short years, Segar was one of the highest-paid cartoonists in the world – his income far outstripping even that of the president of the United States! And so popular was the salty sailor, that Texas spinach growers erected a statue in his honor, claiming his endorsement saved their business during the dark days of the Great Depression.
Chic Young once said he had found the magic formula for creating a comic strip with which millions could identify – he simply restricted his premises to eating, sleeping, going to work, and raising a family. Today, the phenomenal popularity of his strip Blondie can be attested to by the fact that after 65 years, it is still among the five most widely syndicated comic strips in the world. Blondie currently appears in more than 2,000 papers throughout the world. In fact, Dagwood and Blondie speak more than 25 languages.
Murat (Chic) Young held a variety of art jobs and created several strips, including The Affairs of Jane, Beautiful Bab, and Dumb Dora, before achieving success with Blondie in 1930. Few remember that Blondie began life as a scatterbrained flapper and Dagwood as heir to a billionaire’s fortune. Such premises however, lost their appeal during the Despression.
Realizing that the public would be more inclined to relate to a poor couple rather than a rich one, Young had the couple marry (causing Dagwood to lose his fortune when he was promptly disinherited) and the Bumsteads went on to become stars of the most popular comic strip of all time. Chic’s son Dean took over the written script over time and the comic is now drawn by Stan Drake.
Chester Gould, who has been referred to as the “Expressionist of the Comics,” began his career as a sports cartoonist in Chicago. It wasn’t until the creation of his plainclothes detective however, that his talent for strip narrative and realistic characterization was discovered. Dick Tracy made its debut in newspapers in 1931. Although not the first detective strip created, it was so popular that it became the criterion against which all other crime strips were measured. The strip owed much of its popularity to the fact that nearly everyone could identify with the simplicity of Dick Tracy’s world – a world of good versus evil and right versus wrong.
The years of the Great Depression were a period of escapism, and as a result, many strips looked to the future via science fiction. But caveman Alley Oop – and friends Ooola, Foozy, the Grand Wizer, and King Guz – went back in time instead! Set in the prehistoric land of “Moo,” Alley Oop chronicled the romance and humor of a Stone Age society.
In 1939, artist Vincent (V.T.) Hamilton introduced Professor Wonmug and his fantastic time machine. The machine, which enabled Alley Oop and his friends to travel to any age in the past or future they (or their creator) desired, offered endless possibilities for comic adventure.
A native of Perry, Iowa, Hamlin began cartooning while working in the oil fiends of Texas. It was during this time that he also developed interests in geology and paleontology, and in 1929 his famous caveman, Alley Oop, jumped out of the inkwell. His epic strip, which began in 1933, allowed Hamlin to combine both of his interests into a lifelong career. Extremely successful, the strip used strong graphic design and, on Sundays, fanciful color.
Following the success of The Yellow Kid, and later Outcault’s popular Buster Brown, comic strips with child stars became a regular feature in the funny pages. In 1925 Ernie Bushmiller, a young artist for the New York World, took over the comic created several years earlier by Larry Whitington. The strip, Fritzi Ritz, was about a girl who gets a job as a movie actress. In 1933, Bushmiller introduced a new character – Fritzi’s kid niece, Nancy.
Although the little wire-haired girl began her career making occasional appearances in her aunt’s strip, by the end of the decade she had supplanted Fritzi as the main attraction. And in 1938, she and her boyfriend Sluggo became stars of their own feature, which was renamed for its main character.
Admired by many of his fellow cartoonists, Bushmiller was seldom sophisticated in his humor. (Interestingly, Bushmiller also wrote slapstick gags for Harold Lloyd and other film comedians.) In fact, his strip Nancy was a masterpiece of simplicity in both artwork and gags, appealing to millions of readers. His ability to streamline his artwork and reduce humor to its simplest levels, was an exercise which he affectionately termed “Dumb It Down.”
As travel by car, boat, and plane became more practical during the 1920’s, Americans dreamed of adventure in far-off places – even space travel seemed possible. To make adventure strips realistic and believable, publishers turned to talented illustrators who could draw handsome men, beautiful women, lush landscapes, and convincing fight scenes.
In 1934, when King Features decided to launch a rival to the popular Buck Rogers, it called on the multitalented Alex Raymond. His memorable villains, exotic locales, and breathless action made Flash Gordon a science-fiction classic.
As a young man growing up in New Rochelle, New York – home to Norman Rockwell and other well-known illustrators – Raymond aspired to be an artist. He assisted on several other strips, including Blondie, before his style turned realistic. One of the best draftsmen in the field of newspaper comics, Raymond also created Secret Agent X-9 and Jungle Jim, both of which were drawn simultaneously with Flash Gordon. During World War II, when Raymond served in the Marine Corps, the strip was taken over by others. After the war, he began the popular detective strip Rip Kirby, which he continued until his death in 1956.
Li’l Abner, the classic hillbilly saga, began with almost instant success in August 1934. Whenever he was aware of it or not, cartoonist Al Capp was offering his own version of the classic American story of the country bumpkin (or, in his case, Yokum) who exposes the corruptions of the big city slickers simply by maintaining his own naiveté. Among his creations were the Shmoo, the Bald Iggle, Fearless Fosdick, and Sadie Hawkins’ Day.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, to a father who wrote and drew cartoons for his family’s amusement, Alfred Caplin began his career creating hillbilly characters for the strip Joe Palooka. (Al’s brother Eliot also scripted more than a dozen well-known strips). Believing that to be a successful cartoonist it was necessary to study serious art, Al followed his own advice, and when Li’l Abner debuted, it was drawn in a semi-cartoon style that owed nothing to any of its predecessors.
One of the few hilbilly strips ever written, Li’l Abner gave new meaning to the word “satire.” So successful was Capp’s work that he was once proposed for the Nobel Prize for Literature by novelist John Steinbeck. After 43 years, the strip came to an end when Capp retire at 1977.
Terry and the Pirates
Never has a strip inspired more reader involvement with its characters and stories than Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, which appeared in 1934. Using strong contrasts of light and shadows and cinematic graphic techniques, he revitalized newspaper adventure strips, crating dynamic compositions that supported his bold, realistic narrative.
Along with Hal Foster and Alex Raymond, Caniff, who was known as the comics’ “great realist,” set the standard for adventure strips. He achieved national fame with his kid strip Dickie Dare, before his work came to the attention of Captain Patterson of the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. In response to Patterson’s request for a “blood and thunder” suspense adventure strip “with juvenile angle,” Caniff created his popular strip, Terry and the Pirates.
A founder of the National Cartoonists Society and two-time winner of its illustrious Reuben Award, Caniff had many imitators during the decade he drew Terry. When he left the syndicate in 1946, it was to create another adventure strip, Steve Canyon, which he continued to draw for the remainder of his career.
This comic was the last major strip to be created as a full-page, full-color feature. Set in medieval Britain during the days of King Arthur, this centuries-long saga combined legend, realism, and fantasy. Carefully researched details in battle scenes, as well as domestic settings made the strip seem authentic, if not almost documentary.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, an ambitious young Harold “Hal” Foster bicycled his way to Chicago, to the Art Institute, national Academy of Design, and Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1929, he left a promising career as an advertising illustrator to draw a newspaper adaption of Tarzan of the Apes. After eight years, he left to create his epic strip Prince Valiant.
A meticulous worker who devoted a great deal of time to research, Foster spent as many hours working on his Sunday page (the comic did not appear daily) as any nine-to-five employee. Often, his originals took a week to draw and were upwards of 40 inches tall – the result was a product that won him acclaim from both peers and the general public.
Brenda Starr, Reporter
During the first two decades of the comic strip, most female characters appeared only to highlight their male counterparts. As women began entering the work force, however, they inspired numerous strips (most drawn by men) that reflected their growing presence in the work place. But beginning in 1940, Brenda Starr and her creator Dale Messick offered female readers an alternative to traditional male-dominated adventure strips.
Dale Messick has the distinction of being the only woman among the twenty-cartoonist honored, as well as the only creator who is still living. Earning this distinction was not easy. After numerous attempts to have her strip published, the cartoonist changed her name from Dalia and began mailing her work to avoid prejudice, and in 1940 Brenda Starr was accepted for distribution by the Tribune-News Syndicate.
Her strip featured “girl reporter Brenda Starr,” whose big-city newsroom assignments usually led to adventure and romance. Through the years, Brenda Starr has gained an intense following, and has often been credited with inspiring many young women to seek independence and follow bold career paths.