The Scrappy Comic Strip! (Part One)

If you were alive in the UK or Australia in the late 1930s and read a comic book called Wags, you may be intimately familiar with the Scrappy comic strip. Otherwise, your opportunities to be exposed to it–at least in English–have been severely limited. Comics historian In 2010, comics historian Ken Quattro provided one example on his Comics Detective site. And that’s about it.

Me, I’ve shared examples of the strip in French and bizarrely retouched into the adventures of Shorty Shortcake. But it was only recently that I acquired some Scrappy tearsheets from somebody’s bound volume of Wags, circa 1938. I’ll post them here in a few chunks, with a bit of commentary.

Like much Scrappyana, the Scrappy strip is tantalizingly mysterious. Thanks to strip expert Allan Holtz, we know that the 1937 edition of Editor & Publisher included a listing for a Scrappy strip (“by Charles Mintz”) from Eisner & Iger Associates, an outfit run by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. I know of no evidence it ever made its way into a newspaper, but Eisner and Iger made good use of what they’d put together by selling it to the French publishers of Bilboquet, repackaging it in Wags, and eventually de-Mintzing it to come up with Wonderworld comics’ Shorty Shortcake.

We don’t know who wrote or drew the strip, other than the safe assumption that Charles Mintz had nothing to do with it. Presumably, it was one or more artists from the Eisner-Iger shop rather than anyone who worked on Scrappy cartoons. I’ll have some more thoughts on candidates in future installments, but for now, I’ll just admit that I don’t see any evidence that Will Eisner himself did any of the art, as fun a notion as that is. (We’re actually looking for at least two artists, I think, since the style of the first strip varies sharply from later installments.)

Anyhow, here you go: chapters 1-6 of “Scrappy and the Border Patrol,” a tale which has virtually nothing to do with anything that ever appeared in a Scrappy animated cartoon other than the fact that it stars Scrappy, Margy, and Yippy. (Sorry, Oopy.)

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Note that the “Universal Phoenix Features Syndicate” mentioned in the copyright notice was run by Eisner and Iger. I’m not sure offhand whether the repurposed strips were dailies or Sundays–and actually, come to think of it, I’m not even positive that the entire Wags run of Scrappy consisted of repurposed newspaper strips. Like I said, it’s tantalizing and mysterious.

More strips–and thoughts–to come.

The Elusive Scrappy Runkel Wrapper, Captured

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Have I ever mentioned that Scrappyana is the best imaginable subject to pursue as a collector? On one hand, it’s small enough in scope that it’s possible to be a completist. On the other, it’s full of surprises, since it’s not so well documented that you know exactly what’s out there to collect.

In the case of Scrappy wrappers for Runkel Bros. chocolate, I knew that they existed–in fact, I’d written about them–but wasn’t sure I’d ever get my hands on any examples. After all, how much packaging for 1930s candy has survived for eighty years? But I’m now the proud owner of the circa-1935 wrapper you see above–which, since it has a Scrappy drawing and “jingle” on its flipside, was designed to be collected. (There were apparently at least 113 in the series.)

The highpoint of Scrappy’s association with the Runkel people was Scrappy’s Own Magazine, which was sponsored by the chocolatier and apparently published in late 1935. Here’s a page from the publication, showing some Scrappy chocolate and explaining that his relationship with Runkel came about because he tried their products and was impressed.

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I didn’t know much about Runkel Bros., so I Googled around and found a site run by a contemporary Runkel. He seems to say both that the company folded in 1936 and that it was acquired by Nestle in 1982. So take your choice–being associated with Scrappy either almost immediately drove it out of business, or led to decades of success and the attention of one of the biggest names in chocolate.

In either case, eBay has some nice examples of other Runkel Bros. packaging–the kind that doesn’t have Scrappy on it. Here’s some Runkel Liberty cocoa, which sure looks more patriotic than Swiss Miss.

Runkel Libert Cocoa

Scrappy and Eugene: The Photographic Evidence

Back in 2013, I wrote about Eugene Talmadge (1884-1946), a member of the Scrappy Club who also happened to be the governor of Georgia. In 1934, he and his secretary helped Columbia’s Ted Toddy promote Scrappy by accepting membership in the club, a moment reported on at the time by the Film Daily.

I’m happy to report that I just discovered that the Motion Picture Herald also covered this development–and ran a picture:

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That’s Talmadge’s secretary, Eva Drew, at the left; she was inducted as the first honorary member of the girls’ division of the Scrappy Club (in Georgia, at least–and I wasn’t aware that the organization was segragated by gender). Talmadge is in the center, looking pleasantly bemused. And Columbia’s Toddy is at right, literally glad-handing the governor.

And boy, I’d love to be able to see what Toddy is holding-he seems to be presenting a document to Talmadge, and has something that may be a folder tucked under his arm. I imagine that he’s presenting the governor with an honorary Scrappy Club membership certificate, and I’d love to think it still exists. Perhaps Herman Talmadge III–great-grandson of Eugene, whose name he recently fought to keep on a bridge between Georgia and South Carolina–has it proudly framed on his wall.

Scrappy Got Milk

When I think of Scrappy, one beverage quickly comes to mind: beer. But in 1935, he heartily endorsed a different drink which, I suppose I must concede, was a more appropriate refreshment for a small child to enthuse over. That would be milk.

The indispensable Yowp turned me onto this item, which I reprint from its appearance in the December 19, 1935 issue of the East Hampton (N.Y.) Star:

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In retrospect, it’s not surprising to see Scrappy promoting milk, because…well, Columbia was not fussy. If it saw an opportunity to attract attention to Scrappy, it took it. (Another example: his work as a tourism ambassador for Bermuda.)

I like this drawing. I like the very notion that an animated character’s stance on milk would carry weight, and that the fact he’s smiling is evidence that he likes the stuff. And I like that the person who wrote the caption doesn’t appear to know Yippy’s name, but doesn’t want to admit that.

All Hail Cora Sue Collins

Cora Sue Collins is something we don’t have enough of anymore: a bonafide 1930s movie star. She made dozens of movies with major performers of the era–oftentimes playing the same characters as them. In Queen Christina (1933), for instance, Garbo was Christina and Cora Sue was Christina as a child.

In 1936, Cora Sue was in The Devil’s Squadron for Columbia. Among her promotional duties was posing with Scrappy products in a number of photographs, such as this one…

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In March of this year, TCM held an event in Los Angeles. At an unofficial get-together for attendees at the Roosevelt Hotel, Cora Sue spoke about her career in Hollywood. You can watch it here and read a nice write-up here.

The video is great entertainment. Cora Sue is a spunky, funny storyteller–and still very much recognizable as the little girl showing off Scrappy merchandise in 79-year-old photos.

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Here’s to you, Cora Sue–you’re a lifetime member of Friends of Scrappy for sure.

The Boy Who Was Scrappy

Confession time: I know very little about the voices in Scrappy cartoons. Actually, come to think about it, about the only thing I’ve known–and only because voice maven Keith Scott told me–is that Robert “Bobby” Winckler (1927-1989) was Scrappy’s voice in some shorts.

But now I know at least a tiny bit more. Jerry Beck alerted me to the existence of a Robert “Bobby” Winckler fan group on Facebook–apparently run by his son, William Winckler–and it has some great photos and a couple of items which reference his Scrappy work.

I’ve borrowed a few images from the Bobby Winckler Facebook page and elsewhere for this post.

Here’s Bobby Winckler as a child actor on a Hollywood backlot, circa 1933. He made more than 80 live-action films, including a number of Our Gang shorts, Knute Rockne All American, and Preston Sturges’ iconic Sullivan’s Travels, and was also busy on the radio (where he played W.C. Fields’ son, among other roles).

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Here he is (center) serving in WWII with two friends on St. Patrick’s Day 1945 in Manila.

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Winckler eventually became a successful Hollywood lawyer, counting Spanky McFarland, Adam West, and Billy Barty among his clients. In 1980, he ran as a Republican for a seat in the U.S. Congress representing California’s 23rd district.

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He lost the race–but here he is, presumably in the 1980s, with his Knute Rockne costar Dutch Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

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Now for the Scrappy stuff. Here’s a Hollywood Radio Artists’ Directory listing which mentions his work in the series. It uses a variant spelling of his last name; as far as I know, he was not related to Charles Mintz’s wife, the former Margaret Winkler.

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And this is a sample of the script for The City Slicker (1938), one of the films in which Winckler voiced Scrappy.

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And here’s The City Slicker itself–which I’m afraid features a last-gasp version of Scrappy who’s been unappealingly redesigned and who, really, has few redeeming qualities of any sort, aside from his voice.

According to online sources, Bobby Winckler also voiced Hans and Fritz in MGM’s Captain and the Kids cartoons and Petey Parrot in the Warner Bros. cartoon I Wanna Be a Sailor (1937), and was the field mouse in Bambi. Voice acting was a sideline for him, but a long-standing one: In the 1980s, he performed in his son William’s English-language dub of Japan’s Tekkaman animated series.

That’s all I have to tell you about Robert “Bobby” Winckler. But here’s another Scrappy voice tidbit: Andrew Leal tells me that Hollywood veteran Leone Ledoux–who was an adult, and female–also voiced the character. Stay tuned for any information on her which I can cobble together.

The Long-Lost Scrappyland Video

Slightly over a decade ago, Jerry Beck hosted an ASIFA-Hollywood screening of Scrappy cartoons named after this website. It featured amazingly good prints provided by Columbia; a small exhibit of Scrappyana; and a panel discussion about Scrappy between Jerry, myself, and Dr. Richard Huemer, the son of Scrappy’s creator.

We’ve long had a page of photos from this event. But Friend of Scrappy Art Binninger attended the event and recorded it using his video camera. And he recently digitized his tape and put it on YouTube. It’s basically the whole event except for the Scrappy cartoons themselves, and it was a joy to see it again after all these years.

Herewith, a few screengrabs from Art’s video.

Dr. Huemer and I talk Scrappy…

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Scrappy stuff…

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Jerry presents an award to Raven Loc, winner of the costume contest (she came as a brilliantly monochromatic Margy)…

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Many thanks to Art for all the memories–and for making this available to folks who weren’t lucky enough to be there. It was the best Scrappy retrospective I’ve ever attended. O.K., it was also the only one–but I hope that won’t be true forever.

Scrappy Goes GIF

The animated GIF file format wasn’t invented until 1987. But if it had existed in the 1930s, boy, would animators have loved it. They were already creating hypnotic little loops of animation and repeating them–mostly, perhaps, for economy’s sake, though it often accentuated comic rhythm. They just had no way to distribute those loops on their own as mini-entertainments.

Today we do. So I was moved to create a few GIFs from moments in The Beer Parade (1933), one of the most memorable of all Scrappy cartoons. I snagged from from a YouTube version of the cartoon which an anonymous benefactor appears to have videotaped off the screen at the 2005 Scrappy screening in LA, which explains the silhouetted heads at the bottom.

As far as I know, these may be the world’s first Scrappy GIFs. Feel free to copy them and spread the boozy merriment near and far.

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What Price Scrappy?

It’s possible that there’s stuff relating to Scrappy that’s so mundane that it isn’t worthy of attention at Scrappyland. Then again, maybe not.

Jerry Beck alerted me to these two bills which Columbia sent out to an L.A. theater in 1937–both referencing Scrappy–and I’m glad I was able to acquire them and share them with you here.

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Here’s a bill which–with a little IMDB research–lets us deduce that Columbia charged $4 rental for a live-action two-reeler, $3 for a color cartoon, and $2 for a black-and-white cartoon. The paperwork was sent to Los Angeles’s Muse Theater on May 26, 1937, and seems to be for the following shorts:

  • “Caught Act” is Caught in the Act, an Andy Clyde short released on March 5, 1936.
  • Li’l Ainjil is a rather famous Mintz Krazy Kat, as Mintz Krazy Kats go–the only one done in an approximation of George Herriman’s style. It was released on March 19, 1936.
  • Movie Maniacs is a Three Stooges released on February 20, 1936.
  • “Dr. Bluebird” is Doctor Bluebirda Scrappy cartoon! One of the few color ones, a Color Rhapsody released on February 5, 1936.
  • “Share Wealth” is Share the Wealth, another Andy Clyde film, released on March 16, 1936.
  • “Snobbery” is surely Highway Snobbery, a Krazy cartoon released on August 9, 1936.
  • I’m assuming “Blunders” is “Midnight Blunders, a live-action Columbia short which IMDB describes as “frankly racist.” It was released on April 21, 1936.
  • Football Bugs is a Color Rhapsody released on April 29, 1936. I haven’t seen it, but I presume it involves bugs who play football.
  • Half Shot Shooters was another Stooges short, released on April 30.
  • Unless you can convince me otherwise, I shall work under the assumption that “Go Getters” is Gold Getters, a Scrappy released on March 1, 1935. If you’ve seen it, you will remember the maniacally infectious title song.

Note that all these cartoons were quite old by the time the Muse showed them. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about film distribution in the 1930s than me can explain whether there’s anything interesting about that fact.

Here’s another bill sent to the Muse a day later. This one is demanding 15 cents for a two-column ad for a Scrappy cartoon. (Boy, I’d love to track down the ad itself.)
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Bonus ephemera: From the Huntington Library’s collection, here’s a 1950s photo of the Muse Theater (towards the left). It had already closed and was scheduled to be demolished.

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I wonder: How many theaters which showed Scrappy cartoons are still extant? Not too many, I assume, though Radio City Music Hall apparently did and is still very much with us.

Weekend at Oopy’s

Thunderbean Animation’s Steve Stanchfield is a friend of fans of vintage animation everywhere. He’s also a friend of Scrappy. For his latest Cartoon Research column, he shared the eighteenth Scrappy cartoon, The Bad Genius (1932). And since he posted it on YouTube, I share it here with you.

This isn’t one of my favorite Scrappys. But I agree with Steve that the animation and posing of Oopy for the film’s vaguely Weekend at Bernie’s-like conceit is pretty nifty. And many thanks to Steve for his kind words about this site.