How much is there to say about Scrappy neckties like the ones shown above, all of which are preserved in the formalwear wing of the Scrappyland archives? Quite a bit, actually.
For instance, here’s a brief story from the invaluable Scrappyana chronicler The Film Daily noting the deal which made the ties possible.
(The reference to Scrappy mufflers — I assume we’re talking about scarfs — is intriguing. I’ve never seen one myself.)
Here’s a Columbia publicity photo showing one of the ties being worn by Dickie Walters, who was — rather briefly — one of the studio’s kid stars. We also get to see what the display looked like, and to marvel at the tagline “for ‘He’ Boys.”
Between the three examples from the Scrappyland collection and the six shown in the Columbia photo, we know of at least six different Scrappy tie designs — though two feature the same art, with and without a “Howdy folks!” (I have a theory that the one at the right in the picture of our collection, showing Scrappy swinging a baseball bat, might be a later style — it shows a slicked-up version of the character who is, in this depiction, a blonde.)
The back of the Columbia picture is also worth a peek.
It shows that the photo was prepared for distribution in January of 1935 and was taken by William A. Fraker — father of the distinguished cinematographer of the same name — and had been approved by the Hays office, whose infamous moral code apparently applied to publicity materials as well as movies. (Let’s hope that it had no trouble passing.)
And here’s a vintage photo of a kid wearing a Scrappy tie — the same style shown at the left in the selection at the top of this post.
I don’t know who this lad is, but he must have liked his Scrappy tie — after all, he chose to wear it in a formal portrait. Which means that he was a man of a good taste and a kindred soul of anyone who’s interested enough in Scrappy to have read this entire post.
If you’ve ever read about Scrappy’s Own Magazine before, I have a hunch it was in this piece, which I wrote back in August of 2005. I said I might eventually post the magazine in its entirety. And here you are — only eight years later.
I only know a little bit more about this publication than I did in 2007. It was produced by Evanco Products Corp. of Madison Avenue in New York, which was apparently associated with the Engel-Van Wiseman Book Corporation, which published Big Little Book-like movie adaptations in the mid-1930s and at least signed a deal to do fairy-tale tomes based on Ub Iwerks’ ComicColor cartoons.
The Scrappy magazine apparently came out in late 1935. Judging from the quantity of references to Runkel Brothers chocolate, that company had a hand in instigating it, and it was given out at movie theaters. Here’s an evocative, star-filled ad from the December 6 Woodbridge Independent of New Jersey which mentions it.
Scrappy’s Own Magazine is in a comic book-like format, and is almost–but not quite–a comic book. It does have four pages of comics, but it’s dominated by brief features of other sorts — puzzles, a fudge recipe, a short story which may or may not be about Yippy, a Pledge of Allegiance-like motto for kids, drawing lessons, a creepy poem involving the possibility of Scrappy and Yippy dying in their sleep and much, much more. It’s Scrappy, so it goes without saying that a lot of it is a tad peculiar. (I like the fact that Scrappy and Oopy’s “mum” appears to be a wizened senior citizen.)
This issue makes repeated reference to a second issue being in the works, but I’ve seen no evidence that one was ever released. Then again, almost the only evidence I have that the first issue was published is the fact that I own a copy — even by Scrappy standards, it seems to be a rare artifact.
Anyhow, here are all thirty-two pages of it. Click on the cover, then keep clicking to see everything at a legible size.
Back in the 1930s, a company called Western Theater issued pins of cartoon characters, which I presume were intended as movie-theater giveaways. It did an impressive job of lining up licenses, producing pins featuring everybody from Harold Teen to Betty Boop to Oswald the Rabbit. And — as you’ve already surmised — the Mintz characters.
Here are Scrappy, two slight Yippy variants, Vontzy and, for good measure, Krazy Kat.
These being Mintz characters, it’s not surprising that the approach to naming is…well, surprising. We all know that Scrappy’s dog is Yippy, but he’s usually a pint-sized, terrier-like pooch. Except when he’s a big old hound dog, as he is here. (This pet was also known to go by the name of Woofus.)
Scrappy’s brother Vontzy, meanwhile, was generally known as Oopy — in fact, this is the only piece of merchandise I know about which calls him Vontzy. Eighty years later, this is still a point of confusion: The Big Cartoon Database thinks that the Scrappy series involved bullies named Vonsey and Oopie.
Unlike a lot of Scrappy merchandising art, these pieces were done with care, apparently by a Mintz artist. Here’s the original art for the only Mintz-related Western Theater pin back I know of that’s not shown above:
That’s Krazy Kat’s girlfriend, Kitty Kat, who seems to be a dog. I hope that George Herriman didn’t know about this — or, if he did, that he was amused rather than outraged.
Behold the Scrappyland National Gallery’s latest acquisition, and one of its most fascinating possessions. It’s a letter from Marvin S. Springer of the Scrappy Franchise Department — which we already knew existed — written on Christmas Eve, 1935, to the proprietor of the Dent Hardware Company, a one-time major producer of cast-iron toys. (It’s still around, though no longer in the toy business.)
Springer is following up on an earlier inquiry involving Dent licensing Scrappy, and he sounds eager — maybe even pushy — about closing the deal. If he and his Scrappy Franchise colleagues were always this aggressive, it helps explain why Scrappy was so remarkably well-merchandised, especially for a character who was never a top-tier cartoon star.
The sticker at the bottom of the letter is worth examining at a larger size:
That’s a wonderful advertising slogan, but not a very good likeness of Scrappy — it seems to be a badly-redrawn version of a classic Dick Huemer image, and note that it looks nothing like the version on the letterhead. And neither of these Scrappies looked like the on-screen Scrappy did in late 1935. If Columbia wasn’t very good at depicting him, it’s no surprise that its licensees were often lackadaisical about the job.
So did Dent Hardware end up making Scrappy stuff? I’m not sure. I can’t find any reference to it doing so in the Film Daily, which seems to have done a good job of reporting on Scrappy merchandise deals. Maybe the metal Scrappy bank I wrote about in a previous post is a Dent. Or perhaps there are other cast-iron Scrappy toys out there somewhere, still waiting to be discovered.
As you know if you’re a Scrappyland regular, the Hollywood newspaper Film Daily covered Scrappy merchandise with admirable thoroughness. But here’s a discovery, recently made by Friend of Scrappy Andrew Leal: Scrappy endorsed the paper, in the following comic strip published on November 15, 1934. (Click it for a larger version.)
As is often the case with Scrappy art, this seems to have been drawn by a non-Mintz artist — I use the word loosely — relying on swipes from stock poses.
On the same page — this may or may not be a weird coincidence — the Daily ran a short news item on the debut of Scrappy briefcases and schoolbags, predicting their success. (I take it that the “Columbia Pictures” byline may mean that the story was submitted by the studio.)
Come to think of it, it’s no surprise that Scrappy liked to read this publication: Who wouldn’t want to read a publication in which one’s name popped up so regularly?
Let’s continue our exploration of the bizarre world of Shorty Shortcake — the Wonder and Wonderworld comics character who is very nearly Scrappy, but not quite so. Starting with Wonderworld #5, each Shorty story started with a splash panel — often an elaborate one. Taken as a group, they summarize the storyline, which started being distinctly un-Mintzlike and grew only more so in subsequent issues. They also show that Jerry Williams, the feature’s cartoonist, utterly changed his style every few issues. Gifted man.
Here are all the Shorty splashes I’ve found. They’re from Wonderworld #5-#20, and a few are missing.
This uncredited article from the December 27, 1932 issue of something called The Hollywood Filmograph is weird. Was there a Scrappy short with caricatures of movie stars acting like Krazy Kats, whatever that means? Is the piece joking when it calls Charles Mintz a directing genius, considering that neither of the words in that description is accurate?
It’s so odd that I don’t know whether to trust any of the facts and figures in it which I don’t otherwise know to be true. But for the record, here it is.
For years now, we’ve known that Will Eisner and Jerry Iger tried to syndicate a newspaper comic strip about Scrappy in 1937. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that any newspapers in the U.S. ran it, but it made its way to both France and Australia.
And now, thanks to Friend of Scrappy Mark Newgarden, we know that the Eisner/Iger Scrappy was published in this country. In fact, it appeared in a rather famous comic book. It’s just that it was stripped of all obvious evidence that it was about Scrappy, and I’m not sure if anyone has noticed the connection until now — at least in the last seventy years or so.
The comic book in question was called Wonder Comics for its first two issues, then became Wonderworld Comics. It was published by Victor Fox, the early comics magnate who commissioned scads of work from Eisner and Iger. It’s rather well known that Fox had Eisner create a superhero called Wonder Man for Wonder Comics #1, cover-dated May 1939 — the first Superman imitation, and so blatant a knockoff that National Periodical Publications successfully sued him off the newsstand after one issue.
Wonder Man wasn’t Wonder‘s only blatant knockoff. Actually, almost everything in it seemed to be derived from already-popular material. And twenty issues of that comic and its successor, Wonderworld, included a feature called Shorty Shortcake about this little kid who had a girlfriend named Suzy and a dog named Snippy.
Shorty looked exactly like Scrappy, except that he had parted hair instead of a cowlick, pupiled eyes instead of pie-slice ones and suspenders instead of Mickey Mouse-style trouser buttons. Suzy looked exactly like Margy, except that she was a brunette rather than a redhead and had pupiled eyes. And Snippy looked exactly like Yippy, period.
We don’t know the precise circumstances of how Scrappy came to be Shorty, but the gist of the situation is obvious: Eisner and Iger wanted to reuse Scrappy comics they’d produced, and wouldn’t or couldn’t secure the rights to publish them as such. So they renamed the characters and retouched the strips. Rather sloppily so — here’s a panel from the first “Shorty” story (left) in which Suzy calls him Scrappy. (The original version is on the right, borrowed from Ken Quattro’s excellent Comics Detective site.)
I suppose that it’s just barely conceivable that Columbia knew about Shorty and was O.K. with him. But if Eisner/Iger and/or Fox reused this material without the studio’s permission, it would have been a risky gambit. At the very least, you’d think that there must have been late 1930s kids who watched Scrappy cartoons and read Shorty comics and wondered what the deal was.
Then again, Scrappy’s film career was already winding down: Only a handful of Scrappy cartoons were released after Shorty Shortcake’s debut, and some of them barely qualified as Scrappy cartoons. The little guy was already damaged goods.
More damning evidence that Shorty Shortcake is Scrappy, in case anyone needs it: The top level is from a Scrappy story published in France, and the bottom one is from a Shorty story. Note the extensive modifications to the art, such as the different cap on the left-hand thug in the first panel. Of course, both of these versions have been modified from the original English-language Scrappy version, so I’m not sure what was changed when.
All Shorty Shortcake stories were signed by “Jerry Williams” — a name which was, like most or all of the bylines in Wonder and Wonderworld, a pseudonym. Who for? Well, the comic-book reference works which have noticed that the feature existed at all credit it to Jerry Iger himself and to longtime Eisner associate Klaus Nordling. But you only have to skim the stories — which you can do for free at the wonderful Comic Book Plus site — to see that far more than two different cartoonists worked on the feature at various times.
More on the artists behind Shorty Shortcake, and lots more, in future posts. For now, courtesy of Comic Book Plus, here’s the first Shorty Shortcake story, from a microfiche copy of Wonder Comics #1. You can click on the first page and then step through larger images if you like.
As you’ll see, the plot involves Scrap–er, Shorty getting involved with smugglers in Mexico. As un-Mintzlike as that sounds, future Shorty Shortcake stories only veered further and further from their inspiration, as we’ll discuss soon.
I don’t claim to be psychic. But then again, consider this evidence: Earlier this month, I flew to San Diego for Comic-Con and entered the cavernous, merchandise-packed convention center. And after just ten minutes of browsing, I’d found a new and unknown Scrappy item to add to Scrappyland’s archives.
By “new and unknown” I mean, of course, old and unknown. The lost treasure in question — which cost me a very reasonable $10 — is this valentine card, which depicts Margy brandishing a valentine given to her by Scrappy. Pull her bow up, and her eyes move and a new message is revealed: “To ‘Letter’ Know She’s a Swell Pal”
(Note that the artist, who I’m guessing worked for a card company rather than the Mintz studio, had to take artistic license to make the idea work. He’s replaced Margy’s pie-slice eyes with ones with brown pupils, irises, whites…the whole deal.)
The card makes no reference to Scrappy or Margy’s names, nor does it carry a Mintz or Columbia copyright. That might be evidence that the characters, back in the 1930s, were so famous that any kid would know them on sight. But your average 21st-century memorabilia seller has no idea who Scrappy is, which means that if there are more cards out there — and I’ll bet there are — they’re not going to be a cakewalk to track down.