Wow! More on Scrappy, Will Eisner, and Jerry Iger

I’m just back from the San Diego Comic-Con, where I didn’t find any Scrappy-related items. But I did attend a panel about Will Eisner and the Spirit, one of several at the con in 2017, Eisner’s centennial year. During it, one of the panelists (Denis Kitchen?) mentioned that some thoughtful soul had made Wow What a Magazine–a 1936 proto-comic edited by Jerry Iger, with extremely early Will Eisner art–available for downloading. It occurred to me that the publication might provide some clues about the vital question of who drew the Scrappy newspaper strip.

It turns out that the excellent Digital Comic Museum site recently made one issue of Wow available–issue #2–along with a write-up about the series and its historical significance. Having even one Wow available as a free download is quite a development, since all four issues of the short-lived publication are rare and will cost you thousands if you can find them.

When I skimmed issue #2, I did a little double-take when I found some Scrappy in it. Specifically, a panel of Scrappy Sayings, the odd feature which apparently debuted in 1935, ran in small papers, and seemed to exist purely to promote Scrappy. It’s one I hadn’t previously seen.

Scrappy Sayings

This is the first evidence I’ve seen that Iger/Eisner had any connection with Scrappy Sayings. The discovery merits more contemplation, but for now, I wonder whether Iger had some association with its creation and if there’s any chance he drew it. (It’s also possible that he just picked up an existing comic for publication–it’s filler, not mentioned in an otherwise detailed table of contents.)

Wow What a Magazine #2 is also chock-full of cartoony art, giving us lots of examples of work we can compare to the Scrappy strip in hopes of guessing the latter’s artist or artists. (The first Scrappy strip looks like it might be by a different person than later installments.)

Here’s Iger:

Buddy and Bill

And Bob Kane, or someone else he convinced to draw this for him:

Hiram Hick by Bob Kane

And Bob Smart, if he was a real person:

And George Brenner:

And someone who didn’t sign this strip:


And Will Eisner, with more art of Harry Karry, one of his earliest characters:

Well…this stuff is fun to look at, but none of it strikes me as close enough in style to the Scrappy strip to put anyone on a list of likely Scrappy artists.

But…

A while back, ace comics historian Steven Rowe had suggested Dick Briefer as another possible Scrappy artist. I was familiar with Briefer’s later Frankenstein comics, in both their scary and funny variants, and knew of the adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame which he did for Eisner/Iger. But I hadn’t seen any Briefer art that was both early and cartoony.

Well, thinking about Wow led me to track down the covers of the other issues–they’re available online, even though their insides aren’t–and it turns out that Briefer drew cartoony covers for issues #1 and #4.

Wow

These are not obviously by a person who drew the Scrappy strip. But you know what? It’s at least conceivable that Briefer is our guy. Or at least they don’t provide evidence that we should rule him out. I’d like to find strip work in a humorous vein that Briefer did in this era. For now, the search continues…

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