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Monday, October 15, 2007

Comics Legend - George McManus

(A Suspended Animation "classic", originally posted at Starland in 1998.)

Just as spinach and Popeye are always associated with one another, corned beef and hash and Jiggs were inseparable in the funny pages. In fact, Jiggs' "daddy" was also inseparable from the funny pages.

A cartoonist at 16, George McManus' first comic strip was not about Jiggs. It was about The Newlyweds and Their Baby (1904- 1912). When McManus changed syndicates, he renamed the family oriented feature Their Only Child. He abandoned it, however, when his masterpiece struck pay dirt. It would reappear as Jiggs' co-feature in the 1930's as Snookums.

McManus' second strip didn't feature Jiggs either. In the short lived Nibsy the Newsboy (1905- 1906) he transformed New York City into a fairyland and street-wise parody of another famous strip, Little Nemo.

George McManus' masterpiece was Bringing Up Father (1916- ) and Jiggs, an Irish bricklayer who won the Irish sweepstakes.

Bringing Up Father was a broad but gentle caricature of immigrants and the new rich in America. Maggie, his snooty wife, played second fiddle to her immigrant, and despite all of her efforts to refine him, she could never get the corned beef and hash out of Jiggs.

McManus' distinctive design influenced art was simple and powerful. (Patterns like checker- boards and herringbone were everywhere). Even though Jiggs, Maggie and many of their friends looked like shaved monkeys, it was not because McManus lacked artistic talent. He was a master cartoonist.

McManus' comic book work includes Bringing Up Father (Kin& 1917, Cupples & Leon, 1919-1934), The Trouble of Bringing Up Father (Embee, 1921), Four Color #37 (Dell), and Large Feature Comic #9 (Dell). His work has also appeared in many comic strip anthologies including The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics.

Father has continued with varying success beyond McManus' death in 1954.

The work of George McManus is very highly recommended.

Published over many years, some titles may be difficult to locate. A price guide or comics dealer will help. Comic book shops, mail order companies, trade journals and comics conventions are best sources. Prices vary widely; shop around.

-- Michael Vance