Monday, May 7, 2012

Meanwhile, in Argentina... ¿Nov Shmoz Ka Pop?

Argentina's children's magazine Billiken, named after a popular doll made in the US, was launched in 1919. It is still published weekly. Sometime in the 1940s, someone at Billiken decided that The Squirrel Cage would be a good addition to the magazine. I have no idea whether there was any actual licensing agreement with King Features, but The Squirrel Cage was indeed published in Billiken for at least a couple of years, given the title Jopito Y Calvete, reformatted to vertical, and in some cases, largely redrawn by another artist! I was quite surprised when I discovered this, and it may not have been a regular practice, but if you look closely at the first strip here (undated), you'll see that the lines are really not like Ahern's at all.

Here is the original Sunday in half page format. This strip is dated Jan. 12, 1941.

This next strip with Paul Bunyan, however, seems to use mostly Ahern's own art, with a few additions just to stretch the background to the edge of the reformatted panel. This is from a Billiken Magazine dated Sept. 27, 1943.

And here is the original half:

I have never seen any Squirrel Cage tabloid format pages in any US papers, and I suspect it never appeared as such, in which case these Billiken pages are the only tabs out there. If anyone has any more information about The Squirrel Cage in Billiken, I'd love to know when it started, how long it ran, and whether they published any of the Foozland continuity. Ah, Foozland! But that's for an upcoming post. I learned from Paul Tumey that The Squirrel Cage appeared in other foreign papers. Below is an example under the title Chifladuras.

Sorry it's so small! This was taken from a blog by Luis J. Lacourt, which you can view here. Although this strip looks like a daily, it's actually just the top portion of a Sunday page (you can see the lower panels peeking up from the bottom). Here's the Sunday in its 1/3 full page format.

I'd like to mention format. It seems most Squirrel Cage strips were published in 1/3 full format after the mid-1940s. However, I have seen original art for Squirrel Cage pages as late as 1949, and they are all 1/2 full format, which leads me to believe that Ahern always drew them as halves. If this is the case, I wonder where those halves are... perhaps it was just a few newspapers that continued publishing The Squirrel Cage in 1/2 full size once it lost its topper status. Speaking of which, that's another remarkable thing about The Squirrel Cage: it started as a topper, but after most other toppers had been eliminated in the mid- to late-1940s and more papers began running separate strips three-to-a-page, many papers decided to keep The Squirrel Cage. I think this speaks to the popularity of the strip, and to the lasting appeal of The Little Hitchhiker, especially, who seems to be better remembered than Room & Board or Judge Puffle.

How's that again?

For more great Squirrelishness, be sure to check out Paul Tumey's Screwball Comics blog!


  1. Excellent work, Carl! Fascinating to see these obscure foreign versions. I love how the Agentina editors renamed the strip with mad-e up character names. I wonder which guy is Jopito and which is Calvete? The other foreign version here has the title "Chifladuras," which means "madness" in Spanish -- fitting,no? I agree that it's a cropped Sunday -- makes a lot more sense than a daily! Best of all, we got a couple of "new" Squirrel Cages in this post -- the Little Hitch-hiker in a blimp -- love it! It's funny to see that he occasionally DOES get a lift (in this case, literally!)

  2. Hi Carl!

    I have a full tabloid "Room and Board" Sunday from 1951, from a Canadian newspaper. It's conceivable that, somewhere, a tab "Squirrel Cage" might have run. It seems criminal that Ahern drew these two strips in half-page form, week in, week out, and that most papers ran the chopped and changed third-page version. Meanwhile, the likes of "Blondie" was run as a 2/3 page feature... sometimes there ain't no justice on the funny pages!