Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Shmoz?

The only collection of "The Squirrel Cage" that I'm aware has ever been published is an independently produced collection of strips from 1937, which was until recently available from Ken Pierce Books. Unfortunately, it's now showing as "out of stock" - which I wouldn't take as a good sign. You may wish to check back, however. Here's the link to the listing. It's a nice little volume with 30 Sunday strips reproduced in color, although there's no annotation at all.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Pun Puzzle Example, and How to Get The Little Hitchhiker Out of Your House.

For at least a few months in 1940 Ahern experimented with pun puzzles. Here's an example.

Either he got tired of them, or he realized they just weren't as funny as some of the other stuff he had already been doing. He soon dropped this formula & went back to focusing the hitchhiker. Here's another great mini-continuity, where the hitchhiker gets invited inside - but then won't leave. I love the strategy for removing him - perfect!

Before the Cage, There Was Food.

Here are some examples of Ahern's early work, before he started Our Boarding House. The first is a panel from August 22, 1916, that I think shows some surrealist leanings.

Ahern was clearly influenced by Rube Goldberg, and many of his early strips use Goldbergian formulas, including crazy inventions. There's more here, though - look at the building in the lower right corner. It looks like something from Dr. Suess! Such buildings would often appear in the Nut Bros. and later in The Squirrel Cage.

Here's an even better example of surrealism, from Ahern's "Squirrel Food" strip, which featured one of his first regular characters, Balmy Benny. These are dated Sep. 15, 17, and 18, 1917. The boss gives Benny a vacation in Simpgoofia.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nov Blog Ka-Pop?

Be sure to check out Paul Tumey's Screwball Comics blog for more great Squirrel Cage strips, as well as other screwball wonderments!

Early Continuity

Ahern played with continuity in "The Squirrel Cage" from the early years. We've seen some examples from 1937 with the annoying neighbor. In 1938 there was a fairly long sleepwalking sequence (two examples below).

However, this was not really continuity of story, but of theme. The first real continuing story that I've found comes in 1939, when Merlin the Magician is introduced (who will, of course, help our friends get rid of that "annoying pest"). However, The Little Hitchhiker gets hold of Merlin's wand. This story lasts for several months, with the magician always failing to get the wand. Here are some examples, including the strip where Merlin loses the wand:

I don't have the finale, so I'm not sure how this story ends, but by 1940 we're back to more stand-alone strips. Ahern experiments with some word puzzle / pun strips, which are clever, but not really that funny. Maybe someone tells him they're not so great, or maybe he just realizes it himself, and he returns to the old formula. But by 1942 he would introduce a new and very different character that would lead the strip into fantastic adventures...!