Sketchy Oddballs 2 : Timid Souls

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Grandpa Felicius Grandpa Felicius: Harold Tucker Webster hated to be called Harold or Tucker, and even Webster discomforted him, although that’s how he signed the astonishing number of single panel comics he drew between 1903 and 1953, the mournful year of his passing. To his friends he was always Webby, the Mark Twain of the funny pages, and the true successor to the ultimate magazine illustrator, Charles Dana Gibson. His creations dealt with youth’s seemingly unbeatable highs (“The Thrill That Comes Once in a Lifetime”)…

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…and its seemingly insurmountable lows (“Life’s Darkest Moment.”)

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Anyone who’s enjoyed the smoke of cigars clouding over a poker table will relate to “Poker Portraits” / “Bridge”; anyone who’s been saddled with the tender chains of marital love will relate to “How To Torture Your Husband (Or Wife)”.

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“The Unseen Audience” lampooned the predominant madness of 1930s’ Radioland.

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His greatest triumph,  though, came in 1924, in the New York World, when his series “The Timid Soul” introduced the positively pusillanimous- and therefore recognizably real – Caspar Milquetoast. Caspar is the nice guy who finishes so far last that it’s possible he still hasn’t finished at all, nearly a century after his debut. When you inquire of Caspar what time it is, he’ll gift you his watch rather than cause offense with an answer that might displease you. When you mug Caspar, he will chase you for hours just to apologize for the worn-out condition of his wallet. Punch Caspar in the face, and he will beg your forgiveness for any harm his harsh features might have caused to your knuckles. Milquetoast will brave the seven seas to avoid a minor disagreement in the seven continents.

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Webster’s Dictionary picked up on Webster’s creation, and “milquetoast” entered the English language to mean someone gentle to the point of invisibility, and kind to the point of imbecility. Introducing a word is a feat few creators from the funny pages can claim. “Blondie” did give us the Dagwood sandwich, true, but we don’t call unfunny, slothful people “Garfields.”

However, even Caspar Milquetoast riles up when the situation requires it.

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Father Hank Hank: Most of these cartoons suggest what might have happened to Tom Sawyer had he married Becky Thatcher early on, and then she’d slowly grinded the whimsical joy out of him with “that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature,” to get all literary and quote Kate Chopin. These are some depressing cartoons.

Beatricia Beatricia: Oh, I wish you would hush, Hanky. Some of these are amusing. I meant “New Yorker” amusing, not ACTUALLY amusing. Well drawn, though! I give it an old, dusty Cherry.

Cousin Franz Cousin Franz: If time can raze Ozymandias’ works, what can’t it do to the works of a newspaper man? The ancient rags he worked in all have been blown away by the winds of change. However, the Internet forgets nothing, and those interested can find “The Best of H. T. Webster” at the Internet Archive.

Trent Trent: Now that I know who this guy was, I gotta say the Webby legacy lives on! In the web! Cracked and Buzzfeed still have little “jokes” just like these, but now “Timid Souls” is called “37 Big Bang Theory GIFs You Will Totally Relate To If Are An Introvert.” “How To Torture Your Husband” became “10 Signs You Are Not Being Supportive With the Mental Health Issues of Your Cisgender or Transgender Bae.” Funny stuff!

Tracey Tracey: Webster wins his Cherry with a brutal, rather daring 1946 drawing of a blood-covered KKK member returning home to his expectant offspring with a grizzly “souvenir”.

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The KKK reputedly  refused to be insulted, assuming Webster had meant it in “good fun.” He, in turn, was insulted they hadn’t taken his humor dead seriously, as he had intended it to be.

Blurbarella Blurbarella: “Predominant Madness– Depressing– Not Actually Amusing:– The Internet– Cracked and Buzzfeed– Humor Dead– Seriously.”

5 out of 6 Cherries

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