Friday, May 30, 2008

The Toronto Mystery Men I

“Everything I ever attempted in the way of serious art seemed to me to have a humorous streak in it.” - Richard Taylor

The first rather grim Tely Mystery Men strip appeared May 3, 1924, under a title banner reading simply "? ?? ???" The unnamed threesome looked like undertakers in their tall stovepipe hats and white gloves. Each Mystery Man wore a long black overcoat which swept the ground only distinguished by a different number of buttons, one two and three, and as the strip went on the audience was to discover that minus the hats, the hairs on their heads matched the number of buttons on their coats. If that wasn’t enough to delight readers of the "Tely" they were equipped with blank oval eyeballs.

A photo of Richard "Dick" Taylor appeared on the same page. He was a handsome dreamy-eyed lad with a neat part in his hair and was wearing a striped tie. "Dick", we were informed, was born in Fort William, Ontario in 1903 and moved to Toronto one year later. His first art teacher was a local portrait painter, and he continued his studies at the Toronto Central Technical School.

To promote the new Canadian strip, the Features Editor ran another contest offering Fifty Dollars (split amongst 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners) to christen each of the un-named "Three Funny Fellows." Both the daily strip (still headlined by the mysterious "? ?? ???" ), and the TELY MYSTERY MEN contest ran side by side with weekly updates and exhortations to contestants. Banner blurbs beamed to the reader from above and below panel. You, too, could win a $25 Grand Prize for naming the Mystery trio.

"I suggest as the names for the Three Mystery Men in Dick’s Comic Strip : --The Pickwick Hicks, Pick, Hick and Wick. Being so much alike, so are their names. Their humor is somewhat akin to the innocent homeroom adventures of Dickens’ Pickwick Club. One of them generally leads and picks the action, another is quick (Wick) to execute the action. The other is generally the ‘Hick’ of the joke or humor," wrote the winner, W. Hargreaves.

On October 27, 1924 the "Tely" Mystery Men came to a finish.

While MM was still appearing another contest had begun,the Pup-U-Larity Contest, with stuffed toys and one real dog worth $100 given away as prizes. The purpose was to promote a new strip by the American cartoonist Frank Hopkins, the "Tely" Snuggle Pups, from the John F. Dille Co., which began October 21, 1924 and ran until January 8, 1925.

Dick Taylor, (1902-1970) cartoonist and water-color painter,went on to work for The Goblin, Collier's, Esquire, The New Yorker and the Saturday Evening Post. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia he drew one other comic strip in 1935 (so far I haven't been able to trace this one) , "Dad Plugg," for a Canadian communist periodical, The Worker, signing himself "Ric."

Below and in the following post are a selection including the first and last strip.

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