Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What Happened Next?

Arthur G. Racey drew the first English language comic strip in Canada for the Montreal Star. The strip "What Happened Next?" began on Saturday January 6, 1912 and ran until about July 4, 1913. These were usually 6 panels with both balloons and poetic text running underneath. Kids would win a prize if they submitted one panel to finish off the strip, the "What Happened Next ?" and many of these kids did a creditable job of submitting the last panel in Racey's style. The first comic strip featured a hobo (top Jan 6) who was replaced by regular characters Ted and Tad, a boy and girl, their Uncle Fred and Aunt Angelina (very bottom Jan 13). Racey eventually tired of the slapstick of Ted ‘n’ Tad and continued with different characters in comic strip one-shots until S'Matter Pop replaced it on October 11, 1913.

While the Opper influence on his work is noticeable (and is just as noticeable in the old Moon cartoons circa 1903) it is not slavish copying -- Racey took the work of his hero and made something entirely his own. When "What Happened Next?" finished, Racey carried on with a series of brilliant one-off's beginning with "Uncle Silas Has His Picture "Took." 6/21/13, "Tastes Differ; Or, The Disappointed Tramp"8/23/13, Racey's Microbial denizens of Microbe Hollow, a recurring one-panel in the old Moon, were dusted off and run as a one-shot strip "Romance in Microbe Hollow" 9/13/13, There was "Romance of a Montreal Melon" 9/20/13, and the last a beautifully drawn sequence "The Mischievous Monk" 10/4/13. Racey kept a private Zoo and his animal cartoons were anatomically correct. S'Matter Pop by Payne replaced Racey on 10/11/13. Racey continued working with political cartoons and illustrations for columns by Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock.

These comic strips by Racey stand up well to the best work of the Americans during the Platinum period, Opper, Swinnerton, Dirks and all. They are written "funny" and drawn "funny," and there is not one false line, Racey was a facile confident cartoonist who filled Canadian papers with cartoons from the turn of the Century with Grip to the beginning of World War II in the Family Herald and the Grain Grower's Guide. I would gladly see a few pigeon-spattered statues in Ottawa replaced by a monument to Arthur G. Racey, King of Canuck Cartoonists.

Strangely enough "What Happened Next?" does not seem to have been syndicated. I say strangely because his political and single-panel cartoons appeared in literally every newspaper in Canada through-out his career.

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