Monday, May 21, 2007

Newspaper Reprints: Harold Teen

Harold Teen is featured in two issues of Series II, numbers 2 and 209.

Created by Carl Ed in 1919 Harold lasted 40 years in the newspapers ending in 1959. Ed (pronounced Eed) was born in Rockford Illinois in 1890. He graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island Illinois.

Ed started as an artist with World Color Syndicate in St Louis drawing a baseball strip entitled Big Ben. he left St Louis moving back to Rock Island as a reporter and sports editor for the Argus newspaper. There he drew another baseball strip, Luke McGluke, which was syndicated.

Moving to Chicago, Ed worked first for the Chicago American and later for the Chicago Tribune. It was at the Tribune that Ed submitted his idea for a teen strip entitled Seventeen. Captain Joseph Patterson changed the name and The Love Life of Harold Teen premiered on Sunday May 4, 1919.

The driving gimmick behind Harold Teen was the use of contemporary teen-age slang. Ed kept up with the slang and styles throughout the Twenties with the help of his teen-age daughter.

The strip was quite popular and was adapted to the radio and was also made as both a silent movie and a talkie. The silent version starred Arthur Lake as Harold. Lake later starred as Dagwood Bumstead in the movies and on TV.

Four Color Comic Number 2, another 68 pager, shows Harold sitting at the table in Pop Jenks Sugar Bowl, dreaming of his girlfriend Lillums Lovewell. That's Pops behind the counter polishing up a glass. Hustling across the front with some coin for a soda is Harold's pal "Shadow" Smart.

We open on the inside front cover with a synopsis. In this story line, reprinted from 1937, "Harold and Lillums have had a quarrel but with Shadows urging they have made up. Harold, bitten by the poetry bug, spends all his time composing love lyrics".

Naturally, this sends Shadow around the bend as he no longer has Harold to pal around with. As he bemoans his fate, he is unintentionally insulted by an old woman who mistakes him for a child due to his small stature. Turns out she is Lillum's Aunt Prunella, who has come for a visit. A modern woman, she insists that once Lillums completes high school in the Spring, she must go to Junior College. Even if Aunt Prunella has to pay for it. Excited by the prospect, she phones Harold to inform him of her good fortune. This sends Harold into a funk as they will be separated. He feels the pressure to compose the perfect love ballad. Shadow decides that he and Harold team up as a song writing team.

As the word spreads about Lillums going away to college in the Fall, all the other fellows begin to make a play for her. The result is that the Lovewell home is overrun with teenage boys. Mother and Father Lovewell are called out of town to take case of sister Susie who is ill. Aunt Prunella stays behind to chaperon the situation. Turns out Aunt Pruny is quite the hep cat, dancing the latest steps and shooting dice with the boys.

The boys decide to stop fighting and let Lillums make her choice of boy friend. This leads to lots of one-upmanship with gifts and a dating schedule as to what time each may call.

Shadow, constantly out of cash and with no credit, begins to take Aunt Pruny to the Sugar Bowl to buy soda. While there she strikes up with Pop. He puts on to Shadow about not liking women but it's obvious it's only an act.

The boys all show up at the Sugar Bowl with an attitude. Shadow acting as spokesman for the group demanded that Lillums pick one. Pop's asks which one did she pick? The answer, all of them.

The big day arrives and Lillums has gone off to college. Aunt Pruny decides to stay with the Lovewells which she is away. Everyone misses her terribly and imagines she is homesick, until Harold gets a letter where she raves about the college boys. Shadow is supposed to be keeping an eye on Harold for Lillums, but everyone sees through his disguises. Meanwhile, Aunt Pruny is on a campaign to spiff up Pop's wardrobe.

In the example on the left, the gang has skipped out without paying for sodas. Meanwhile, Harold drops by the Lillums household and Aunt Pruny gives Shadow an assignment. Loaded with lots of late 30's slang.

As Christmas arrives the gang is all excited as Lillums will be home from school on Holiday Break. They gather at the train station with flowers and hustle her for dates as she steps off the train. The days are a whirl for her with dates round the clock, but Harold is morose as he is only getting a portion of her time.

The New year arrives and the strip moves into 1938 as Lillums returns to school. Once more the town is in the dumps. meanwhile Pops romance is picking up with Aunt Pruny. As the issue comes to a close, Harold is behind the counter at the Sugar Bowl, Pops is dining at the Lovewells.

Two Hundred and seven issues later Harold returns for his seecond and final appearance in the series.

We see a split cover, on the right we have Harold writing a letter to Lana as he stares at her picture. On the left we have Harold's Grandfather writing to Aunt Prunella.

The inside front cover has a Sunday gag that is outside of any continuity. Shadow and Goofy are going to surprise Honey by baking up some buns. Instead they fall into horseplay and Honey throws them out of the house when she sees the mess in the Kitchen.

We now begin to follow the continuity of a story line from 1941-42. Grandfather Timothy Teen and Aunt Prunella Lovewell meet on the train. They are travelling to Covena to visit their respective families. Being old friends they spend the trip catching up. What they don't know is that Harold and Lillums have had a quarrel which has sparked a feud between Mother Lovewell and Mother Teen.

Aunt Pruny and Grandfather Teen reject the feud and pick up on an old relationship. Gramps (as the family calls him) reveals that he has a gold mine on his ranch bad in Arizona and has stuck it rich. He names his mine the Prunella Gold Mine No. 1. Things get hot with the parents as both mothers try to position their families to inherit the mine.

Harold having graduated from high school is working at a plant, presumably doing war work and is having lunch with Gramps when they are approached by a former classmate Veronica Vale. Veronica had just learned that Gramps was loaded and quickly decides to separate Gramps from his gold. Harold attempts to warn Gramps but he won't hear it.

Veronica turns up the heat by continually popping up and imposing herself upon the situation. Her flattering of Gramps is working and he is becoming smitten. He mentions her in Prunellas presence and covers his track by saying she is Harolds new girl friend. Gramps wants to meet Veronica's mother and she reluctantly sets up a visit at her home, dressing her mother up as an old lady.

Mother decides that she better grab Gramps instead and begins a campaign. Mother and daughter are waging war with Gramps the prize. Veronica has gotten herself a job in Gramps office and Harold confronts him. They have an argument and Harold leaves.

Gramps eventually feels regret and reconciles with Harold. Gramps has finally come to his senses and dumps Veronica, returning to Prunella, who never knew what was going on. In a last ditch effort to keep her plan going Veronica makes an appeal to Gramps that she needs to keep her job to pay for a needed medical procedure for her mother. Gramps falls for it and keeps her on.

Gramps is able to resist Veronica until his old buddy from out west HughDunnit arrives for a visit. Veronica accepts a dinner invitation from Hugh where she continues her plot by getting Hugh to believe that she has fallen for Gramps but is too shy to tell him. Hugh takes the bait and passes the message.

Gramps is hooked again and is back in Veronica's clutches. She poisons him against Prunella and he goes to tell her off. But her sweetness overcomes him and he can't do it. Gramps begins to think again and decides to get away for a bit to break things off and will return and propose to Prunella.

The issue ends on this happy note, but if you have access to reading the newspaper strips, Veronica had overheard the plan and was taking steps to overcome them. Undoubtedly this situation continued to be played out into 1942.

The back cover (inside and out) has two more Sunday pages featuring gags with Shadow, Goofy and Honey.

Final page count is 36 pages with no ads.

You can also see that the art work is better in the second issue. Ed has apparently changed assistants.

Reference: Comics and Their Creators, Martin Sheridan, Hale,Cushman and Flint 1942; 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics, Maurice Horn ed., Random House 1996

1 comment:

Henry Peters said...

What an ambitious project. I'm loving it so far! Please keep it up!