Etta and Wingey. Artist: Paul Robinson.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1925
Creator: Paul Robinson
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By the mid-1920s, comic strips about teenage adventures in and around the teenage world had become a well-established genre. Etta Kett, created by cartoonist Paul Robinson (formerly an animator …

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… at the Bray Studio, where Walter Lantz learned the trade), was a typical one in many ways throughout most of its existence, but it started out different. As the protagonist's name implies, its original purpose wasn't just to entertain, but to teach proper behavior to young people.

When King Features Syndicate (Flash Gordon, Krazy Kat) began distributing Etta Kett (December of 1925), it was just a panel about the social graces. But that was a very limited topic, and had to be expanded before Etta's series could become a full-scale daily strip and Sunday page. Before long, it was about all aspects of Etta's adventures with her family and her fellow high school students. She and her pals (particularly boyfriend Wingey) would attend football games, gather at the local teen hangout (The Sugar Shack, in her case), and agonize endlessly over the opposite gender — just like Harold Teen before them and Archie after.

Despite the dropping of the original didactic mission, Etta never went beyond the bounds of old-fashioned propriety, even as the rest of the world became more permissive. Comics historian Stephen Becker called her and her friends "blandly good-looking young people" who "cavort in total innocence".

Robinson used a sparse, fluid style style, which was popular during the 1920s in all areas of American commercial art. Tho times changed, the look of Etta Kett didn't. It retained its clean, bold, uncluttered appearance for almost half a century.

In fact, not much at all in Etta Kett changed over the years, except how the kids talked and dressed. She starred in four issues (numbered 11-14) of a comic book in 1948-49, from The American Comics Group, which at about the same time also licensed Moon Mullins and the cartoons of Milt Gross. There were a few other little bits of merchandising, too, but mostly Etta stayed on the newspaper page.

She did so until 1974, when Robinson died. The final daily episode appeared on November 23 of that year, and the final Sunday a day later.


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