Hayfoot Henry shows his typical speech patterns. Artist: Stan Kaye.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1943
Creators: Alvin Schwartz (writer) and Stan Kaye (artist)
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During World War II, the typical American comic book was an anthology, with a variety of different series. Usually, the most prominent among them were superheroes, but …

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… back then, when rising costs hadn't yet thinned the page counts, there was plenty of room for such non-superhero fare as humorous fillers. The one that started the trend toward that sort of anthology, DC Comics' Action Comics, had Superman as its cover feature, while other prominent characters included Zatara (a magician superhero along the lines of Mandrake) and Vigilante (a western-style superhero). For several years, its not-so-prominent humorous filler was one of the more notable of that genre, Hayfoot Henry.

Henry started out in a different sort of anthology comic, All Funny Comics, where the regulars included Super Sleuth McPhooey, Dover & Clover, and Penniless Palmer. He debuted in the first issue (Winter, 1943-44), as did Two-Gun Percy, Vitamin Vic and Buzzy. The latter had a connection to Henry, in that the writer who co-created Henry, Alvin Schwartz (whose other creations include Bizarro), also set the tone for Buzzy. Henry's other co-creator was artist Stan Kaye, who also drew Genius Jones.

What made Hayfoot Henry stand out from the crowd was that he and everybody else in the town of Sleepyside (where he was the entire police force), like the residents of Bucky Bug's Junkville, always spoke in meter and rhyme. But they didn't do it in quite the same way. In Bucky's stories, the dialog, captions and even sound effects all came together into relentless four-beat iambic verse. In Henry's, each word balloon and caption (of which there were few) had a self-contained rhyme, sound effects weren't included, and the rhythm varied.

Also, Bucky wasn't self-conscious about it, but Henry was. He was a clever guy, constantly outwitting the town's criminals, some of whom were quite ingenious. But his cleverness didn't stop there — he was also writing a rhyming dictionary (which might be of help to any townspeople who happened to be at a loss for words), and each of his four-to-six-page stories had a subplot in which he tried to rhyme a difficult word like "paranoia", "mimeograph" or "gazette". It was usually resolved by a chance utterance on the part of one of the story's subordinate characters. (In the series as a whole, the only recurring character was Henry.)

Henry appeared only in the first three issues of All Funny before transferring to Action, where he replaced Americommando. Henry's regular gig there started in the 75th issue (August, 1944), where Schwartz continued to write the series and Kaye continued to draw it.

Eventually, Schwartz moved on, in protest of the fact that DC paid the same for Henry's scripts as for any others, despite the extra work of making the dialog fit a rhyme scheme, and confident that DC wouldn't be able to replace him. And in fact, the series did seem doomed — Schwartz's last story appeared in Action Comics #118, and then several issues went by without Henry. But just to prove he could do it, Don Cameron, who also scripted Batman, Johnny Quick and various other characters for DC, wrote a Hayfoot Henry script. With Kaye's illustration, that story appeared in #123 (August, 1948).

The point made, Cameron didn't need to do another, and Hayfoot Henry was never seen again.


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