Mr. Johnson takes the Little Scouts on an outing. Artist: Roland Coe.


Original Medium: Magazine cartoons
Appearing in: Saturday Evening Post
First Appeared: 1942
Creator: Roland Coe
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Many cartoonists of the early-to-mid 20th century got their starts in the profession by working in magazines. Some, like Peter Arno and Eldon Dedini, stayed there …

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… as long as they did cartoons. Others, like Bil Keane (The Family Circus) and Dr, Seuss (The Grinch), drifted into other areas. And some, like Charles Addams (The Addams Family) and Otto Soglow (The Little King) kept on doing what they did, and moved the work itself out to other areas. Roscoe Coe was one of the latter.

The work he stayed with was The Little Scouts, which was first seen in The Saturday Evening Post (Hazel, Henry) circa 1942. Within a couple of years, it was out in book form — Robert McBride & Co. published Little Scouts in Action, a collection of Coe's cartoons, in 1944. A scattering of other books followed during the 1940s and early '50s.

The Little Scouts (no relation) later appeared in comic book form. Dell's Four Color Comics, where a huge variety of cartoon characters, from The Brownies to King of the Royal Mounted, starred at one time or another, devoted its 321st issue (March, 1951) to the group. They were also in four subsequent issues, the last being #587 (September, 1954). Also, they had their own Dell title for five issues in 1951 and '52. Coe created the comic book material, just as he'd made the cartoons it came from.

The group was led by an an adult named Mr. Johnson, whose relationship with the boys (Wilmar, Jebby, Snackbar, Sprig and Dragheels) was similar to that of Uncle Elby with his dog, Napoleon. That is, he was very fond of them, but at his age (somewhat elderly), they were sometimes a bit too much for him.

Coe's work didn't make as much of a break-out as that of Marge Buell (Little Lulu), which, after starting in magazines, appeared in comic books, animated cartoons, book collections and advertising. In fact, the Dell comic book was as far as it went. But the books and comics are still enjoyed by collectors today.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Roland Coe.