L-r: Lulu, Leander. Artist: F.M. Howarth.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The New York American
First Appeared: 1902
Creator: F.M. Howarth
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While domestic comedy has been a standard part of every newspaper's comics offerings since comics began — The Dingbat Family, Keeping Up with the Joneses,

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Toots & Casper, etc. etc. etc. — what precedes domesticity hasn't been all that prominent in the funnies. Even George McManus's The Newlyweds didn't quite go back all the way in the evolution of romance. But there was at least one comic about courtship on the early comics page, and a critically-acclaimed one at that.

The Love of Lulu & Leander, by cartoonist Franklin Morris (F.M.) Howarth (Mr. E.Z. Mark), began appearing in the Sunday edition of William Randolph Hearst's New York American in 1902. The comics hadn't yet settled into the rigid formats we see today, so despite the day of the week, it was published in black and white. Howarth had been well-established in American cartoonery for years, through publication in various magazines and books, including Puck magazine, but this was his first foray into continuing, weekly comics.

Howarth was admired for his bold, expressive pen lines and his highly-individual rendering style. His work is still highly thought of for those reasons, but the praise isn't quite universal. Comics historian Coulton Waugh (Dickie Dare) didn't much care for it, calling Leander an "oily social climber" and adding that "his only charm is that he usually gets thrown out on his ear". The closest he came to a kind word about the strip was that the characters' oversized heads resembled that of the later Betty Boop.

Leander (last name, Lavender) wasn't really a social climber — in truth, he seemed well established in Society, and quite well-to-do. Nor did he get thrown out on his ear a lot, tho he did suffer badly in the aftermath of his frequent temper flare-ups — vividly depicted by Howarth, who, on almost a weekly basis, showed him gritting his teeth, tearing out his hair, kicking, flailing his arms, etc. This frequently happened as a result of some relatively innocent act, often not even her fault, on the part of the love of his life, Lulu Peachtree; but just as often, she was only a bystander. Sometimes it concerned Leander's occasionally-seen rival for her affections, Charley Onthespot. Frequent witnesses, if not participants, in his outbursts were Lulu's "Mommer" and "Popper", as she called her parents.

But Leander's frustrations weren't the only source of humor. At first, what drove the plot was his inability, despite planning, to set up conditions where he could "pop the question". Once they became officially engaged, early in 1903, they got into situations frequently experienced by soon-to-be-married couples — building a house, visiting more distant family members, planning for children, etc. Charley, whose presence was usually quite innocent, was still a source of irritation for Leander.

One reason courtship isn't a standard theme of serial fiction, in any medium, is that it doesn't last long. Eventually, either the readers grow impatient, waiting for developments that never come, or the characters just have to move things on by tying the knot. Lulu and Leander did the latter, on August 19, 1906. But inevitably, not all readers were entirely happy with this development.

Howarth launched a new strip, Ole Opey Dildock, in 1907. Some sources say that's when Lulu & Leander ended. Others say it ended the following year, when Howarth died. What's certain is that the protagonists didn't have a lot of time to enjoy their wedded bliss.


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Text ©2006-10 Donald D. Markstein. "Lulu & Leander" is in the public domain. This image has been modified. Modified version © Donald D. Markstein.