Maud and Si. Si is the one in the air. Artist: Frederick B. Opper.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: Hearst papers (King Features)
First Appeared: 1904
Creator: Frederick Burr Opper
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When Frederick Burr Opper (already one of the most highly regarded cartoonists in America) went to work for …

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the Hearst chain of newspapers in 1899, the Sunday comics were a lot more freewheeling than they are today. Nowadays, we expect a paper to run, say, Tank McNamara, The Piranha Club and FoxTrot reliably, with a syndicated episode appearing every week, each printed in its own designated spot in the funnies section. Back then, a paper's staff cartoonists would work on recurring features, but not necessarily just one apiece, and not all would appear in any given week. What went in the section depended on what was ready in time for it.

Opper himself did Monopoly Lodge Entertainments, Wouldn't It Make You Mad?, Red Rig-a-Jigs and dozens of others, the majority of which appeared only once or twice. Three of his Sunday series became prominent, over a long period of time: Happy Hooligan, probably his best creation and certainly his longest lasting; Alphonse & Gaston, who left a mark on American culture that's still with us after more than a century; and this one, And Her Name Was Maud.

Maud was a mule, but a mule with a real personality — which included a stubborn streak that did credit to her species. What she liked to do best was get up on her front legs and deliver a resounding kick with her rear pair. She was generous with her kicks, and her very favorite target was Si Keeler, the farmer she belonged to. Or rather, the one whose farm she lived on and whose hay she ate — it probably isn't quite accurate to say she "belonged to" anyone.

To judge from how often, how extravagantly and at how great a volume and length he did it, what Si liked to do best appears to have been to curse at Maud. Tho Si frequently managed to wring satisfaction out of one-upping Maud, overall, Maud seemed to enjoy their relationship more.

Maud delivered her first kick on Sunday, July 24, 1904, and kicked her way right into readers' hearts. Her Sunday page continued to appear irregularly but frequently for several years. It may not always have had precisely the same title, tho. Modern sources give the official name of it just as it appears here, but one of the earliest books on comics, the 1926 publication How to Draw Cartoons, by Clare Briggs (who created the long-running Mr. & Mrs. as well as A. Piker Clerk, which probably inspired Mutt & Jeff), gave the full title as Hee Haw and Her Name Was Maud, leading one to suspect that title may sometimes have appeared on the page. When her adventures were reprinted in book form (three times by Frederick A. Stokes Co., dated 1906, '07 and '08) the title given was simply Maud. The feature is also sometimes referred to, in both contemporary and modern accounts, as Maud the Mule.

As the comics section became more stable, Opper settled on a single regular feature, and Happy Hooligan was its star. But for years longer, Alphonse, Gaston, Si and Maud were frequently there with him. In 1916, the latter two again became stars as Hearst's newly-launched animation studio began doing cartoons about them. Poor Si Keeler was released Feb. 4 of that year. Three more came out, the last of which was Round & Round Again, which appeared the following October. That same month, Hearst, in connection with Vitagraph, launched a weekly filmed magazine titled Hearst-Vitagraph News Pictorial, which ran before the features in many American theatres, and which always included a cartoon segment. Maud made occasional appearances there, as did Jerry on the Job, The Katzenjammer Kids and other Hearst comics stars. But Hearst's sojourn into animation lasted only a few years.

Maud and Si made it back into comics stardom on May 23, 1926, when Opper (responding to a growing trend among newspaper editors to want more comics on the same number of pages) made them the topper to Happy Hooligan. There they stayed for the duration of the Hooligan feature's run. But when Opper retired, his characters retired with him. And Her Name Was Maud was last seen on October 14, 1932.


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Text ©2004-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.