Peter and a companion in adventure trail a madman through a fantasy landscape. Artist: Mo Leff.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1934
Creator: Mo Leff
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The heyday of fantasy adventure in newspaper comics, when such strips as Nibsy the Newsboy in Funny Fairyland, The Explorigator and Billy Bounce flourished — to say nothing of Little Nemo in Slumberland — was long over when United Feature Syndicate (Joe Jinks, Fritzi Ritz) launched Peter Pat, which would have fit right in with that crowd. As it was, the closest it had to a "crowd" to stand out from was Caniff's Dickie Dare, and the daydream exploits of a boy …

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who reads a lot is scarcely part of the same crowd as the adventures of a little boy who'd who'd followed a standard storybook route to Fairyland.

On Sunday, June 3, 1934, a winged warrior performed the function of Dorothy's tornado-driven conveyance, by carrying him from the mountaintop where he was standing to Pagoland, a magical place that offered enormous scope for adventure. Within a year, Billy Make Believe was also doing fantasy adventure for United Feature, and The Adventures of Patsy was doing the same for another syndicate, but when Peter Pat was carried off, he was the only one in comics having that sort of story.

The protagonist was always called "Pat" in the written part of the story, so either he didn't use his first name, or the strip was narrated by someone using the jounalistic style of always referring to subject by his last name. Also, the text was placed in captions under each panel, like that in Prince Valiant and the early Flash Gordon, rather than in conventional word balloons, like most comics.

Mo Leff, who also worked as an assistant on Li'l Abner, Joe Palooka and elsewhere, was the cartoonist behind Peter Pat. Pat's strip was the first he was allowed to sign with his own name — and the last, until Ham Fisher's death a couple of decades later left him solely responsible for Palooka (which, as "assistant", he'd been doing all the work on for years).

Pat wasn't a hot property, licensed out for radio shows, movie serials or even Big Little Books. But reprints of his Sunday pages did get into comic books like Tip Top and Sparkler, which existed solely for the purpose of reprinting United Feature strips like Tarzan and Nancy. In fact, he even got a cover and a logo of his own in the 8th issue (1939) of Single Series, where United's stars, such as Ella Cinders and Broncho Bill, were given a chance to shine as individuals.

But by that time, Pat was gone, at least as a first-run character — his comic book appearances, by that time, consisted entirely of "oldies but goodies". In fact, his comic lasted only a little more than a year, making its demise probably about contemporary with that of Bobby Make Believe and the conversion of Patsy to the mundane adventures of a Hollywool starlet.

And that was the end of a brief experiment in the marketing of latter-day fantasy adventure in newspaper comics.


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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © United Feature Syndicate.