Professor Otto vs. The Millionaires' Club. Artist: George Herriman.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The Pulitzer papers
First Appeared: 1902
Creator: George Herriman
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Nowadays, comics about teenagers show them doing their homework on a computer. Young marrieds are seen keeping in touch via their cell phones. This is just a manifestation of the …

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… fascination the form has always shown for new technology. It was seen even in the very early days of newspaper comics' proliferation, back when the new technology, which had reached hobbyists and rich people but not the average guy, was the automobile.

Like most later-famous cartoonists at the time, George Herriman was associated with a lot of short-lived comics before hitting on the work that made him famous. Gooseberry Sprigg, Acrobatic Archie, Major Ozone and many more were all to his credit by the time he created Krazy Kat. Among his pre-Krazy creations was a series about an automotive hobbyist, Professor Otto and His Auto.

Otto first appeared in 1902, but whether the date was March 20 or 30 is a matter of some dispute. Most sources give the 20th, but that was a Thursday. While a daily strip starting in the middle of the week wasn't entirely unhead-of at the time, the 30th was a Sunday, and Otto has definitely been seen as part of Sunday comics sections. Either way, it was Herriman's second comics series, right after Musical Mose, who lasted less than a week, and his first continuing Sunday page in color.

Most of Herriman's comics were done for the Hearst organization, but this one appeared in the papers of rival Joseph Pulitzer, whose later comics included Lady Bountiful and The Captain & the Kids. Pulitzer's organization was later associated with a more long-lived comic about a driving man, Joe's Car.

The ending date of Professor Otto's comic is even more shrouded in mystery than its beginning. It's been spotted in Sunday papers for the rest of that year, as late as December 28, also a Sunday. It isn't known to have continued into 1903.


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Text ©2009-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art ©: Professor Otto is in the public domain. This image has been modified. Modified version © Donald D. Markstein.