150 Greatest Cartoonist Countdown: #121 Gustave Verbeek

#121 Gustave Verbeek

A lot of comic strips can be formulaic… this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. The brilliant Krazy Kat‘s most basic premise is a mouse hitting a cat on the head with a brick, after all. Indeed, a number of strips have taken a limited premise and woven it into inventive strips for years, or even decades… limitations can inspire a lot of inventiveness.

No strips that I’m aware of have used as cockamamie a premise as Gustave Verbeek’s The Upside Downs of Little Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo (which I wrote about previously here). Each week the mad Verbeek drew a strip where the first half was read right-side up, and the second half was read in the same panels upside-down. Most cartoonists would have had a good time with this concept one time for a lark and then moved on. Verbeek explored this insane premise for over a year (October 1903- January 1905) before going on to other things.

His other major work, The Terrors of the Tiny Tads (1905-1915), is equally bizarre, full of weird creatures and strange (and frequently violent) situations. The conceits here are that they are told in rhyming verse, and that the creatures have names where they are made of two words running into each other… like the pelicantilope and the boa constrictortoise, for example. Both of these wondrous creatures are seen below in three rare strips I scanned for you to enjoy… click on the images to read the full strips.

From March 31, 1907:

From May 1, 1910:

From April 24, 1910:

Click here to see a whole lot more Terrors of the Tiny Tads at Barnacle Press.

Click here to the wikipedia entry on Verbeek, which has some good links about him.

Click here to read the lambiek.net entry on Gustave Verbeek.

UPDATE: Marco of nonsenselit.org was nice enough to point out that he has 3 examples of another great Verbeek strip, The Loony Lyrics of Lulu, here.

Woozlebeasts and Upside-Downs

Peter Maresca of Sunday Press Books (publisher of the recent gigantic Little Nemo book I mentioned previously), is planning on including a variety of strips in his upcoming book reprinting Winsor McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze. These include J.P. Benson’s The Woozlebeasts and Gustave Verbeek’s The Upside-Downs, both excellent and bizarre strips. He is looking for some help locating some strips for this reprint… help him somebody! Here is what he posted to the Platinum Comics Group:

Call to all Winsor McCay collectors!

As many already know, I will be publishing two reprint books this year. After the full-size, Sundays with Walt and Skeezix the second project is a full-size volume collecting all of McCay’s color Sammy Sneeze pages. I’m putting Sammy on just one side of each page, and the other side will feature whatever monochrome strip appeared on the back in the 1904-05 newspapers. Strips include the Woozlebeasts, Upside-Downs, and McCay’s own Hungry Henrietta.

My problem is that not all of my Sammy collection is from the New York Herald, the only paper to put Henrietta on the back. As a result, I am missing Hungry Henrietta pages.

I could substitute other strips, but obviously the best thing to do is have the complete Henrietta. Anybody out there know the whereabouts of Herald sections from 1905? Or another source for Henrietta (Jan-July1905)? My usual contacts along with the SF collection at OSU have all come up short. Exciting prizes offered as a reward!

Thanks for helping out with the hunt!


Searching for some images to post with this, I made an awesome find… nonsenselit.org. It is a site offering, among other wonders, a complete online version of J.P. Benson’s Woozlebeasts 1905 book collection along with various Woozlebeasts strips, and reprints of Gustave Verbeek’s Loony Lyrics of Lulu, Tiny Tads (courtesy of Barnacle Press), and Easy Papa (courtesy of the Stripper’s Guide)… no Upside-Downs there, yet. Additional strips offered at nonsenselit.org include Peter Newell’s Naps of Polly Sleepyhead (along with a lot of other great Peter Newell stuff), Helen Stilwell’s Laughable Looloos, and other very interesting stuff, like this 17 foot long unfolding panorama by Aliquis called The Flight of the Old Woman Who Was Tossed Up in a Basket… wow.

In addition to all of this they also have a fantastic blog called A Blog of Bosh… I don’t know how I missed this site previously, but I sure am glad I found it!

Verbeek’s Upside-Downs is a pretty amazing strip. The strips have six panels which you read right-side up, and when you get to the last panel you flip it over and read the same panels upside-down to conclude the strip. To do this successfully once would be impressive… Verbeek did a whole series of them. To see an example I just blatantly stole out of Nemo #10 (I’m pretty sure this is “fair use”), click on the image below… then click on the strip example that comes up when you’re ready to flip it over. Nemo #10 reprints 16 of these ingeniously inventive strips… copies of the wonderful Nemo magazine can still be found at reasonable prices on Ebay.

The Woozlebeasts offers an array of marvelous and funny fantastic creatures. These strips (along with Verbeek’s The Terrors of the Tiny Tads) seem to me like a direct predecessor of two of my favorite cartoonists, Basil Wolverton and Dr. Seuss, although I have no idea if they were influenced by the Woozlebeasts and the Tiny Tads or not. Here is an example from the book on the nonsenselit.org site… click it to go view the entire book at nonsenselit.org.