Slap Happy Pappy – A Selection

SHP_07_crack11 During the 1940's, Jack Cole created 400 to 500 one-page funny episodes that appeared in the pages of various Quality Comics titles. This is a major part of Cole's work in comics and deserves attention as such.

These one-pagers (on rare occasion, two-pagers) featured a handful of characters, some of which Cole invented and some of which others created and Cole later took over. In his great 1986 book, Focus on Jack Cole, comics historian and science fiction author Ron Goulart calls this material "out-and-out funny stuff," and I agree.

I once dismissed Cole's one-pagers as filler fluff, but a more systematic study of these has led to a sincere appreciation for this material. Jack Cole's one-pagers are usually very inventive graphically, extremely well-written, and downright funny.


I think Cole found probably found an outlet in these that partially satisfied his earliest yearnings to become a syndicated cartoonist. In a way, these monthly one-pagers functioned as a sort of regular comic strip. In fact, one could regard this work as a precursor to Jack Cole's 1950's syndicated comic strip, BETSY AND ME.

Aside from brief runs of Cuthbert, Fuzzy, and Poison Ivy, there were five main characters in Cole's stable of Quality Comics one-pagers:

  • Burp the Twerp (Police Comics)
  • Dan Tootin (Hit Comics)
  • Slap Happy Pappy (Crack Comics)
  • Windy Breeze (National Comics)
  • Wun Cloo (Smash Comics)

When you consider that Jack Cole wrote, drew, and lettered 5 one-pagers a month for most of a 6-year stretch from 1941 to 1947, it's almost as if Cole single-handedly created his own Sunday comics section every month!

And this was on top of monthly creating PLASTIC MAN and MIDNIGHT stories, the various back-up stories scattered all over the pages of Quality comics, and several covers!

Even though several of Cole’s early humor comics centered on hillbilly humor (such as Home In The Ozarks) , quality staffer and editor Gill Fox actually created the Slap Happy Pappy strip. Fox’s pages ran in Crack Comics 1-8. Here’s a selection of Gill Fox’s enjoyable pages, which shows off his precise line and clear writing style (it’s no wonder Quality publisher Busy Arnold made Fox editor):

Crack Comics # 1 (May 1940)

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Crack Comics 3 (July 1940)

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Crack Comics 6 (Oct 1940)

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Jack Cole’s first entry in the series shows him working closely from Gill Fox’s character designs, although Cole has injected his screwball, surreal humor into the strip. Note that Cole is using his pen name “Ralph Johns.”

Crack Comics 9 (Jan 1941)

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Crack Comics 11 (March 1941)

Fox’s character design is still in play, but Cole has begin to use his own wild page layouts and artful titling (a la Eisner’s SPIRIT splashes). It’s outrageous that Cole would design new title art for a ONE page strip. Amazing!

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Crack Comics 14 (July 1941)

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Crack Comics 22 (March 1942)

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Crack Comics 23 (April 1942)

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Crack Comics 26 (Nov 1942))

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Crack Comics 30 (August 1942)

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Crack Comics 36 (Winter 1944)

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Crack Comics 40 (Winter 1945)

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Crack Comics 41 (Spring 1946)

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Crack Comics 46 (Jan 1947)
A bizarre gag based on spousal abuse, with just gorgeous cartooning chops – the essence of Cole, weirdness mixed with virtuoso technique. This page was reprinted in Plastic Man #18 (July 1949)

Crack Comics 46-18

 

Crack Comics 47 (March 1947)
One of Cole’s last Slap Happy Pappy 1-pagers and it’ a doozey. Beautiful, crisp drawings,  satisfying dense page layout (check out that thin horizontal borderless second tier), and sexy girls.

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Plastic Man #17 (May 1949)
Very likely a reprint from some earlier, as yet undiscovered publication, or a page that was probably created in 1947 and unpublished until a slot was found in 1949. A fine example of Cole’s nested jokes technique in which puns are wrapped inside of a larger joke. In this page, the meta-gag is that Pappy mistakes his own ignorance for shrewdness!

Plastic Man 17-23

Note: I just discovered a new FUZZY one-pager at the end of the Clap Happy Pappy run! I’ve added it to the FUZZY posting, here.

1 comment:

  1. Paul: Is there no end to Cole's genius? I have never heard of this character, but wow! I love the difference between Fox's strips and Cole's - not a jump in quality, exactly - just a marked jump in "Cole-ism." All characters slightly more surreal and unpredictable - perspectives become odd and fascinating; and the drawing gets much looser and more fun. Great stuff!

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