Betty Boop with Henry: the lone cartoon pairing


I maybe have been beating the Henry drum loudly the last couple weeks. On the other hand, when else would I have an audience for this? And Roy Kassinger asked if I had ever reviewed the animated cartoon with Betty Boop and Henry. I hadn’t, so, what better time than now to do it? Maybe last week, then.

This cartoon originally debuted the 22nd of November, 1935. It was the 47th of the Betty Boop line of cartoons, which took the place of the Talkartoons after that series wrapped up.

So, some context. In 1933 the Fleischers launched the Popeye cartoon series, for good reason. Popular comic strips already had a long history of being adapted into animated cartoons. Popeye’s debut was officially in a Betty Boop cartoon. Her presence is a slight thing — she shows up for a musical number in the midst of the action. But it did mean the studio could work out whether Popeye was adaptable to cartoons in a way with minimum risk of failure.

Popeye was a brilliant success, of course. So there’s little else to do but try to repeat the trick. And here we get to Henry. The character had been around three years. The comic strip proper was around about one year when the Flesichers made this short. It was popular, sensibly enough. Henry as a character is clever but lazy, kind but a bit selfish, pleasure-seeking but not hedonist, with a bit of hard-luck about him. He fits in the line of characters like the Little Tramp, Mickey Mouse, or Dagwood Bumstead. It’s easy to like him. And, William Foster notes, was decades ahead of the curve in presenting non-white characters with dignity. There’s great reason to try him out.

There wasn’t a Henry series to follow this. I can’t call that an injustice. The short is pleasant enough. But there’s just not much there. Henry watches Betty Boop’s pet store while she’s out, makes a mess of things, and then re-catches the birds he’d let out. That’s not much of a plot, but it is something. It should have been plenty for the Fleischers. A Fleischer specialty is characters doing a simple thing in complicated ways. They had just months earlier introduced Grampy to the Betty Boop series. His entire point was thinking up Rube Goldberg contraptions to play music or turn the apartment building into a roller coaster or something. And Henry accidentally messing up something and fixing it in some ingenious complicated way would be a natural.

Here, though? The only clever thing he does is drop birdseed on his head to attract birds. And he does that a lot. There’s cute business, like, dancing with Pudgy, or setting two lovebirds together. But that’s a cute sideline, not action. (And the scene with the monkey ought to be funny, and then you remember pet stores would sell monkeys back then, and that’s awful and depressing.) Heck, the opening scene — Henry appearing to walk a plank between mountains, revealed to be a billboard — was clever, at least, with a nice reveal of what’s going on. What if the whole short had been like that? If it had been three minutes of earning animals’ trust and cleaning them or feeding them in silly ways, maybe Henry could have gone to series.

Maybe. One problem with Henry’s cast of characters is that he doesn’t have antagonists. I guess there’s a bully, and he has a teacher he’s afraid of, and his parents will make him take a bath or something. But that’s all a very gentle menace. Popeye comes from, in the comic strip, an action-adventure background. It’s natural to have a big-bad villain there. Popeye and the villain fighting for Olive Oyl gives stories an obvious point. And a reason for something exciting to happen on-screen.

It also helped that Popeye had stuff to say. In the comic strip Henry was mute, much as that distresses me when he’s put on the phone. But presumably he could speak; we just don’t see him doing so. (Apparently in the comic books he spoke as normal.) Popeye, in the comic strip, had personality from his first line. It’s easy to write stuff that’s definitely what Popeye might say and to rule out things he would not. Not his mangled speech; that’s just a marker. “I am what I am and that’s all what I am” is a declaration of character. When he talked in the cartoon it made sense. But Henry? What’s a Henry-esque turn of phrase? Henry’s voice actor — I guess Ann Rothschild, if I’m inferring things from Wikipedia right — tries. But Henry hasn’t got anything to say that shows character.

I could be wrong, though. Little Lulu has a protagonist who’s got that similar pleasant, soft, antagonist-free place as Henry does. And she was adapted into a successful enough string of cartoons by Fleischer Studios successor Famous Studios. And then changed into Little Audrey, when Famous Studios dropped the Little Lulu license. I don’t count myself a fan of them, but each was a successful enough series. Maybe this was a good idea hobbled by a bad first attempt.

The Speechless Ending


I’m not sure what I expected, really. After the final run of a Henry comic, that is. I guess I expected some kind of reaction from the crowd. At least a sigh. Maybe writing out some message on the fence. But no, nothing like that. I just looked out the window and there was a lot of gone. All there was to remember them by was leaves fallen off the trees and a bunch of mysterious colored flags planted in the ground. I’m like 75% sure none of them are to blame for the leaves, either.

But for the record, here’s the comic that Henry finished its run with. It’s a competent enough strip and I can’t find when its previous rerun had been.

Henry rides his cart down a hill. He walks up it, beside his dog, again. Henry pick up his dog to ride down the cart again. They fall over and crash. The dog hides, and Henry goes whistling after, trying to find him.
Don Trachte’s Henry rerun for the 28th of October, the final Henry rerun. And I can’t pin down when its previous rerun might have been; the just-shy-of-one-year rerun cycle broke down in the final weeks!

And in what I’m assuming is not exactly a coincidence, Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead guest-starred Henry. I don’t know, but I would imagine that Griffith liked the strip. It was always kind of weird. The constraint of the protagonist only pantomiming helped that. The commitment to keep the strip’s contents true to whatever its early-20th-century Americana Idyll too. It’s the rare comic strip that completely divorcees itself from contemporary culture, too. I mean, even Peanuts, not usually thought of as a topic strip, name-dropped Spuds Mackenzie, alluded to the Vietnam War, sent the kids to a weird millenarianist sleepover camp run by a for-profit preacher, and had Lucy offer her e-mail. (In different years.) But a comic strip like Henry that’s just entirely its own thing? I can see Griffith respecting that.

Henry: 'I conceive of a Henry than which no greater can be conceived. If a Henry than which no greater can be conceived does not exist, then I can conceive of a Henry greater than a Henry which no greater than can be conceived, namely, a Henry than which no greater can be conceived *that exists*. I *cannot* conceive of a Henry greater than a Henry than which greater can be conceived --- hence, a Henry than which no greater can be conceived *exists*! Ha, ha!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 28th of October, 2018. And the reason I don’t think this is just coincidence is because I expect Griffith to use Baby Huey for this sort of scene.

So I have not the faintest idea why Griffith had Henry present an ontological argument. I trust that he finds it all amusing and weird, and that’s always a fun energy.

Nothing yet from Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley. Which is weird, but the comic for the 28th was Halloween-themed so it’s not like that could be coherently bumped to another weekend.

Close up shot, from near the ground, of the yard covered in leaves, with a couple of flags marking where underground utility lines and such are.
What’s left after all the Henry fans leave. I mean, I understand the tiny red flag. That just makes good sense. But the blue one? And why three yellow flags? Are these complicated parking directions?

Statistics Saturday: Top Ten punch lines from Henry


  • Look at this apple Henry’s holding up!
  • Henry points at a mama cat.
  • Sneaking away!
  • Henry plugs up the speaker playing music.
  • Sliding down a thing!
  • Henry writes out someone else’s sign.
  • Interacting with a hobo!
  • Henry charges money for something someone else is doing.
  • Eek! A g-g-g-g-girl!
  • Henry eats.

Reference: Under The Black Flag: Exploits of the Most Notorious Pirates. Don C Seitz.

What All The Silent Murmuring Was About


I could barely sleep last night for all the — well, it wasn’t noise exactly. It was the sort of thing that sounded like an excited crowd talking about what they expected to happen, only with the whole mob of Henry fans in the backyard pointing at things and holding up signs and stuff. Anyway, it turns out tonight they’re having O Soglow’s The Little King give an address, as the vigil’s non-speaker of honor. Honestly so psyched for this.

The Little King walks past signs commanding SILENCE in the museum, and in another room (he takes off his shoes), and in another room again. He steps on a tack and cries out (wordlessly). His guards point to the SILENCE sign.
O Soglow’s The Little King for the 31st of August, 1952, and rerun the 8th of April this year. Also … wait, what?

What the Henry vigil is up to


So the mass gathering waiting for the final Henry strip continues in my backyard. Maybe others. I haven’t checked all the backyards out there.

I was worried about the food situation. The grease trucks never come down our block. There were some dangerous signs. I saw a bunch of the attendees holding up pictures of apples and pointing to our trees. We don’t have apple trees. Today I explained these are all maple trees. So a bunch of them ran off and now they’re holding up plates of pancakes to the tree trunks.

I think everyone’s happy? Well, the squirrels look bewildered. Still.

The Gathering, If Quiet, Crowd


So I knew it was going to be a little weird this final week of the long-running comic strip Henry. I’ve been reading all the eulogy pieces, of course, and seen people talking local and national news about how they’re going to adjust to a Henry-less life. Thing is, people can hold a final-week vigil in any small town where they still have soda counters and stuff. Why is a mob of Henry-fans gathering outside my garage, holding up candles and staring at me when I go feed the squirrels as if I were going to set a pie out to cool? This is going to be such a weird week.

Statistics Saturday: Pies Cooling On Windowsills In Henry This Past Year


Month Pies Cooling On Windowsills In Henry This Month
September 2017 0
October 2017 0
November 2017 0
December 2017 0
January 2018 0
February 2018 0
March 2018 0
April 2018 0
May 2018 0
June 2018 0
July 2018 0
August 2018 0
September (through the 15th) 2018 0

Not counted: two instances of pies shown on display in the window fronts of bakeries. My reasons for this are that pies are appropriate items to have on display in the window fronts of bakeries, even in real life; that said windows are not shown open and so the pies cannot be considered even loosely to be on a sill; and that there is no way to know the temperature of said pies on display and therefore whether to ascertain whether they are cooling relative to the general decline of the universe.

I know, I’m shocked too. And you know what else is shocking?

Teacher: 'Now, Henry, will you please read your poem?' (Henry stands up at his desk.) Teacher: 'I can't hear you, dear. You will have to raise your voice!' (Henry stands on top of his desk.

Oh yeah, also? A big gee, thanks to the Apple imagineers behind the spreadsheet Numbers who made it impossible to make this as the bar chart I wanted, with bars that started out in the indefinite foggy mists below and rose to zero and stopped there. I’m not as annoyed with you as I am with the Google Maps imagineers so your pit of wolverines is actually just a closet I’m going to lock you in with them, and they’ve been convincingly told you routinely insist Firefly is crazy overrated.

Doing this has lead me to discover that the Henry that got me all worked up this Monday, the 10th, they also ran the 19th of September, 2017, just about one year ago. And the strip has been running the strips from just about one year ago a while now and I only just noticed. They’ve done a little recoloring, like changing the flowers on the teacher’s desk, but that’s all.

Reference: Henry II: The Vanquished King, John Tate Appleby.

Is the comic strip Henry ending? Is the comic strip Hazel ending?


Yeah. According to D D Degg over at The Daily Cartoonist, King Features Syndicate is ending the reruns of a bunch of comic strips. Two of them I’ve even heard of.

The most prominent is Henry, created by Carl Anderson. The one featuring the pantomime kid with a peanut-shaped head. Who lives somewhere there’s probably pies cooling on windowsills. Anderson had to step down from the comic strip in 1942, but other people drew it until … maybe 1990 for the dailies and 1995 for the Sunday strips? Nobody seems to quite know, which is one of the many baffling things about the comic strip. The web site claims Carl Anderson as author and that’s just a lie. At least the Sunday strips would often have Don Trachte’s name on the title panel. But I don’t know if he wrote all the dailies too, or when he might have stopped, or when the current reruns are from. Trachte, who died in 2005, was one of Anderson’s assistants. He took over the Sunday strips in 1942 and made them through to 1995. So that’s an amazing run, too. Wikipedia claims the comic was still run in about 75 newspapers, but I don’t know any of them. Henry‘s last day of weekday reruns is to be the 27th of October, and the last Sunday rerun, the 28th.

Teacher: 'Now, Henry, will you please read your poem?' (Henry stands up at his desk.) Teacher: 'I can't hear you, dear. You will have to raise your voice!' (Henry stands on top of his desk.
Carl Anderson’s Henry rerun for the 10th of September, 2018. Also: um, what exactly did the teacher think was going to happen when Henry read his poem? Has she not been in this comic since Herbert Hoover was president for crying out loud? Does she not learn from experience?

Also ending: Ted Key’s Hazel. This comic strip started as panel cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post in like 1943. The strip got made into a live-action sitcom in the 60s. It’s been with King Features since the collapse of the Saturday Evening Post. Ted Key — who also created Sherman and Mister Peabody, so show some respect — retired from the strip in 1993 and I guess it’s been in reruns since then? At least there’s no explicit statements from anyone that someone else took over writing, and Key’s signature is still on the panels. Wikipedia thinks it ran in fifty newspapers in 2008. Goodness knows how many it’s in now. It’s to end the 29th of September.

Hazel, looking at the short-cut, flower-printed dress: 'They've got to be kidding!'
Ted Key’s Hazel rerun for the 10th of September, 2018. I feel like by the pattern and cut of the dress it ought to be possible to date its original publication to with a couple years, except that comic strips often have these weird cultural lags, which is to say that I’m guessing Mallard Fillmore is still wandering onto college campuses and finding dirty filthy long-haired hippies protesting Vietnam. Only this time, they’re protesting that Vietnam doesn’t have big enough safe spaces with Wi-Fi, nudge nudge ha ha ha (dies).

Also ending are two comic strip-like things I never knew existed. One is Sally Huss’s Happy Musings, an illustration-and-a-maxim panel that’s been going since 2006, Degg reports. It’s to end the 29th of September. And Play Better Golf With Jack Nicklaus, a thrice-a-week illustrated feature about furniture repair, is to end the week of the 15th of October. Its writer, Ken Bowden, had died in 2017, and its artist, Jim McQueen, died in 2016. Degg thinks the strip was in reruns before then. I couldn’t say anything to the contrary. Jack Nicklaus isn’t dead as far as I know, although I admit I don’t have anyone checking on that for me.

I’m sad to see any comic strip ending, of course. But Hazel and Henry ended long ago, really. It’s maybe nostalgically comfortable to see them around, but that’s something for web site reprints to do. Henry, also, serves as a weak thread of inspiration to all of us who dreamed of being a cartoonist and then discovered cartooning was hard work. Anderson — who was born while the Seige of Petersburg was still going on, for crying out loud — had his hit comic strip character picked up by King Features in 1934, when he was 69 years old. It suggests there’s time for all of us yet. This overlooks that Anderson had been working as a cartoonist and commercial artist for decades before hitting what we’ve arbitrarily named “success” here. Still, Henry got to be in a Betty Boop cartoon. That’s the kind of accomplishment few people will ever get to enjoy.

Right After Chatting With The Little King, I Have To Imagine


I like to figure I’m a reasonable person, since everybody does. I mean, there’s even a classified ad that runs in almost every issue of our local alt-weekly, promising (depending on the season) lawn-mowing or show-removal, from Dave, who promises he’s reasonable. That could be merely reasonable by his lights, like, he figures it makes sense that in exchange for removing the snow from your 35-foot-long driveway he should be entitled to lick your front door anytime he wants. But the point is, Reasonable Dave figures he’s reasonable, and I figure I’m reasonable too, and that’s why I’m bothered when I see something like this:

Henry comes home. His mother: 'Your teacher wants to talk to you, Henry!' Henry dashes off, puts on a monster mask, and gets on the phone.
Carl Anderson’s Henry rerun for the 6th of September, 2017. Since I don’t do video conferencing you have no way to know whether this is how I handle all my work-related conference calls.

I like to think I’m not alone in being bothered by this. But the only evidence I have is Henry’s Mom looking horrified by his behavior in the last panel. Yet she’s the one who put him on the phone. What did she expect? There is so much fault to go around here, I think is the reasonable conclusion. You tell me.

Also, Carl Anderson died in Like 1948. He can’t have drawn this particular strip or any one that looked like it. When was this made? Who drew it? How many times has it been rerun since the comic strip ended? When did the comic strip end? These are all questions I feel I cannot answer.

The ‘Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G’ Update


I would just like to assure anyone wondering what’s happened in Apartment 3-G since the last update about how nothing is happening in it, that nothing has continued to happen. I confess it is starting to look like the story might be digging out of its extremely deep ruts into implying something happening. Specifically, this past week Margo did not meet any strange, haunting, phantom-like faces to chase off. Margo did warn Gabby, her until-recently-unsuspected biological mother that the place she had been planning to use for the wedding, Stonewell, had suddenly jumped considerably in price.

How she could have known this I don’t know, because as far as I can tell there haven’t been any moments when she could have learned this. But then Margo and Gabby did teleport mid-conversation from the middle of whatever smalltown American city Henry lives in, back in 1947, into every interior in Apartment 3-G ever anymore. So I can’t rule out their having psychic powers letting them learn these things.

Margo warns Gabby that the Stonewell property, where she hopes to marry, has gone up in price from fifty thousand to a quarter million. (Stonewell is in England so this might be dollars or might be pounds. Gabby's fiancee --- Margo's father --- is absurdly rich.)
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 19th of July, 2015.


Margo has an idea: 'I'm going to make Diane Device disappear!' Gabby does not understand this clearly stated plan to murder Diane.
Frank Bolle and Margaret Shulock’s Apartment 3-G for the 20th of July, 2015.

Anyway, the characters are obviously deciding to take up recreational murder, or possibly stage magic, so that’s very reminiscent of being something-ish, without anything actually happening. In the meantime, I had another bunch of mathematics comics to review over on my other blog. There’s some silly pirate jokes in there. You’d probably enjoy.