Caleb Orecchio here with another ancient comic strip. This time it’s Happy Hooligan by Frederick Opper.


“The seventh episode of Happy Hooligan, New York Journal, April 22, 1900. Opper’s creation was the first Hearst strip to regularly feature speech balloons and sequential panels.” according to 100 Years of King Features.

This seventh installment of Frederick Opper’s Happy Hooligan from the turn of the 20th Century is another strip I think about often. The olde platitude of the drunk Irish bum being carried away by the malevolent cop, the obstruction of the free spirit. The classic one-two of the vaudeville era.

What makes this strip funny is the thought of work, or even hearing or reading the word “WORK,” is enough to throw our hero into a panic on the street. The idea is compounded by repetition and the seemingly infinite prisons-of-the-mind a tramp is prone to by avoiding “WORK.” There is a metaphor for cartoonists in here somewhere but I’ll leave it up to individual readers to find their own meaning in this.

What I like about this strip is the aforementioned repetition. This is key in comic strip comedy (not to mention comics themselves), but today’s example is different from the kind of repetition found in Swinnerton’s strip from last week. The Swinnerton strip “held” the “shot” for the entirety of the drama, whereas this strip holds the “idea” for the joke until the punchline. The punchline simply serves as a “FIN” and indicates the audience should stand and clap now.

The more interested I become in these early comic works the more I realize that these guys really did write the rules for comics. Yes yes I know this is a redundant statement, but it’s funny to me that these idea of repetition I’m obsessed with served as a comedic tool. To my point, you can’t repeat images unless there are multiple images, and when you sequence these multiple images you get a comic strip. I’m trying to say that our form was birthed in comedy and the tools and techniques we still use today were made to tell a joke. Make sense?

I love comics. I like to ramble on and on about these things. Maybe I’m not saying anything new here, but I like thinking about these ideas. What are comics and how did we come to do what we do now? To find out you have to go back over one-hundred years.


Cement Mixer – 11-05-18 – by Caleb Orecchio

Share this page:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *