Friday, March 20, 2009

New Old Strips Refound--1

Diggin' Sandy Hill

When I read the online 1951 newspaper comic pages I found yesterday (see the last post, about Dawn O'Day), I came across two more strips I'd never heard of. The names of their creators were known to me because both had been around a long time. I'll share these finds with you in this post and the next.

The first strip was Sandy Hill by Bill Dwyer. The strips I found are clearly from the feature's first week. Sandy Hill is a youth soap opera about a farm boy's competition with the local rich kid to win the affections of the Pretty Young Thing from the City. These two weeks are the only ones I found. Saturday strips were missing.

The strip starts pleasantly enough. Dwyer follows the ancient tradition of giving his characters descriptive names. Our farm boy hero is Sandy Hill, the object of his affection is Gay Lark, and his nemesis is Skip Playmore. Dwyer's Gay resembles the early April Kane from Terry and the Pirates. Overall, though, his style is refreshingly free of imitation. His layouts are good and he handles both figures and backgrounds well. This work is miles above Dwyer's art for Adventures of Patsy, which was (if I may be permitted a disparaging word) pretty bad.

Sandy Hill seems to be conceived as warmhearted Americana. Thematically it was probably already old-fashioned in 1951. The postwar boom was beginning, and the American Dream of the nuclear family with two cars and a house in the suburbs was on the public's mind more than was life down on the farm.

I wonder where the story went from here. Unlike every other story about rich-kid / poor-kid battles, Gay sees through the snob from the beginning. The only way Sandy will lose out is if he's too shy to follow up his advantage. This is a unique twist, but unless the story is about Skip's revenge upon the lovebirds, there's not much drama in store.

Googling Dwyer and his strip returned very little information. Don Markstein was aware of Sandy Hill, but provided no information; Lambiek didn't even mention it. Neither source seemed to know much about Dwyer except that he'd taken over Dumb Dora from Chic Young in 1932, when Young left to create Blondie. If we assume Dwyer was in his twenties during the Dumb Dora years (we have to guess because neither source supplied a birthdate), then he would have been in middle age by the time Sandy was launched. The only other reference I found was an expired listing on ebay for a few Sandy Hill tabloid Sundays. Like these dailies they were from 1951. From this listing I conclude (a) Sandy had a Sunday page and (b) the strip may only have lasted a year.

I'd enjoy hearing anything readers might know about the late unlamented Sandy Hill.


Ger Apeldoorn said...

Alan Holtz has more on Sandy Hill (including the end and start date and a sample Sunday) at his excellent Stripper's Guide. I came across it too, beacuse it often appeared together with other Ap strips I was looking for.

john adcock said...

There is quite a bit of information on Dwyer in Robert C. Harvey’s Meanwhile… a Biography of Milt Caniff. Dwyer and Caniff were schoolmates and started out cartooning at roughly the same time. He contributed to Judge, Life, Collier’s, and the Saturday Evening Post before taking on Dumb Dora.

Smurfswacker said...

Thanks to you both, Ger and John, for the info. I'll pay Alan Holz a visit. That's the thing about the much stuff is out there; the trick is to find it!