…at least for today. This week (June 5-11) marks the anniversary of the debut of Otto Soglow’s comic character, The Little King. This simple, usually wordless, comic began in The New Yorker, and moved into a Sunday-only comic strip for William Randolph Hearst’s King Features Syndicate in 1934. Soglow continued to draw it until his death in 1975. Here is his first New Yorker appearance:
And here his debut for Hearst. Soglow had drawn a related strip, The Ambassador, for Hearst while his contract with The New Yorker ran its course. In the final strip of The Ambassador, the Queen appears to herald the Little King’s arrival. Here, the King enters in grand procession:
Soglow’s stylish, Art Deco-inflected drawing gave an extra boost to the mild, kindly humor of his work. His spot drawings – small pieces which peppered The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” section – helped boost the magazine’s visual character.
In 1933, The Little King was introduced to movie audiences, in a series of animated cartoons by the Van Beuren studio. After two cartoons featuring Sentinel Louie (the top strip shown above), Van Beuren went on to make ten Little King cartoons. Van Beuren was not exactly the best animation studio around, by any conceivable metric, but they seem to have put a little more effort into their attempts to capture Soglow’s style. The Fleischer Studio made a one-off short, Betty Boop and the Little King, in 1936, but their superior crew fell short compared to Van Beurrn’s: the King was given an annoying little voice, and Soglow’s style was adapted to better suit the Fleischer’s house style. I have linked to one of my favorite Van Beuren Little King’s, Sultan Pepper (1934), which is enjoyable and has a little friskiness that the Production Code would quash soon after.
A collection of Little King Strips, Cartoon Monarch: Otto Soglow & The Little King, was published by IDW Publishing in 2012.