Since January 1, 2023, many artistic works have entered the public domain, because the copyright that protected the rights and interests of their authors has expired. The rules that protect copyright change according to the country in which that work was created. In Europe, for example, copyright expires 70 years after the author’s death – this year therefore 1952 (the year in which we don’t know that any important Italian cartoonists died). Even in China, Canada and New Zealand the author’s death is valid, but the deadline is brought forward 50 years after his departure.
In the United States, as we said in the case of Mickey Mousevarious modifications of the original law have taken place, arriving at a rule that requires the entry into the public domain after 95 years from the date of publication of the work (the version of Mickey seen in the short film Steamboat Williedated 1928, will in fact be free next year).
With Trip to the lighthouse by Virginia Woolf or to the movies metropolis And The jazz singer, even some comics have entered the public domain and can be used by anyone who wants to. The commercial appeal isn’t great, but you never know which unexpected reboot might make a fortune.
Muggs and Skeeter
Muggs and Skeeter is a humorous comic strip written and drawn by Wally Bishop, a twenty-two-year-old cartoonist who was inspired to create a strip after reading the popular The Gumps by Sidney Smith. Also Skippy by Percy Crosby, a comic book classic, provided the starting point.
The strip chronicled the daily misadventures of Muggs McGinnis, a boy in a striped T-shirt and M vest who lived with his grandparents. Then were introduced the orphan and adoptive brother Skeeter and the enormous dog of the two, Hoiman (“Herman”, said in Skeeter’s Brooklyn accent).
Initially titled Muggs McGinnischanged its name in 1936, remaining, as Maurice Horn writes in 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, a strip with a strong nostalgic system that looks kindly at childhood and tells of its most playful moments. Bishop continued to write and draw it until 1974, achieving good and long-lasting success for what was an ordinary strip starring a child.
Little Annie Rooney
Shameless copy of Little Orphan Annie (1924-2010) by Harold Gray, Little Annie Rooney it is inspired by the 1889 song of the same name, very popular at the time, and already the basis for a 1925 film with Mary Pickford.
Annie Rooney is an orphan girl who lives adventures in the company of her dog Zero (the original Annie had Sandy) and uses the catchphrase «Gloriosky!» (instead of Annie’s “Leapin’ Lizards!”). Although it was clear that the strip was born to build on the success of that of Harold Gray, the authors began to move away from the premises to try to make it a standalone comic.
Made by various authors (Ed Verdier, Ben Batsford, Darrell McClure and others), the strip went on until 1966 and had an unexpected success, although not comparable to that of Annie: in 1935 it was adapted into film Gingerwhile Harvey Kurtzman claimed to have been inspired by this parody to create his own, Little Annie Fannypublished on Playboy. And even James Joyce mentioned it in Finnegans Wake.
Good Time Guy
Good Time Guy is a strip that lasted only three years and was created by William Conselman, a screenwriter for the cinema who however also worked as a cartoonist under the pseudonyms of Frank Smiley and Bill Conselman (his most famous creation remains Ella Cindersvariation of the fairy tale of Cinderella).
As scholar Ron Goulart explains in the book The Funnies: 100 Years of American Comic Strips, the protagonist of the strip is Guy Green, a kind-hearted boy who lives in provincial Cornhay City with his widowed mother. Too shy to approach the beautiful Mary Laffer, who also dotes on him, Guy has two dreams: to see everyone happy and become a ukulele teacher in Hawaii.
Conselman’s scripts were full of puns, and the stories were characterized by plots in which a mistake by Guy always led to a better ending than intended. Good Time Guy was drawn by Mel Cummin, replaced after a year by Dick Huemer, future Disney animator and scriptwriter (Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, Fantasy) and then by Fred Fox.
Bobby Thatcher was a strip by George Storm (author of others strip how Phil Hardy And Ben Webster’s Career, as well as artist for DC Comics and Dell Comics in the 1940s) published for about ten years. It tells of Bobby Thatcher, an orphaned teenager who runs away from his guardian, the abusive Jed Flint, to seek his fortune and find out what happened to his sister Hattie.
Bobby is a willing boy who does his best for others and always ends up in adventures that see him collide, in a rural America very well outlined by the sign of Storm, with criminals and disreputable characters.
Connie is an adventure strip created by the cartoonist and illustrator Frank Godwin and published from 1927 to 1941 (although there are actually some conflicting opinions on the dates). The comic features the blonde Connie Kurridge, an adventurer with multiple jobs and her indomitable spirit – the surname Kurridge recalls the word “courage”.
Initially – in the wake of comic book heroes such as Brick Bradford – Connie works as an aviatrix, but over the years we also see her juggle as a detective, journalist, do-gooder… Villains are often overwhelmed by Connie’s beauty, underestimating her resources and her agility.
It was a canonical adventure strip, but Godwin also found a realistic dimension: during the years of the Great Depression, for example, Connie helps people queuing for bread, a very realistic representation of the economic crisis that was rare see in the comics.