The Sunday newspaper comic section in America has its origins, as so much of our popular culture does, in the late nineteenth century. The Sunday comics are of course in color, and they got their start as inexpensive competitors to (and imitators of) the color comic weeklies, first of which was Puck, founded in 1876 by Austrian-born artist Joseph Keppler (1838-1894). (1) After Puck came The Judge in 1881, then Life, in 1883, the latter made famous by Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944), creator of the Gibson Girl.
Puck, The Judge, and Life benefitted from innovations in printing technology, as well as from improved methods of mass production and mass transportation in the late 1800s. Newspaper printing lagged by comparison, but in 1892, the Chicago Inter Ocean became the first paper to print a color supplement. The Sunday comic supplement--what became the Sunday comic section and ultimately just the Sunday comics--soon became a feature of big-city papers in New York and Chicago. By the early or mid 1900s, even smaller papers had full-color Sunday comics, although they often outsourced the printing to companies in St. Louis, Buffalo, etc.
Although Puck ceased publication in 1918, its covers and especially its double-sized center spreads are still with us. If you look hard enough, you'll find them at antique stores and malls, as well as on line, usually at reasonable prices. The old Life magazine, on the other hand, has been largely forgotten. If you mention Life, most people think of the photojournalistic version of 1936-2000. Copies of the old Life may be hard to come by.
The Judge, usually just called Judge, is probably the least well known of the three, having come to an end in 1947, beyond living memory for most people of today. In its day, though, the magazine featured covers by Rea Irvin (1881-1972), John Held, Jr. (1889-1958), and Dr. Seuss (1904-1991), among many other luminaries of the popular arts in America.
Hoosiers had their place on the cover of Judge as well, chiefly Don Herold (1889-1966) of Bloomfield. Below are a few of his covers, plus a bonus cover by Nate Collier (1883-1961), who, though he didn't enjoy the good fortune of having been born in Indiana, studied cartooning by correspondence with the National School of Illustrating of Indianapolis and worked as a cartoonist for the Kokomo Dispatch in the early 1900s.
(1) Although I have not found any direct record of Joseph Keppler's sojourn in Indianapolis in the late 1860s to about 1870, I have an article that says that he indeed lived in that city before moving on to St. Louis. By the way, Keppler should not be confused with the artist Max Francis Klepper (1861-1907), as has happened so often.
|Judge, the Etiquette Number from November 28, 1925, with a cover by Don Herold.|
|Judge, February 27, 1926, again with a cover by Herold.|
|Judge, April 24, 1926, with a cover by Don Herold and "T.S."|
|Judge, Red Number, date unknown, with a cover by Don Herold.|
|Finally, Judge, The Great Melodrama Number, January 28, 1928, with a cover drawing by Nate Collier.|
Text copyright 2018 Terence E. Hanley