The R. F. Outcault Reader - vol. 8 no. 3

 The Will Lawler Buster Brown Sunday Pages


As you know, R. F. Outcault left the N. Y. World in 1896 and took the Yellow Kid to the N. Y. Journal in October of that year and began drawing the Yellow Kid in McFadden's Flats. Pulitzer hired George B. Luks to continue drawing the Yellow Kid in Hogan's Alley for his N. Y. World because of the Kid's popularity, and New York had two Yellow Kids every Sunday. The artist was allowed to move the character but not the title of the strip. It is still not clear if this action was the result of a court decision or simply good business acumen, but it happened, and it set the stage for subsequent artist/character moves like the one involving Dirks and Knerr with the Katzenjammer Kids.

Similarly, at the end of 1905 when Outcault left the N. Y. Herald to join the New York American, he continued drawing the extremely popular Buster Brown character but without Buster's name at the top of the page. The Herald continued to run the Buster Brown strip for the next five years with a Buster Brown title and used a number of different artists. Robert Beerbohm has been publishing letters from legendary comic strip collector Ernie McGee to Joe Campbell; the 1 October 1961 letter indicates that McGee was positive that Wallace Morgan, Clare Briggs, J. Norman Lynd, and even Winsor McCay ghosted one or more pages for the Herald after Outcault left.

I can now add another name to that list: Will Lawler. On 1 February 1995, Stephen and Marlene Dietz purchased approximately 125 pieces of original Will Lawler comic art from Lawler's grandson. Over 100 pieces were Buster Brown Sunday pages ranging from early 1906 to early 1909, and in very good condition. I have recently had the opportunity to catalog and appraise the collection for a donation to the Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library and was most impressed with the quality of Lawler's art. In my opinion, he did a fine job drawing Buster's face but had more difficulty with the side view; he did an excellent job with Tige. I also found it interesting that he took Buster and Tige on a trip around the world reminiscent of that taken by Outcault with the Yellow Kid. The following four panels from a nine-panel 1906 page typify Lawler's art.


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Richard D. Olson, Ph.D., 40 Infinity Drive, Poplarville, MS 39470-9006
(769) 717-4077

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