Skippy (comic strip)
Skippy was an American comic strip written and drawn by Percy Crosby that was published from 1923 to 1945. A highly popular, acclaimed and influential feature about rambunctious fifth-grader Skippy Skinner, his friends and his enemies, it was adapted into movies, a novel and a radio show. It was commemorated on a 1997 U.S. Postal Service stamp and was the basis for a wide range of merchandising that includes Skippy peanut butter.
An early influence on cartoonist Charles Schulz and an inspiration for his Peanuts, Skippy is considered one of the classics of the form. In Vanity Fair, humorist Corey Ford described it as "America's most important contribution to humor of the century", while comics historian John A. Lent wrote, "The first half-century of the comics spawned many kid strips, but only one could be elevated to the status of classic... which innovated a number of sophisticated and refined touches used later by Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson..." Comics artist Jerry Robinson said,
Nothing like Skippy had ever been seen before in the comic strips. It was not just Skippy's expert draftsmanship or remarkable flair, although that artistry earned its creator a reputation as "the cartoonist's cartoonist"... The brilliance of Skippy was that here was fantasy with a realistic base, the first kid cartoon with a definable and complex personality grounded in daily life.
Skippy started in 1923 as a cartoon in Life and became a syndicated comic strip two years later through King Features Syndicate. Creator Crosby retained the copyright, a rarity for comic strip artists of the time.
Radio dramatist Robert Hardy Andrews also wrote daytime radio serials for children, including Skippy, sponsored by General Mills, which helped make Wheaties cereal a household word during the 1930s.
In 2012, IDW started a complete reprint series under their "Library of American Comics" line, with separate volumes for the daily and Sundays. On September 10, 2012, GoComics also began publishing Skippy dailies online.
Characters and story
The strip focused on Skippy Skinner, a young boy living in the city. Usually wearing an enormous collar and tie and a floppy checked hat, he was an odd mix of mischief and melancholy who might equally be found stealing from the corner fruit stand, failing to master skates or baseball, complaining about the adult world, or staring sadly at an old relative's grave ("And only last year she gave me a tie").
The syndicated strip was enormously popular, at one point guaranteeing Crosby $2,350 a week, more than the United States president. Always Belittlin' and other topper strips ran above Skippy on Crosby's Sunday page.
Grosset & Dunlap published Crosby's Skippy novel in 1929. There were Skippy dolls, toys and comic books. The strip was adapted as a movie by Paramount. A success, it won director Norman Taurog the Academy Award for Best Director and boosted the career of young star Jackie Cooper. Crosby disliked the film, and though he had to allow a previously contracted sequel (Sooky) to be made the next year, he never let another Skippy movie be made.
During the WWII years, Crosby's conservative politics increasingly intruded on the strip, and it began to lose readers. Negotiations on a new contract failed, and Crosby ended Skippy in 1945. His final years were tragic; he was unable to find steady work and drifted into alcoholism. After a 1949 suicide attempt, he was placed in the asylum at Kings Park, New York, where he died in 1964, unable to secure release.
During the late 1960s & 1970s Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley often referred to local WBBM-TV news commentator Walter Jacobson as "Skippy," possibly a reference to the comic strip character.
"Skippy" was first used as a trademark for peanut butter by the Rosefield Packing Co., Ltd., of Alameda, California, in 1933. Percy Crosby had the trademark invalidated in 1934, but Rosefield persisted after Crosby was committed to an asylum, and its successor companies, including Unilever and Hormel (owner since 2013), were granted rights to the trademark over the objection of Crosby's heirs. There has been much litigation on this point, some of which has continued into the 2000s.
- Horn, Maurice, editor. 100 Years of American Newspaper Comics (Gramercy Books, New York, 1996) p. 358. ISBN 0-517-12447-5
- Quoted in Skippy: A Complete Compilation 1925-1926, foreword by Bill Blackbeard, Hyperion Press, Westport, Connecticut, 1977. ISBN 0-88355-629-4 (hardcover), ISBN 0-88355-629-4 (trade paperback)
- Robinson, Jerry. Skippy and Percy Crosby (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1978), p. 1. ISBN 0-03-018491-6.
- Robinson, p. 25
- Robinson, p. 81
- Skippy.com website