The Little Bears

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The Little Bears (1892)

The Little Bears was an American comic strip created by Jimmy Swinnerton, which has a place in the history of comics as probably the first American strip with recurring characters – the titular bears. The feature debuted in 1892 in the San Francisco Examiner and ran through 1896.

History[edit]

Jimmy Swinnerton started his career in 1892 as a young illustrator for the San Francisco Examiner, one of William Randolph Hearst's newspapers. His chief task was to provide drawings for news stories in the days before photoengraving, however, he also drew editorial cartoons and other illustrations for the paper. According to comics historian Don Markstein, the origin of Swinnerton's bears was with a "cute little bear cub" who accompanied the weather section. The character was popular, and subsequently appeared throughout the paper.

Eventually, these cartoons became a regular feature known as The Little Bears, including multiple bears. As such, it was probably the first American comic strip to include recurring characters. The bears sometimes appeared alongside the child characters from another of Swinnerton's cartoons in a joint feature known as Little Bears & Tikes that covered banners spanning the pages.[1]

In 1896, Swinnerton was invited to draw cartoons for another Hearst paper, the New York Journal. In the Journal, Swinnerton's feature switched from bears to tigers as he launched The Little Tigers.[1] The change of animals apparently took place at the request of Hearst.[2] Gradually a defined, philandering character emerged from the strip, and on November 1, 1903, the Sunday feature evolved into Mr. Jack.[2]

The Little Bears was an obvious influence on Gene Carr whose Bearville (aka Bear Land) which ran in the New York Evening Journal from April 19 to May 7, 1901.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Don Markstein's Toonopedia. "Jimmy Swinnerton". 
  2. ^ a b Don Markstein's Toonopedia. "The Escapades of Mr. Jack".