The Potts

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Potts (disambiguation).

The Potts is said to be the world's longest-running cartoon strip drawn by the same artist. The strip appeared in Australia's The Sun News-Pictorial. It was syndicated in the United States from 1957 to 1962, during which time it was renamed Uncle Dick. Artists included Jim Russell (for 62 years) and Stan Cross.

In August 1920 Stan Cross published the first episode of a comic strip known as You & Me in Smith's Weekly. Initially the strip only featured two characters, "Pott" and "Whalesteeth", and was designed as a means of offering political comment. The name of the first was derived from rhyming slang in which 'the old pot and pan' stood for 'the old man'; the name of the second referred to the fellow's prominently displayed teeth, which, when he grinned or grimaced, took possession of the entire lower portion of his face. This aspect was short-lived and Cross was asked to continue the comic as a domestic humour strip. "Mrs Potts" was introduced in November and with her came the marital disputes and slanging matches, which were to characterise the strip under Cross. In terms of drinking,arguing, swearing and displays of bad temper, You & Me remains unique in Australian comic book history and pre-dated Andy Capp by almost 40 years. Cross continued to draw the weekly strip for nineteen years until he left Smith's in late December 1939 to join the Melbourne Herald, taking the character of "Whalesteeth" with him In January 1940 the responsibility for You & Me was given to Cross' staff colleague, Jim Russell, who subsequently lightened the tone of the strip and changed the title to Mr & Mrs Potts.

Russell resigned from Smith's Weekly after a dispute with the new editor, and not long after in October 1950 Smith's Weekly ceased publication. In a complex financial arrangement, the Melbourne Herald acquired copyright to Mr & Mrs Potts and Russell resumed drawing the strip as a daily. The editors insisted that the strip become more 'genteel', so Russell created a character, Uncle Dick (Mrs Potts' uncle), that he could "sneak" into the strip, who would represent the less attractive elements that had been excised from the main characters. Often seen as semi-autobiographical, Uncle Dick was apparently initially based on the character Sheridan Whiteside in the 1941 film, The Man Who Came to Dinner (played by Monty Woolley, apparently based on American critic Alexander Woollcott), although Russell later wryly admitted: "I’ve grown more like Uncle Dick and Uncle Dick has grown more like me. My wife says he is me." The modified Mr & Mrs Potts was sold to the Herald Weekly Times group, first as a daily, then as a Sunday. The new version, The Potts, first appeared in the Sun-News Pictorial on 23 January 1951 and was followed in most states shortly afterwards. To make the strip more appealing, Russell introduced new characters: a daughter, Ann; a son-in-law, Herb; grandchildren, Mike and Bunny; and Uncle Dick, a genteel scrounger. In October 1953, with the merger of the Sunday Sun and the Sunday Herald, the strip moved to the newly created Sun-Herald. By 1958 it had become an international strip, with an estimated daily circulation of 15 million, appearing in New Zealand, Turkey, Canada, Finland, Sri Lanka and 35 United States newspapers. In 1976 Russell retired as a writer and cartoonist from the Melbourne Herald in 1976 but continued to produce The Potts under a special arrangement which saw the copyright to the strip transferred to him.

References[edit]