The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod                        Susanna@thecartoonists.ca

 

Carl Anderson, Original Creator of "Henry"

February 29, 2012

 

A career filled with illustrating and cartooning took Carl Anderson down many paths, from newspaper and magazine work to teaching. At the age of 67, just when others were thinking of retiring from the daily work grind, Anderson drew a bald kid brimming with personality and few words. Debuted in 1932, "Henry" has been captivating fans ever since.

Born in 1865, Carl Thomas Anderson's family lived in Madison, Wisconsin. His father was a cabinetmaker, and Anderson followed his dad's footsteps into the trade. He must have been a capable woodworker since he remained in the business until he was 27 years of age. "A taste for drawing led him to spend a year in art school in Philadelphia," said Dennis Wepman in The Encyclopedia of American Comics From 1897 to the Present, Edited by Ron Goulart (Promised Land Productions, New York 1990).

"Henry" Logo, King Features Syndicate

Single Panel "Henry" Cartoon, Carl Anderson

A new career path opened for Anderson. He dove into fashion illustration, newspaper comic strips in Pennsylvania and New York, and a position as an art editor, noted Dennis Wepman. "Hired alternately by Hearst and Pulitzer in their battle for supremacy in the comics, Anderson created several broadly humourous strips during the first years of this [20th] century."

Anderson's attempts at creating amusing comic strips such as "Raffles and Bunny" did not catch on. He freelanced, sending cartoon submissions to the well-read magazines of the era: Life, Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and Judge, among others. Unable to reach higher and more profitable levels of cartooning, he needed to find further ways to support himself. Anderson gave up on the big cities and moved back to Wisconsin. He took up teaching art at a vocational school.

Success seemed a distant dream for Anderson,,, until one evening as he gave his lecture to his cartooning class.

"He drew a pot-bellied, bald headed kid and named him Henry," said King Features Syndicate. "His students liked the little fellow, so 67-year-old Anderson sent some drawings off to the Saturday Evening Post."

The magazine editors snapped up the strip. Debuted on March 19, 1932 in the Saturday Evening Post, "Henry" appeared as a weekly feature. The main character didn't say much, relying on pantomime humour in a simple, minimalist style. Readers were captivated by the antics of "Henry."

Two years later, a German magazine published the panel - silent humour was good in any language, after all. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst came calling. Hearst "promptly had Anderson signed to use the character in a newspaper strip for his King Features Syndicate," according to Wepman. Transforming from a weekly into a daily strip, "Henry" debuted in his new format on December 17, 1934. Anderson's strip made it into the Sunday Funnies a few months later, taking the pages by storm in March 1935.

At age 70, Carl Anderson finally reached the pinnacle of cartooning success.

Ten-Cent "Henry" Comic Book by Carl Anderson
Carl Anderson Panel of "Henry"

Enjoying the creation of his own successful strip, Anderson was forced by arthritis to pass the fate of characters - Henry, Henrietta, Butch the Bully, Dusty, and others - over to his assistants in 1942. Don Trachte took over the Sundays and John Liney created the dailies, both with little change to the classic strip. Carl Thomas Anderson passed away in 1948. Never married, there was no wife or children to survive him.

"Henry" was in good hands. Liney drew the strip for nearly 40 years. On his death, cartoonists Jack Tippit and Dick Hodgins took over the pens. Trachte continued his part of the strip until retiring in 1993 when he was 78 years old.

As with Anderson, Trachte was also from Wisconsin. Aside from "Henry," Trachte's claim to fame was an ability to almost perfectly recreate a Norman Rockwell painting. After long and successful lives in the art of cartooning, Trachte died in 2005, Liney in 1982.

 

Published by Dell Comics, "Henry" appeared in his own comic book from 1946 to 1961. (The main character and his co-stars spoke in the comic books, with less reliance on pantomime.) Still in repeat distribution under King Features Syndicate, "Henry" fans delight in the antics of "Henry" and his friends in about 75 newspapers. The strip can also be enjoyed online at DailyINK.

© Susanna McLeod 2012
TheCartoonists.ca