'Small World' (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 February 1953).

S.B. Stevens, better known as Sam Brier, was a Canadian comics artist, and the creator of gag-a-day series 'General Mischief' (1947-1949), 'Stevie' (1951-1952) and 'Small World' (1952-1956). All three featured little kids dressed up in adult clothing re-enacting scenes from adult lives.

Early life and career
Sam B. Stevens was born in 1923 in Montréal, but later moved to Brooklyn, where he graduated from Franklin K. Lane High School. He started off as a professional band and night club singer and worked as a children's toy designer between 1950 and 1952. He simultaneously worked as a cartoonist. Stevens sold his first cartoon to Judge magazine when he was 16 years old, and subsequently appeared in the pages of Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and The New Yorker. These mostly titleless cartoons were often signed with the initials "S.B.S". Between 30 July 1945 and 25 January 1947 he made a cartoon panel series called 'Mop O'Hare' under the name Ken Stevens for the New York Post Syndicate. It starred a young bratty boy, whose hair always hangs over his face.

General Mischief
Another regular strip/cartoon feature, created in the late 1940s, was 'General Mischief', which he signed with his real name. It already followed the familiar pattern of his later comic  'Small World' with young children acting like adults. In this case a tiny kid imagined himself to be a U.S. general. 'General Mischief' ran in The American Legion Magazine, the house organ of the U.S. war veterans' organization. Comparisons with Charles M. Schulz' 'Peanuts' are easily made, but the series debuted years before Charlie Brown did. 'Small World', on the other hand, debuted a few years after 'Peanuts', but back then Schulz' series wasn't yet a cultural phenomenon, so plagiarism seems somewhat unlikely. 'General Mischief' was later also syndicated by the McNaught Syndicate to other newspapers.


'General Mischief' (June 1949).

Stevie
Stevens subsequently made a gag-a-day comic named 'Stevie' (1951-1952), again about a little boy dressed up as an adult. Most of the time he wore a soldier's helmet and carried a wooden sword around, much like 'General Mischief'. It appeared in Judge and was syndicated through the Bell Syndicate between 2 April 1951 and 1 May 1952. 'Stevie' gags were furthermore reprinted in early 1950s comic books by National Comics (the current DC Comics), such as 'A Date With Judy', 'Buzzy', 'Here's Howie Comics' and 'Leave It To Binky'.


'Stevie' (The Boston Globe, 24 July 1951).

Small World
His best known and longest running creation was however 'Small World'. It starred two kids, Kathi and Richard, acting like adults, even wearing clothes which are too big. Debuting in The New York Herald Tribune on 9 August 1952, the strip ran until 1956. In an article about the strip, published in The Indianapolis News on 3 July 1954, Brier is quoted about his choice for kid characters: "When children play house, they mimic their elders with an innocent wit that goes right to the heart of the matter. They're the best comedians since the silent movies." Brier modelled the girl after his wife, while the little boy has the looks of his younger son.

Comics writer and connaisseur Nat Gertler compiled a 'Small World' book collection and self-published it through his AboutComics imprint in 2012.

Sam Brier on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

Series and books by Sam Brier in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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