Officer Crust, by Robert Brook
'Officer Crust' (19 June 1913).

Robert E. Brook was an early 20th-century cartoonist. His sole contribution to comics history was the newspaper gag-a-day strip 'Officer Crust' (1911-1918). After a promising start of his career, Brook died at a young age.

Early years
He was born in May 1885 in Tuscon, Arizona. His father, Harry Brook, was of English descent and owner of The Tombstone Epitaph, a newspaper circulating in Tombstone, Arizona. He was later an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times. Around 1900, the Brook family moved to Los Angeles, California. As a young man, Brook worked as a bill peddler for a tea house and as a helper in a candy factory.

Newspaper career
Brook worked as jack-of-all-trades at the Los Angeles Herald, doing jobs in the pressroom, mailing department, stereotyping room, business office and the art department. Later on, he also made sports cartoons and news sketches for this newspaper. Brook was additionally active for The Los Angeles Chronicle. In between, he worked as a property man at the Los Angeles Opera House, assistant-property man at the Grand Opera House in San Francisco, a stockbroker in Honolulu, Hawaii, and as an orange farmer.

Then, after moving to New York and Philadelphia, he eventually settled in Baltimore, Maryland. During this period, his cartoons ran in the Washington Times, The Philadelphia American, Baltimore Star and Baltimore American. In September 1917, his cartoons also appeared in Cartoons Magazine.


In this special episode, Brook introduces the readers to Ed's family (The Altoona Times, 6 February 1914).

Officer Crust
On 30 October 1911, the first episode of his comic strip 'Officer Crust' was printed in The Baltimore American. It revolved around a bumbling moustached police officer and his small-sized sidekick Ed Knutt. Ed is married to a sexy but feisty young woman who towers over him. Her name was never revealed, Brook simply called her "The Girl". Some gags also feature a nameless bearded judge. 'Officer Crust' was later distributed to other newspapers as well, such as the Courier-Post from Camden, New Jersey, the Altoona Times from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and the Yonkers Herald from Yonkers, New York.

Death
In 1918, Brook suffered a nervous breakdown. Although he was treated in the hospital, he died in November of that same year at Spring Grove State Hospital, Catonsville. He was only 33 years old. It is unknown when the final episode of 'Officer Crust' appeared in the newspaper. In 1941, the strip appeared in reruns in at least the Hamilton Evening Journal from Hamilton, Ohio.


'Officer Crust' (The Altoona Times, 20 February 1915).

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

Series and books by Robert E. Brook in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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