Just Kids by A.D. Carter
'Just Kids' (1938).

A.D. Carter was the creator of various early 20th-century newspaper comics starring children, such as 'Our Friend Mush' (1919-1923), 'Just Kids' (1923-1957) and 'Nicodemus O'Malley' (1926-1942). He generally signed his work with "Ad Carter".

Early life and career
August Daniels Carter was born in 1895 in Baltimore. At the age of eleven his mother tragically died. This forced him to start working at a very young age. He got a job as a reporter at the Brooklyn Eagle, where he met Clare Briggs, who gave him the advice to create a comic and send it to a syndicate.

Just Kids
In 1915 Carter started making one-panel cartoons for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate. After three years he moved to The Philadelpha Inquirer, where the series became an actual comic strip under the title 'Our Friend Mush' (1919-1923), which starred a young boy named Mush Stebbins. This comic attracted the interest of William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper tycoon who had his own comics syndicate: King Features. Carter revamped 'Our Friend Mush' under the new title 'Just Kids' (1923-1957) and at the insistance of Hearst remodelled it so it would resemble Gene Byrnes' 'Reg'lar Fellers' (1917-1949), a succesful comic published in newspapers Hearst didn't own. Carter imitated Byrnes' drawing style closely. When one compares Jimmy Dugan from 'Reg'lar Fellers' with Mush Stebbins the similarities are blatant. Just like Jimmy Mush also had an obese friend, Fatso Dolan, and frequent run-ins with a meddlesome patrolman, Mr. Branner. Other pals were the bespectacled boy Peanut, girlfriend Marjory Jones and the Chinese-American boy Pat Chan. Carter named several characters after classmates from boarding school and Mr. Branner after Martin Branner, who'd later created a boy gang comic of his own named 'Perry and the Rinkydinks'.

Just-Kids, 1925
'Just-Kids' (20 December 1925).

Despite starting out as a rip-off, 'Just Kids' gradually became more Carter's own thing. It spawned a bunch of mechandising and comic book reprints, no less thanks to Hearst's aggressive marketing strategies. 'Just Kids' had its own Safety Club as well, which informed children on how to be careful. According to some reports it once had 3.000.000 members. The comic also lasted far longer than 'Reg'lar Fellers', which already ended in 1949. As the  daily 'Just Kids' ended in 1949, its Sunday page kept running for another eight years. The only major change during this period was that the title changed to 'Mush Stebbins and His Sister' in 1950.

Nicodemus by A.D. Carter
'Nicodemus' (1938).

Nicodemus O'Malley and other toppers
For many years, the 'Just Kids' Sunday page was accompanied by the "topper" 'Nicodemus O'Malley', also known as 'Nicodemus O'Malley and his Whale Palsy Walsy' (1926-1942), which also featured a kid as the main character. Other toppers for 'Just Kids' were 'Dream Land' (1933-1937), 'Funny Films' (1933), 'The Quinn Quintuplets' (1935), 'Cyrano de Bergerac Junior' (1938-1939) and 'Gran'pa' (1938-1942).

Death and legacy
Carter kept drawing comics until his death in New York in 1957. His third wife, Hannah Carter, assisted him during his final strips published in the 1950s. Other artists who have assisted Carter on his strip were Whitney Ellsworth, Bob Dunn and Shelly Leferman (1951-1952). Note that Carter wasn't the only artist with a strip called 'Just Kids'. T.S. Allen drew a weekday feature under this title for Hearst papers and other publications between 1903 and 1910. Charles Reese additionally had a Sunday strip called 'Just Kids' in the New York Tribune in 1902-1903.

A.D. Carter

Series and books by A.D. Carter in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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