A.D. Condo was an American comics artist who is best known for his gag-a-day newspaper comic 'The Outbursts of Everett True' (1905-1927). This short-tempered comics character entertained audiences for more than two decades with his rants and fights against anybody who annoyed him. Condo also holds importance for creating the first science fiction comic in history: 'Mr. Skygack, from Mars' (1907-1912). While faded in obscurity today, Condo was once one of the most popular comics artists in the United States. His comics inspired a theatrical play, a silent comedy film and even the first instances of comics cosplay in history.

Armundo Dreisbach Condo was born in 1872 in Freeport, Illinois, as the son of a preacher who died in a cyclone when Armundo was only seven years old. In the late 1880s A.D. Condo worked as a printer's apprentice. In 1896 he became a cartoonist and caricaturist for the Toledo News-Bee, followed by the Cleveland Press and the Newspaper Enterprise Association. For this latter syndicate he created his signature weekday comic 'The Outbursts of Everett True' (1905-1927), in collaboration with J.W. Raper. It debuted on 22 July 1905 as 'A Chapter from the Life of Everett True'. Originally the comic was conceived as a gag series about a man who always told the truth, even if it wasn't socially acceptable. The eventual character, named Everett True, was not necessarily always right but still believed he was. The content of 'The Outbursts of Everett True' was as simple as its lay-out. Each episode consisted of only two to three panels, one to introduce a situation which annoyed Everett, the other to depict his furious reaction. Everett was the crankiest character ever. He was constantly irked by things like screaming babies, boring reverends, unhelpful store owners, cars nearly running him over, nosy and noisy people and especially preachy know-it-alls. Those who were lucky were only verbally insulted. Others were literally beat up too. The only person who dared to yell or fight back was his own wife.

The Outbursts of Everett True

Despite its formulaic set-up, 'Everett True' was a huge hit. Readers felt the every-day nuisances Everett went through were very recognizable. But while they held back he just spoke his mind. Everett was a hero to anyone who was easily irritated. He dared to voice his opinions and even get violent to get his point across. Nevertheless Everett often comes across as a sociopathic bully. Most of his reactions seem a bit out-of-proportion. When a plumber gives him an expensive bill for fixing his bath, Everett throws him in the tub and starts strangling him under water! When a man offers him some life insurance Everett just kicks him out of the window! In other episodes he even beats up people who merely ask him for help. Or people who just make the mistake of being around in his presence, like a young couple whose love annoys him. And Everett occasionally acts like a hypocrite. He snarls at people who have the nerve to talk to him, yet he hits a man who doesn't want to buy a paper from a newspaper boy with the words: "You want some humanity pounded into you". Everett also frequently beats up people who mistreat animals, but he too once threw a woman's dog out from a train, because: "If you have to drool over a dirty little pup why don't you do it some place where people won't hear you?" Other episodes are more an example of values dissonance. In one episode a woman refuses to give him her seat, whereupon he yells at her and suspects her of being "one of these activists for women's rights." In a 1917 gag he beats up a man for being a conscientious objector, while not wanting to join the military for this reason is nevertheless a perfectly legal excuse.

Everett True by A.D. Condo
Everett True meets Kaiser Wilhelm

Regardless of these questionable actions, readers still sympathized with Everett, because he occasionally fought more noble causes too: thieves, voyeurs, gossipers, people who cut in front of lines... In a memorable 1917 gag he even knocks out German emperor Wilhelm II for the sinking of the American cruiser Lusitania, which made the U.S. enter World War I. Everett was so popular that he even received his own advice column, where he gave misanthropic answers to people's questions. In 1916 the comic was adapted into a live-action silent comedy film: 'Everett True Breaks Into the Movies' (1916). Condo seemingly never ran out of personal frustrations, because the comic ran for 22 years straight, with only a brief interruption in 1917-1918 when he was drafted for military service during World War I. Old episodes were frequently reprinted and published in compilation books. In addition, Clifton Meek did some strips titled 'Everett True and the True Triplets' in 1911, as well as some regular installments for a couple of weeks from July 1912. Condo eventually quit the series in 1927 out of health reasons, causing 'Everett True' to be forgotten for nearly half a century. 

Everett True, by A.D. Condo (1927)Everett True, by A.D. Condo (1927)

Yet compared with other early-20th century newspaper comics, 'Everett True' has proven to be remarkably timeless. While some gags have dated references most of Everett's irritations are as recognizable today as they were back then. Condo's sarcastic comedy hasn't aged either. Everett True can be considered the forefather of many grouchy comics and cartoon characters like Walt Disney's 'Donald Duck', Peyo's 'Grouchy Smurf', Roberta Gregory's 'Bitchy Bitch' and Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Eric Cartman from 'South Park'. His persona is also similar to that of American comedian W.C. Fields, who was known to be a comics reader. It therefore comes as no surprise that the comic is still rediscovered today. In 1983 Everett even experienced an unexpected revival thanks to comics writer Tony Isabella, who republished and recollected many old episodes, which also ran again in the Comic Buyer's Guide and The Comics Journal. Near the end of the decade the ancient character was so notable that in 1988 British music critic Jeremy Andrew Thackray chose 'Everett True' as his pseudonym. The circle was brought round when True collaborated with Peter Bagge to create a comic strip of his own, 'How to Write A Book About Nirvana' (1999), criticizing the posthumous exploitation of Kurt Cobain. Even today several Internet users have created their own crude webcomics based on 'The Outbursts of Everett True'.

Mr Skygack, from Mars, by A.D. Condo Mr Skygack, from Mars, by A.D. Condo

Condo also drew other comics. In October 1907 he created 'Mr. Skygack, from Mars' (1907-1917) for the Chicago Day Book, an advertisement-free tabloid which aimed at a working class audience. The series was soon picked up by several other local newspapers. The one-panel cartoon centers around a big-brained Martian who landed on Earth to study mankind. Just like Voltaire's short story 'Micromégas' (1752), much of its comedy revolves around the alien's frequent misunderstandings of human nature. For instance, he interprets a garbage bin as an eat-storage to prevent famine and assumes that people who shake hands want to pull each other limb from limb. In terms of comedy 'Mr. Skygack' precedes series like 'My Favorite Martian' (1963-1966, which also featured a Martian antropologist!), 'Coneheads' (1977-1979), 'Mork and Mindy' (1978-1982), 'ALF' (1986-1990) and 'Third Rock From the Sun' (1996-2001) in its satirical observations of human society through the eyes of extraterrestrials. W. Aird MacDonald became the illustrator of 'Mr. Skygack, From Mars' in October 1912. The comic lasted only as long as the Chicago Day Book itself. When the publication went bankrupt Condo discontinued 'Mr. Skygack' too. While forgotten today, 'Mr. Skygack, from Mars' still holds historical significance for two reasons. It was most likely the first science fiction comic in history (although the French artist G. Ri was also toying with the genre around this period) and the first franchise to inspire someone to cosplay (making a costume to look like a fictional character). In 1908 a man named August Olson of Monroe, Washington, won the first prize at a masked ball by dressing up as Skygack. His wife had dressed herself up as another Condo character, Miss Dillpickles.

Diana Dillpickles by A.D. Condo

Condo's other comics series were less popular. Around 1907 he drew 'Diana Dillpickles', which originated from an one-panel cartoon series in The Sacramento Star named 'Diana's Diary', which was scripted by F.W. Schaefer. Diana Dillpickles was a pretty but naïve blonde whose stupidity was the source of many gags. For four years Condo also drew a series named 'Oscar and Adolph' (1911-1915). Adolph was the obese nemesis of Skygack from 'Mr. Skygack, from Mars', who always hated the Martian's bizarre appearance and nosy behaviour. In this spin-off comic he was paired with a tall waiter named Adolph. The series centered around slapstick situations in their restaurant, mixed with jokes at the expense of German immigrants like them. Other one-shot comics by Condo were 'The Country Man's Vacation in Town', 'Pity the Poor Farmer', 'Dainty Daisy Tries Physical Culture' (1906) and 'Enslaved By A Pirate'.Clifton Meek has also drawn some of these other Condo characters at one point, such as 'Oscar and Adolph' in 1910, and 'Diana Dillpickles'.

A.D. Condo passed away in 1956. In a few 1969 episodes of V.T. Hamlin's comic strip 'Alley Oop' both Everett True, Oscar and Adolph had a cameo appearance.


Everett punching out his own author

A.D. Condo at the Yesterday's Papers blog
A.D. Condo on Barnaclepress.com

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

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