Betty Boop, by Bud Counihan 1934
'Betty Boop' (19 January 1935)

Bud Counihan was an American sports cartoonist and newspaper comic artist, who made comic strips like 'Henry Hasenpfeffer' (1916-1917), 'The Big Little Family' (1917-1923) and 'Little Napoleon' (1923-1928) for the New York World. He is however best remembered as the originator of the 'Betty Boop' comic strip (1934-1937), based on the popular animated character by Max and Dave Fleischer. Counihan was the first artist to draw the iconic sexy flapper as a comic strip character.

Little Napoleon, by Bud Counihan
'Twas Ever Thus' (24 March 1916)

Early life and career
Daniel Francis Counihan, nicknamed "Bud", was born in 1887 in Connecticut as the son of an iron moulder. He began his career as a sports cartoonist in Norwich, Connecticut, and later moved to Providence, where he resumed his cartooning career at the Providence Journal. Counihan published his first newspaper comics in the 1910s, when his kids' strip 'Sammy And Sue' (15 December 1912 - 28 December 1913) ran on the Philadelphia Record's Sunday humor page. It was revived as 'Sammy Sue and Slubbery Slam' for a short while between July-August 1915 by Wally Wallgren, who added more fantasy elements to the otherwise rather basic comic strip. Another early Counihan strip was 'Hinky Dee, The Fan' (25 March - 27 July 1913), which ran on a weekly base in the Trenton Evening Times, The Pittsburgh Post and probably some other small newspapers. Most of his early work were sports cartoons, which appeared in the Washington D.C. Star and from 1914 on in The New York World, where he would stay until 1928. His cartoons and comic strips for the World were also syndicated to other newspapers through the paper's Press Publishing agency. His career was interrupted in 1917, when the United States got involved in the First World War and Counihan was drafted.


'Luke McGlook'

The New York World
Counihan's early work for the World were weekday features like 'Did You Ever?' (21 August - 23 October 1914, signed Budsee) and 'Things You Never Forget' (15 April - 7 May 1915). With Ferd G. Long he alternated on 'Twas Ever Thus' (17 August - 21 September 1915), which ran alternatively as a mini-strip (at times about 1" tall) or as a regular strip, and was also known as 'Flicker Folly'. As part of the World's staff, Counihan was also assigned to draw 'General Information' comic strips as ads for Macy's Department Stores (July-September 1919). In addition to his work for the New York World, Counihan created the baseball strip 'Luke McGlook, The Bush League Bear Cat' (or 'Luke McGlook, The Brainy Bean Boy') for the World Color Printing syndicate, as "Budsee". Beginning on 15 May 1915, Counihan's run came to an end somewhere in 1916 when Carl Ed took over. Ed's 'Luke McGlook' ended on 28 October 1916, but remained in syndication during the 1920s and 1930s.


'Little Napoleon' (22 April 1928)

Daily strips
By 1916 Counihan presumably had enough work to do for the World, as his daily strip about the grumpy 'Henry Hasenpfeffer' had been launched on 16 January 1916. It showed a strong resemblance to the main character in his earlier strip 'Twas Ever Thus', both in visual appearance and in his tendency to fall over backwards in shock in the final panel of each strip. Counihan's subsequent strips all starred similar small cigar-chomping hotheads with bowler hats. 'The Big Little Family' lasted from 27 September 1917 to 23 June 1923, and was replaced by 'Little Napoleon' from 25 June 1923 to 16 April 1928. Counihan then left the New York World and tried his luck at King Features Syndicate with a daily serial strip about boxer 'Pinhead Dooley' (25 June 1928 - 4 May 1929). He also became one of Chic Young's assistants on 'Dumb Dora' (1929-1930) and the 'Blondie' Sunday pages (1930-1934).


'Pinhead Dooley' (19 December 1928)

Betty Boop
It was the success of the Fleischer Studios' animated series 'Betty Boop' that made Counihan more notable. Betty was a sexy flapper girl who was often featured in risqué situations set to catchy jazz music. In a time when most other cartoons were innocent children's stories 'Betty Boop' stood out, so it was only natural that it would inspire a newspaper comic. The first episode appeared on 23 July 1934 as 'Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl by Helen Kane', because Helen Kane, the actress on whom Betty's voice and physical appearance was based, tried to sail along on the character's success. The title was soon changed, though, into 'Betty Boop by Max Fleischer' (1934-1937). Counihan was assisted by Ving Fuller, as well as Hal Seeger, who worked as animator for the Fleischer Studios. King Features didn't allow the comic strip to be as erotic as the animated cartoons, but it still managed to run at least three years. Unfortunately the Hays Code went into effect in 1934 and the Betty Boop cartoons on the big screen were severely hit by censorship. Betty was reduced into a chastly dressed housewife and effectively became a dull character. On 28 November 1937 the comic strip was already discontinued, while the final Betty animated short was seen in 1940.

In November-December 1934 Counihan and Seeger also made a short-lived newspaper strip based on the Fleischer's cartoon series 'Out Of The Inkwell' for the New York Journal, but it probably never went into syndication.


'Betty Boop' (3 February 1935)

Later life and legacy
Bud Counihan spent much of his later years living in Spain with his daughter, Francine Counihan, was also active as an actress and a model. His other daughter was Hollywood actress, model and TV presenter Anita Colby, who later became feminine director of Selznick International Pictures. Bud Counihan passed away in Wakefield, Rhode Island, on 5 January 1972. Coincidentally Max Fleischer passed away nine months later. Both men never lived to see the major revival of 'Betty Boop' in the late 1970s and particularly the 1980s, when the character became popular in advertising and starred in the comic strip 'Betty Boop and Felix' (1984-1988) by Brian, Morgan, Greg and Neal Walker, casting her alongside Otto Messmer and Pat Sullivan's 'Felix the Cat'. In 1990 Leslie Cabarga, Joshua Quagmire and Milton Knight also published the graphic novel 'Betty Boop's Big Break' (First Comics, 1990). In 2016 Roger Langridge and Gisèle Lagacé created a new comic book series based on 'Betty'.


'Henry Hasenpfeffer' (11 January 1917)

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