A.C. Fera was an early-20th century comics artist, best known for his newspaper gag-a-day comics 'Just Boy' (1916-1926) and 'Alexander Smart, Esq.' (1926). He drew in a very loose style, with only a few wiggles to suggest his characters.

Born in Danville, Illinois on 14 September 1877, Adolph Christian Fera settled in Los Angeles in 1909. For many years he worked there as a cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers. One of his earliest newspaper comics was 'What You Lafin' At?', which ran in The Examiner from 2 to 13 August 1909. It featured situations where the eventual punchline always was: "What are you laughin' at?". Seeing it only ran for a few weeks audiences presumably asked themselves that same question and it was quickly dropped.

What You Lafin' At?

From 30 October to 24 November 1909 he had a feature called 'Oh, There Goes My Car' in the Los Angeles Examiner, about a guy who always has to catch a trolley car whenever he's asked for a favor. A collection of his work for the The Los Angeles Express and The Los Angeles Herald was released under the title 'Post Cards of a Tourist (Mr. 'Skinny' East): Cartoons of Southern California' (1910) by the Henry J. Pauly Company in Los Angeles. In early March 1916 he worked with Fred Locher on the first episodes of the weekday strip 'An Embarrassing Moment' for the International News Service. Locher continued it on his own until October, after which it was continued by Jimmy Swinnerton for another year. Around that time, Fera started his association with William Randolph Hearst's Newspaper Feature Service in New York.

Oh, There Goes My Car

On 6 May 1916, Fera created his signature comic 'Just Boy', which appeared in the Sunday pages of The San Francisco Call, a newspaper owned by Hearst. The series was set in a semi-rural community and starred a young boy named Elmer Tuggle. He lived with his middle-class parents and their African-American maid Lottee. Elmer's best friend was another boy named Clayton Hornsby.

Alexander's Smart by AC Fera
Alexander's Smart - French version from La Presse Montréal (6 April 1929). Possibly a reprint, since it's signed by Fera

The series ran in several other papers owned by Hearst. In 1926 Fera added a companion strip called 'Alexander Smart, Esq.'. It starred a big-nosed character who wasn't as intelligent as his name suggested. Both series were also translated in French and ran in the Canadian paper La Presse Montréal. 'Just Boy' was renamed to 'Elmer' in October 1925.

Elmer by AC Fera
Elmer, French version from La Presse Montréal (6 April 1929). Possibly a reprint, since it's signed by Fera

From late 1926, both 'Alexander Smart' and 'Elmer' were continued by Doc Winner. 'Alexander Smart' ran until 1943, while 'Elmer' continued until Winner's death in 1956. The latter was quickly remodelled after characters and situations from Winner's own gag comic 'Tubby'. Apart from the title character, Elmer Tuggle, virtually nothing from Fera's original concept remained intact. However, there are samples of 'Elmer' art known from 1929 which still carry Fera's signature. Maybe at first Winner worked on the strip anonymously, or maybe Fera's involvement lasted longer. A.C. Fera died in Los Angeles on 15 June 1941.


Original Elmer art from 1929, signed by Fera

Series and books by A.C. Fera in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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