Betty Boop, by Max Fleischer/Bud Counihan

Max Fleischer is best known as the co-founder of the famous Fleischer Studios, one of the first animation studios, which he started together with his borthers Dave and Joe. Max Fleischer emigrated to New York City at an early age, studying art at Cooper Union and the Art Students League. He worked as a commercial artist and cartoonist, but an interest in mechanics led him to animation. Specifically, he was driven to find a method to produce animation more efficiently and economically, and came up with a "method of producing moving picture cartoons" in 1915, and patented in 1917.

Max Fleischer's patent

The Fleisher Studio turned out some of the most inventive films of the period and Fleischer made the first sound cartoons of contemporary comic heroes like Popeye. At the end of the 1920s, the studio's top artist Grim Natwick came up with a new female character: a seductive, nameless side-character who was modeled after Helen Kane, a waning Hollywood star at the time, known for her high-pitched "Boop-Oop-a-doop". This character, who was initially the nameless girlfriend of 'Bimbo the Dog', would develop into the popular and world famous character, Betty Boop.

In July 1932, the name 'Betty Boop' was officially launched through her first title screen role in 'Betty Boop Limited'. As the fame of the cartoon character increased, the popularity of the live actress and singer Helen Kane diminished, and she threatened with lawsuits, all of which were unsuccessful.

In 1933, the Fleischer Studio was negotiating a comic about Betty Boop with King Features Syndicate. They couldn't agree on a price, and Helen Kane stepped in, suggesting a comic based on her name and appearance. So it is that 'Betty Boop' first appeared in strip form as 'Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl by Helen Kane'.

Boop-Boop-a-Doop Girl, by Helen Kane

With this feature in hand, King Features renegotiated a 'Betty Boop' comic with Fleischer. An agreement was reached, and comic artist Bud Counihan, who had created 'Little Napoleon' in the 1920s, was hired to draw the strip - which was titled 'Betty Boop by Max Fleischer'. As soon as it appeared in the newspapers, in 1934, it pushed away the Helen Kane strip. Because of the Depression and nation-wide distribution, Betty Boop's initial lurid appearance was somewhat toned down.

Although Max Fleischer did not create Betty Boop, or ever draw the strip, he and his Studio were responsible for breathing life into the little sensuous girl. Another character of Fleischer-make which evolved from cartoon to comic, was 'Koko the Klown'.

Koko the Klown, by Max Fleischer

about Fleischer Studios
Betty Boop page

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