Mister Oswald, by Russ Johnson

Russ Johnson was the creator and artist of the 'Mister Oswald' comic strip, that ran for more many decades in the national trade journal Hardware Retailing. The strip documents a large portion of the history of American business life as seen through the eyes of the main character, Oscar S. Oswald, prominent citizen of Dippy Center, USA. Although the strip was mainly known to hardware retailers, a 'Mr Oswald' book collection was published in 1968: 'Forty Years With Mister Oswald'.

Johnson was born on a farm outside Gibson City, Illinois. He graduated from Dixon College and Norman School in 1915, whereupon he left small-town life for the big city and a job at Montgomery Ward's in Chicago. During World War I, he joined the Navy. He began drawing cartoons for Afloat and Ashore, a Naval paper published in Charleston. After the War, he took night classes at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, studying under Billy DeBeck and Carl Ed.

Sellem & Son, by Russ Johnson

In 1921, Johnson went to work in his father's hardware store, back in Gibson City. He continued to make cartoons for some local papers, until he was asked by the editor of Hardware Retailing to make a strip for their magazine. This resulted in 'Mr Oswald', who first appeared in 1927 and was modeled after Johnson's father. By the early 1930s, Johnson also took assignments from the Armstrong Cork Company, doing strips like 'Bunker Bunk and the Boys' (about wholesalers) and 'Sellem and Son' (about retail salesmen). He additionally made 'Adam and Steve' for The Sporting Goods Dealer, and a full-page monthly strip for the Remington Arms Company.

Eventually, Johnson dropped his other strips to work exclusively on 'Mr. Oswald'. Even after his retirement from retailing in 1963, he continued his strip for many years, and finally handing it over to Larry Day in 1989, at the age of 95. Russ Johnson had worked on his strip continuously for 62 years, a record for a creator working on a single comic strip.

Adam and Steve, by Russ Johnson

Russ Johnson's final interview

Series and books by Russ Johnson in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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