Les Gamins by Rod Ruth and The Baers
The Toodles from the French-Canadian paper Photo-Journal (2 January 1954)

Rod Ruth was an American illustrator and comics artist, best known as the first artist to draw the family comic 'The Toodles' (1941-1965), scripted by Stanley and Betsy Baer.

Early life and career
Rodney McCord Ruth was born in 1912 at Benton Harbor, Michigan. He went to school in New York City and found work with the publishing company Street and Smith. He studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, followed by the Frederick Mizen School of Arts and Institute of Design. His first job was at Ziff-Davis in Chicago. Between 1940 and 1951 Ruth's illustrations appeared in pulp magazines like Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures. Contrary to many pulp illustrators he still managed to find work as an professional illustrator even when pulp magazines no longer sold in huge quantities. In 1972 he illustrated Tom McGowen's book 'Album of Dinosaurs' (1972).

'The Toodles' (24 January 1957)

The Toodles
In 1941 Sol Hess, creator of 'The Nebbs' and writer of 'The Gumps', talked with his daughter Betsy and her husband Stanley Baer. They had a heated discussion about the quality of Hess' comics until he finally told them "to create their own comic strip if they knew so much about the topic!" Betsy and Stanley Bear then just took the challenge. They were actually grocers, but liked the idea of creating their own comics series. In December 1941 'The Toodle Family', often shortened to 'The Toodles', made its debut in The Chicago Sun. Since the couple couldn't draw, Rod Ruth was hired as an illustrator. The series revolved around two parents and their twin children. Originally it was a gag comic, but eventually it became more of a dramatic series with a serious tone. Stanley Bear thought out the plots, while Betsy wrote everything out in script form. Hess lived long enough to see the comic being launched, but passed away at the last day of the same month. He never believed that 'The Toodle Family' would have any longevity, but in an ironic twist of fate his series 'The Nebbs' already ended in 1955, while 'The Toodle Family' continued for six more years, even fusing with 'The Nebbs' and its Sunday companion comic 'Simp O'Dill' later. The Baers even moved beyond 'The Toodles' and scripted new episodes of 'Mutt & Jeff' (originally created by Bud Fisher) and 'Don Winslow of the Navy' (originally created by Frank V. Martinek and Leon A. Beroth).

'The Toodles' was drawn in a realistic style and somewhat comparable to a soap opera in the sense that new continuous episodes had to be created on a daily basis. The Chicago Sun Times/Marshall Field Syndicate distributed them to about 300 newspapers. It was published in France as 'La Famille des Nebbs' in La Patrie du Samedi and in Afrikaans as 'Die Pokkels'. Ruth officially quit the series in 1959 and passed the pencil to Pete Winter, who continued the strip until the end of its run in December 1961. Cliff Voorhees also drew the series for a couple of years at one point, possibly as a ghost artist for Ruth in the second half of the 1950s. Ziff-Davis released one comic book with collected 'Toodles' stories by Ruth in 1951. Argo Publications published a spin-off comic book about 'The Toodles Twins'

Final years and death
Ruth furthermore provided illustrations to Conda Douglas' 'Yellow' (1985), J.N. Williamson's 'The Bus People' (1985) and Steve Perry's 'Peau de Cuir' (1985) for Weird Tales magazine. In 1987 Ruth passed away at the age of 74.

The Toodles, from the 1951 Ziff-Davis comic book

Series and books by Rod Ruth in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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