'The Comic Zoo', reprinted in Popular Comics #43.

George Scarbo was a staff cartoonist with the Newspaper Enterprise Association. For over thirty years, he provided artwork for the syndicate's in-house productions, either as an illustrator, cartoonist or comic artist. Scarbo's work ranges from illustrating fun fact features like 'Be Sure You're Right' (1930-1931), 'Closeup and Comedy' (1934-1939) and 'Zoo's Who' (1948-1963), and contributions to the 'Tinymites' picture story serial (1933), to the creation gag cartoon panels 'The Great American Home' (1930s), 'Radiomania' (1930-1932) and 'Ticklers' (1944-1960). He was particularly noted for his depiction of funny animals in the Sunday comic 'The Comic Zoo' (1936-1965).

Early life
George Peter Scarbo (or Peter George Scarbo) was born in 1898 in Comstock, Clay County, Minnesota. His father Gustaf was a Norwegian emigrant and a farmer, who held several odd jobs throughout the years. The family moved to Cass Lake in 1905, where father and son Scarbo worked at a saw mill. By 1925 George Scarbo left for Toledo, Ohio, where he worked as a cartoonist for the Toledo News-Bee. Settling in Cleveland in 1931, he began his long tenure with the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), working in the company's art department for over thirty years.

'Be Sure You're Right', from the Berkshire Eagle (3 April 1931).

Educational features (1)
Trying to cash in on the success of Robert L. Ripley's 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' of the Associated Newspapers syndicate, NEA launched several "fun fact" features of their own. 'Be Sure You're Right', drawn by George Scarbo, appeared three times a week between 2 December 1930 and 8 May 1931, in alternation with William Ferguson's 'Mother Nature's Curio Shop'. The feature claimed to correct "untrue and yet commonly accepted beliefs" about all sorts of subjects, like "the Battle of Bunker Hill wasn't fought on Bunker Hill" and "William Tell never lived". By the time Scarbo's panel came to an end, Ferguson's feature was renamed to 'This Curious World' and appeared seven times a week.

Between 5 February 1934 and 1939, Scarbo had a more lasting job on 'Closeup and Comedy', which after 1937 was also called 'Movie Scrapbook' or 'Movie Snapshot'. Written by Dan Thomas (1934-1935), Erskine Johnson (1935-1937), Scarbo himself (1937-1938) and then Bill Porter (1939), each episode had a short article about one of the popular movie stars of the day. Like 'Be Sure You're Right', the content relied heavily on fun facts, such as "Conrad Nagel drinks milk, instead of water, between scenes. Sometimes consuming more than two quarts a day" (2 March 1935). The feature was illustrated by a photo and several cartoons, drawn by George Scarbo. By 1939 the photographs got the upper hand, and the cartoons were gradually phased out.

Similar daily illustrated news columns with trivia about Hollywood were Westphal's 'Star Dust' (1929-1931?), Dan Thomas & Don Wootton's 'Seeing Stars' (1929-1930), Captain Roscoe Fawcett and Bud Thompson's 'Screen Oddities' (1931-1943), Wiley Padan's 'It's True' (1933-1947) and Feg Murray's 'Seein' Stars' (1933-1951). 

'The Tinymites', from the Austin American Statesman (25 January 1934).

The Tinymites & The Clownies
In 1933 George Scarbo assumed the art duties of 'The Tinymites', a daily picture story written in rhyme by Hal Cochran since 1926. The original illustrator was Lawrence W. Redner (1926-1927), who was then succeeded by Irving S. Knickerbocker (1927-1930) and Joe King (1930-1932). By the time Scarbo took over, there had been an interval period with little or no illustrations at all. 'The Tinymites' was mostly an illustrated text story, about a group of kids who engage in all kinds of magical adventures. Their names refer to their respective roles or appearances. Clowny is a clown, Scouty a boy scout, Coppy "plays" a cop, and Dotty wears a dotted dress, etc. Readers were encouraged to read the story and then color the picture. In April 1933 Scarbo also succeeded Joe King on the Sunday tie-in comic strip 'The Clownies', which had the same characters and was also written by Cochran. The Sunday feature however was more richly illustrated with a sequential narrative.

'The Comic Zoo' (21 April 1946).

The Comic Zoo
While drawing 'The Clownies', Scarbo also made the companion comic 'Animal Cracks', which came with an activity panel called the 'The Comic Zoo'. George Scarbo showed great talent for drawing funny animals, but, just like 'The Clownies', the feature came to an end on 23 July 1933. However, Scarbo soon had a new showcase for his skills: on 28 June 1936, the 'Comic Zoo' was launched as a topper to the Sunday episodes of 'Out Our Way' by Neg Cochran (the dailies were still drawn by series creator J.R. Williams). For nearly thirty years, Scarbo provided weekly gag comics with a host of funny animal characters, who sometimes got their own headline, such as 'Blackie Bear', 'Chops the Pig', 'Grumpy The Pocupine', 'Little Tommy Tumble', 'Peter Possum', 'Streaky the Mouse' and 'Zippie the Bunny'. The last episode appeared on 30 May 1965. Between 3 January 1936 and 26 September 1937, Scarbo also drew another topper to 'Out Our Way', called 'Scrapbook Sketches'. Episodes of 'The Comic Zoo' were also reprinted in comic books: Dell's 'The Funnies' (1938-1939) and 'Popular Comics' (1939), and for Argo Publications' 'Alley Oop' (1956).

Short-lived comic strips and panels
As an in-house artist, the NEA assigned Scarbo with all sorts of chores. He sometimes illustrated news articles or columns, and between 1930 and 1932 Scarbo worked on the humor panel 'Radiomania' (a.k.a. 'Radiotics'), which appeared sporadically on the NEA's radio pages. Scarbo was the last of many cartoonists who have worked on the feature, taking care of it during November-December 1930 and then again from October 1931 until February 1932. Before him, Joe King, Art Krenz, Dorothy Urfer and Charles Okerbloom had the job. Between 23 November and 23 December 1936 Scarbo drew that year's seasonal comic strip. It was a comics interpretation of the poem 'A Visit From Saint Nicholas' by Clement Clarke Moore. He was the third in line to draw the weekday cartoon panel 'The Great American Home', presenting funny situations in an all-American family. Created by Walter R. Allman in 1913, Scarbo's other predecessors had been Lee Stanley and a certain Ken. Scarbo drew the feature from the late 1930s until December 1941, after which Eckhart, Bill Arnold and Bob Moyer were the next staffers on the job until its cancellation in 1942. Between 6 October 1941 and 2 November 1942, the NEA syndicated George Scarbo's weekly comic strip 'Little Ronnie (and his Dog Snooper)' to its associated newspapers.

Another cartoon panel that Scarbo continued for the NEA, was 'Ticklers'. Previously drawn by John Sunley (1941), Bob Moyer (1941-1942), Bill Arnold (1942) and Hayes (1942-1943), Scarbo had the longest run. This rather corny humor panel was offered as one of NEA's budget features to smaller weekly newspapers. It proved a rapidly declining market, but Scarbo managed to continue 'Ticklers' until 1960. In spite of the artist's short-lived attempts to spice up the feature with recurring characters ('G. Willikers' in July-August 1944, and 'Looney Luke' in June 1945), it never caught on.

'Zoo's Who', from the Millville Daily (19 January 1963).

Educational features (2)
Scarbo continued to work on more educational features as well. For the NEA's prepackaged Sunday section, Everyweek Magazine, he created 'Yesterday's Headliners' which ran from 18 April 1943 to 4 June 1944. Another installment in the Ripley tradition, this feature dealt with past news events of world importance and outstanding happenings in the sports world. To the syndicate's 'Young Folks' page, he provided the daily panel 'Zoo's Who' between 5 June 1948 and 13 May 1963. It was an educational panel with fun facts about animals, livened up with funny cartoons. It should not be confused with the panel of the same name created by Tom Brady for the Smith-Mann Syndicate between 1950 and 1954. Scarbo was also involved in the NEA's partnership with Great Lakes Greyhound Lines, which provided Michigan newspapers with the historical daily strip 'Michigan and the Old Northwest' (1945-1946). It was written by Luke Scheer and edited by Milo M. Quaife. The 128 daily episodes were collected in a reprint book by the Greyhound Bus Company, which was presented as the first in a series called 'Highways to History'. No other installments were released, however. By 1959 Scheer and Scarbo worked together again on 'The Age of Ice in Indiana', a "film strip" distributed to schools.

Final years and death
George Scarbo worked for the Newspaper Enterprise Assocation until the mid-1960s. He passed away after a long illness on 13 February 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 67.

'Michigan and the Old Northwest' (The Sebewaing Blade, 31 May 1946).

Ink Slinger profile on the Stripper's Guide

George Scarbo on Ger Apeldoorn's blog

Series and books by George Scarbo you can order today:


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