comic art by Cliff Sterrett

Cliff Sterrett is one of the great innovators of the comic page, and the creator of the long-running comic strip 'Polly and her Pals'. Born in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Sterrett settled in New York at the age of 18 and attended courses at the Chase Arts School. Between 1904 and 1908, he worked for the New York Herald, drawing actuality illustrations and caricatures. From 1908, he was present in the New York Times, and later on in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

He started drawing comics when he got the opportunity to draw four daily comic strips for the New York Evening Telegram in 1911. His earliest strip was called 'Ventriloquial Vag', which was soon followed by three others: 'When a Man's Married', 'Before And After' and 'For This We Have Daughters'.

Polly and her Pals, by Cliff Sterrett (1926)

In 1912, Sterrett was hired by publisher William R. Hearst, for whom he launched his famous strip about the flapper girl 'Positive Polly' (4 December 1912), that was later renamed 'Polly and Her Pals.' The strip was initially published in the daily comics section of the New York Journal. A year later, it also became a Sunday page and a four-color supplement to the New York American. In addition, Sterrett created 'Sweethearts and Wives' (renamed to 'Belles and Wedding Bells'), 'And So They Were Never Married' and 'Damon and Pythias' (renamed to 'Dot and Dash') as toppers to the Sunday pages.

Polly and her pals by Cliff Sterrett

Starting in the mid-1920s, Sterrett used cubist, surrealist and expressionist elements in his artwork, which made him an inspiration to many other artists, such as Martin Branner and Russ Westover. Because of arthritis, Sterrett was forced to hand over most of the art duties during the 1930s. The daily 'Polly' strip was handled by his assistant Paul Fung from 1935 until the end of its run in 1942. Sterrett continued to supervise and occasionally draw the Sunday page until his retirement in 1958. The final episode of 'Polly and Her Pals' was published on 15 June 1958. Other ghost artists that worked for Sterrett were Vernon Greene, John Kowalchik, Fred Schwarze and Bob Dunn. It is generally assumed that in 1925 Wesley Morse also ghosted a few episodes of 'Polly and her Pals'. 

In 2010, IDW released the first oversized volume of 'Polly and her Pals Complete Sunday Comics', edited by Dean Mullaney. The second installment appeared in 2015. In the United States, Cliff Sterrett was a huge influence on Abe Martin, Edgar Martin, Chic Young, Larry Whittington, Al Capp, Jules FeifferMilton Caniff, Will EisnerMilt SteinMike FontanelliBobby London and Jim Woodring. In Europe he was an inspiration to F'murrGeoffrey FoladoriDaan Jippes and Luc Cromheecke.

Polly & Her Pals, by Cliff Sterrett (1923)

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