The Fleer Dubble Bubble Kids
The Fleer Dubble Bubble Kids (Ha Ha Comics # 91, 1953)

Ray Thompson was an American newspaper cartoonist, advertising artist and author of historical books. He created series like 'Odd Job Ozzie' (1927-1959), 'Myra North, Special Nurse' (1936-1939) and 'Homer the Ghost' (1945-1947), but is best remembered as the creator of 'The Dubble-Bubble Kids' (1950), a comic strip that came with every wrapper of the chewing gum brand Fleer Dubble Bubble'.

He was born in 1905 as Francis Raymond Thompson in Philadelphia, graduated from Northeast High School and studied journalism at Temple University and art at the Taylor School of Fine Arts. He also attended night classes at the Charles Morris Price School of Advertising, the Philadelphia Museum School of Art and the Spring Garden Institute, and subsequently began working as a freelance writer and artist in Philadelphia.

He contributed gag cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, and later also to Ladies Home Journal, Country Gentleman, Life, Judge and Collier's. He was a pioneer in cartoon advertising, and has worked on many national advertising campaigns. Among his most notable clients were Atlantic Refining Co. (the 'Three Little Men' campaign of the 1940s-1950s), Kellogg's Cereals, Freihofer Bread, Sun Oil Company, SaniFlush, Slinky and Richardson's Mints. He also wrote scripts for radio plays and feature stories, and wrote and drew comic strips for several syndicates during a 25-year period.

Homer

For Newspaper Enterprise Association, he created the newspaper strip 'Myra North, Special Nurse' with staff artist Charles Coll in 1936. The daily strip about a crime-fighting nurse appeared in over 400 newspapers from 10 February 1936 until 25 March 1939, while a Sunday page appeared from 6 December 1936 to 31 August 1941. Thompson assisted A.E. Hayward on 'Somebody's Stenog' for the Ledger Syndicate from 1932 to 1934, and created newspaper strips like 'Annabelle's Answers' (Ledger, 1934), 'Your Dreams' (George Matthew Adams Syndicate) and 'Doodle Bug-Heads' (Philadelphia Bulletin). In 1945 he created the one-panel cartoon strip 'Homer the Ghost', which is also known as 'Homer the Invisible' or simply 'Homer'. The panel was syndicated by the York Herald Tribune Syndicate throughout the US and South-America until August 1947.

As a commercial artist, Thompson illustrated games, puzzles and stationary, among other things. He also made promotional comics for comic books. His most famous work in the field of advertising was done for the chewing gum brand Fleer Dubble Bubble (often misspelled by people as Double Bubble). Since 1930 each piece of gum came with a small one-to-two strip(s) gag comic hidden inside its wrapper. The first comic was titled 'Dub and Bub - The Dubble Bubble Twins' (1930) and featured two black black-haired twins with buttoned shorts. The comics were signed with an artist hiding under the pseudonym Fleer. Halfway the 1930s a simpler graphic approach was used by using a couple of unnamed stick figures. By the 1940s new characters were introduced named 'The Dubble Bubble Kids', a group of children consisting of the siblings Pud, Tim and Sis. Pud was an obese boy who wore a red cap and a red-and-white striped shirt. Interestingly enough Pud was still the hero of the series, despite his obesity. Many other comics from that era usually regulated fat kids to the role of villain, idiot, butt-monkey or - at best - merely the best friend of the protagonist. Unfortunately from the 1960s on Pud would be remodelled as a slimmer boy. Tim was Pud's buck-toothed brother and Sis the boy's sister. In later episodes she received a more inspiring name: Annie. The gang was completed by a small boy, Butch, who wore a huge cap and a red bow-tie. Ray Thompson drew more than 750 episodes from 1950 on. Many featured the kids solving problems through the use of chewing gum, though other episodes are more gag-based. In the final image Pud usually told readers that Dubble Bubble is "the best" or "real". Annie promoted the "longer-lasting secret sweet taste", Tim was delighted over the "big bubbles" you could blow with it and Butch reminded children that each comic came with "funnies, facts and fortunes too", referring to a recurring segment in which the readers’ fortune was predicted. While many of these gum wrappers follow a serial number hardly any are dated, making it difficult to determine when they were drawn. Pud and his friends were direct rivals of the comic strip 'Bazooka Joe' (drawn by Wesley Morse) made for bubble-gum company Topps since 1947, though Pud was first.

Judy and Jim Defy Savage Gorilla!
Advertisement for the Wilson Chemical Co., appearing on the backpage of comic books in the 1950s.

Thompson drew a weekly cartoon for Tap and Tavern (a trade publication for the liquor industry) which ran for 34 years (1942-1975). His cartoon 'Odd Job Ozzie' appeared monthly in Reading Railroad Magazine between 1927 and 1959. Many of these cartoons were reprinted in Benjamin Bernhard's 1997 book 'The Reading Railroad and Its Cartoon Art'. Another notable creation by Thompson is 'Hap Hazard', a humorous safety poster character for the Asplundh Tree Expert Company.

After moving to Wyncote, Pennsylvania, he started writing articles about history, mainly dealing with the Revolutionary War. They appeared in newspapers and magazines from 1959. By the 1970s he was publishing his history books through his own publishing company Bicentennial Press. Thompson's first book, 'You Can Draw a Straight Line', was published in 1963 and proved a popular guide for beginning artists. Ray Thompson had additionally been busy painting local scenes since the 1940s. Thompson died in 1982, leaving an unfinished work, 'The Golden Era of Newspaper Comics, 1900-1930'.

Robert Crumb satirized 'Pud' in a 1970 one-shot gag comic, published in the magazine Uneeda Comix. It featured a perversion of the original comics, with Pud forcing Annie to give him a blowjob behind a fence, "because they don’t call me Pud for nothing". He is eventually discovered by George and Junior who beat him up and give the story a "happy" ending.


Camebridge Sentinel, 18 April 1936

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