The Fleer Dubble Bubble Kids
Advertising strip with '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.

Early years
Francis Raymond Thompson was born in 1905 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. The young artist contributed gag cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, and later also to Ladies Home Journal, Country Gentleman, Life, Judge and Collier's. Thompson 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.


Myra North and other comics
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.

Dubble Bubble Kids
As a commercial artist, Thompson illustrated games, puzzles and stationary, among other things. He also made promotional comics for comic books. His most famous commercial art job 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 by an artist hiding under the pseudonym Fleer. Halfway the 1930s a simpler graphic approach was used through 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 chubby boy who wore a red cap and a red-and-white striped shirt. While many other comics from that era usually regulated fat kids to the role of villain, idiot, butt-monkey or - at best - sidekick Pud was notable as the series' heroic protagonist. Yet in the 1960s he would be remodelled into 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 'Dubble Bubble Kids' episodes from 1950 on. Many featured the kids solving problems through the use of chewing gum, though other episodes are more gag-based. 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 later comic strip 'Bazooka Joe' (drawn by Wesley Morse) made for bubble-gum company Topps since 1947.

Thompson also drew 'Dubble Bubble Kids' comic strips for advertisements published in comic books. In the final image of those strips, 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. 

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

In issue #21 (March 1955) of Mad Magazine Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder spoofed 'The Dubble Bubble Kids' in a full-blown parody of comic book advertisements named 'Comic Book Ads!'. In the story Pud admires the huge bubbles he can blow with the chewing gum, while Sis tells him: "Aaah, come off it, Pud! You know darned well this is a glass bubble merely used for exhibition purposes!" They then stop a bank robber, by having the bubbles snap into a nauseating mess. Robert Crumb satirized 'The Dubble Bubble Kids' in a 1970 one-shot gag comic, published in the magazine Uneeda Comix, with Pud forcing Annie to give him a blowjob, "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.

Other cartoons
Thompson's cartoon 'Odd Job Ozzie' appeared monthly in Reading Railroad Magazine between 1927 and 1959. drew a weekly cartoon for Tap and Tavern (a trade publication for the liquor industry) which ran for 34 years (1942-1975).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.

Final years and death
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'.


The 'Dubble Bubble Kids' chewing gum comics, often shortened to the title 'Pud', have been continued by other comic artists, such as M. Wartella

Camebridge Sentinel, 18 April 1936.

More about the Dubble Bubble Kids

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