Elmer, by Doc Winner (1945)

Doc Winner was an American comics artist who mostly continued well-established newspaper comics as a ghost artist through the Hearst syndicates United Feature and King Features. He also created the newspaper gag-a-day comic 'Tubby' (1923-1926), which he eventually remodelled and retitled as 'Elmer' (1926-1956).

Charles H. Winner, nicknamed "Doc", was born in 1885 in Perryville, Pennsylvania, as one of seven children of a roofing contractor. Already doodling around from a young age, he went to the Pittsburgh Art School where he took evening classes for three years. He worked as a clerk in a tea and coffee store and later at the offices of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Winner debuted as a cartoonist at the Pittsburgh Post in 1918, where he succeeded Billy DeBeck in making humorous cartoons about sport events. In 1910 he was also assigned to make political cartoons for the same paper. In 1914 Winner moved to the Harrisburg Patriot, followed by the Newark Star Eagle in 1917. In 1918, Winner accepted an offer from the William Randolph Hearst organization and joined its comic art staff. This was the beginning of a 38-year association with Hearst.

Tubby by Doc Winner
Tubby

On 19 March 1923 Winner created a gag-a-day comic about a young boy and his friends. While his mother named him 'Chester', everyone else called him 'Tubby'. Tubby was often seen in the presence of his friend and a little dog. 'Tubby' was comparable to Gene Byrnes' similar comic strip 'Reg'lar Fellers' (1917-1949), which also featured gags about a group of children. Tubby's checkered cap and black suit were even blatantly copied from the character Jimmy Dugan in 'Reg'lar Fellers'. Rather unusual for the time, many episodes of 'Tubby' came with titles which cryptically described the plot of that very episode. 'Tubby' continued until 5 June 1926. After the series came to an end Winner was commissioned to take over two newspaper comics by A.C. Fera. First of all, Winner continued Fera's signature series, 'Just Boy' but remodelled it back into his 'Tubby' series, then gave it the new title: 'Elmer' (1926-1956). Apart from the protagonists, including Elmer Tuggle himself, 'Elmer' had little to do with Fera's original concept and was basically 'Tubby' all over again. Under this new incarnation the comic strip continued for decades and eventually become Winner's longest-running series. Winner also continued the companion strip Fera had created for the 'Just Boy' Sunday page. 'Alexander Smart, Esq.' was a gag comic about a not-too-bright big-nosed man which Winner continued until 1943. Winner also created several other toppers for the Sunday feature, such as 'Daffy Doodles: Dizzy Dramas from Our Readers' (1932-1940s) and 'The Elmer Game' (1933-1935).


Thimble Theatre

In 1937 E.C. Segar, the creator of 'Thimble Theatre' - better known as 'Popeye' -, got severely ill. Winner ghosted some of the daily and Sunday episodes of 'Thimble Theatre' and the Sunday topper 'Sappo' during Segar's absence. When Segar unexpectedly passed away in 1938, Winner became the official new 'Popeye' artist for a while. He ghost-drew several episodes until passing the pencil to writer Tom Sims and artist Bela Zaboly in December 1939. Winner furthermore ghosted episodes of Billy DeBeck's 'Barney Google and Snuffy Smith'. From 1949 on he spent the final years of his life continuing Rudolph Dirks' 'The Katzenjammer Kids' (1950-1956) and its topper 'Dinglehoofer und His Dog' (1950-1952). On 12 August 1956 the 71-year old Winner passed away from cancer. While 'Elmer' was discontinued, Joe Musial took over 'The Katzenjammer Kids' for the next twenty years.

Katzenjammer Kids (in French), by Doc Winner

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