BOBBY THATCHERMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McClure Newspaper Syndicate
First Appeared: 1927
Creator: George Storm
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first (Bobby the Boy Scout beat him out by more than a decade and a half, tho that was an anomaly), nor even the first successful, syndicated one (not with Wash Tubbs riding high, even if it did take a humorous approach). In fact, he wasn't even the first done by his own creator, cartoonist George Storm, who had earlier been involved with Phil Hardy. But Bobby was certainly among the pioneers. No matter how you define them, only about a half-dozen or so comics about serious adventure stories beat Bobby Thatcher into print.
Like the earlier Little Orphan Annie (or its slightly later clone, Little Annie Rooney), Bobby started out in melodrama. Mistreated by a less-than-benign guardian, Jed Flint, 15-year-old Bobby (often spelled "Bobbie" in early episodes, tho always "Bobby" in the title) ran away from home, then set out to make his fortune and find his sister, Hattie. Also like the two Annies, his stories quickly evolved into hair-raising adventure. Within a few weeks, he was involved with desperate criminals, saving lives and whatnot, but always showing himself to be loyal, hard-working and honest.
Bobby's story began on March 24, 1927, when he was launched by McClure Syndicate, one of the oldest in the business. McClure's other comics offerings over the years included King Aroo and the syndicated version of DC Comics' Superman. Storm, credited with both the writing and the artwork, was later involved in the creation of several comic book characters, such as The Whip and Buzzy.
Bobby didn't transcend his media, moving out into radio shows or movie serials like some comics characters did. He did have a couple of adventures reprinted in book form — Bobby Thatcher's Romance (1931) and Bobby Thatcher & the Treasure Cave (1932) — but his only escape from the newspaper page on a regular basis was when All-American Publications reprinted his strip. It began in All-American Comics #1 (April, 1939), alongside other newspaper strips like Skippy and Reg'lar Fellers. plus a few original features such as Red, White & Blue and Hop Harrigan. But he was only in the first seven issues, replaced in #8 by another original feature — Gary Concord the Ultra-Man, arguably All-American's first superhero.
But by the time he was in All-American, Bobby had already disappeared from the newspaper page. His strip ended in 1937. Storm handled it almost the whole time, but Sheldon Mayer (Sugar & Spike, Black Orchid), in one of his earliest professional credits besides Scribbly and his minor contemporaries, took over just before the very end. Bobby's ten-year run was respectable, but not long enough to make him especially memorable. Except, of course, for his status as a pioneer.