MR. TWEE DEEDLEOriginal Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The New York Herald
First Appeared: 1911
Creator: Johnny Gruelle
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Cartoonist Johnny Gruelle is world-famous as the creator of Raggedy Ann & Andy. But before creating that perennially popular pair, he'd already made a mark in the world of children's fantasy with a comic titled Mr. Twee Deedle. The Raggedys didn't appear in print until the middle of their starting decade, and it was as early as 1910 that Gruelle (already working as a newspaper illustrator) beat out 1,500 other entrants in a contest sponsored by The New York Herald
(The Upside-Downs, Little Sammy Sneeze) to create a new feature for that paper. The contest winner actually appeared in papers the following year.
Mr. Deedle is sometimes cited as an imitator of Little Nemo in Slumberland, partly because both are very well-done fantasies and partly because a superficial glance at the dates seems to indicate he replaced Nemo in the Herald when William Randolph Hearst hired creator Winsor McCay away. But the loss of McCay actually occurred three months after Gruelle's comic began — between January 29, 1911, when Gruelle's page began, and April 23 of the same year, when McCay's made its last appearance before moving to Hearst's papers, both were featured in the Sunday Herald. And while both dealt with the general theme of fantasy, they were very different in every other important way.
Mr. Twee Deedle was a sprite about a foot and a half tall, who befriended a small boy named Dickie and sometimes Dickie's sister, Dolly. His function was to dispense homilies about proper behavior, and help the children learn how to lead morally upright lives. He'd show them how honesty, kindness and other virtues would help them get along in the world, and at the same time be reflected back to them.
Cupples & Leon, the publisher that reprinted comics such as Keeping Up with the Joneses and Tillie the Toiler, issued two volumes of Mr. Twee Deedle reprints, the first in 1913 and Mr. Twee Deedle's Further Adventures the following year. They were the first two books credited to Gruelle, in a career that included dozens.
Mr. Twee Deedle ran until at least 1914. After it was over, Gruelle moved on to other things, including, of course, the extremely popular Raggedy Ann stories and toys, and didn't revisit the older character (tho he did do another comic, Brutus, for the same paper). But after his death, the Raggedys were licensed by Dell Comics, which ran stories about them in New Funnies, alongside Andy Panda, Li'l Eight Ball and other Walter Lantz Studio characters, starting in 1942. There, briefly at least, Mr. Twee Deedle was revived by Gruelle's brother, Justin. But after that run ended, Mr. Twee Deedle was gone for good.