GOOSEBERRY SPRIGGMedium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The Hearst papers
First Appeared: 1909
Creator: George Herriman
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Cartoonist George Herriman is best known for his classic Krazy Kat, but that was far from his only notable work. In fact Krazy herself (himself?) had a couple of forebears in Herriman's work — not just the fact that the Krazy/Ignatz dynamic originally evolved
in an earlier Herriman strip, The Family Upstairs, but also in that a Krazy-like cat was first seen in the company of Herriman's Gooseberry Sprigg.
The exact date of Gooseberry's own introduction is hard to pin down. A bird much like him turned up on an irregular basis in Herriman's sports cartoons back when the cartoonist was drawing them for The Los Angeles Examiner, where he started working in 1906. He was still at the Examiner (a Hearst paper) in 1909, when, for a brief time, he did a daily strip about a freeloading aristocrat named Baron Mooch. Herriman, always an advocate of using animal characters to make his point, sometimes used Gooseberry Sprigg to comment on the action.
Gooseberry first appeared in his own strip on December 23, 1909. It wasn't Herriman's first feature with an all-funny animal cast (the even shorter-lived Daniel & Pansy preceded it by slightly over a month), but it was the first to achieve even the tiniest bit of prominence.
Despite the name, Gooseberry Sprigg was repeatedly referred to as a duck. In fact, a frequently-used nickname was "The Duck Duke", which also indicated his social standing. He dressed the part, too, bedecked in top hat and tux, with a shiny stickpin in front and a big, thick cigar almost always in evidence. He generally got the deference due a head of state, but that didn't preclude occasionally having a little mayhem visited upon him when a scheme had deleterious consequences.
Gooseberry Sprigg lasted only a little more than a month as a separate feature, ending on January 24, 1910. But he and his supporting characters, such as Joe Stork, "his" prime minister, were later incorporated into Krazy's "Kokonino Kounty" kast. It's from Krazy Kat reprints that they're best known today, even if The Duck Duke did once have a comic strip of his own.