HENRYOriginal Medium: Magazine cartoons
Appearing in: The Saturday Evening Post
First Appeared: 1932
Creator: Carl Anderson
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Henry, title character of the long-running feature created by cartoonist Carl Anderson, is, like Popeye, Hagar the Horrible and Bugs Bunny, one of those
rare toons who are recognized even in silhouette, the world over. And he got that way without being the subject of a major motion picture or TV series, without his comic strip being carried in thousands of newspapers — and almost without uttering a single word!
Lack of speech is not the only way in which the character resembles an infant. He's bald and has a round little belly. His limbs are thick and stubby. With brows halfway up his ample forehead, he appears wide-eyed and alert, taking in everything he can of the world around him, just like an intelligent, curious baby. Only his upright stance and his inflated size distinguish him from a newborn.
Anderson had a long career in cartooning before Henry — in fact, he went back to the days when a line drawing was the only way to get a picture into a newspaper. He worked for both the Pulitzer and the Hearst papers during the early days of comics, as well as freelancing for such magazines as Judge, Puck and Collier's. He was 67 years old when, in its March 19, 1932 issue, The Saturday Evening Post ran the first Henry panel — and it's only for that one feature that he's remembered today.
Henry quickly became an every-week feature, eventually running in the coveted back page position — the spot that was later occupied by Marge Buell's Little Lulu, and still later by Ted Key's Hazel. After his first few appearances, Anderson hit upon the schtick of rendering him mute. His supporting characters were reasonably verbal; and he didn't maintain silence in the comic book version (or in his single animated outing, a Max Fleischer cartoon in which he met Betty Boop), but in magazines and newspaper strips, the character did not speak.
Naturally, Henry had international appeal — just like Ferd'nand, The Little King and other pantomimes (or near-ones); so the feature was immediately picked up in many overseas venues. In 1934, a German magazine ran a page of Anderson's cartoons under the title Henry, der Amerikanischer Lausbub ("Henry, the American Rascal"), and that's where William Randolph Hearst happened to run across it.
Always on the lookout for good cartoons for his King Features Syndicate, Hearst tracked Anderson down to his Wisconsin home and signed him up. Henry began as a daily strip on December 17, 1934, and has been running ever since. The Sunday began on March 10, 1935. The strip's circulation is down in recent years (it's now distributed to only about 75 newspapers), and it's been doing nothing but reprint Anderson's old work for nearly 20 years — but it's still hanging on.
Henry's first foray into comic books came in 1935, when David McKay Publications put out a 10x10-inch oneshot reprinting his daily strips. More than a decade later, Dell Comics devoted a couple of issues of its Four Color series to Henry — #s 122 (1946) and 155 (1947). The title went into regular publication with a March, 1948 cover date, first coming out quarterly but quickly graduating to bimonthly. The Dell version, which used longer stories and a speaking version of the title character but was hard to distinguish art-wise from the newspaper strip, continued until 1961. Dell published a total of 67 issues.
In 1942, Anderson's arthritis made it necessary for him to retire from active cartooning. He passed the daily strip on to John Liney and the Sunday to Don Trachte, both of whom wrote and drew the character for decades, in both newspapers and comic books. Anderson died in 1948 at the age of 83.
Other artists handled Henry in the decades before it went into reruns. But everyone who has ever done the feature has used the bold-stroked, minimalist style Anderson created, which communicates to the very young as clearly as it does to adults. In his lifetime, Anderson took satisfaction in letters from young readers who were glad to have a feature they could read so easily. That hasn't changed; and as long as Henry remains on the comics page, the likelihood is, it never will.