HERKYMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1935
Creator: Clyde Lewis
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Herky, the title character of a short-lived Sunday page by cartoonist Clyde Lewis (Private Buck), has often been cited as a "superbaby" and compared to the slightly later work of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. But there was no intention on Lewis's part to do something that would fit in the soon-to-be-burgeoning
superhero genre. Herky was about his parents' exasperation in dealing with a prodigy even more capable than Bunker Hill Jr., who starred in the topper to Billy DeBeck's Barney Google. He may (at least at first) have had a superbaby's strength, intelligence and maturity, comparable to those of Baby Weems or Farley Tibbit, but he wasn't a junior member of the spandex-and-mask brigade.
"Herky" was short for "Hercules", not that he was much like Marvel's Hercules (or even Disney's Hercules) his mom and dad called him that because he was so strong. But he was also articulate beyond his larynx's years, and not inclined to take a lot of kitchy koo-ing from grownups. Lewis got a lot of laughs out of people being surprised to find themselves suddenly dealing with, in effect, a miniature adult.
But the charm soon wore off, and so did Herky's babyhood. He quickly grew from a newborn to a kid of about four or five, and along with his increased maturity came diminished status as a freakishly extreme prodigy. Before long, he was just a toddler starring in the Sunday comics, like Little Jimmy before him or Winky Ryatt after.
Clyde Lewis started in comics as assistant to V.T. Hamlin on Alley Oop. He stayed with Oop's syndicate, Newspaper Enterprise Association (which also handled Captain Easy, Red Ryder and others), when he launched the Sunday-only Herky in 1935. He expanded his syndicate presence two hears later, with a daily panel called Hold Everything.
A few years later, Lewis left Herky and NEA behind, and went to work for King Features Syndicate (Blondie, Krazy Kat). There, he did a panel much like the old Hold Everything, called Switcheroo. That metamorphosed within a few months to the War-oriented Private Buck, and (under the postwar title The Private Life of Buck) lasted until 1952.
Meanwhile, Herky was taken over by Neg Cochran (Out Our Way). Under him, it ran until 1941.
Herky wasn't exactly a media phenomenon during its brief existence, but his comic did manage to get into comic books. He was in the back pages of Dell's The Funnies, along with Dan Dunn, Mutt & Jeff and Tailspin Tommy, starting with its first issue (October, 1936). Later, he switched to Crackajack Funnies, which he shared with Wash Tubbs, Don Winslow and others.
But by the time he disappeared from newspapers, about when the U.S. was getting involved in World War II, he was dropped from the comic books as well.