KING AROOMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McClure Newspaper Syndicate
First Appeared: 1950
Creator: Jack Kent
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Barnaby and Krazy Kat, are adored by the intelligentsia but bomb in popularity polls. Jack Kent's King Aroo is one of the latter.
King Aroo was the monarch of Myopia, a pocket kingdom that doesn't seem to appear on most maps. His prime minister, grand vizier, chief advisor, or whatever, was named Yupyop. The two were about equally out of touch with reality and common sense, but Aroo's child-like unconcern for the duties and dignities of a king contrasted with Yupyop's more business-like attitude. Other frequently-seen characters included the mailman, Mr. Pennipost (a kangaroo with an a near-infinite capacity for producing things out of his pouch); and Professor Yorgle, an expert on everything. The strip specialized in an inspired surreality, reminiscent of George Carlson's Pie-face Prince of Pretzelburg but really not quite like anything else in the world.
The McClure Syndicate (Bobby Thatcher, School Days) launched Kent's strip in 1950, and it was well enough received to warrant a reprint volume two years later from Simon & Schuster (which had been publishing Pogo reprints for a couple of years). It was never a runaway hit, but for a time at least, held the interest of enough readers to keep it going. That book is now a highly sought-after by knowledgeable comics readers.
But the syndicate, oldest in the business, was on its last legs by that time, and didn't really have the resources to promote a strip like King Aroo. In 1952 it merged with The Bell Syndicate, and McClure-Bell promptly started having contract problems with Kent. That would have been the end of the strip, if not for the sponsorship of Stanleigh Arnold of the San Francisco Chronicle. Arnold started a syndicate of his own, Golden Gate Features, largely for the purpose of syndicating King Aroo.
It was a noble effort, but ultimately failed. King Aroo folded in 1965. Jack Kent did some freelance cartooning for magazines, greeting card companies and suchlike, then launched a new career as an award-winning children's author. He died in 1985, never having returned to King Aroo unless you count a few of its characters turning up in his 1969 book, Mr. Elephant's Birthday Party.
For many years, King Aroo was seen only in occasional reprints turning up sporadically in obscure journals. In 2009, the obscurity came to an end, as IDW (John Law, Grimjack) published the first volume of a proposed complete reprint.