Looy Feitelbaum takes a stroll. Artist: Johnny Devlin.

LOOY DOT DOPE

Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: The New York World
First Appeared: early 1920s
Creator: Milt Gross
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Throughout his career, cartoonist Milt Gross (Dave's Delicatessen, Count Screwloose of Tooloose) created one feature after another, never letting himself be bogged down with a single concept or character set — or even limiting himself to a single medium of expression. He passed easily from prose stories to newspaper columns to animated cartoons … even, tho the term itself was still decades away from common use, the occasional graphic novel such as He Done Her Wrong. Nor was he overly concerned with the exact boundaries between one …

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… of his creations and another — characters would constantly drift from short stories to comic strips and back again. Members of the Feitelbaum family of New York City, for example, might turn up just about anywhere.

A prominent Feitelbaum was Looy (pronounced "Louie", like the Nephew), a young man whose point of view regarding his own importance in the world was at odds that of the general public. For this reason, and as an indication of what most of his associates thought of his intelligence, he was generally referred to (in the thick, Yiddish-influenced New York patois Gross usually used) as "Looy dot dope".

Looy first joined the cast in Gross's illustrated New York World column Gross Exaggerations in the Dumbwaiter, during the early 1920s. The characters, including Looy, soon transferred to Gross's comic strip, also called Gross Exaggerations (it had been changed from Banana Oil in 1925). The title was changed again on June 1, 1926, to The Feitelbaum Family; and one last time, on January 7, 1927, to Looy Dot Dope. The World's previous contributions to American cartoonery include Hawkshaw the Detective and Caspar Milquetoast.

Like those two, the comic strip survived the demise of the newspaper that carried it. Before long, it was being distributed by United Feature Syndicate (Fritzi Ritz, Gordo). There, Looy prospered, to the point where a Sunday page was added in the early-to-mid 1930s — but not by Gross, who had moved to King Features Syndicate (Popeye, Krazy Kat). Gross's assistant, Johnny Devlin (Molly the Model, no relation, Lala Palooza), who had been ghosting Looy (with far less emphasis on Gross-style Yiddishisms) since the early days, started signing it at that point.

While most papers stuck with Gross's title, at least after its re-naming, some carried it as The Misadventures of Louie, and others under the truncated name Looy. But under whatever title, Devlin, who became the assistant of Rube Goldberg, didn't stick with Mr. Feitelbaum. Devlin was gone by November, 1935. Early in 1936, Bernard Dibble (Danny Dingle, Iron Vic) took over, and kept it until the end.

Looy was reprinted in Tip Top Comics, Sparkler Comics and other venues where United Feature comics like Li'l Abner and Tarzan appeared. He even, like Jim Hardy and Peter Pat, was featured in an issue of United's Single Series.

All this was over by the end of the decade. Tho World Color Press (Major Ozone, Slim Jim) offered it as reruns briefly, in 1940, United Feature dropped Looy on July 8, 1939.

— DDM

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Text ©2010 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.