MERELY MARGYMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1925
Creator: John Held Jr.
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In the 1920s, there was a very noticeable trend in newspaper comics to make protagonists of pretty girls such as Fritzi Ritz, Boots and Dora Bell. All of them dressed and behaved fashionably, of course, but none caught the look of the times as well as John Held Jr.'s Margy. Held not only had the "flapper" look down pat — he was even credited in Vanity Fair magazine, during the
early 1930s, with having played a large part in inventing it in the first place.
Held got his start in cartooning when his age was still in single digits. He made drawings used in his father's stationery store. At 16, during the early years of the 20th century, he quit school to draw sports cartoons for The Salt Lake City Tribune. A few years later, he went East, seeking commercial art work in New York City. During the '20s, he acquired a reputation for highly stylized work that truly captured the spirit of the "Roaring 20s". In 1925, he launched a single-panel cartoon feature in that style, Oh! Margy!, for United Feature Syndicate (The Captain & the Kids, Joe Jinks).
As often happened back then, William Randolph Hearst wanted it for his own syndicate, King Features, and was willing to offer Held enough to entice him to move. It had become standard practice by then, for a cartoonist switching employers to leave the trademarked title of his feature behind, while remaining free to take the characters with him. Merely Margy, expanded from a panel to a regular daily strip, debuted at King in 1927.
But it wasn't long before the affluent 1920s gave way to the hard times of the '30s. Held's loss of popularity came shortly before the 1929 stock market crash, when the fashion world was turning away from the flapper look. Tho an emblem of its time, Merely Margy's own time was short. It ended in 1928.
Today, John Held's art is still remembered as highly characteristic of its time — but instead of up-to-date and modern-looking, it seems merely quaint. Held made another attempt at a comic strip about a pretty girl, Rah! Rah! Rosalie, but without notable success.
After a few years of struggle, he retired from art.