MICKEY FINNOriginal Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McNaught Syndicate
First Appeared: 1936
Creator: Lank Leonard
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Bringing Up Father. But that strip's Irishness had faded noticeably by 1936. Lank Leonard's Mickey Finn, however, was just getting started.
Frank E. "Lank" Leonard had been a syndicated sports cartoonist for nine years when he launched the Mickey Finn strip, which debuted from McNaught Syndicate (Joe Palooka, The Bungle Family, The Jackson Twins) on Monday, April 6, 1936. The characters started out simple and typical — doting, care-worn Ma; cheerful Uncle Phil, frequently a victim of con-men or practical jokers; and of course, Mickey himself, big and strong, not exceptionally bright but not notably stupid either. But it was a warm, friendly strip. Readers took to it right from the start, and the characters developed into individuals quickly enough.
The main character remained stereotyped in at least one important way: Mickey (full name Michael Aloysius Finn) was an Irish policeman. But he wasn't a big city cop like Dick Tracy, constantly having exciting adventures and shoot-outs with desperate criminals. No, this policeman was inspired by one in Port Chester, New York, whom Leonard observed one day as he patiently helped children cross the street. Mickey patrolled a quiet neighborhood beat, where a big crime confrontation might involve foiling a penny-ante burglar. He joined the U.S. Navy during World War II, and after the war eventually rose to the rank of Detective — but during most of the strip's run, Mickey sauntered about in a police uniform, just a big, friendly guy, there to help out.
Uncle Phil, who often functioned as comic relief, settled in as the de facto star of the Sunday version, which began about six weeks after the daily. The Sunday also had a topper, Nippie: He's Often Wrong, about a very young child who, to judge from the weekly snippets of his life readers saw, was in reality always wrong — the schtick was, he'd repeatedly suffer by ignoring helpful advice from his elders.
There weren't any radio, movie or Big Little Book adaptations, but reprints did appear in comic books. Feature Funnies (later titled Feature Comics), which concentrated on McNaught comics before Doll Man became its star, started running Mickey's strip in its first issue (October, 1937). Later, he moved to the back pages of Big Shot Comics, where Sparky Watts got his start. He headed up his own comic for 15 issues, published between 1942 and '49, and again for two issues in 1952.
The seven-day feature continued in its low-key but pleasant way, reaching a peak circulation of about 300 papers. In 1968, Leonard retired and turned the strip over to his assistant, Morris Weiss. Tho Weiss did update it somewhat, it had fallen quite a bit out of synch with the rest of the world. The Sunday Finn ended on December 21, 1975 and the daily on July 31, 1976.