Oaky, Cedric and Nellie on the cover of Famous Funnies.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Associated Press
First Appeared: 1935
Creators: Bill McCleery (writer) and R.B. Fuller (artist)
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The best and most famous newspaper comic about knights in shining armor was, without a doubt, Hal Foster's Prince Valiant. But Val wasn't the first …

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… medieval hero in comics to put the sword to miscreants. A guy named Oaky Doaks may not have been quite as dashing and strong as Val (tho he did manage to hold his own in those areas — especially strength), and certainly wasn't as brainy. But Oaky did beat Val into print by nearly two years.

Oaky didn't start out as a prince, like Val did. He was just a farm boy, who fashioned a suit of armor from the tin roof of a shed. And he wasn't knighted by King Arthur himself. He kept company with a monarch named Cedric, who made less of an impact on history, and who never did get around to knighting him. And he didn't ride a noble war-horse like Val's Arvak, either. His stalwart steed was just Nellie, who had formerly pulled his dad's plow.

Oaky was created by writer Bill McCleery, comics editor of The Associated Press (which wasn't as great a powerhouse in syndicating comics as it was in disseminating news, but did manage to field a few memorable ones like Milton Caniff's Dickie Dare and Noel Sickles's Scorchy Smith); and artist Ralph B. Fuller (who wasn't well known for other ongoing comics features, but had been a frequent contributor to Judge magazine, where such luminaries as George Herriman and Carl Barks began their rise to national fame). The A.P. launched Oaky's daily strip on June 17, 1935. A Sunday was added in 1941, first drawn by Bill Dyer (who also did a stint on The Adventures of Patsy) but later taken over by Fuller.

The hero was a good-hearted lad, even if not as skilled in battle as he'd like to be. His motto, emblazoned on his coat of arms, was "O-nay ay-day ithout-way a ood-gay eed-day". (He used that form of "Latin" because he didn't know the regular kind.) He didn't look like much from the reader's point of view, but the fair maidens he encountered seemed to find him attractive enough (tho he was generally too bashful to do anything about it). King Cedric (short, fat and bald, plus which he anachronistically wore glasses) apparently wasn't much interested in kinging, as he functioned more as Oaky's comic-relief sidekick than as a wise leader. Together, they slew dragons, defeated sorcerers, rescued damsels in distress, and did all the other things you'd expect of a member in good standing of the knighthood genre, but did so in a manner that provided more laughs than thrills.

Cedric was written out of the strip in 1940, after which Oaky went adventuring on his own. His travels brought him to several fabulous lands, including, for a few years in the early '40s, Camelot itself. He eventually settled in Uncertainia, where he served King Corny and wooed Corny's beautiful daughter, Princess Pomona (whom he had to rescue about as often as Superman did Lois Lane). Oaky and Pomona were later married — in fact, toward the end of the strip's run, they even had a son.

There weren't any movies or Big Little Books, but Oaky's reprints did appear in Famous Funnies, grand-daddy of all modern comic books, during most of that title's lengthy run (which ended in 1955). He and/or Cedric appeared on the cover no less than 20 times, often in the company of other stars such as Big Chief Wahoo or Invisible Scarlet O'Neil. The same publisher, Eastern Color Printing, even put him in a oneshot comic book of his own in 1944.

The Associated Press eventually got out of the comics business and concentrated on what it did best, news. Oaky Doaks ended in 1961.


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