Professor Phumble takes criticism at home. Artist: Bill Yates.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1960
Creator: Bill Yates
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Cartoonist Floyd Buford "Bill" Yates was known in the cartooning community for taking over comic strips started by others, such as Redeye, the small society

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… and Little Iodine. But while he also did a lot of non-series, one-panel cartoons and some anonymous comic book work, the only feature he's credited with having created himself is Professor Phumble.

Phineas Phumble has been described many times, usually in biographical material about Yates, as an absent-minded professor. He's actually both more than that, and less. He isn't all that absent-minded, but he's seriously eccentric. But more gags arose from the bizarre oddities he studied, than from oddities of his own, or from his sometimes silly inventions. Yates also got a lot of his gags from Phumble's off-campus avocation of playing golf.

The professor was first seen on May 9, 1960, when King Features Syndicate launched his daily feature. He provided a chuckle on weekdays for years, never becoming a major star, but seldom disappointing his laugh-seeking readers, either. He didn't make a big splash in other media, but during the early 1970s, when Yates was doing a Ronald MacDonald series for Charlton Comics, Professor Phumble was known to turn up in an occasional crossover, or even appear in a one- or two-page story all by himself.

He continued holding down a comic strip for 18 years, and might have done so much longer, but Yates was offered a better job. Sylvan Byck, the King editor who had overseen the acquisition of comes from Hi & Lois to Half Hitch, retired in 1978, and Yates took his place. As King Featires editor from 1978 to '88, he brought in valuable properties like Slylock Fox and The Piranha Club. But it was a full-time job, so he no longer had time for Professor Phumble.


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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.