From Rudy's scrapbook. Artist: William Overgard.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1983
Creator: William Overgard
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Rudy in Hollywood (or just plain Rudy as it was usually called) was not what we generally think of as a funny animal comic strip. While it's true that the title character was a talking chimpanzee interacting with the world of show business, it's also true that his show biz world was more like that of Mary Perkins than Mickey Mouse (who, in comics, was sometimes said to work part time as …

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… an "actor" in cartoons) — and that as a show business personality, Rudy traded on being the only talking chimp in an otherwise normal world.

Also, Rudy was drawn in a clean, uncluttered, but realistic style, rather than the "bigfoot" style used in Little Lulu, Peter Porkchops and other comics intended just for laughs; whereas most funny animals, even those with adventury overtones like Uncle Scrooge and Cerebus the Aardvark, are more cartoony.

Rudy was created by cartoonist William Overgard, who started out in comic books during the 1950s, working for Lev Gleason (Daredevil, The Claw) on such features as Crimebuster and The Little Wise Guys. He also did comic books for Dell (Naza) and St. John (Terrytoons). His best-known comic book work is his own creation, The Black Diamond.

In the middle of the decade, he moved into newspaper work, taking over the Steve Roper series, where he quickly introduced Mike Nomad. After decades there, he launched a strip of his own. Rudy was distributed by United Feature Syndicate, which also handled comics as prominent as Nancy and as obscure as Twin Earths. It started on January 3, 1983.

According to the back-story, Rudy had been taught to speak by Mysterious Mendl, possibly the greatest animal trainer of all time. He'd come from a show business family (mostly non-talkers, of course), which included an uncle who'd used make-up for years to pass himself off as a wild gorilla in a circus act. He'd mostly worked on the stage, tho he'd had a few movie roles, such as King Kong's lawyer in a sequel. He was originally supposed to co-star with the future president in Bedtime for Bonzo, but was replaced. Rudy said it was because of a dispute over who was entitled to top billing. The studio said it was because Rudy refused to take his clothes off and pretend he couldn't talk.

In the comic's "present day", Rudy lived in The Garden of Allah II, named (and modeled) after an old-time Hollywood apartment building that had long-since been demolished, with an old partner, Bonita, a parrot. His neighbors included Spangle, a 14-year-old actress whose classmates were also in the business. The garbage man, Arnold, also aspired to the business. Rudy's agent, Max (whose father had handled Rudy's business back in the old days) was trying to manage Rudy's comeback, but in an era when the public would no longer watch a moon shot or an accordionist in prime time, that wasn't easy.

In format, Rudy was done as a gag a day, but with continuity between them, forming a storyline. It didn't have media spin-offs, tho Henry Holt & Co. (Peanuts) issued a reprint in graphic novel form in 1984 (which is where it picked up the name Rudy in Hollywood, by the way, used here because, at least according to one source, a couple of other obscure, short-lived and then-recent strips had briefly used the name Rudy).

Whatever its title, the comic had a great deal of critical success, but very little popular support. Maybe it was just too off-beat to succeed. It ended December 22, 1985.


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Text ©2010-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © William Overgard.