A few of the kids undergoing School Days. Artist: Clare Dwiggins.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McClure Newspaper Syndicate
First Appeared: 1918
Creator: Clare V. Dwiggins
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Cartoonist H.T. Weber, creator of Caspar Milquetoast, has been called the Mark Twain of American cartoonists. But long before that, Clare Victor Dwiggins (who signed his work "Dwig") adapted the actual work of Mark Twain into comics, and did a creditable job of reproducing the small-town nostalgic atmosphere …

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… of the story adapted, Twain's 1876 novel, Tom Sawyer — if not the sometimes acerbic humor the author often displayed.

Dwiggins, whom the eminent comics historian Bill Blackbeard called the greatest forgotten talent of American newspaper comics, launched Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn in 1918. Twain had died eight years earlier, but much of his work was still protected by copyright. Thus, the adaptation was authorized by Twain's estate — which had, in fact, chosen him for the job. Twain's estate also supervised the comic's adherence to the spirit of the work if not the exact sequence of events described in it. The Dwiggins version was distributed by The McClure Syndicate, which had earlier syndicated Billy Bounce, and later King Aroo.

The title underwent occasional changes, including The School Days of Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, and dropping Huck (whose novel was more thematically serious and less in keeping with Dwig's light, folksy style than Tom's) from the masthead. Its best-known title is School Days. Tom was the most prominent Twain character through most of the run, tho others from his work, such as Becky and Aunt Polly, were present as well, especially in the early days. Later, Dwig's own characters dominated. Some of them were created for this strip while others, including Ophelia Bumps (a little girl whose thoughts were expressed on a slate) and Pip Gint (a bully) came from his other comics.

School Days ended during the very early 1930s. In 1940, with most of Twain's copyrights having expired, Dwiggins tried a revival of the Huck character for The Ledger Syndicate (Lady Bountiful, Somebody's Stenog). But that lasted only a couple of years.

Later in the decade, he used the same characters in comic books published by Street & Smith, whose properties included The Shadow and Doc Savage. Huck, with Tom as a supporting character, started in the back pages of the August, 1943 issue of Doc Savage Comics, and even took the cover from Doc in the final issue, four months later. After that venue folded, he transferred to Supersnipe's back pages. There, his stories took a more fantastic, adventurous direction, more like the Tom Sawyer novels of the 1890s, than the 1876 one.

Dwig's last Huckleberry Finn story in Supersnipe Comics appeared in the October, 1946 issue. He never revisited the Twain characters again, and died in 1958.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © McClure Newspaper Syndicate.