THE TOODLE FAMILY, aka THE TOODLESMedium: Newspaper comics
Distributor: Chicago Sun
First Appeared: 1941
Creators: Stanley and Betsy Baer
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Like all comic strips about domestic life, e.g., Blondie, Hi & Lois and The Ryatts, The Toodle Family had its share of family discussions, at varying levels of heat. Unlike most, the Toodles owe their existence to such a family argument. Sol Hess was talking about comics with his daughter Betsy and her husband, Stanley F. Baer, and made what he considered a telling point when he suggested that if the younger couple
knew so much about comics, perhaps they should create one themselves. Hess was calling attention to his own credentials as an early writer of The Gumps and creator of The Nebbs.
The Baers, who made their living in the wholesale grocery business, had no prior ambitions in that direction, but still took him up on the challenge. A new paper, The Chicago Sun, was starting in the vicinity, and their The Toodle Family, drawn by local illustrator Rod Ruth, started with it. This happened in December, 1941, when the couple had been married for 14 years.
The domestic setting of the couple's comic was chosen not as a direct imitation of The Nebbs, but because it was something they were very familiar with. The first two Toodle children were a bit older than the Baers' own, but the writers still cited experience raising a family as their main qualification for the job. The twins were invented for the strip, and had no real-life counterparts. Each pair of Toodle kids consisted of a boy and a girl.
There was the occasional daily gag, but the comic tended toward storylines constructed like a soap opera. Stanley contrived the situations and plotted the general outlines of the story, with Betsy writing the actual script the artist worked from. Ruth eventually left the strip to return to advertising work and magazine illustration. The job was taken over by Pete Winter, another whose comics credits were sparse.
The newspaper, later known as The Chicago Sun-Times, was also responsible for Betsy & Me, the one foray cartoonist Jack Cole (The Comet, Plastic Man) made into newspaper comics. For a time, the paper was owned by Field Enterprises, which also syndicated such comics as Steve Canyon and Crock. Field distributed The Toodle Family, later titled The Toodles, to about 300 papers.
Sol Hess died less than a month after his daughter and son-in-law launched their comic. The Bell Syndicate (Don Winslow of the Navy, Mutt & Jeff), which distributed The Nebbs, hired the Baers to write that one as well.
Before his death, Hess had been pessimistic about The Toodles' prospects for long-term success. But as it happened, that strip outlasted his own, which ended in 1947. Before it did, the new writers intertwined it with their own comic, by positing that the two families were related. First, the Baers had Toodle kids visit their Nebb cousins, then The Nebbs moved closer to The Toodles, to facilitate cross-syndicate crossovers. Eventually, Hess's creations survived only as supporting characters in his daughter's and son-in-law's comic.
There were no movies or TV shows made from The Toodle Family, but there were comic books. In 1951, Ziff-Davis (Lars of Mars, The Teenie Weenies) published an issue of The Toodles. Five years later, Argo Publications (Freckles & His Friends, Vic Flint) did a single issue of The Toodles Twins.
The Toodles ended in 1961.