Quiet! Genius at work! Artist: Bud Sagendorf.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1932
Creator: Elzie Segar
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O.G. Wotasnozzle is one of those crazy inventors who litter the toon landscape. He wasn't a big star, popular throughout the world and still going strong after more than half a century, like …

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Gyro Gearloose; and he wasn't part of a popular TV show, like Clyde Crashcup. But he was handled by a couple of comics masters over a period of decades, and provided top-notch entertainment for generations of readers. And his inventions, which included a device for sucking the mice out of walls, a fish inflator to make them catchable with a butterfly net, and a gasoline substitute that only costs $40 a gallon, were right up there with the best of them.

Wotasnozzle (whose name is frequently misspelled with an extra letter, i.e., "O.G. Wottasnozzle") is one of those toons like Captain Easy and Steve Roper, who start out in supporting roles and go on to upstage the star. John Sappo, a typical schlub who commuted to work and had a less-than-satisfying home life, was created about 1924 by Elzie Segar, whose best-known character is Popeye the Sailor. Sappo originally headed up a daily strip, but by the early 1930s had been reduced to a mere topper to King Features' Thimble Theatre Sunday page, where Popeye was quickly becoming the star.

Sappo was an amateur inventor, to the disdain of his large and imposing wife, Myrtle. To assuage the pain of her scorn, he sought validation by getting his work critiqued by the greatest inventor in the world. O.G. Wotasnozzle, a colossal genius and egotist, made his first appearance in the Sappo episode of May 8, 1932. From that moment on, tho the title of the series remained Sappo, it was really about Wotasnozzle. As an excuse to remain on the scene, he rented a room from Sappo and set up his sometimes noxious inventing operation in Sappo's house.

The only change in the cast came in 1934, when Wotasnozzle got married. But his unnamed wife stopped appearing after a few weeks, and was never mentioned again. In 1936, the page was rearranged to give more space to Popeye and less to Sappo, who used his diminished area to give drawing lessons to children. Wotasnozzle was squeezed out, but the old page layout was restored before the end of the year and he was back.

Toppers went out of style during World War II, when paper shortages forced newspapers to shrink their Sunday comics, but in 1946, Wotasnozzle found a home in comic books. Segar's former assistant, Bud Sagendorf, began writing and drawing Popeye for Dell Comics, and Wotasnozzle was revived in Popeye's back pages. This time he was the title character, with landlord Sappo in the supporting role. Sagendorf continued to handle the character until his retirement, after which he was done by George Wildman, later an editor at Charlton.

Wotasnozzle continued in the back pages all through the 1950s and beyond, tho in 1962 (when most Dell titles moved to Gold Key Comics) he switched to reprints. He switched back to new stories by Sagendorf in 1966, when the syndicate began doing its own comic book publishing, but that didn't last long. In the 88th issue (August, 1967), he was dropped in favor of other King Features characters, such as Beetle Bailey, Mr. Breger and Pete the Tramp.

Gold Key published a few more Popeye comics in the late 1970s, and again, Wotasnozzle was reprinted in the back pages. About the same time, he made his only foray into animation, a segment on CBS's All-New Popeye Hour. The cartoon ended in 1983 and the comic book in 1984, and O.G. Wotasnozzle hasn't been seen since.


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Text ©2005 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.