After a 50-year
is revived by Fantagraphics Books!
(Go to amazon.com, “Books,” and search
It was something I probably should have called
“Little Awesome Andy”
but “awesome” was not a teenage in-word in
the 1950s, and it was easier to draw a
TT logo on his T-shirt, so “Terr’ble,” it
was, in the sense of awesome..
It was my boyhood dream to do a newspaper comic strip,
and after working up ideas for a comic-satiric adventure strip for several
years, my dream came true in 1955 when United Features Syndicate gave me a
contract. Amazingly, there I was, in
the same nationwide newspaper syndicate that starred Al Capp’s
and where Charles Schulz was just five years into “Peanuts.”
Big Time at that time! It was at the
time when I was already doing just fine as creative director of the New
York UPA animation studio, and that was exactly the connection and the
dilemma.. A client of our studio
was Arthur Shimkin, producer of Little Golden Records,
the kiddie disc division of Simon & Shuster
had us animate some little ditties as a test to expand Little Golden
Records to TV.. So I had a chance to show Arthur
some of my development strips of “Terr’ble
Thompson“. He was excited with the
idea, and declared he would produce an episode of TT as a Little Golden
Record musical production! Arthur Shimkin was not a person to do things half-way. Working from a script I worked up with my
studio colleague and close friend Bill Bernal, Shimkin
brought in the Broadway song writing team of Alec Wilder and Marshall
Barer, a cast of star actors including Art Carney, and all backed up by
Mitch Miller’s full orchestra & chorus, and a band of sound
effects men. It was a thrill for me
to sit in at this fabulous recording session. I received a souvenir acetate
disc of the production, and it clinched the contract for me from United
Features. They assumed that if a record of that quality was made of my
creation, it surely would be worth syndication. Thus the nationally syndicated daily and
Sunday comic strip, “Terr’ble Thompson”.was born, and I felt I was
on my way to fame and fortune! Click to hear it!
BUT: The strip was already causing conflict in my family
life. Every comic strip creator knew that it took years before a strip
could gain enough newspapers to become economically viable. PEANUTS, five years
old at the time, was just beginning to really take off.
So with two sons already, I couldn’t immediately
quit my well paying job as creative chief of UPA New York. I was simultaneously working nights and
weekends on the strip. I was under
tremendous pressure from my wife to give it up, as I had little time to
devote to her or my sons. I was
pleading for patience – that golden days lay ahead. Then, out of the blue came
the animation offer I couldn’t refuse. CBS television had just bought the Terrytoons animation studio and wanted me to be the new
creative chief as Paul Terry retired.
The moment of bitter-sweet truth for me arrived. I had to give up my comic strip dream, and.the Little Golden Record was never issued. 50 years later, “Terr’ble Thompson”
was completely forgotten. It ran too
briefly and in too few newspapers to establish a fan base. I did transmogrophy
some elements of the idea into Tom Terrific, and that TT did
fly. But was
just a shadow of my comic strip TT, and all I had of that was the scratchy
acetate disc and a few tattered and faded newsprint samples of my strip.
But suddenly, Fantagraphics
publishers of Seattle, and comics historian Dan Nadel got wind of it, and a project to find and restore
the long comatose strip was set in motion.
I still had a few old faded newspapers with some of it, and also
some Syndicate proofs, and six other noble and diligent collectors of the
ultra rare came up piece by piece with the rest. With the wonders of today’s
computer-graphics technology, and modern sound engineers, you can soon see
it all, and also hear the restored recording. You can now look at the samples of the strip here, or order the
book from Amazon or Fantagraphics, the complete
meticulously restored strip as it was meant to be seen, but which primitive
1950s newpaper printing technology could not
approach. A full year of restoration work!
Decide for yourself whether it coulda or couldn’ta been a contendah!. .
Of course, in 50 years American culture and perceptions have
radically changed. Terr’ble Thompson would have radically changed
also. For now, as with “Terr’ble” himself, it is at best, just a
“Hero of Hist’ry!.”