“G’night, Folks!!”

Posted by on August 6th, 2010 at 9:12 AM

We all know that when he was Will Eisner’s apprentice, Jules Feiffer took care of the great man’s signature for him and produced a strip for the back page of the Spirit sections. The strip was called Clifford and it was about a little boy who was more cheerful than Feiffer but suffered from some of the same helplessness and universe-stacked-against-him odds that later on would provide Feiffer with a career subject.

Below is a strip where Clifford wants credit for going to bed early. Forced to do something he doesn’t like, he tries to turn the situation into a chance for self-aggrandizement. It doesn’t work, and he winds up shouting at the people he wanted to praise him, the people who are also imposing their will on him — his parents. Neurotic!

I suppose mature Feiffer would make the parents willfully snub the kid, as opposed to having them nap. But even so.

Anyway, from the back of the Feb. 19, 1950, Spirit section . . . Clifford and bedtime:

update, Feiffer disclaims any big resemblance between Clifford and Sick, Sick, Sick. From his autobiography, Backing into Forward: “Very little shows up in Clifford to predict the sort of satire I was to create for the Village Voice just nine years later.” Fair enough. I would say the little that does show up shows up a lot. No, the strips aren’t about neurosis, like Sick, Sick, Sick. The lead, Clifford, is sturdy enough in the head. Yet the strips are themselves neurotic — a bit. Tics pop up in them. For example, of the eight strips I now have on hand, the one above isn’t the only one where the little boy gets back at adults by overdoing a task. There’s a second where he takes the act to school and does the same thing to a teacher. In Feiffer’s autobiography, the next illustration after his thoughts on Clifford is a strip where the boy is left out in the cold by the crowd. He’s here in the foreground, looking at his marbles, wondering where everyone has gone, and they’re all off in the distance, a happy mob of kids who have abandoned him. That’s enough like the lonely-boy-with-baseball cartoons in Sick, Sick, Sick. The Sick, Sick, Sick boy muttered over his fate: “Look at them, laughing, playing. Isn’t there something unhealthy about it?” Clifford does no muttering, and getting left high and dry isn’t really his fate, just a momentary turn of the wheel. But the subject — world there, boy alone here — was on Feiffer’s mind long before he knew what to do with it.

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