Today we give you two strips, Joseph A. Lemon’s Willie Cute from 1904/05, and Clare Victor Dwiggins’s Willie Fibb from 1911.
Willie Cute has the distinction of being one of the biggest jerks ever to grace the funny pages–and in a world of Katzenjammers and their progeny, that’s saying something! He’s clearly modeled after Buster Brown, with his effete clothes and hair, but his pranks are mean and manipulative. With the Katzies, there’s an anarchist bent, where the kids just like to cause havoc for its own sake. Not so with Willie: he’s a cold, calculating sociopath. I don’t know which type I’d rather deal with in real life! To make matters more uncomfortable, as the strip settles into its routine, the main target of Willie’s jerkface japery is the terribly stereotyped “Mammy” housekeeper, Dinah. Keep it classy, Lemon.
Willie Fibb is a much more interesting and amusing strip, taking its cues from Winsor McCay’s dreamy works, blending fantasy and reality together into a delightful melange of whimsy. Fibb is another lad who displays clear personality disorder, but his is of a much gentler bent: when caught misbehaving, he spins marvelously impossible stories explaining away his situation. It really is a cute diversion; another finely crafted strip from ‘Dwig’.