Comic Strips: Cliff Sterrett’s Polly And Her Pals

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals

Cliff SterrettCliff SterrettAl Capp once described Cliff Sterrett as “the finest cartoonist of them all”. Yet most people have never heard of him or his strip, Polly And Her Pals.

Sterrett debuted the Polly strip in 1912. Initially, it focused on a pretty girl, but as the strip developed, Sterrett turned his attention to Polly’s family- specifically, her father, known as “Paw” and her mother, referred to as “Maw”. Other characters filled out the cast- Neewah, the family’s houseboy; Ashur, the dimwitted nephew; and Carrie, Paw’s sister in law. Shadowing Paw through the panels is Kitty, the cat.

Cliff Sterrett

Richard Marschall produced a pair of books documenting the Polly And Her Pals Sunday pages from 1926 to 1929. This was the prime era of the strip, with Picasso-esque cubist backgrounds and surreal gags. If you see these books for sale, grab them. By the mid-1930s, Sterrett was afflicted with arthritis, and had turned over a lot of the responsibility for the strip to his assistant, Paul Fung. Sterrett let Fung create the dailies without much input, but he supervised the Sunday pages personally, with Fung simply providing the background detail repeated from panel to panel.

Cliff SterrettCliff SterrettMy friend Kent Butterworth brought in a stack of original Sunday pages from 1936 for us to digitize. This era of Polly And Her Pals has never been reprinted, so these delicate originals are particularly important. These oversize sheets are twice as large as the platen on our scanner, so we have to scan them in two passes and splice them together in Photoshop. With the high resolutions we’re scanning art at, it takes over an hour to digitize each Sunday page. But I think you’ll agree that it’s well worth it.

Cliff Sterrett
January 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
January 12, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 2, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 16, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
February 23, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
March 29, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
April 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
June 7, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
June 28, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
July 5, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
August 2, 1936

Cliff Sterrett
September 13, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
September 20th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
September 27th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
October 25th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 1st, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 8th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 29th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 6th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 20th, 1936

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
December 27th, 1936

Here are a couple of prime Sterrett Sundays provided by my best pal, JoJo Baptista…

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
November 6th, 1927

Cliff Sterrett Polly and her Pals
April 8th, 1928

There’s an easter egg in this last one… do a google image search for the name hidden in this comic and see what Sterrett was looking at when he created this strip!

 If you enjoyed these strips, you owe it to yourself to splurge and get one of the finest books on newspaper comics ever published. This oversize volume is beautifully printed and packed with hundreds of great Polly Sunday pages. Order it now from Amazon…

For another example of Cliff Sterrett’s genius, see Michael Sporn’s Splog, and make sure to read Rick Marschall’s great comment adding more details to the story below.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

2 Responses to “Comic Strips: Cliff Sterrett’s Polly And Her Pals”

  1. Rick Marschall says:

    Nice post; thanks for the pat on the back of the POLLY reprint volumes I did 20 years ago.

    The post gives credit to Paul Fung, who took over the dailies for years. But no mention is made of Vern Greene’s work on the Sundays. Sterrett handed off almost all his work for a while. When Fung started on the dailies, Greene did on the Sundays. I rather discount the account of Fung doing the Sunday page (except, perhaps, briefly) or that Sterrett “supervised the Sunday pages personally, with Fung simply providing the background detail repeated from panel to panel.”

    The strips’s characters look different, in the late ’30s, from both Fung and recent Sterrett. On top of ll that opinion, I knew Vern Greene when I was a kid; he had a stack of his Polly originals, he shared these details… in fact, to the point of re-creating the thick-and-thin lines of Sterrett’s great style, and such things.

    As King bullpen artists, they eventually moved on to other work, Fung on Blondie (mostly the comic books and merchandising art), Vern eventually drawing a superhero strip for the Ledger Syndicate. He reture=ned to King to do the daily Bringing Up Father in ’54 (Frank Fletcher doing the Sunday page — Vern could never get a full gig).

    Sterrett’s assistant before his illness was a guy named Johnny Kovalcik, not sure of the spelling. Sterrett liked him; was the heir apparent. But it seems he froze when he was given the opportunity to solo. He even left the KFS bullpen. This story came by way og Jim Raymond, Alex’s brother. When he was brought in to ghost Blondie (the Sundays at first) after Chic Young lost his young son, King Features president Joe Connolly warned him: “Don’t pull a Kovalcik on us!!!”

    At the end, arthritis notwithstanding, Sterrett returned to POLLY. It was a Sunday-only strip by then; he could take more time. But he likely was unable to afford a ghost then. POLLY ended in a small list of papers.

    Rick Marschall

  2. Mckay Boxberger says:

    Cool! These cartoons look fun!

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