Thursday, June 11, 2009


[click the picture to enlarge]

Before Google was a website and a verb, there was 'Barney Google', a comic strip about a diminutive, gambling rascal, was created in 1919 by Billy DeBeck. The strip, which focused on the antics of Google and his horse, Sparkplug, was a big hit in the roaring '20s. He even spawned a hit song - Barney Google ('with the Goo-goo-googly Eyes' [click link to hear it!]) - which my Grandpa used to sing now and then. Sparkplug was also the origin of Charles Schulz' lifelong nickname - 'Sparky'.

When Google's travels took him to the hill country in 1934, he met Snuffy Smith. Smith's hillbilly notions and phraseology proved so popular that Smith became the co-star of the strip. Soon the strip was renamed 'Barney Google and Snuffy Smith', a name it retains today, though Google was all but gone by 1954, with Smith's mountain clan having taken over the whole shebang.

In the midst of this transition, DeBeck died and his assistant, Fred Lasswell, took over and helmed the strip for a phenomenal 59 years. While Smith was DeBeck's creation, it was Lasswell who's responsible for building Snuffy and his cast as we know them today. The strip continues, albeit in shrunken form, under Lasswell's former assistant, John Rose. Above is the May 29, 1966 strip, which plays off the reader's knowledge that Loweezy, Snuffy's wife, is an inveterate gossip.

1 comment:

joe tacoma said...

Thanks for reminding me of the pleasure I had reading the strip in the Sunday paper with my grandfather in the 1950's.