Sunday, August 1, 2010

Irving Phillips' The Strange World of Mr. Mum

Based on a stage play created by Phillips for Broadway, The Strange World of Mr. Mum debuted on May 5, 1958, with its whimsical iconic style that helped pave the way for other one panel cartoonist with off-beat humor like Gary Larson's, The Far Side, or Dan Pirraro's, Bizarro. Our man on the street, Mr. Mum, was a good-humored, befuddled gentleman who somehow always came across one zany situation after another with his tragic deadpan expression. If ever shaken to his core from these outer limits type weird happenings, the most we ever saw out of this silent bystander was an occasional raised eyebrow. At the peak of its run, starting with the Hall Syndicate and later ending with the Field Newspaper Syndicate, it graced 180 newspapers, spawned a Sunday page in 1961, and was printed in 22 translation required.

Whether it was a single mother with a brood of children shooting a stork at the local zoo, or a caveman returning several overdue stone tablets to a amused librarian, Mr. Mum somehow remained stable at what he observed. This signature strip won Irving Philips the International First Prize and Cup of the Salone dell' Umorismo of Bordighera, Italy, in 1969. Two books, ten years apart were published about Mr. Mum's exploits, but often appealing to only a narrow section of newspaper readers, until the series eventually ended in 1974 despite protests of his many loyal fans.

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