In the first couple of decades after The Yellow Kid helped get comics established as a newspaper feature, the formats hadn’t yet settled down to the standard ones we see today — six black-and-white strips a week, mostly on the same page and/or one larger, full-color block on Sunday; in either case available all over the country. Comics sometimes turned up in odd places, at odd times, and in odd, out-of-the-way venues, often without even being syndicated to other papers.
This was one of those oddly-located comics, and was pretty odd in its own right, too. Right in that time frame, Rube Goldberg (Boob McNutt) was doing Mike & Ike (They Look Alike), exploring the theme of characters who resemble each other more strongly than actual human beings possibly could. In Dolby’s Double, cartoonist Ed Carey (Simon Simple) rang a variation on that theme, giving the identical folks an adversarial relationship.
Dolby, whose first name was seldom if ever mentioned, was a well-to-do businessman in late middle age, who was plagued with a problem that real people had to wait decades to suffer from — identity theft. The perpetrator was his exact double, who duplicated Dolby so convincingly, even Mrs. Dolby had been known to be fooled. Was this the first use of the “evil twin” motif in comics?
Dolby’s double was a cheerful villain. He looked like he was having a good time as he ran up enormous restaurant tabs, got arrested and jumped bail, sabotaged political campaigns, etc., all in Dolby’s name (his own name was Everett). Dolby, however, wasn’t so sanguine. In fact, by the final panel, he’d usually been reduced to sputtering rage. “But — it wasn’t me! It was my double!”
Dolby’s Double was published in the popular three-tier format, two panels per tier, appearing on a regular news page in the Friday edition of New York’s Evening Telegram, the afternoon paper published by the same company that did The Herald (Betty). The Telegram’s better-known comics include Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. The cartoonist’s later comics included The Troubles of Dictionary Jaques, about a French-speaking immigrant whose limited grasp of English frequently sent him to the dictionary, which he usually interpreted too literally.
Dolby first encountered his double in the early part of 1909. By the end of the year, the strip had pretty much run its course.
17 strips various