We’ve all seen funny stories in the mass media about the problems people have with their computers, VCRs and other elements of modern technology. In the early part of the 20th century, cars were the new technology. Like today’s computers, they sometimes absorbed a lot of their users’ time and energy, just to keep them running. This was reflected in the mass media of the time, such as newspaper comics — for example George Herriman’s Professor Otto & His Auto, Frank King’s Gasoline Alley and Vic Forsythe’s Joe’s Car.
Joe’s Car started as a daily strip in 1918 (back when motorists were still occasionally subjected to catcalls of “Get a horse!”), in The New York World, which syndicated it to other papers around the country. The protagonist — the human one, at least — was Joe Jinks, a short, middle-aged guy who was often seen chomping a cigar. His wife, Blanche, wasn’t unreasonable about his obsession, but readers had a distinct impression her life would have been smoother without it.
As automobile technology grew more reliable and easier to use, Joe switched his attention to airplanes. The title was changed to the less obsession-specific Joe Jinks in 1928. That same year saw the beginning of the Sunday page, which was mostly a domestic comedy (along the lines of the earlier Toots & Casper and the later Moose & Molly) about Joe and Blanche.
About the time of the title change, Joe became a fight promoter, which displaced his interest in aviation. “Dynamite” Dunn was his first boxer’s name, and Dynamite (who predated Joe Palooka, by the way) became such a prominent character that from 1934-36, United Feature Syndicate (syndicator of Fritzi Ritz, The Captain & the Kids and many others, which by then was distributing Forsythe’s strip) promoted it under the title Joe Jinks & Dynamite Dunn. By then, Forsythe was no longer with the strip — he’d gone to King Features to create a new one, Way Out West, in 1933.
Forsythe was succeeded by Pete Llanuza, formerly a sports cartoonist and caricaturist, who stayed until 1936, then was replaced because the syndicate wanted a more realistic look. He was followed by a succession of artists — including Forsythe, returning after both Way Out West and its successor, The Little Woman, had bit the dust. He didn’t stay long, tho, due to illness. The next cartoonist to sign it for any great length of time was Sam Leff, who, starting in 1944 wrote and inked the strip while his brother Mo (former assistant on Li’l Abner and current one on Joe Palooka) pencilled it.
In 1944, Joe met the character who would replace him, at least in the dailies. Curly Kayoe, his second boxer, became more and more prominent until, on December 31, 1945, the name of the strip was changed to Curly Kayoe. Joe remained a supporting character for another year, but early in 1947 he departed completely. His wife, he said, had developed an unspecified rare disease, so he sought more healthful climes out west and was never seen in the dailies again.
In the Sundays, however, life went on for Joe and Blanche. In fact, she didn’t even appear to be sick. That series was taken over by cartoonist Henry Formhals (Ella Cinders, Freckles & His Friends) in 1946. He kept it running, same as always, until it folded in 1953.
Joe’s media penetration was minimal — just a comic book published by United Feature in 1938, as part of its Single Series (which also devoted issues to Tailspin Tommy, Abbie & Slats and other United Feature offerings). He did appear as a supporting character in a few of Curley Kayoe’s comic books, tho. He was last spotted in the one Dell Comics put out in 1958.
7 strips 1937
18 strips 1941
5 strips various