Edgar Bergen took the American entertainment world by storm as no other ventriloquist has before or since. And yet, bizarrely enough, Bergen wasn’t a particularly accomplished ventriloquist (he learned by reading a pamphlet) and his greatest success came on radio, a rather nonsensical venue for a ventriloquist.
What Bergen did have were a pair of memorable characters, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, superb comic timing, and the good sense to never try to upstage his dummies — Bergen’s on stage character was a retiring straight man, never the joker.
Edgar Bergen’s creations were heavily merchandised to a welcoming public. That merchandising extended to a McNaught Syndicate comic strip that debuted with much hoopla on July 10 1939 (daily) and July 16 (Sunday). The strip was initially drawn by Ben Batsford who did a superb job of translating the Bergen clan to the funnies. The strips were funny and in character. I’m betting that many of the gags were translated from the hit radio show.
For reasons unknown Batsford left the strip after just a few months — his last daily was September 30, last Sunday October 22. Was he having deadline trouble? Personal problems? Whatever the problem was, this would be Batsford’s last syndicated strip after a twenty year career on the funnies page. I hear he went into comic books in the 40s.
Taking over for Batsford was Carl Buettner. He only signed the Sunday pages, not the dailies, but the art styles look to be the same to me. One website claims that he collaborated with Chase Craig on the strip, though, so maybe Craig did the unsigned dailies. After his short stint on this comic strip Buettner would go on to a career at Disney.
147 pages/strips Mortimer and Charlie 1940
16 strips 1939