Medium: Newspaper comics
Appearing in: the Hearst papers
First Appeared: 1901
Creator: Frederick Burr Opper
It may not be entirely accurate, and it may be out of synch with common depictions in other media, but when cartoons are about cave men, the humans in them tend to co-exist with dinosaurs. We see
this not just in the famous ones, such as Alley Oop and The Flintstones, but also in the obscure, such as Dino Boy and Rocky Stoneaxe. The tendency goes back all the way to what is probably the very first American cave man comic, Our Antediluvian Ancestors.
The Antediluvians were the creation of comics pioneer Frederick Burr Opper, who also created Happy Hooligan, Alphonse & Gaston and many other comics for the Hearst organization, where he did virtually all of his 20th century work. This particular one first appeared in Hearst’s New York Journal on Sunday, January 20, 1901. The word “antediluvian” refers, of course, to a time before the Great Flood of Noah, described in the Old Testament. It may have been at least partially inspired by cartoonist Edward Tennyson Reed’s “Prehistoric Peeps”, which appeared in Britain’s Punch magazine, starting in 1893.
The action took place in and around the community of Cliffville, which seems to have had as large and diverse a population as any modern town. In fact, the general theme of the single-panel feature was that people hadn’t really changed in all the years since — men still compare their wives’ brontosaurus stew (or the equivalent) to that of their mothers, and parents still hope for prospective sons-in-law to have a good stash of skins and arrowheads (or the equivalent). There weren’t any regular characters, but names such as Flintspear and Skinclad recurred frequently, as in “Mrs. Stonehatchet” or the “Bonescraper family”.
At the time, it wasn’t yet the custom for the Sunday comics to appear on a reliable, weekly schedule, and Our Antediluvian Ancestors was about as sporadic as the rest. But it was popular enough to be reprinted in book form in 1903. Its availability to non-New York newspapers was advertised in Editor & Publisher magazine as late as 1906, but it fell into obscurity after that. By the time King Features (the syndicate that grew out of the Hearst papers) got into animation, in the 19-teens, it was long gone.
But in many, many later cartoons — Anthro, Tor, B.C. etc. — its tradition of co-mingling humans and dinosaurs remains strong.
41 pages/strips Our Antediluvian Ancestors Various