« We see light, not dark. But it is in the dark that we feel goblins and ghosts. » — Rex Brandt
The ever-creative Tom Eaton‘s Oliver Cool (1975-79) always reserved a special treat for Hallowe’en. In past countdowns, I’ve shared the first (1975) and second (1976) entries devoted to the beloved occasion, and here is the final pair.
« As worthless a collection of crackpot notions and harebrained theories as I’ve ever seen in print! » — Graymatter McCogitator III, Chairman, National Academy of Very Smart Persons
This Oliver Cool strip (we featured another one a couple years back) saw print in the October 1976 issue of Young World. While both strip and publication are just about forgotten, they’re worth a look… but then I have a soft spot for comics produced outside the comics industry proper (if you can call it that); in many cases the ‘product’ reaches a wider audience, but the tradeoff is that it’s a far more casual public.
I’ll readily concede that I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to the scripting of strips aimed at young readers, as the authors are forced to navigate a myriad of oft-needless and downright asinine hurdles in their efforts to amuse, entertain and, yes… even enlighten.
Apparently, though, if he’s to be remembered for anything, it may be for his extended stint as resident cartoonist of scouting magazine Boys’ Life (1984-2015), most significantly on The Wacky Adventures of Pedro, featuring the mag’s ‘mail burro‘, introduced in the 1950s. Take a gander at this (naturally) eye-opening article by R.C. Harvey on the subject.
Bonus-wise, here’s a pair of recent-ish Pedro strips. At this point, Eaton’s crisp line and meticulous layout bring to my mind the qualities of another Midwestern cartooning wunderkind, Rick Geary.
« Hasn’t the weather been gray, drizzly, foggy and oppressive? »
« Yes, just lovely! »
Tom Eaton’s Oliver Cool strip appeared in The Saturday Evening Post Company’s Young World. YW had picked up, in 1972, the numbering (but not the title) of Western Publishing’s Golden Magazine. Of writer-illustrator Tom Eaton, little is to be found online, though he’s left a considerable body of work, such as fun books like Chicken-Fried Fudge and Other Cartoon Delights (1971), Captain Ecology, Pollution-Fighter (1974), Book of Marbles Marvels (1976) and The Beastly Gazette (1977). His Fizz & Farra in the Year 2250 comic strip also ran in Child Life magazine in the late ’70s.
A snatch of autobiography found on the back cover of Captain Ecology, circa 1974: « Tom Eaton is probably 30 or 40 years old, and lives with a tribe of baboons in a water tower on the outskirts of Chanute, Kansas. He writes and draws everything himself, with almost no help from his dog, Oscar. This is not his first book. His goal in life is to buy the state of Massachusetts and change its name to something he can spell. »