Rube Goldberg - Cartoon Character Creations
In 1915, he also did animated cartoons which were used in the silent movies. He drew all of the panels required to produce a short feature. Each clip would require thousands of drawings, but still, he did not commission anyone else to draw with him. Later on, however, Rube would realize that he had somehow bitten off more than he could chew, so he eventually decided to forego the opportunity. Besides, he was already making $100,000 per year in royalties alone from his books and drawings. In the 1930’s, Rube Goldberg had already made it big, having written “Soup to Nuts,” a debut movie featuring Ted Healy and the Three Stooges.
In 1915, Rube Goldberg created the character Boob McNutt. Like his previous characters Mike and Ike, Boob Mcnutt did not merit immediate syndication. Unlike them, however, Boob McNutt gained a much better following after it was syndicated by the Star Company. The character himself was a klutz, and the cartoon would always end up with Boob doing something disastrous in his effort to help. In the 1920’s, Rube Goldberg introduced Boob McNutt’s love interest to the public. The female character’s name was Pearl, and throughout the cartoon’s lifetime, they married and divorced a couple of times. Later on, Rube Goldberg revived Mike and Ike as recurring support characters in Boob McNutt, and it was revealed then that they were actually his uncles. It was actually this revival of the identical twin characters in the Boob McNutt series that Mike and Ike became a success. Rube also had the practice of getting characters from his various cartoons to make appearances in his work. In fact, shortly before the Boob McNutt series came to an end in 1934, the character that left a mark for Rube Goldberg, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, also made an appearance. Rube Goldberg became famous for his wacky inventions through Professor Butts, although many of his inventions began to be featured at the bottom of each of his Sunday comic section called “Side Show.”
Doc Wright was unlike many of Rube Goldberg’s characters. He was a country doctor who was compassionate and altruistic, not at all showing any of the buffoonish qualities consistent of Goldberg’s creations. The comic itself seemed uncharacteristic of Rube Goldberg. It was devoid of humor, and to top it all, it had a dramatic storyline. Despite this irregularity, its readership had increased, and a new market that Goldberg did not previously have was drawn in.
Rube Goldberg did not offer any explanation—not even in an indirect manner—for going out of character and producing a drama cartoon which was more akin to a soap opera in print. There were speculations that he did so only to avoid carrying on with the newspaper comics “The Gump,” which was created by Sidney Smith. There were rumors that he was asked to take over drawing and writing for Gump after its creator had died. The first appearance of Doc Wright, however, was on January 29, 1933. Sidney Smith was still alive around that time, so this put an end to earlier speculations. Cartoon aficionados believe that the likely reason Rube Goldberg created Doc Wright was to experiment on his genre. One thing about Goldberg was that he would shift gears once he was bored, and around that time, the character Boob McNutt was beginning to tire him out.
Hundreds of newspapers were reported to have taken an interest on whatever comic series Rube Goldberg was going to create. However, editors and publishers were dismayed when they found out that instead of the eccentricity and the old antics of Rube Goldberg’s characters, there was Doc Wright. Although the touch of human interest was picked up by readers at first, they eventually got a bit restless.
Also, as Rube Goldberg was funny by nature, he found it harder to keep a tight rein on his slapstick humor. It was then that he thought of creating yet another character that was inspired by a slang word that became popular around that time: extravaganza, meaning “over the top.”
Of his early works, Lala Palooza was the only female title character in a Rube Goldberg cartoon. Lala was a rich woman, but she was not exactly a smart one. As initially conceptualized, the character Lala Palooza would be a fat clown. However, the idea did not pan out well, and the moment the first comic came out in 1936, Lala was portrayed as a wide-eyed woman with short, blonde curls. She always fell into mishaps together with her brother whose name was Vince Doolittle. He was a lazy dreamer, and she was someone obsessed with status.
Judging from the different surnames, the story behind the cartoon strip implied that she had been married at some point. However, throughout the cartoon, no matter how short-lived, there was no appearance of a husband or even of an ex-husband. Lala was wealthy but a bit dimwitted. Her character was a representation of the balance of nature. The humor of Lala Palooza was based on the premise that God blesses people accordingly in fair proportions so that no one gets too much. For instance, a person may be extremely attractive but poor or intelligent but plain.
The strip itself was kooky and a bit underrated by readers, according to some comic aficionados. Appreciation for Lala Palooza required reading it in sequential manner, as Goldberg’s style was slow, character-based comedy. Hence, readers could only get the joke after having followed the series in its correct order. Lala was created a couple of months after Doc Wright had ended, and it was syndicated by Frank Jay Markey.
Unfortunately, Lala Palooza had a mediocre following. Collectors of vintage cartoons say that this could be attributed to the way it was marketed to the public.
Various newspapers ran the strip at varying years, and the episodes were printed and reprinted in random order. This adversely affected not only the continuity of Lala Palooza’s story, but reduced its hilarity as well.
There are discrepancies in records pertaining to the actual lifespan of Lala Palooza in the dailies. Some say that it began in 1936, although there are records saying that Lala was actually created in 1937. It also may have been existing until 1939, but according to “Editor & Publisher,” Markey advertised it for only a year. The only thing that is certain is that Lala Palooza was already off the press by the end of the decade. However, she continued to live on in comic books. Soon after Rube Goldberg stopped making the material for Lala Palooza after the August 1939 issue, his assistant John Devlin carried on with the series. While Godberg’s Lala was of buxom build, Devlin created a slightly slimmer version of the character. After Devlin, another cartoonist, Bernard Dibble, kept Lala Palooza going. He was the same artist who took over the cartoon series titled “The Captain & The Kids,” which was originally created by Rudolph Dirks.
Lala Palooza has had many reprints. One of them was in Feature Comics, formerly known as Feature Funnies, and it was featured in its first issue released in October 1937. Lala was even featured on the cover more than twenty times between the period 1940 to 1944. Around that time, the artist doing Lala Palooza illustrations was Gill Fox. She lived on until its final printing, issue # 144, which was released in May 1950. Her last appearance was in 1963, was in a reprinted issue of Feature Comics when it was already under the Star Feature Comics banner. It was reprinted by Israel Waldman.
When Rube Goldberg was studying engineering at Berkeley, he had an instructor in analytical mechanics by the name of Professor Frederick Slate. Professor Slate was also the head of Berkeley’s physics department at the time. In his class, Rube was introduced to the mother of what would later become his many “inventions” – the Barodik. It was, according to Rube, a machine so huge it filled an entire laboratory. He described it further as a linked system made up of chemical containers, pipes, springs, tubes, and wires as well as what seemed to him peculiar pieces of some odd equipment. In his own words, it was made to “look like a dumping ground for outmoded dentists’ furnishings.” Professor Slate had explained in a lecture that the Barodik’s main purpose was to record the weight of the Earth. In a book of essays titled There Was Light, Rube Goldberg told how he recalled this incredible contraption from college, which, in turn, compelled him to draw Professor Butts’ first invention ever.
In a book titled “A California Pilgrimage,” Rube Goldberg’s classmate Robert Sibley told a story about a day in Professor Slate’s class. He recalled how amazed the two of them were as the professor wrote almost every mathematical symbol in existence on the blackboards. The engineering student who would later become a legendary cartoonist allegedly said to him: "Bob, really now, this course is getting too tough and complicated for me. I’ve got to simplify it." At this, the young Goldberg proceeded to draw a cartoon version of Professor Slate on an actual drawing slate (pun intended) and penciled in a crack running down the slate’s length. Underneath the cartoon were the words, “This is a slate. Is this slate cracked? Yes, the slate is cracked.”
This drawing had already escaped Bob Sibley’s memory until he was reminded of it by yearend. It was featured in the Blue and Gold, a student publication. Sibley recounted that as soon as Professor Frederick Slate saw the drawing, Rube Goldberg was kicked out of the Analytical Mechanics class. Some researchers have tried to validate this story by looking up the said drawing in the Alumni House archives. While the said drawing did not surface, another cartoon of Professor Slate that was sketched by Rube Goldberg was indeed on file under the year 1904. It had the title, “A Gentleman of the Faculty,” which portrayed the professor sitting behind his desk, looking uptight. In the illustration, apprehensive students were walking into his office with a lot of hesitation. On the floor was a phonograph which played the messages, “I am busy,” “Back to the lab,” and “Crawl back into your shells.” Continue to next page.