The kid in me is romping and playing today.
Oaky Doaks was my favorite cartoon as a child. It’s the reason I’m a cartoonist today.
Cartoonist R. B. Fuller was an accomplished artist. His work is so perfectly executed, unlike the hastily done stuff of at least half the stuff on the comics pages these days. As a child in West Virginia in the late 1940s, I came across the daily strip “Oaky Doaks” and fell in love with it. In the strip, Oaky was a farm boy who, using some equipment from the barn, hammered himself some armor and went off riding his plow-horse Nellie to do battle with dragons, rescue damsels in distress, and confront evil everywhere. I loved everything about this strip.
When I would read the strip each day–remember, I was 8 or 9 years old at the time–my mind went into overdrive. I seriously entered that tiny world of the medieval knight with his silly sidekick King Cedric. It was delightful in every way. And, may I say, Mr. Fuller sure could draw beautiful women!
Then, when I was 11, we moved back to the Alabama farm where our newspapers did not carry that strip. I hardly noticed, I realize now, as I was involved in a hundred things. Only years later did I look back and remember my old friend Oaky and find that something inside me was treasuring him and missing him.
So, I went online.
For a long time nothing was available on Oaky Doaks other than some of the Famous Funnies comic books which carried comics of a number of artists. You never knew who would be in an issue. I have a few of those. They helped to feed my hunger, but not much.
Lately, on the sites such as amazon.com and alibris.com I found books of reprints of Oaky Doaks strips and ordered them. Alas, they are for the late 1930s, long before I was born or encountered them. But it’s still the same guy and same artist.
So, I have Oaky Doaks now. I have him just about as real as he ever was anywhere, which is to say, “on paper and nowhere else.” Well, except for in the mind of R. B. Fuller.
That’s how it works. That “world” exists only there, inside his head. And his heart.
I once spent an hour with Dick Moores at his studio in Fairview, North Carolina, down below Asheville. Dick had drawn Donald Duck comics for the Walt Disney studios in the 1940s, then worked with Chester Gould on Dick Tracy, and now was in charge of Gasoline Alley, my (then) favorite strip. As we talked and I watched him work, it occurred to me that the entire world of Gasoline Alley with all the wonderful characters of Walt and Phyllis Wallet, Skeezix and Nina, Joel and Rufus and Melba, Slim and Clovia, the boy named Rover, etc., was all contained in the mind and heart of this one man. Dick Moores. That was where it existed.
It’s a funny feeling. Not unlike, I imagine, encountering Lee Child or Jan Karon and knowing that Jack Reacher or Father Kavnaugh lives only inside that author’s head.
What an interesting thing the Father did for us when He made us this way. We can make up a story and write it down and if we did well, people pay money for it, spend hours reading it, and learn or relax or dream or something.
God is good. Life is wonderful.
Isn’t He? Isn’t it?