When I began reading newspapers in the 1960s, I was an exhaustive reader of newspapers. I was always the type of kid – and still am now, as an adult – who usually checked out every page of a book, every second of the credits of a TV show or movie and, yes, every story and ad and illustration in the newspaper.
It goes without saying that I studied newspaper comic books closely and was puzzled and fascinated by “They’ll Do It Every Time.”
Unlike “Peanuts” and strips from the time that felt contemporary, “They’ll Do It Every Time” felt like a holdover from an earlier day. And it was.
“They’ll Do It Every Time” was created in 1929 (!) by cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo, who first drew his complex, gag-filled strips first for William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco papers. But by the time I was seeing the panel (rather than multi-panel strips) it appeared in more than 600 papers.
Stop and think about that for a moment.
I’m a lifelong lover of newspapers, and it’s where I have made my living. But while the influence of newspapers has moved from print to online in recent years and the heyday of newspaper comic strips ended with “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” it’s impossible to overstate the impact of a daily comic strip in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Everybody, every member of the family, read the newspaper, or at least part of it. And nearly every member of the family read the comics.
Hatlo’s comic entertained and puzzled me. With its sarcastic assessment of the foibles of mankind, the strip was, as the comic strip history website Hogan’s Alley noted, an early practitioner of observational humor.
My favorite element of the strip was the Hatlo “Tip of the Hat” to a reader each time. Hatlo accepted ideas for strips, refined and expanded on them, and then thanked and credited the reader who gave him the idea.
It was unlike anything else in comics before or since and I thought it was fascinating.
Hatlo continued the strip until he died in 1963, so it’s likely the strips I saw were reruns or some done by his successors, Al Scaduto and Bob Dunn. Amazingly, the comic ran until February 2008.