Sunday, April 01, 2012

Andy Gump in Bronze

We were about to leave the town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, yesterday for a drive around the body of water known as Geneva Lake when I noticed a statute near one edge of the triangular Flatiron Park (and it just occurred to me why the park might be called that). Everyone else was tired from walking around the streets of Lake Geneva, so they waited in the car while I investigated. From the back and a hundred feet away, the thing looked odd, the figure too slender and marked by too many mild protuberances to be a conventional statue of a war hero or politico of old or the like.

The statue faces Geneva Lake (the body of water). It was cloudy yesterday, so the light wasn't that good, especially up toward his head. But I took the picture anyway.

I'd come across the only -- and I'm pretty sure about that -- public statue of the comic strip character Andy Gump. He looked vaguely familiar. I had to read the plaque to remind myself who Andy Gump was. I'm sure I've seen a few examples of the strip he was in, The Gumps, but on the whole the character had made a light impression on me. Until now: I'll remember the statue.

It would have been better if Andy had been placed a little lower, since it loses some of the impact if you can't see his odd, chinless face easily. Oh, well.

Apparently the creator of the strip, one Sidney Smith, lived in the town of Lake Geneva, and at one point the Chicago Tribune had a statute of Andy Gump made for Smith, such was the enormous popularity of the comic. Discontinued in 1959, now it's completely obscure. I doubt that even in the most perverse reaches of Hollywood is anyone dreaming of a modern version of The Gumps, any more than Barney Google and Snuffy Smith are poised for a come back, even though Barney now shares a name with the backbone of the digital age.

But I checked: Barney Google and Snuffy Smith is still being drawn. I guess I don't follow newspaper comics very closely, since I don't think I've seen it in 20+ years. According to King Features (the same comic plantation on which Popeye still toils), the strip is only on its third artist since its creation in 1919, and "this tremendously popular feature boasts clients in 21 countries and 11 languages." Greater longevity than Andy Gump, and of course Barney figured in an immortal pop hit once upon a time, too.

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At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A gift from the Tribune management to Smith was a large statue of Andy Gump, which stood on Smith's Lake Geneva, Wisconsin estate. After Smith died in 1935, the statue was moved to a city park. In 1943, the statue was acquired by the city of Lake Geneva, but it was destroyed in 1967 during a drunken riot. It was replaced with a new statue, which was stolen in 1989 and again replaced. A plaque honoring Smith was also stolen from Lake Geneva in 1952, but it was later found. The statue is currently on display at the Lake Geneva Museum.
- Wikipedia, "The Gumps" The last sentence, at least, appears to be in error, unless the park is within the curtilage of the museum.


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