Found in the Collection: Bill Holman’s “Wall-Nuts”

Few cartoonists of the newspaper pages have attempted to pack their daily strips with as many puns, gags, and non-sequitor absurdities as the late great Bill Holman did in his famous funny fireman strip, Smokey Stover. Holman drew Smokey Stover from 1935 until 1973, making it the longest running comic strip of the slapstick screwball comedy genre.

Among his regularly featured made-up words like Foo and Notary Sojac, and inside jokes like “1506 Nix Nix”, Stover strips were layered with background jokes and puns about other puns, plastered into the background of each panel. He referred to these insert gags as wall-nuts, and as if coming up with a new strip each day wasn’t enough in itself, whether they won or lost a laugh they were present in nearly every strip:

Original "Smokey Stover" strip by Bill Holman. From the Philip Sills Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

Original “Smokey Stover” strip by Bill Holman. From the Philip Sills Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. (click to enlarge)

After retiring Smokey Stover in 1973 at the age of 70, Holman was still brimming with wordplay to play with, and re-purposed his wall-nuts concept to be their own separate pieces, which he never published. Though the hand may be more shaky, the “Wall-Nuts” featured below were some of Holman’s last panels in his later years, and still hold forth his love of a good plain gag.

Wall-NutsBabyFood

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.

Wall-NutsBeard

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.

Wall-NutsCigar

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.

Wall-NutsGold

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.

Wall-NutsTact

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.

Wall-NutsTheater

Bill Holman’s unpublished “Wall-Nuts” originals. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Carton Library & Museum.