As mentioned in yesterday’s fantastic interview on The Comics Reporter website with our head Curator Jenny Robb, one of the greatly unappreciated and enigmatic virtuosos of the newspaper comics pages was W. O. Wilson.
Unfortunately, next to nothing is know about the artist. The great Alan Holtz of the Stripper’s Guide, however, uncovered some potential details about Wilson’s history through naturalization papers, which tell us he was born in South Africa and settled in various areas of Long Island upon arriving in New York in 1890.
Wilson’s forgotten work steps right up to bat with other fantasy artists of the time including Winsor McCay and Lionel Feininger, and his other features–The Wish Twins and Aladdin’s Lamp, The Richleigh Family, and Horace the Hero–all hold elements of wonder as well.
An excellent point that Jenny Robb brings up in her article Madge’s Magic, co-authored by Richard D. Olson for the print magazine Hogan’s Alley No. 14 is that unlike his contemporaries, “Wilson made his child protagonist a girl and cast her in stories featuring dinosaurs, dragons, mermaids, pirates and Indians– the adventures usually associated with boys. The only similar example featuring a girl was The Naps of Polly Sleepyhead by Peter Newell, but after nine months Newell dropped the fantasy element and transformed it into a strip about children playing pranks.”
In every gorgeously full-colored installment of the feature, Madge fusses with her father’s magic wand and the tricks she has picked up from him in order to create a world in which she can impress her friends- a delightfully faithful portrayal of the imagination and desires of the young. The strip unfortunately ran for only a brief stretch, from Sept. 2, 1906 until August 15, 1907.