Thursday, March 25, 2010

Buried Treasure: Ozark Ike

Ray Gotto's baseball strip, Ozark Ike, was the first of its kind sports feature for King Features Syndicate which debuted in November 1945. Ike was a good old country boy and left fielder for the Bugs baseball team. Bubba Bean was his lanky pal and sidekick, who also worked for J.P. Morgan, the team's bristling "fat cat" owner. But the real draw of the feature was Ike's girlfriend Dinah, the beautiful shapely blond with a Veronica Lake hairstyle. As a sports cartoonist, Gotto had a unique drawing style, unlike his contemporaries of the time, his mannered, precise, and detailed illustrations really stood out on the Sunday pages, adding to the feature's success. Even with his stylized, sleek drawings, strong storylines, and a good dash of humor, a baseball strip can eventually run its course, and so when Ray Gotto had a disagreement with his agent, he left the feature to start another baseball yarn, Cotton Woods, and left Ike to be drawn in a competent fashion by Bill Lignante until its last run of the bases in 1959.

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