Monday, Nov. 23, 1942—
“The begetter of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith died last week in Manhattan.
“In many ways Billy De Beck lived a life as unreal as the comic-strip characters he fathered. When he was at high school in Chicago he drew imitation Charles Dana Gibson pictures, peddled them for profit. He did cartoons for a theatrical weekly and for several newspapers. But he stayed poor until he turned out a correspondence course on ‘How to be a cartoonist and make big money.’ He sold thousands of copies for $1 apiece.
“He was doing a so-so successful strip, “Married Life,” for the Chicago Herald at $35 a week when King Features hired him in 1919. Result: Barney Google. Before he died last week at 52 after a year’s illness. William Morgan De Beck had a 14-room Florida house, a Manhattan Riverside Drive apartment where, once, he threw dollar bills to kids from the window until he was stopped by police.
“Knee-high, banjo-eyed, potato-nosed Barney Google and his wonder nag, Spark Plug, were to U.S. kids in the ’20s what Superman is today. Barney Google (‘and his goo-goo-googly eyes’) was a 1923 song hit that sold more than a million copies.
“Three Barney Google musicomedies toured the U.S. for two years; a toy manufacturer sold $1,000,000 worth of Google and Spark Plug toys and dolls; many a Google catchphrase entered the language (‘Horsefeathers!’ ‘Heebie-jeebies’; ‘Jeepers Creepers!’ ‘Youse Is A Viper’; ‘Bust Mah Britches!’ ‘Times a wastin!’). In the mid ’30s De Beck abandoned Spark Plug, subordinated Barney, brought bodacious Hillbilly Snuffy Smith (also a slangy shorty) to the fore.
“Because of De Beck’s illness, an understudy [ed. – Fred Lasswell] has been drawing the strip for months. Just as Andy Gump survived Sidney Smith’s death (in 1935), Snuffy and Barney will survive De Beck’s.”
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