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Moon Mullins/Parsian Novelty Co. From the collection of Lon Ellis.

Here is a really neat oversized pocket mirror that is part of my collection.

The popular American comic strip “Moon Mullins” first appeared in 1923. The originator of the strip was Frank Henry Willard, a cartoonist who attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago in 1913, then went to work for the Chicago Herald. The comic strip was a genuine saga of a group of jobless con artists with low morals, living the lowlife with an upward impulse to fame, riches, and dazzling lights. In its heyday, the comic strip appeared in over 250 daily and Sunday newspapers. When the comic strip first came out, it was supposed to be a rival to another loveable lowlife cartoon character “Barney Google”.

Moon Mullins never really had a first name. Moon was a banjo-eyed, derby-hatted would-be prizefighter with an appetite for high living but never had money. He was called “Moon” which was short for “Moonshine” – a name during Prohibition times that indicated that Mr. Mullins was a drinking man. The story goes that Moon got a room in a suburban boarding house in 1924 run by the scraggly spinsterish Emmy Schmaltz where he stayed for the rest of his days -- 67 years.

In addition to Emmy Schmaltz, others who hung around the boarding house was “Aunt” Mamie the cook, Mamie’s incredibly lazy husband “Uncle” Willie, Moon’s kid brother Kayo (who always slept in an open dresser drawer and had a foul mouth), and the insubstantial Englishman Lord “Plushie” Plushbottom. On October 6, 1933, Emmy dragged Lord Plushbottom to the alter and got married becoming Lady Plushbottom.

Mullins (as well as the rest of the cast) was a genuine low-life character. Money and sex were pervasive themes in the strip for him and the rest of the cast. Lady Plushbottom had a carnival dancer niece “Little Egypt” who caught the eye (and lust) of every male boarder. Lord Plushbottom remained on the prowl for every shapely woman in sight – a characteristic of most comic strip henpecked husbands. Most plots were full of suspense and any triumphs achieved by Moon were generally short-lived.

Willard drew his comic strip characters with a bold outline but shaded them in such a way to give them a seedy appearance that was completely in character with their moral leanings.

In 1938, Milton Bradley came out with a The Moon Mullins Game. A number of Big Little Books were printed in the 1930’s and Moon was introduced in Dell Comics in 1936. In the 1940’s, the Moon Mullins comic strip was adapted for the radio.

Willard died suddenly in 1958. After his death, long-time assistant Ferd Johnson took over the strip. The comic strip continued until 1991.

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