I Love You, Broom-Hilda

By Russell Myers (Tempo Books/Grossett & Dunlap)
ISBN: 978-0-44805-593-0 (mass market PB)

Broom-Hilda launched on April 19th 1970, the conception of newspaper comics veteran big wheel Elliot Caplin (1913-2000) He was the brother of Al (Li’l Abner) Capp and writer and/or creator of The Heart of Juliet Jones, Little Orphan Annie, Big Ben Bolt, Long Sam, Abbie and Slats and a host of other classic strips). He passed the concept on to then 32-year old Russell Myers to write and draw, choosing to remain in the background as agent and business manager. The strip is still in syndication today, but the 25 collections (of which I Love You, Broom-Hilda was the second) are all inexplicably out of print and you’ll need your trusty search engine of choice to enjoy the zinger-bestrewn mystic marvel in action…

Myers, who’d previously worked as a Hallmark Card artist whilst trying to break in to the strip biz, hit the ground running and the zany antics of the old girl soon garnered lots of fans through the Chicago Tribune Syndicate’s numerous client papers.

Like all popular strips, Broom-Hilda dances on that line dividing homogeneity and uniqueness. Back then – and even now – a successful strip concept has to appeal to a relatively vast audience (not all of them rocket scientists) but be strong enough to provide lots of gags and still be perceived as a stand-out property.

The brief, terse and decidedly surreal adventures of a homely, sharp-tongued witch and her peculiar supporting cast (which in this book from the third year of publication includes Irwin the Troll, Gaylord Buzzard, and the enigmatic and professionally abusive Grelber) proved exactly what the 1970s public wanted.

Claiming to be 1500 years old and Attilla the Hun’s ex-wife, Broom-Hilda’s cleaned up a little over the years. She is no longer a booze-swilling, stogie-smoking harridan, and she’s a little lonely. She’s still looking for a second husband…

Broom-Hilda has had a few brushes with fame. In 1971 she had her own segment on the Filmation animated series Archie’s TV Funnies and in 1978 she was part of the line-up for The Fabulous Funnies – another Filmation vehicle which ranked her alongside strip royalty Alley Oop, Tumbleweeds, and Nancy. There was even serious talk of a stage musical in 2004…

Myers was awarded the Best Humour strip Award in 1975 by the American National Cartoonist Society and the strip is still going strong today. If you do track down any of the collections from the 1970s and early 1980s, the stylish, loose yet meticulous line-work of Myers lends an abstract weight and intensity to the panels that got gradually left behind as papers forced strips into smaller and smaller boxes, although the pointed and deprecating humour remains a constant for this splendid feature.

Happy 50th, Broom-Hilda and many more.
© 1973 The Chicago Tribune. All Rights Reserved.