The fact that out of the first ten issues of Tip Topper Comics no less than seven feature Fritzi Ritz in a bathing suit suggest I might not have been the only one to find the character oddly appealing. Artist Ernie Bushmiller understood the pin-up
like poses charmed male readers. Once pulled, Bushmiller could keep the reader engaged with various set up gags with Fritzi’s boyfriend Phil Fumble.
As a trivial aside, the term “topper” was newspaper parlance for sharing an entire Sunday comics page with a second, smaller strip. The practice allowed newspaper editors to claim more comic strips without adding more pages (or added flexibility to removing the topper for ad space). It also gave artists opportunity to try out new characters that could eventually spin-off into their own featured main strips.
Tip Topper Comics was a Fritzi Ritz newspaper strip reprint vehicle for United Features that ran between 1949 and 1954. The Tip Topper title continued from self-titled Fritzi Ritz starting with issue #7 and would return back to that name with issue #27. Up to this time the comic book covers were done by Bushmiller. The post comic code era Fritzi Ritz title continued to run with St. John to #37 before being carried on by Dell to #56.
It is said Bushmiller’s Fritzi was modeled after Abby Bohnet, his fiancé when he took over the strip from creator Larry Whittington in 1925. Like other pretty gals of the era such as Blondie and Boots and her Buddies, Fritzi had her start as a flapper girl way back in 1922.
Another United Features publication Tip Top Comics ran from 1936 to 1954. That series alternated Fritzi Ritz with its other newspaper strip properties such as Tarzan. Fritzi Ritz first appeared on the cover of that title (with niece Nancy) January 1941 on issue #57. Wildly popular, Fritzi and her niece Nancy appeared in a large number of different comic titles, including:
• Comics on Parade
• Fritzi Ritz
• Nancy and Sluggo
• Sparkle Comics
• Sparkler Comics
• Tip Top Comics
• Tip Topper Comics
• United Comics
Tip Topper didn’t continue from FRITZI RITZ No. 7 (as evidenced by TT’s numbering sequence from No. 1 to No. 26). It was UNITED COMICS that continued Fritzi’s numbering sequence from No. 8 to No. 26 — although it looks for all the world like, apart from the small “United Comics No.” typeface on the covers and in the indicia, it’s exactly the same Fritzi Ritz title that it was before the name alteration, even to having Fritzi’s logo in letters as large as the previous self-titled comic book. Then it switched back to the original FRITZI RITZ title again with No. 27… who knows what they were thinking at United Features?
At any rate, TIP TOPPER was obviously created to give Fritzi some additional “exposure” (and ran concurrently with the United Comics/Fritzi Ritz title) during the post-war/pre-Code period when good girl comics were at their height of sale-ability. Tip Topper, like its predecessor TIP TOP, was an anthology title — despite the fact that Fritzi appeared on every cover and none of the other characters featured inside were advertised there, Fritzi only appeared on 8 pages inside the comic (sometimes split between the front and back of the issue), and on a few occasions, as few as 5 pages.
For a scant half-dozen years or so, it appears that Fritzi’s popularity in comic *books* eclipsed Nancy’s, and she was far more popular in that format than the readership of her Sunday comic page (as compared to NANCY’s daily *and* Sunday strips) would have otherwise indicated. Of course, most of those comic book purchasers were probably young males, whereas the general newspaper reading audiences clearly preferred the antics of Nancy, as did the audience who preferred reading TIP TOP COMICS to TIP TOPPER. NANCY was frequently cover-featured on TIP TOP at the very same time that Fritzi was appearing in both her own comic book, and being cover-featured on every issue of the Tip Topper anthology comic.
Great stuff Dennis thanks for the information.