The Oriental Wisdom of Brandon Walsh
(c) 2016, Arthur L. Lortie


The credit for most of this archive belongs to Fortunato Latella, who began collecting these strips back in 2012 and then created the story listing. Jon Ingersoll filled in a number of gaps and most of the color scans came from ILoveComix archive.

I edited the original pdfs into jpgs because under Windows, unlike the Macintosh operating system, there is no browser function for these; each pdf requires a new window in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Jpgs, however, are easily browsed through Windows Photo Viewer.

I also standardized file naming, performed minor corrections on most images and upgraded several from other sources (reprints and Newspapers.com). The upgrades are easily found because the file name contains the source newspaper or comic.

From the main story listing, we are missing the finale from March 28, 1943; our version is in Swedish.

Ming Foo was written by [John] Brandon Walsh (1882 - 01/13/1955, New York, NY) and drawn by Nicholas Afonsky (1891, Russia - 1943), nee Nika Afonskij. Many sources say the strip ended upon Afonsky's death, but he actually died three months later and his LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY strips would continue through August. Its more likely the strip was cancelled because it had been losing papers since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here's Fortunato's story listing and links to rar files:

Ming Foo 00 Little Annie Rooney (19341202 to 19350310)
Ming Foo 01 The City of the Flaming Rubies (19350317 to 19351006)
Ming Foo 02 Ming Foo vs Long Fu (19351013 to 19360223)
Ming Foo 03 Ming Foo vs El Correy (19360301 to 19360426)
Ming Foo 04 Ming Foo vs Captain Red Beard (19360503 to 19360906)
Ming Foo 05 Mutiny on the Sea Swallow (19370913 to 19370110)
Ming Foo 06 Rescue at Sea (19370117 to 19370207)
Ming Foo 07 Ming Foo vs Chang Ho (19370214 to 19370718)
Ming Foo 08 The Iron Brothers (19370725 to 19381113)
Ming Foo 09 Ming Foo vs The Master (19381120 to 19390129)
Ming Foo 10 Marooned on Bamboo Island (19390205 to 19390423)
Ming Foo 11 The Lost City of Romulus (19390430 to 19400107)
Ming Foo 12 In the Mongolian Desert (19400114 to 19400331)
Ming Foo 13 Ming Foo vs The Mad Monster (19400407 to 19401027)
Ming Foo 14 Ming Foo vs Ali Randah (19401103 to 19410323)
Ming Foo 15 The Sea of Mirthful Demons (19410330 to 19411109)
Ming Foo 16 Ming Foo vs the Cannibal Birds (19411116 to 19420405)
Ming Foo 17 The Floataway Island (19420412 to 19420528)
Ming Foo 18 The Graveyard Island (19420705 to 19421206)
Ming Foo 19 Ming Foo vs Chang Hi (19421213 to 19430328)

The best source of information regarding Ming Foo -- and his predecessor Ching Chow in The Gumps -- comes from Rick Marschall in his article Threats and Thrills, Fantasy and Fortune Cookies in Nemo The Classics Comics Library (Fantagraphics) #29 (1990), that also featured a number of reprints that I've included in the rar's above. Rather than paraphrasing Rick's research, I'll include it in full.

THREATS AND THRILLS, FANTASY AND FORTUNE COOKIES(c) Rick Marschall, 1990
William Randolph Hearst’s King Features Syndicate through the years not only originated many great strips, but also - sometimes shamelessly - copied successful strips of other syndicates; such was the luxury of operation in the Golden Age of comics. In the 1920s and '30s new comics were introduced virtually every month, even if today we only recall the classics that hit. In response to the success of Dick Tracy, for instance. King responded in kind (they thought) with Secret Agent X-9, Red Barry, Radio Patrol, and Inspector Wade.

Similarly, the success of Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie inspired imitations. King Features introduced two carbon-copies in 1927, Little Tommy Tucker by Herman Thomas and The Two Orphans by Zere (Alfred Ablitzer); both were quickly forgotten. Another swipe was Little Annie Rooney, which had a long life. But although Little Annie Rooney was a commercial success (never, however, remotely rivalling Harold Gray's original), its spinoff was a critical gem. Ming Foo lasted a brief decade in newspapers but is a minor classic in comic-strip history.

The 1925 film Little Annie Rooney, starring Mary Pickford, was possibly the direct inspiration, for cartoonist Tom McNamara reportedly scripted an episode by that title and recruited Bud Counihan (later to draw Betty Boop) to draw them. Nothing came of that attempt, however, except possibly the attractiveness of the title. It was two years later, when King introduced the other orphan strips, that Little Annie Rooney was introduced, drawn by Ed Verdier. Two years later "Verd" was replaced by Ben Batsford. Within a year the strip was handed to Darrell McClure, and soon afterwards the Sunday pages was spun off to Nicholas Afonsky
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The scripting seem to have been done from the start by a professional scripter, and 0 on paper, as it were, at least - the choice was a wise one. Brandon Walsh had worked on The Gumps under Sidney Smith during the period (the early and mid-'20s) when that strip pioneered both melodrama and adventure in the funnies. The wise choice was not just because The Gumps was a first-rate strip in those categories - the Sunday adventures, ghosted by Stanley Link, remain classics of the form - but because Little Annie Rooney was to develop in schizophrenic fashion: melodrama in the dailies, and adventures in the Sundays, particularly when Ming Foo spun off into its own page.

Some of The Gumps adventures had featured the son, Chester, accompanied by an old sea captain and an epigram-spouting Oriental named Ching Chow; the power and fortune of Chester's billionaire uncle Bim hovered over each escapade. Walsh in effect ripped himself off when he created a trio in Little Annie Rooney consisting of a lad named Donnie, a sea dog named Dan, and an epigram-spouting Oriental named Blotto. Although Donnie spun off as a separate Sunday page (showcasing McClure's talent for seascapes), the characters, if not the formula, were evidently deemed lacking.

In the Annie Rooney strip, a new trio appeared through 1934 - the boy Joey Robbins, the old salt Tom Trout, and the epigram-spouting Oriental Ming Foo. (Uncle George, actually Joey's grandfather, was the wealthy protector-figure.) After weaving in and out of the daily and Sunday Annie Rooney, and even the Sunday Donnie, Ming Foo became its own titled Sunday page on March 17, 1935, in the midst of the Hearst organization's push to establish tabloid comics as the dominant format of Sunday funnies. Nicholas Afonsky was assigned to the art, signing his work (as he had not been permitted to do during his early work for King), although Brandon Walsh received primary credits.

As with other kid strips of the early- to mid-'30s, Ming Foo became one of genuine adventure (Tim Tyler's Luck and Dickie Dare were two that evolved from boy's light adventure to derring-do; and the early Terry and the Pirates was yet another strip featuring a comic Oriental). Ming Foo became a strip separate from Little Annie Rooney, and its adventurous flavor soon turned toward fantasy as the unlikely but familiar trio traveled to exotic locales and battled bizarre villains.

Walsh and Afonsky proved to be a good team. The storylines of Ming Foo are the stuff of vintage pulps and exciting Saturday-morning serials - not classic fiction but funky period adventures: good enough to stand the test of time and provide interesting reading. Afonsky's artwork is particularly engaging. He had been a court artist under the Czars until he escaped with his life in 1917 (wriggling away like a little czardine) and settling in America. He worked as an assistant to Ed Wheelan on Minute Movies, drawing the more handsome of that strips series, until he was enticed away by King Features (Wheelan always maintained that King "stole'' Afonsky only to settle a score with him because he had left Hearst years earlier). Afonsky's work on Ming Foo - his other strips included Fablettes and Heroes of American History - was a blend of the comic and realistic; it was full of strong personalities and crisp pen lines. Afonsky and Ming Foo both died in 1943, bringing to an end one of the more interesting careers and one of the more interesting strips among the footnotes of comics' forgotten heritage.


As noted above, no collection of Ming Foo is complete without his appearances in the daily Little Annie Rooney (I believe these began in 1930) and the Sunday Donnie (which ran November 25, 1934 to August 17, 1935). According to copyright records, the Big Little Book Donnie and the Pirates was written by George Gerry.

The earliest Ching Chow in The Gumps that I've discovered was in the February 8, 1925 Sunday, though he must have appeared at least one week prior.

I haven't yet found a complete listing of Ching Chow adventures in The Gumps nor Ming Foo in the daily Little Annie Rooney nor any of his appearances the Sunday Donnie.

Timeline
1923 - Brandon Walsh begins working as a ghost artist on Sidney Smith's THE GUMPS, a position he will hold until 1929. The character of CHING CHOW was introduced sometime during this period.
1923, July - Nick Afonsky and his wife Marla arrive in New York City from Russia (according to Alex Jay, a passenger list shows the Afonskys departing Constantinople, Turkey, on July 3)
1925 - Stanley Link begins ghosting THE GUMPS Sunday strips.
1927, January 10 - LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY debuts.
1927, January 20 - The CHING CHOW daily panel by Sidney Smith debuts. It would run until May 12, 1990.
1929 - Brandon Walsh begins writing LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY. MING FOO begins some time after this in both the dailies and Sundays.
1934, February 11 - Nick Afonsky takes over the Sunday LITTLE ANNIE ROONEY, which he will draw until August 8, 1943.
1934, November 25 - the Sunday Donnie debuts; it runs until August 17, 1935
1935, March 17 - MING FOO gets his own strip by Brandon Walsh and Nick Afonsky. It will last until March 26, 1943.
1943, June 16 - Nick Afonsky dies at his home.
1955/01/13 - J. Brandon Walsh dies.