Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bill Harr: Ev'ry Little Bug & Flexo

Any Eisner-ophile worth their salt knows about Ev'ry Little Bug. This was the recurring ditty that seemed to be everywhere in The Spirit strip throughout 1946-47 (and a few times after).

"Poole's Toadstool Facial Cream"
THE SPIRIT (June 9, 1946)
as reprinted in THE SPIRIT #7 (Oct. 1984)

What started out as an in-joke, eventually reached the level that it was actually set to music. Eisner, always the savvy businessman and likely looking to make a few extra bucks, supplied the lyrics with music by Bill Harr. The sheet music, issued by Robbins Music Corporation, featured a nifty cover by Eisner and is a highly sought after bit of Eisnerana.

Ev'ry Little Bug sheet music (1947)

That much everyone knows. But who was Bill Harr?

Sgt. Bill Harr

The usual story is that Eisner met Harr while both were working on the U.S. Army Ordnance Department magazine, FIREPOWER, during WWII. While both did contribute to FIREPOWER (Eisner illustrating, Harr as a columnist), it's likely their paths crossed sometime before. Why? Because Harr was a comic book writer.

Let's back up just for a second. Before comic books entered his life, the Brooklyn born Harr was a vaudeville comedian and a composer with several copyrighted songs to his name. Furthermore, he was a comedy writer. His best known (and perhaps only) screen credit was as the writer of The Three Stooges 1937 film, "Playing the Ponies".

"Playing the Ponies" (1937)
The Three Stooges

(It should be noted that Harr, like Eisner, used the nickname "Will" professionally, while being known personally as "Bill".)

At about the same time, though, he started writing for comics through the Harry 'A' Chesler shop. Standard fare, Western tales and adventure stories.

"The Big Race"
FUNNY PICTURE STORIES vol. 2 #11 (Nov. 1938)

His work eventually began appearing in the newly formed MLJ comics, where he worked on many of the main features such as Rang-A-Tang (the Wonder Dog!) and The Wizard.

"On the Trail of the Bank Robbers"

"The Pearl Harbor Peril"
TOP NOTCH COMICS #1 (Dec. 1939)

His work can also be found in such early Timely comics as DARING MYSTERY and MYSTIC.

"Flexo the Rubber Man"
MYSTIC COMICS #1 (March 1940)

During WWII, Harr made a name for himself as a combat correspondent. Assigned to covering the exploits of the 45th Division (the Thunderbirds), Harr's dispatches were printed not only in FIREPOWER, but also STARS AND STRIPES and the Aberdeen Proving Ground camp paper, THE FLAMING BOMB. Coincidentally, this paper also published Eisner's first military work.


After the War, Harr became an editor for Chesler on such comics as DYNAMIC and PUNCH COMICS.

DYNAMIC COMICS #16 (Oct. 1945)

While his name continued to appear in Chesler comic owner's statements for some time, it's not clear how long he continued as editor. In 1949, Harr moved to Safety Harbor, Florida, where he proved to be a man of many talents. He became a radio repairman, a part-time musician and in 1952, author of a book of war remembrances entitled, COMBAT BOOTS.

Bill Harr (1952)

Harr spent the final years of his life as a photographer, writer and proofreader for the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Wilbard William Harr born on May 20, 1908, died in St. Petersburg, Florida on July 4, 1987.

So, in honor of the eclectic, unsung Bill Harr, let's all sing "Ev'ry Little Bug"!


  1. Thanks for this detective work! I'm a librarians and I was trying to establish who this "Will Harr" is ... now I can identify him with "Bill Harr."

    watch this space:

    an authority record should be appearing in a few days...

  2. Thank you, Mike! Always glad to be of service!