Greg Clark (1892-1977) was a Toronto newspaper reporter and storyteller. On September 5, 1912, he began working at Toronto Daily Star where his father was the editor. After the outbreak of World War One, he enlisted on March 27, 1916, was commissioned as an officer, and was posted to 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in France. He saw action in battles such as Vimy Ridge, where he won the Military Cross in 1917 as the only surviving officer in his company.
Jim (also known as “Jimmie”) Frise (1890-1948) was a Toronto comic artist and illustrator. Jim’s first cartoon appeared in the Toronto Daily Star on November 12, 1910. Jim joined the Canadian military for World War One on May 17, 1916, where he served in the Artillery as a gunner. He was injured, losing part of he left hand at Vimy Ridge in April 21, 1917. He was sent back to Canada in November 1917 and discharged in 1918.
With the war over, both Greg and Jim joined the Toronto Star Weekly in 1919, started sharing an office in 1920, and occasionally worked together on a variety of stories with Greg writing and Jim illustrating. Greg was a regular reporter and Jim also contributed as a staff artist.
Jim began his weekly comic strip, Life’s Little Comedies, on January 25, 1919. It started off with realistic artwork, growing more “comic-like” on occasion as time went on. He started highlighting a fictional rural community called Birdseye Center by 1925, and the title of the weekly would start to alternate. By 1927, the name Birdseye Center stuck, as well as his focus on the town and its citizens.
Greg started occasionally writing what he referred to as “stunt stories” in 1927 with fellow reporter Charles Vining, which were occasionally illustrated by Jim. This was the start of the formula where a humorous story would be published staring staff members and illustrated by staff artists. Greg would continue these stories on occasion for years staring himself and other staff members such as Merrill Denison, Fred Griffin, and sometimes Jim.
Finally, on August 27, 1932, Greg and Jim began their long weekly collaboration that would continue through until Jim’s death in 1948. Greg and Jim became a national sensation, their stories a welcome distraction from the depths of the Great Depression and the horrors of World War Two.
Disagreements with management led to the pair leaving the Star Weekly by the end of 1946, with their last published story on February 1, 1947. They moved to the Montreal Standard to continue their work beginning February 22, 1947. Jim was also able to continue Birdseye Center (now called Juniper Junction) in colour with the opportunity for syndication which included distribution in the USA.
Jim’s unexpected heart attack and death on June 13, 1948 ended the collaboration. The last Greg and Jim story was published on June 26, 1948.
Greg continued on with his stories with a different format, illustrated by Duncan Macpherson. By 1951, the Montreal Standard became Weekend Magazine, with less editorial space. Greg’s articles continued with less frequency and without illustrations. These stories became the basis for the many of his collected works published over the next two decades. Greg died on February 3, 1977.