(Photo by Erica Abbey. Click for bigger!)
The oft-repeated legend is that once upon a time in 1929, a shipment of Indoor Sports artwork by Tad Dorgan (there he is again!) failed to arrive at the Call-Bulletin in time for publication. Panicked, and with a large hole to fill, the editors called upon staff cartoonist Jimmy Hatlo to fill the space with something similar. What Hatlo came up with was a panel he called They'll Do It Every Time. Dorgan died soon afterwards, and Hatlo's replacement feature was a hit with readers, so the series continued, and was eventually distributed nationally by King Features beginning in 1936. (UPDATE: This legend is almost certainly false. See more info here. I've also reworded the next paragraph to reflect this.) The series was a massive success, and lasted well beyond Hatlo's death until 2008 (!).
Before hitting the big time with TDIET, Hatlo drew a daily series of unrelated editorial and non-fiction gag cartoons for the paper, each time changing the theme and format, basically reinventing the untitled feature for every installment, not unlike Pony Pal™ Mark Newgarden's self-titled alt-weekly comic strip from the late 80s/early 90s.
The one shown here is a classic of the "cartoonists make fun of modern art" genre, and Hatlo certainly had a lot of fun spinning gag after gag free-associated from a study by Pablo Picasso for his 1929 painting Nude Standing By the Sea, which is clipped and taped onto the upper left corner. Not content to only poke fun at Picasso, the comic also features jokes about Herbert Hoover, Babe Ruth, Old Gold cigarettes' ridiculous "Keep Kissable" ad campaign, also mocked by Hatlo in other drawings from this period, and even Paul Chabas's kitsch masterpiece September Morn, making this a unique piece of period satire.
Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time is well known, but these early gag strips have never, to my knowledge, been reprinted in any form. Luckily, I just picked up, in addition to this original drawing, a cache of 25 clippings of this series from the Call-Bulletin, so stay tuned for some rare, inventive, hilarious stuff!
UPDATE: John del Valle, to whom this drawing is dedicated (after production, no doubt), is almost certainly John Austin del Valle (1904 - 1997), who was a drama critic and columnist at the same newspaper, and later a Hollywood publicist. Here is his obituary at Variety.