Where Mickey and Bosko differed was in the comics.
Mickey came to newspapers in 1930 with Walt himself writing, Ub Iwerks penciling and Win Smith inking. Aimed as much at adults as children, Mickey Mouse quickly hit its stride with rich, personality-based adventure stories. But by then Iwerks and Smith were gone.
I'll deal with Iwerks later (what, David Gerstein ignore Flip the Frog?). Today we'll follow Smith, who eventually got involved with the art chores on another daily comic strip—starring Bosko.
Floyd Gottfredson, Smith's successor on Mickey Mouse, would recollect that Smith had cracked under the strain at Disney: drawing Mickey was hard enough, he felt; then Walt asked him to write it, too. Smith quit rather than do both—and indeed, the Bosko work process for Stephen Slesinger, Inc., would seem to have been in line with Smith's preferences. Walker Harman handled writing on the strip, while Robert Allen did the art at first. And the end product was simpler as a whole, too. Instead of a serial designed for all ages, Bosko aimed only at very young children. At the start (top right), it was a standalone single panel in verse—emphasizing charm more than humor.
Don't tell me. I don't need convincing. It's beautifully drawn, but weak.
Then, though, like Mickey Mouse, it began to change. First came Smith's involvement; samples suggest he began as inker/letterer, then progressed to solo artist. But then came a thematic change. Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research pages have long featured strips 67 and 68 in the Bosko series, marking the start of a continuity. While keeping verse narration, Bosko was trying—vaguely—to get somewhere. Unfortunately, these two undated, clipped strips were for a long time all we had of this ongoing story:
Today, though, I'm pleased to show you what happened next. From issue 30, Dell's The Funnies comic book reprinted the Bosko continuity in roughly consecutive order. It's from those issues that I've remounted the strips in easy reading format so we can share "Part 1" of this serial, based loosely on Bosko Shipwrecked.
Still not too hot, but historically priceless—and the further we go, the more the Win Smith of Mickey Mouse, with his classic quirks, will be immediately obvious. Anyone want to see "Part 2"?
(Thanks to Mark Kausler for Hugh Harman's pre-Smith credits information. Mark, if you'd like to add anything here, please do!)