Cartoonist Elzie Segar created The Thimble Theater in 1919, with many of the episodes depicting short "melodramatic" and absurd plays featuring the recurring cast of Olive Oyl, Ham Gravy (a.k.a. Harold Hamgravy), Olive's brother Castor, Willie Wormwood, Winnie Woogle, Harry Hardegg, and others. The Thimble Theater replaced Ed Wheelan's Midget Movies comic strip for the King Features syndicate when Wjheelan moved on to create Minute Movies. After its first decade, The Thimble Theater added a character who liked spinach and had huge forearms...and comic strip history was changed.
The link takes you eleven of the playlets, crude artwork and all.