Friday, August 6, 2010

Comic Strips - 2

      Today’s blog again takes a look at some of the popular comic strips of the 1930s, 1940s and later. If you are a member of the post-youth set, see how many you can remember. If you belong to the younger set, perhaps you will enjoy seeing what your parents and grandparents thought was funny. Please keep in mind that those who remember these strips were struggling through the great depression. We took our humor where we could find it.
      If you missed our first comic strip review, check the July 25th blog.
      Blondie (1930 - ) was originally a flapper named Blondie Boopadoop. In 1933 she married Dagwood Bumstead, who was immediately disowned by his well-to-do family for marrying beneath his class. Almost overnight Blondie settled into the role of a housewife.
      In 1934 Alexander, nee Baby Dumpling, was born, and a daughter, Cookie, was born in 1941. Both children were allowed to grow into their teens, but in the 1960s they apparently hit the same time warp as their parents; both have been teenagers ever since.
      Gradually Blondie has become the sensible one in the family; she is presently in a partnership with her next door neighbor, Tootsie Woodley, in a catering business, while Dagwood has become somewhat of a clown.
      The recurring gags are Dagwood’s skyscraper sandwiches, his battles with J. C. Dithers, his boss, and his collisions with his mailman, Mr. Beasley, who looks exactly like Tootsie’s husband, Herb. Also occasionally in the strip are Lou, proprietor of the diner where Dagwood usually eats lunch, and Elmo, a little neighborhood kid who often pesters Dagwood when he is trying to take a nap.
      The strip features up-to-date technology: the kids have cell phones, and Dithers’ employees have flat computer screens on their desks.
      Along the way Blondie has spawned a series of movies and a radio show. She is still going strong.
      The Family Circus (1960 - ) debuted on February 29, Leap Year Day, as The Family Circle, but the name was changed because of objections from the magazine of the same name. The daily panel is still presented inside a circle.
      The central characters are Bil and Thelma and their four children: Billy, Dolly, Jeffy, and P.J. Bil is a cartoonist, and when he is on “vacation,” Billy sometimes draws the strip, illustrating the outlook and grammar of a seven-year-old.
      Other more or less regulars in the strip are the family dogs, Barfy and Sam, the cat, Kittycat, and Bil’s mother, Grandma. Grandpa is dead, but usually appears during the Christmas holidays as a spirit watching over the family.
      The strip is Christian oriented - the family often appears in church - and the children’s remarks to the pastor illustrate the cartoonist’s obvious understanding of a child’s worldview.
      Another theme that appears from time to time is a dotted line which traces the path, usually Billy’s, through the neighborhood: over fences, examining flowers, and all sorts of little side trips and detours.
      The strip appears in over 1,500 newspapers world wide.
      Dennis, the Menace (1951 - ) is an active, curious, innocent, five-and-a-half-year-old boy who keeps getting into mischief without trying. His parents, Henry and Alice Mitchell, have their hands full keeping their boisterous son out of trouble; one of their problems is getting babysitters – none will ever stay with Dennis a second time.
      Mr. Wilson, the Mitchell’s retired neighbor is the most common recipient of Dennis’s attempts at friendliness. As far as Dennis knows, Mr. Wilson is his best friend, while to Mr. Wilson, Dennis is nothing but trouble. Meanwhile Mrs. Wilson treats Dennis as her grandson, plying him with cookies and special treats at every opportunity.
      In addition to Joey - a younger friend of Dennis - two girls, Margaret and Gina share in some of Dennis’s adventures. To Dennis, Margaret is a smart-alecky know-it-all who keeps trying to educate him. Gina is a tomboy, with an independent frame of mind that matches that of Dennis. He secretly has a crush on her.
      Other characters are Alice’s father, Grampa, who spoils Dennis at every chance he gets, which is not often because he apparently does not live nearby. The two have matching personalities: independent and active. Also featured is the faithful family dog, Ruff, who shares in most of Dennis’s adventures.
      The strip has led to both live-action and animated sitcoms, as well as two movies and a DVD.
*****
      Of all the constructs we humans use, the most common is one that we seldom recognize: our language. While we realize that “the word is not the thing,” we implicitly assume that there is some correspondence between the word and the thing. We rarely realize that we are partners in a strict agreement to cut up our view of the world in ways over which we have no control. This agreement was entered into by our remote ancestors, and we have been stuck with it ever since.
      Constructs – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book or a free download is available in paperback or on Kindle.

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