Friday, March 26, 2010

Newspaper Comics #3

When I got the idea to do these articles, a few comics in particular stood out as needing to be described.  Peanuts and Garfield were obviously first, and I've got a couple others that are probably more influential on webcomics than even those two.  But today I'm going to cover a comic whose influence is probably greater than either Peanuts or Garfield, probably because it influenced those comics and the entire industry itself.  I'm talking about Blondie.

Wait, what?  How's that influential?  There's nothing special about it, just a sitcom type comic seems to be in every paper.  Of course, the reason it becomes a subject is a little fact about it most people don't know:

It was started in 1930.

1930.  That's 80 YEARS ago.  Peanuts didn't start until the 50's, and Blondie was already 20 some years old.  It's likely Schultz grew up reading Blondie.  Perhaps the greatest comic of all time might have been influenced by Blondie.

1930.  The age of flappers and prohibition.  In fact, Blondie herself started life as a flapper.  Dagwood's laziness and eating habits were formed when he grew up in a family of wealthy industrialists.  Who then promptly disowned him for marrying Blondie (wonder if they've ever thought about healing those wounds, it has been 80 YEARS).  The company he now works for is a CONSTRUCTION company?  Who knew that?  I sure as hell didn't.  I had to look it up on the wiki page.

1930.  A daily comic, printed everyday, including Sunday, for 80 years.  I complain when there's a couple thousand strips in a webcomic archive.  Blondie has over 29,000 strips.  AND a movie series AND a radio drama series.  There was also a sandwich shop chain, but I think it went under.

1930.  The original artist is dead, of course.  And the comic didn't stop aging until the 60's, but even then there have been changes.  Blondie started her own business at one point.  Family Circus (a comic I'll cover another time) had exactly one major change since it's debut in 1960:  They changed the mom's hair style.

1930, wow.  Oh, there are older comics (Gasoline Alley has been around since 1919), but I doubt any of them has held the sheer popularity and ubiquitousness of Blondie. And the best part?  Blondie's still pretty good.  Oh, it's not great, few of the "legacy" comics are, but it's reasonably funny and worth my time to read.

There isn't a single comic on the internet that can compare to the sheer scope of Blondie, and I seriously doubt any will ever even match it.  I'd lay odds that Blondie will eventually become a webcomic itself, produced past the theoretical end of newspapers (I don't think they're going away anytime soon) and lasting 150+ years at this rate.  And it's influence?  Blondie has probably created the modern daily comic, becoming what newspapers expect out of their comics and that is probably enough.  It's not the greatest comic, but it is THE comic, leaving others to pick up the pieces.

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