When I was a boy, my father read the paper front to back whenever he had a chance. Because he was usually working two jobs to give us a better standard of living than he had as a boy, there wasn’t always time. Sunday was a luxury. The Sunday New Haven Register would appear at our front door and be waiting for him when we came home from church. Like many boys, I was interested in only two sections … the sports section and the Sunday Funnies, as we called them (aka the funny papers). Now, in our house, every section of the paper was Dad’s until he finished reading it, so I had to wait patiently until the funny papers made their way from the carefully folded stack on his lap to the wrinkled discard pile on the hassock. Still, I couldn’t just grab them. My Dad was a stickler for protocol. You asked. Nicely. Please. Can I please have the funnies now? After he said yes, I could pick them up.
The Sunday Funnies I read reflected a more innocent, gentle time when humor didn’t have to be snide. Some of the comic strips were more cute … or touching … than outright funny. Nancy, drawn by Ernie Bushmiller about a chubby, precocious eight year old girl was a successful strip for years yet I doubt it ever elicited a belly laugh. Still I read it first … partly because it was on page one until it was displaced by Peanuts
in the 1950s. I knew Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey as the mildly humorous exploits of a lazy private at an US Army base, Camp Swampy
and Chic Young’s Blondie as a middle class-family strip creating chuckles as Blondie rescued her inept husband, Dagwood, from one domestic
mishap after another. Who knew that innocent Nancy took over her aunt’s comic strip, Fritzi Ritz, in a coup d’état after being introduced as a minor character in 1933. Or that Beetle Bailey started out as a college student who dropped out to join the Army in 1951? Or that Blondie started out as a flapper, Blondie Boopadoop, and that Dagwood Bumstead was the son of a wealthy industrialist, disowned by his parents for marrying beneath his class? The things your parents don’t tell you.
Don’t get me wrong. In my more liberal days, I enjoyed Doonesbury‘s skewering of the right and I love Dilbert‘s dead-on portrayal of the foibles of corporate America. Far Side is a favorite. But just as I miss the good-natured late night television of Johnny Carson and the warm family humor of the Bill Cosby show, I miss the gentle chuckles of the Sunday Funnies. If you do, too, there are some wonderful online resources. Comics.com has daily comic strips, as well as archives of many of the classics, and even provides widgets to add a daily strip to your blog, webpage or desktop. Comic Strip Archive also provides many of the classics, like Blondie. And if you want to learn more, Wikipedia is the place to be.
Do you have any favorite Sunday Funnies?