Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Not since Christmas '71 have I received such a bevy of comic-related booty as I have this year! And thanks to Bill Shute, a man who knows my tastes better'n my own personal chef, I am now in possession of the original run of BLONDIE dailies that IDW (The Library of American Comics) released a good two or so years ago!!! Well, not the entire run, but this book does contain each and every one of the courtship-to-marriage BLONDIEs that span a good three or so years, and for a person like myself who never really knew much about the trials and travails that Blondie and future beau Dagwood hadda go through before finally tying the knot this 'un certainly was a real education! In fact, these strips are so revealing and (at times) passionate that I'm sure that the early, pre-marriage years of the strip will be discussed in detail once the universities of this land decided to give such important topix as comic strips the same care and dignity they do to queer studies and shock art!

Gotta say that I really never knew just what a tooth-pulling struggle it was for the pair to finally get hitched, what with Dagwood's millionaire folk trying to break up the engagement by pulling every trick in the book extant, some of 'em downright nasty and perhaps even illegal! Dagwood himself seems quite the playboy himself, only quite mealier if you know what I mean, and easily dragged by the nose courtesy his parents who keep pushing every society femme and family friend within their grasp on him if only to further their own social standing. Extremely wealthy true, but these people are are downright crud once you scrub the not-so glamorous veneer off. At times it looks as if the relationship has already snapped apart such as in the storyline where Blondie moves back with her mother and falls for Gillespie McDonald, the rough and tumble guy next door who wants to open his own garage, but right when that affair goes kaplooey in comes Dagwood after an extended sojurn who more or less out of frustration goes on a month-long hunger-strike in order to marry the only gal he ever really loved!

Good thing Dagwood's folks weren't Margaret Thatcher because despite their self-centered stubbornness they eventually gave in even if they disowned Dagwood for going against their social standing-oriented wishes. Well, at least it was the start of a new and perhaps much more successful life for not only the pair but for creator Chic Young who settled the strip into the domestic variety that it's been for a good 77 years awlready and for once I am glad that some things out there just don't change!

I don't plan on getting the second volume or any subsequent ones that will undoubtedly be published in the future, but I did splurge on some old BLONDIE paperbacks that seemed to have just what I was looking for as far as giving me an idea of what the thing was like throughout the rest of the thirties. And at least the first two of these reads have a special meaning for me...y'see back when I was eight
or so I was smack dab in the middle of a hefty comic strip obsession and, perhaps spurred on by my dad's own recollections of the joy he used to have reading the funnies as well as that special on NBC that Carl Reiner hosted (aired at 10 PM which really bugged me since it was being shown on a school night and I really needed my beauty sleep!) I was transfixed on doing such things as studying the evolutionary developments in various cartoon styles as well as the entrances and exits of various characters ne'er to be seen again. Well, it sure was a lot more fun than sports or exercise, but you can imagine just what kinda chill thrills a kid like myself got outta not only the variety of comic strip reprints that were making their way to the local paperback racks but some old comic strip section that just happened to've been found in a box or wrapping some long-stored piece of china stashed in a box somewhere in my aunt's basement!

Well, whaddya know but right around the same time that I was going gaga over comic strip trivialities (and undoubtedly as a tie-in to the then-new BLONDIE tee-vee series which had Will Hutchins stashing his boots 'n spurs to play Dagwood) two collections of vintage strips made their way to the 'stands which naturally was cause for much joy around my own personal bedroom! Unfortunately the best laid plans of moose and men were to once again get shot into kablooeydom, for although my mother promised to pick up both of these collections for me on her weekly shopping trip to downtown Youngstown Ohio (this was back inna days when the area was booming and the wives of over-paid steelworkers were squandering their hubbies' hard-earned dough at such department stores as McKelvey's, Strouss's and of course Livingston's) there were no BLONDIE books to be found that PM when I came home after a typically demoralizing day hoping to get some comic strip jollies in! Mom said she couldn't find 'em, and although I originally harbored my own doubts about this (yeah, she probably didn't even try!!!) I found that any future attempts to snatch this 'un off the shelves to have been futile! Really, these BLONDIE paperbacks I so desired seemed to have vanished about as fast as they first appeared, and fast enough that even years of flea market searching could not dig up any trace of the things!

I dunno if finally obtaining these books has brought some sort of "closure" to my life, but while I was reading 'em the notion as to how I would have felt as a kid while osmosing these did cross my mind (since a pre-double digit mind sure knows how to digest such things as classic comic strips a whole lot more'n an over-the-hill brain headin' for a future of Alzheimer's!). But whatever, these comics at least give me an inkling of what BLONDIE was like then and how it developed into the family sitcomic it had been at least since the children ("Baby Dumpling", eventually to be Alexander and his just-post adolescent sis with the big guffs Cookie) finally stopped growing. And it was a fun enough venture, with the first volume encapsulating the entire courtshop and marriage into about twelve panels and the rest concentrating on the early domesticated days when the strip was just getting its bearings switching into the mode in which it's been known for a good three-fourths of a century.

Lotsa interesting differences in these 'uns...some small (hard to see Dagwood sleeping on the right side of the bed 'stead of the left) and some big (the "Baby Dumpling" ones show an interesting child-strip quality to 'em that reminds me of many of the kid comics of the day and even beyond), but for a guy like me who still retains at least an inkling of love 'n respect for the olde timey comic strips long gone 'n forgotten (and, in the case of BLONDIE not so) I really liked zoning back to the days when comics like these really meant a whole lot more to people because there frankly was a whole lot less stuff out there to get excited about! It's interesting to see the origins of a whole lotta running gags from neighborhood kids walking in on Dagwood in the tub to Dagwood's relationship with boss Mr. Dithers, who actually comes off rather nice in these early strips compared to the raging tyrant he would eventually become! I guess being exposed to a wastrel like Dagwood'd make even Gandhi wanna bop him a few after awhile, but at one time it seems as if Dithers was the kinda boss one would really yearn for!

I gotta admit that the reprint quality of some of these strips wasn't exactly the best, and as in the case of some of the supposedly well-produced Library of American Comics collections a few panels are actually printed out of sequence which I will admit makes for confusing reading. Don't be too alarmed though, as Byron Coley once said about NANCY and HENRY, the mix and matching of panels does make for a rather surrealistic reading affair only in this case the whole thing was done unintentional-like making for an even bigger mentally-stimulating surprise! Let your brain do a few synapse/syntax snaps with these comics, and don't come crying to me when the results get deadly!

Along with the classic thirties reprints I got a paperback fulla mid-seventies strips which sorta put the cherry on toppa the nice and gooey BLONDIE sundae I've been indulging myself in this past week or so. THE BEST OF BLONDIE might not be exactly that, but it does contain a nice selection of mid-sevenites strips which is fine by me considering how the seventies seemed to be the final era in which the old standbys were intermingling with the new upstarts which I never could wrap my psyche around. Still pumping on all cylindars, these comics surprisingly show BLONDIE to be a top-notch effort even though the strip hadn't changed much other'n in developing a finer style than it had even in the thirties. And as the times changed so did the strip if with the Bumstead kids now teens the infamous Elmo began turning up as the neighborhood waif who always pops in on Dagwood when he's taking his bath! Other'n that much of the same quirks and qualities of BLONDIE remains constant...nice smooth gags that like the best old-timers continue to catch you by surprise, clean and crisp artwork, and yet another good item in your life that connects you to a childhood that you kinda wish never did go away even with all of the indignities and insults you hadda put up with. It's kinda like if you had some relatives who were living in some old house the family owned for a good many years, and it was still furnished the same way it was in the late-thirties only with a few modern appliances like a tee-vee and air conditioner inna window changing the effect just a little. And y'know, once you go in you can remember what you were doing back in 19XX when you were a kid and aunt so-n-so served you some lemonade. Yeah, that's what reading these BLONDIEs is like, and though the strip of today ain't quite the same (I blame it on the ever-shrinking size which can't develop in three panels the same rhythm it did in four) it does make one feel tingly inside knowing that the family's stil there'n intact, societal mores be danged!


Anonymous said...

glad you enjoyed Blondie and Dagwood's "dating years." I really did not know the full backstory of the two until reading those 1930-33 strips. I'll have to keep my eye out for some Blondie paperbacks at flea markets and used bookstores. You can get "grey market" copies of the Blondie movies for next to nothing on I-offer and elsewhere, and I've always thought about springing for one of those, fifteen dollars for thirty movies or however many they made. Blondie movies on TV are as much a part of my past as Blondie comics in the paper. I remember them being on Sunday afternoons, and Mary Anne tells me they also aired on weekends in El Paso. Now, let's hope Hollywood does not ruin our memories of Blondie by doing a remake film with the woman from the Legally Blonde films as Blondie...
Bill S.

Christopher Stigliano said...

I'm trying to get hold of a complete run of the mid-fifties television series myself. If anybody out there has an inkling of which dealers out there are selling it, please let me know!

Also, does anybody remember the late sixties series that the aforementioned paperbacks were obviously tied into? I barely do, if only because my mother thought that the Dagwood in this one (Will Hutchins) was ridiculously stupid!!! Maybe that spoiled my own opinion of the show, but I get the feeling that if I saw it again I'd probably enjoy it even though it was a late-sixties (and therefore less potent) production.

Brian C. said...

Chris, let's pray the colleges never get a hold of Blondie, cuz they'll run her through their usual Freudian Marxist school of resentment wringer and she'll turn up in combat boots, driving a tram in Scandinavia.