One of my favorite things about Sunday morning is the newspaper, and one of my favorite things about the Sunday morning newspaper is the funnies.
Sadly, the funnies aren’t nearly as funny as they used to be, with many of the chuckle-up cartoons disappearing from the ranks. Where’s Li’l Abner, for example, with Mammy and Pappy and his Dogpatch honeypot Daisy Mae?
I was a loyal fan of Dick Tracy and his paramour, Tess Trueheart, for years; I grew up with Skeezix of “Gasoline Alley” and “The Katzenjammer Kids.” We all snorted at Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, and pulled for Popeye to win the heart of Olive Oyl and keep her away from Bluto. Little Orphan Annie had me rooting for her all the way with her battles against the ills of society.
I almost cried when Calvin and Hobbs went belly-up. What, no more transmogrifications? I did cry when Doug Marlette was killed in an automobile accident, taking with him Kudzu Dubose of Bypass, N.C., and his co-characters Nasal T. Lardbottom, the Rev. Will B. Dunn and Uncle Dud.
There are some folks in this world who don’t read the funnies, but I’m not sure I trust them. And there are some who read them online only; how can they clip their favorites and tape them to the fridge, I ask myself? Especially the ones that poke fun at our eating habits.
Food has always provided an amusing theme in comic strips. We all are aware that Popeye could never have bested Bluto all those times without the help of his handy can of spinach. And did you know that Garfield was born in an Italian restaurant, which makes two of his favorite foods, pizza and lasagna, logical? Incidentally, sorry, Popeye, but Garfield hates spinach.
Li’l Abner’s first words were “po’k chops,” which remained his favorite food all his life. When Al Capp, who wrote the comic strip, introduced the Shmoo to Dogpatch, he started a national phenomenon. The Shmoo was a lovable character who laid eggs and gave milk and liked nothing better than to be eaten. If fried, Shmoo tasted like chicken; grilled it was steak, baked, ham of course. The popularity of the Shmoo accounted for $215 million in sales of Shmoo dolls, tumblers, salt and pepper shakers, ash trays, soap, ice cream, decals and the like. Folks were doing the Shmoo rumba and the Shmoo polka and wishing each other Happy Shmoo Year.
Dagwood dreams of what’s for dinner (pot roast, maybe, or turkey and dressing?) all day long at the office, and when he comes home, often lifts the lid of the pot on the stove before he kisses Blondie hello. His sandwich, a tower of salami, cheese, eggs and pickles, between two slices of bread, is legendary. In fact, a recipe for the Skyscraper Sandwich appeared in “Blondie’s Soups, Salads, and Sandwiches Cookbook” (edited by Chic Young, creator of the comic strip) in 1930, which also included chicken, sardines, salmon, tomatoes, baked beans and “almost anything” in the list of ingredients.
Hager the Horrible likes cold pizza for breakfast; Darryl, the dad in “Baby Blues,” had a grape jelly wrap in his lunch bag recently; Snoopy’s favorite is angel food cake with seven-minute icing; and J. Wellington Wimpy, Popeye’s buddy, will “gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
Just for fun, here’s a quick matching quiz to see how well you know your cartoons. Just match the favorite food to the character.
Here are the foods: 1. Mrs. Bailey’s cake, 2. Carrots, 3. Swill, 4. Honey, 5. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, 6. Corned beef and cabbage, 7. Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs, 8. Brontoburgers, 9. Loweezy’s vittles, 10. A whole bag of groceries in one gulp.
Here are the characters: A. Spook from “The Wizard of Id,” B. Jeremy from “Zits,” C. Fred Flintstone, D. Bugs Bunny, E. Snuffy Smith, F. Winnie-the-Pooh, G. Sarge in “Beetle Bailey,” H. Calvin from “Calvin and Hobbes,” I. Jiggs from “Bringing Up Father,” J. Mickey Mouse.
The answers are: 1-G, 2-D, 3-A, 4-F, 5-J, 6-I, 7-H, 8-C, 9-E, 10-B.
Now, go read the funnies and get smart.
Lexington (N.C.) Dispatch columnist Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.