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Blondie (comic strip)

Blondie (comic strip)

One of the longest-running marriages in the funnies is that of Blondie Boopadoop and Dagwood Bumstead. The couple first met in 1930, when Blondie was a flighty flapper and Dagwood was a somewhat dense rich boy, and they were married in 1933. They're still living a happy, though joke-ridden life, in close to 2000 newspapers around the world. The Blondie strip was created by Murat "Chic" Young, who'd begun drawing comics about pretty young women in 1921.

After several false starts—including such strips as Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora —Young came up with Blondie and King Features began syndicating it in September of 1930. Initially Blondie read like Young's other strips. But after the couple married and the disinherited Dagwood took a sort of generic office job with Mr. Dithers, the feature changed and became domesticated. Blondie turned out to be far from flighty and proved to be a model housewife, gently manipulating her sometimes befuddled husband. The gags, and the short continuities, centered increasingly around the home and the office, frequently concentrating on basics like sleeping, eating, and working.

The birth of their first child, Baby Dumpling, in the spring of 1934 provided a new source of gags and helped win the strip an even larger audience. Young perfected running gags built around such props and situations as Dagwood's naps on the sofa, his monumental sandwiches, his conflicts with door-to-door salesmen, Blondie's new hats, and his wild rushes to catch the bus to work. Other regular characters were neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley, Daisy the Bumstead dog and, eventually, her pups, and Mr. Beasley the postman, with whom Dagwood frequently collided in his headlong rushes to the bus stop. The Bumstead's second child, daughter Cookie, was born in 1941.

King effectively merchandised the strip in a variety of mediums. There were reprints in comic books and Big Little Books and, because of Dagwood's affinity for food, there were also occasional cookbooks. More importantly, Young's characters were brought to the screen by Columbia Pictures in 1938. Arthur Lake, who looked born for the part, played Dagwood and Penny Singleton, her hair freshly bleached, was Blondie. Immediately successful, the series of "B" movies lasted until 1950 and ran to over two dozen titles. The radio version of Blondie took to the air on CBS in the summer of 1939, also starring Singleton and Lake. Like the movies, it was more specific about Dagwood's office job and had him working for the J.C. Dithers Construction Company. The final broadcast was in 1950 and by that time Ann Rutherford was Blondie. For the first television version on NBC in 1957 Lake was once again Dagwood, but Pamela Briton portrayed Blondie. The show survived for only eight months and a 1968 attempt on CBS with Will Hutchins and Patricia Harty lasted for just four. Despite occasional rumors about a musical, the Bumsteads have thus far failed to trod the boards on Broadway.

A journeyman cartoonist at best, Young early on hired assistants to help him with the drawing of Blondie. Among them were Alex Raymond (in the days before he graduated to Flash Gordon), Ray McGill and Jim Raymond, Alex' brother. It was the latter Raymond who eventually did most of the drawing Young signed his name to. When Young died in 1973, Jim Raymond was given a credit. Dean Young, Chic's son, managed the strip and got a credit, too. After Raymond's death, Stan Drake became the artist. Currently Denis Lebrun draws the still popular strip.

—Ron Goulart

Further Reading:

Blackbeard, Bill and Dale Crain. The Comic Strip Century. Northampton, Kitchen Sink Press, 1995.

Waugh, Coulton. The Comics. New York, The Macmillan Company, 1947.

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