Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BLONDIE's Two Versions of the Same Dagwood-in-the-Bathtub Gag

Joakim Gunnarsson shares the above two BLONDIE comic strips at his blog. The top is from 1945 and the bottom one was drawn eleven years later. It's the same gag, but written and drawn differently  (You can pop these images out on a new page to them real big. They are great scans.)

These two strips were recently sold at auction. Interesting to see the differences in timing and artwork.
It was posted on Facebook and we chatted about it. Here are a few comments.

Rick Marschall:

The first one, by date, is about a decade after Chic Young stopped drawing Blondie. It is the end of [Chic Young's assistant] Ray McGill's period, but does look like [another assistant] Jim Raymond, also. (Does anyone see the resemblance of Blondies' visitors to the characters in "Colonel Potterby and the Duchess," which only Raymond drew? By 1956 "his" "look" became standard in Blondie Sundays (which originally were his; McGill on the dailies) and then dailies too by the 1950s.

About the similar gag, Dik Browne once told me, "As you go through life, you will discover that three things tend to repeat themselves: history, sauerkraut, and old cartoonists."

Joakim Gunnarsson:

Re: which version is the best one. I personally prefer the second one since we see Dagwood presented in the second panel, which leads to a "mystery": where did he go? The earliest is a bit repetitive in the first two panels. 
Both better timing and better artwork in the 1956 daily.

Rick Marschall:

I like them equally, for different reasons. I *think* (am not sure) that this gag was a set-up more than twice -- not quite as often as Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. I reviewed thousands of Blondie strips when I did my "Blondie and Dagwood's America" back in 1981(!), so I don't remember exactly, but I think it was a recurring gag. In which case the second example here is better than if it stands alone.

I should note that Jim Raymond told me that for many years, as with the drawing, Chic Young had little to do with the daily production. He told me that a team, a think three, men who wrote radio comedy shows, provided the gags and scripts for Blondie. I never got their names or the shows they worked on.

In my opinion, the Blondie Sunday pages of the 1950s were the finest constructions, and consistently funny, of any sustained run in newspaper comics history. Short stories, virtually, each of them (King Features allowed more panels to the strip than to other Sunday comics, because of Blondie's prestige, and to keep it on newspapers' front pages). When discussing submitting gags to Dean Young (when my work on the book was finished), he said he wanted to stay away from Sunday slapstick modes -- which were hallmarks of those '50s pages.
Here are a few COLONEL POTTERBY AND THE DUCHESS strips nicked from the King Features' Ask the Archivist blog:

If you were to ask me, I like the first gag because of the surprise of seeing Dagwood from behind. I like that it's wordless, as I would think it's hard to crack wise to the audience while hanging on for dear life.

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