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April 28, 2002
5:23 PM   Subscribe

When I was a newspaper-slinger back as a youngster, I became acquainted with that odd funnypages subgenre-the soap opera comic strip(i.e. Winnie Winkle,Rex Morgan, M.D. and the pinnacle of the genre Gasoline Alley). Moving at the brisk pace of 4 panels a day, these entertainments must have seemed quaint even in their early radio days infancy, yet they gained devoted followings and Dr. Rex and Skeezix and the Gang are actually still active. While the strips are published on the web, I'm surprised that there hasn't been a whole-hog revival of the genre. Heck, Brenda Starr could be truly funky hip modern woman if the right person retooled her a bit and I imagine many web community administrators could relate to Mary Worth at times.
posted by jonmc (25 comments total)

 
Ah, memories. Now try this one: who was Anne Howe the girlfriend of?
posted by Postroad at 5:42 PM on April 28, 2002


Be sure to take a look at Christopher Mills' supernaturalcrime.com, for free hardboiled crime and mystery comics. Updated weekly in the same format as the classic soap opera comic strip.
posted by Stuart_R at 5:43 PM on April 28, 2002


Brenda Starr could be truly funky hip modern woman if the right person retooled her a bit

Someone like Brooke Shields perhaps?
posted by dchase at 5:48 PM on April 28, 2002


What ever happened to Steve Canyon?
posted by bingo at 5:56 PM on April 28, 2002


dchase-aaach! Ms. Sheilds of the Brezhnevesque eyebrows. That movie is just as soon forgotten, although surely some female comic artist can invest Ms. Starr with the right mix of glitz and riot grrl grit to be an icon of cool again. Hell, Debbie Harry, one of the 10 coolest women on the planet has been seen wearing a Brenda Starr t-shirt!(I googled for a pic..no dice, but I do remember seeing said shirt on Ms.Harry on TV)
posted by jonmc at 5:58 PM on April 28, 2002


Gil Thorpe!
posted by luser at 6:02 PM on April 28, 2002


Rex Morgan is hardly in the "moves at a brisk pace" category. Plots take months to develop. Not that I'd know...
posted by dws at 6:05 PM on April 28, 2002


I'll confess that I was, shall we say, deeply upset when the main Chicago papers quit carrying Mary Worth. And it doesn't run in my neck of the woods, either *sniff*
posted by thomas j wise at 6:11 PM on April 28, 2002


I knew I had forgotten one. Here's the funnypages version of Indiana Jones Mark Trail. He even seems to have a developing fan page which has a reference to "Mark Trail Theatre" radio show(sadly only hearable in the Minneapolis area) of all things!
posted by jonmc at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2002


Mary Worth is a surreal masterpiece. Simpleton ran an appreciation a few years ago that captures the peculiar genius of the comic strip.
posted by rcade at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2002


Just a few minutes ago I was at the other end of this college library reading through a stack of old magazines. On the last page of the 8-9/01 issue of Ms. there's a tribute to Dale Messick, creator of Brenda Starr, Reporter in 1940. In July 2001, Messick, who "had to change her name from Dalia to even get her cartoons considered by sexist funnies editors," became the first woman inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards Hall of Fame, "the cartooning world's answer to the Oscars."
posted by LeLiLo at 6:58 PM on April 28, 2002


On the adventure side of the serial-strip genre, check out this devil-may-care photo of Lee Falk (1911-1999), creator of the puzzlingly long-lived relic of colonialist adventure (complete with the racial stereotypes straight out of H. Rider Haggard), the Phantom.

For serious Falk-fans, this looks like a must-have. No word on whether you can get a Mary Worth version.
posted by BT at 7:13 PM on April 28, 2002


'Henry' was my fav, chatty little fellow.
posted by clavdivs at 7:39 PM on April 28, 2002


Although I'm a huge comics fan, I confess to not particularly caring about the soap strips. If I had to guess, I'd lay some blame for their demise on the same thing that hit so much of the newspaper comics - the reduced size that each strip was allotted. When Mary Worth, Apartment 3-G, and Rex Morgan were all crammed together in one corner, with each no more than 1.5" by 4", it was all too easy for them to not get any eyeballs. All the readers were too busy looking for the easy-to-spot big graphics of the Garfields, and the single-panel hijinks of Dennis the Menace and Family Circus, for the soaps to retain enough of a reader base to show up in the newspaper's popularity polls.

I think the same thing happened to one of the all-time great adventure strips, which is probably a cousin to the soap opera strip (in fact, I think I'd put Mark Trail in that category). Can you imagine trying to pack all the detailed artwork in the classic Prince Valiant strips into a "modern" Sunday comics supplement?
posted by yhbc at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2002


aagh - on preview, I didn't mean to commit that last bit without mentioning that Henry's mouthless chin is probably the single most obscene thing that ever appeared in a family newspaper.
posted by yhbc at 7:47 PM on April 28, 2002


Does anyone else think this is a little surreal? And stupid?

And while I'm at it, does anyone else think the hollow eyes in the family tree are more than a little creepy?
posted by zztzed at 9:11 PM on April 28, 2002


I dunno -- I think that all things considered (in this case, particularly the inertia/nostalgia factors), Brenda Starr has been worked up by a hip, modern woman -- Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune, she of the Wear sunscreen essay mistakenly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. If you follow it (and I do occasionally, when I'm commuting and buy the paper every morning), they actually do some pretty topical stuff and "ripped from the headlines" L&O style storylines.

The artwork, well, same problem -- if you stray too far you might lose the few readers you DO have. It's a fine line, and fewer and fewer papers consider any particular comic strip sacrosanct. Time was when a strip replacement was an earthshaking event, but now it seems to happen all the time.
posted by dhartung at 9:21 PM on April 28, 2002


I've never gotten over Alex Raymond's Rip Kirby, the coolest guy in the comics world. I started reading and emulating him when I was six years old and am still under the influence. His and clavdivs's.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:28 PM on April 28, 2002


The pace of these strips always amazed me, nothing ever really happened but I always kept coming back for more. I was reminded of Apartment 3G which I have not seen for years, but after reading this one strip I'm pretty much caught up. Anyone remember when Mark Trail helped bust the pot growers? These guys do.
posted by anathema at 10:24 PM on April 28, 2002


According to the Bellona Times, 'The most underpraised comic strip of the 1980s and early 1990s was "Brenda Starr."'

and

"But the current storyline is a return to full hoot, dragging [Brenda] Starr back to her glamour girl roots (with a fashion editor whose critical eye reminds me as much of Dale Messick as of Helen Gurley-Brown or Diana Vreeland) and rewarding her (and our) dogged persistence by finally dishing her a full night alone with one of those dangerous hunks..."

See here for related links.
posted by pracowity at 10:27 PM on April 28, 2002


For a little commentary on the genre, check out the always funny (but not always weekly) Funny Paper. The coverage of The Phantom is particularly entertaining.
posted by chino at 10:34 PM on April 28, 2002


One of the mysteries of 1956 was the car crash that killed Alex Raymond but was survived by Stan Drake, author of The Heart of Juliet Jones. While looking for bios I found this story. Interesting stuff, no?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:56 PM on April 28, 2002


anathema, yes, I was caught up in the then The Girls In Apartment 3-G, oh, thirty odd years ago. And long before that, I remember telling my mom she looked like Lady Plushbottom in Moon Mullins when I was a kid--whoo! bad call! Not the comparison but saying it: man, was she pissed. I was big on Terry And The Pirates, too. Those crazy jutting chins they all had in profile... And I remember Our Boarding House and Smokey Stover, too. Notary Sojac!
posted by y2karl at 1:49 AM on April 29, 2002


Mary Worth was an all-time favorite of mine. A guilty pleasure not unlike hot fudge sundaes. I was always too annoyed by the actual stars drawn in the corners of Brenda Starr's eyes to be able to pay attention to the plot.
posted by iconomy at 4:22 AM on April 29, 2002


As a kid, I was an avid reader of the comic section of the Chicago Tribune. I read all of 'em - Dick Tracy, Moon Mullins, Gasoline Alley...even the girl-heavy Brenda Starr and Winnie Winkle. But my favorite was Rick O'Shay by Stan Lynde. Hipshot Percussion, the gunslinger, was mucho cool. And the artwork was exceptional.
posted by groundhog at 6:50 AM on April 29, 2002


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