Brian J. Is Back On The Comics: Chic Young’s Dagwood, #136, April 1964

As I mentioned when I did a… what, comic book report? on a Sad Sack comic from 1967, I picked up some comic books a couple weekends ago when I had time to kill. I’m not tearing through them at any raste–it’s been almost a month since I read that previous comic, the Sad Sack Laugh Special. I moved these two to the top of the stack because when I was a kid in the 1980s, I inherited a bunch of 1960s Harvey titles, and they have nostalgia value for me.

This comic is a Dagwood title, #136 in the series, that came out in 1964. Which is eight years before I was born, but everything from before I was born was in the olden days. Just let me kids tell you about how inconceivable the twentieth century was.

A couple of years ago, I read a couple of Blondie paperbacks from the late 1970s (Blondie #1 and Blondie “Celebration Edition”, from during my lifetime and after Chic Young’s–he passed away in 1973, so the comic was then in the hands of his heirs and their hirelings. Well, I guess the first gathered some Chic Young comics, too, but most of my experience comes from the daily strip which I am sure I read at times in my youth.

These comics are of the older set, where Dagwood is rushing for the bus instead of a carpool. Blondie is a bit more ditzy, into shopping and mid-century women’s things. And Dagwood, if you can imagine it, has some more depth. The stories have more length than a daily strip, so I’m not sure if they collected several days’ worth of strips or if they were written for comics. But they’re amusing at times, especially for a former resident of the 20th century and someone who has read enough older books to understand the time before he became self-aware absorbed.

This comic, along with the Sad Sack comic, have short stories in them. Short-shorts, one page blocks of prose, interrupting the comics. They have a message–a girl reluctant to go to school has fun in one such here, which presupposes that a four-year-old or five-year-old going off to school would be reading this comic and would learn a lesson from that story. Here in the 21st century, I would guess not many kids starting school know how to read short short stories. And here in the 21st century, the most popular children’s books are large font sentences broken up with cartoons.

So maybe I am still a resident of the 20th century in exile.

As for the nostalgia, well, it smells like an old comic, and it’s full of ads for the things comics used to have ads for. Novelty items, selling Grit, muscle-building programs. So, yeah, it made me feel twelve again for a minute watching it.

In very tangentally related news, I am sure I mentioned that Blondie over its career has been on radio, in movies, and on television off and on for decades. Not long after this comic came out, television made another short-lived series starring Patricia Harty as Blondie.

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The Human Torch Is Passed

So as I was digging through boxes in the store room for this post, I came across a box of old comic books not in poly bags. As I glanced in the box, I saw many were without covers, and I thought they were the old Gold Key and Harvey comics from my Great Aunt Laura.

When my mother and her sisters were young, they’d go spend the night with Laura from time to time. Somehow, they ended up with a stack of comic books in the non-super hero genres, with a lot of Richie Rich, Caspar the Friendly Ghost, Hot Stuff the Little Devil, and Wendy the Friendly Witch series along with some Disney comics. When we ended up in the St. Louis area in the middle 1980s, as I was beginning what they call Middle School down here but Junior High in Milwaukee, my brother and I ended up with this well-worn collection, many of which were missing covers and whatnot. I thought I’d rediscovered them.

So I mentioned them to my oldest, who is eight years old and ready to begin reading comic books. And I cracked open the box last night to find that the box contained not my Aunt Laura’s old comics, but my comic books from my elementary school years.

My elementary school comics

Allow me to explain.

I have several boxes of comics neatly organized and in poly bags. These comics come from my high school and college years (and beyond), when I wanted to organize them and take care of them. I had thought I’d gone through and bagged my whole collection a decade ago, but….

This box contains books I bought at the drug store when I was living in the projects, when I could sometimes scratch together a buck to buy a comic. Or, more likely, I’d scratch up a buck and buy a poly bag with three remaindered comic books (you see, it’s not only my music collection that was built on grab bags). Because I was ten years old, and because some of the remaindered books already had their covers partially removed for the retailer refund, these books got read over and over and worn out.

So they now look like my Aunt Laura’s did then. Except these are older to my children than those comics were to me when I got them.

So I bagged up the ones with covers, and I’m considering letting my child(ren) read through the others.

It’s not easy, of course: Although they’re falling apart, they’re relics from my childhood that my children will, in all likelihood, destroy by sleeping on them, walking on them, fighting over them, and whatnot.

Even now as I glance through them, my eyes catch a panel or the title, and I remember the story clearly and even some of the other panels within them.

Of course, my aunts did not have these qualms in passing their childhood comics along. They were just comics, and my mother and her sisters were adults. But I’m a 21st century adult, which is closer to 20th century child than 20th century adult. So I’m going to give them to my children, but I’m going to have to read them again first.

Sure, I’m a pack rat, but some days that pays off in finding something treasured and only half-remembered amid the piles of clutter I can barely walk through.

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