Blondie is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Chic Young. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, the strip has been published in newspapers since September 8, 1930. The success of the strip, which features the eponymous blonde and her sandwich-loving husband, led to the long-running Blondie film series (1938–1950) and the popular Blondie radio program (1939–1950).
Chic Young drew Blondie until his death in 1973, when creative control passed to his son Dean Young, who continues to write the strip. Young has collaborated with a number of artists on Blondie, including Jim Raymond, Mike Gersher, Stan Drake, Denis Lebrun, and John Marshall. Through these changes, Blondie has remained popular, appearing in more than 2,000 newspapers in 47 countries and has been translated into 35 languages. Since 2006, Blondie has also been available via email through King Features’ DailyINK service.
Originally designed to follow in the footsteps of Young’s earlier “pretty girl” creations Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora, Blondie focused on the adventures of Blondie Boopadoop—a carefree flapper girl who spent her days in dance halls. The name “Boopadoop” derives from the scat singing lyric that was popularized by Helen Kane’s 1928 song “I Wanna Be Loved by You.”
On February 17, 1933, after much fanfare and build-up, Blondie Boopadoop marries her boyfriend Dagwood Bumstead, the son of a wealthy industrialist. The marriage was a significant media event, given the comic strip’s popularity. Dagwood’s upper-crust parents strongly disapprove of his marrying beneath his class, and disinherit him. The check Dagwood uses to pay for his honeymoon bounces, and the Bumsteads are forced to become a middle-class suburban family. The catalog for the University of Florida’s 2005 exhibition, “75 Years of Blondie, 1930–2005”, notes:
Blondie’s marriage marked the beginning of a change in her personality. From that point forward, she gradually assumed her position as the sensible head of the Bumstead household. And Dagwood, who previously had been cast in the role of straight man to Blondie’s comic antics, took over as the comic strip’s clown.
“Dagwood Bumstead and family, including Daisy and the pups, live in the suburbs of Joplin, Missouri,” according to the August 1946 issue of The Joplin Globe, citing Chic Young.
The Bumstead family has grown, with the addition of a son named Alexander (originally “Baby Dumpling”) on April 15, 1934, a daughter named Cookie on April 11, 1941, a dog, Daisy, and her litter of five unnamed pups. In the 1960s, Cookie and Alexander grew into teenagers (who uncannily resemble their parents), but they stopped growing during the 1960s when Young realized that they had to remain teenagers to maintain the family situation structured into the strip for so many decades.
Dagwood is the office manager at the office of the J. C. Dithers Construction Company under his dictatorial boss—Julius Caesar Dithers. Mr. Dithers is a “sawed-off, tin pot Napoleon” who is always abusing his employees, both verbally and physically. He frequently threatens to fire Dagwood when Dagwood inevitably botches or does not finish his work, sleeps on the job, comes in late, or pesters Dithers for a raise. Dithers characteristically responds by kicking Dagwood in the backside and ordering him back to work. The tyrannical Dithers is lord and master over all he surveys, with one notable exception—his formidable and domineering wife, Cora.
Blondie and Dagwood’s best friends are their next-door neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley, although Dagwood and Herb’s friendship is frequently volatile. Lou is the burly, tattooed owner of Lou’s Diner, the less-than-five-star establishment where Dagwood often eats during his lunch hour. Other regular supporting characters include the long-suffering mailman, Mr. Beasley; Elmo Tuttle, a pesky neighborhood kid who often asks Dagwood to play; and a never-ending parade of overbearing door-to-door salesmen.
There are several running gags in Blondie, reflecting the trend after Chic Young’s death for the strip to focus almost entirely on Dagwood as the lead character:
Dagwood often collides with Mr. Beasley the mailman while running out the front door—late for work.
Other variations of the late-for-work gag: Dagwood keeping his car pool waiting, running after their car or stuck in traffic. In earlier decades, he had been late for the bus or, even earlier in the strip’s run, late for the streetcar.
The famous, impossibly tall sandwiches Dagwood fixes for himself, which came to be known colloquially as the “Dagwood sandwich”.
Dagwood in his pajamas, having a midnight snack—with most of the refrigerator contents spread out on the kitchen table, (or balanced precariously on his extended arms, on the way to the table.)
Dagwood’s propensity to nap on the couch during the day, often interrupted by Elmo, who wants to ask him a question; or Blondie, who has a chore she wants him to do.
Dagwood singing in the bathtub, or interrupted (usually by family members or Elmo) while he’s trying to relax in the tub.
Dagwood contends with brazen or obnoxious salesmen at his door, selling undesirable or impossible-looking items.
A variation of the above has the salesmen calling on the telephone.
Dagwood and Herb Woodley spending some weekend time together, which usually escalates into a brawl.
Dagwood demanding a raise from Dithers and failing to get it every time.
Dagwood caught goofing off or sleeping at his desk in the office.
Mr. Dithers firing Dagwood for being incompetent or physically booting him out of his office.
Dagwood getting a menu suggestion from Lou, the wry, blunt, and/or sarcastic diner counterman.
The Christmas shopping gag, where Dagwood is shown carrying Christmas packages that completely cover up his face and upper body.
Herb borrowing small items—tools, small appliances, books, and (more recently) videos—from Dagwood, then never returning them. Occasionally, Herb will loan a borrowed item to a third party, which is then usually passed on to a fourth or fifth party, etc.
Dagwood’s hobby is household carpentry, but unfortunately his projects don’t turn out well. Once, he built a small cabinet for Blondie, actually accomplishing all construction steps perfectly; but the result still fails because it doesn’t fit in the space Blondie intended for it. Mostly, he is producing sawdust.
In 2005, the strip celebrated its 75th anniversary with an extended story arc in which characters from other strips, including Curtis, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, and Hägar the Horrible, made appearances in Blondie. The strip Pearls Before Swine made fun of the fact that their cast was not invited, and decided to invite themselves. This cross-over promotion began July 10, 2005 and continued until September 4, 2005.
In 1948, Chic Young’s work on the strip won him the National Cartoonists Society’s Billy DeBeck Award for Cartoonist of the Year. When the award name was renamed the Reuben Award in 1954, all the prior winners were given Reuben statuettes.
In 1995, the strip was one of 20 included in the Comic Strip Classics series of United States Postal Service commemorative postage stamps.
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