Dondi was a daily comic strip about a large-eyed war orphan of the same name. Created by Gus Edson and Irwin Hasen, it ran in more than 100 newspapers for three decades (September 25, 1955 to June 8, 1986).
Dondi’s original backstory describes him as a five-year-old World War II orphan of Italian descent. The boy had no memory of his parents or his name, so when a pretty Red Cross worker said he was “a dandy boy,” he thought she was naming him “Dondi.” Two soldiers who spoke no Italian, Ted Wills and Whitey McGowan, found the child wandering through a war-torn village. The soldiers brought the child back to the United States and Ted eventually became his adoptive father.
Like other comic strip boys, such as Dennis in Dennis the Menace, Dondi’s character never ages. This became problematic in later years, as Dondi’s age made the origin story impossible. Eventually, references to his Italian origin ceased, and he was adopted by Ted and his wife, the former Katje Bogar. “Pop” Fligh, a former pro baseball player, became Dondi’s adoptive grandfather when he married Ted Wills’ widowed mother. Following this, Dondi was portrayed simply as an adopted child, although in the early 1960s there was a reference to his being an orphan of the Korean War. During the mid-1970s, there was a reference to his being from Vietnam.
A recurring character was Mrs. McGowan, who was the mother of Whitey McGowan. In a rather startling development for a comic strip at the time, Whitey and his new bride died in a car crash on their honeymoon, leaving Dondi to Mrs. McGowan, who had initially resented the boy, but came to love him and accept him as her grandson. This explanation was permitted to fade into the mists as the strip grew farther away from World War II.
After the death of Edson in 1966, Bob Oksner teamed with Hasen, and the two remained with the strip until its 1986 conclusion. When the strip ended, it was carried in only 35 newspapers.
52 pages/strips Dondi 1975
11 pages/strips Dondi 1976
36 pages/strips Dondi Various