Monday, October 05, 2020
I loved the funny papers. Yes, that’s what everyone once called the comic strips in the daily newspapers. In the 1920s and through the WWII years, there was a common phrase, “I’ll see you in the funny papers,” which became a breezy, light-hearted way to say goodbye, see you later; a recognition that lives might be as crazy as the characters in the comics, but at the same time could be funny, ironic, and interesting.
The funnies, daily comic strips with black and white panels of cartoons with compelling captions in balloons, appeared Monday through Saturday on the last page of the evening paper. The Sunday paper had a dedicated section with longer series and with color printing in varied tones.
I’m not sure why, but I read those funnies while kneeling; the paper spread on the linoleum floor in front of the warming Barstow stove, a pale globe above lighting the way, my head resting on my hands cupped under my chin, my fingers straddling my cheeks. The pitter-patter in that busy, doors-always-open, three-story family home may have reached a rumble, but I didn’t hear a thing once I became absorbed. My joyful cartoon friends were with me.
The color in the Sunday funnies jumped out even more because they were in their own section on the front page of the bulky paper. Those funnies were so good, so appealing, so anticipated. Tarzan appeared along with Terry and the Pirates and Buz Sawyer. Many strips appeared both daily and on Sunday as with Little Orphan Annie telling the same story, or The Phantom, telling one story in the daily and a different story on Sunday.
As I recall, Tarzan and Buz Sawyer were on the front page. Blondie, L’il Abner, Rex Morgan, M.D., and L’il Henry were all part of the inside establishment. Also part of the inside crew were the mischievous Katzenjammer Kids, two German-American boys with familiar comic-strip iconography such as: stars for pain, sawing logs for snoring, speech and thought balloons. I loved the drawings.
The comic strips also included Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, and Flash Gordon. . . not so humorous, less kid-like, but unfolding an ongoing drama. There were spin-offs of comic books like Superman, Batman, and The Amazing Spider-Man. Prophetically, in later years, I grew to love one such comic and funny, Rex Morgan, M.D.
Imprinted in memory, the comic books and the funnies became an encompassing part of my life. I had a Superman shirt and a Dick Tracy watch with Tracy’s rocking gun the second hand. I even clipped some comics and hung, rather taped, them on my bedroom wallpaper. Mom wasn’t happy. Later, I saw Broadway shows like “Annie” and “L’il Abner” which were based on their comics.
We are all linked to a time, a place, a memory. In this case, it was the funnies on the floor, in front of the stove, that afforded such a sweet road of childhood.
“I’ll see you in the funny papers.”
Dr. Ed Iannuccilli is the author of three popular memoirs, “Growing up Italian; Grandfather’s Fig Tree and Other Stories”, “What Ever Happened to Sunday Dinner” and “My Story Continues: From Neighborhood to Junior High.” Learn more here.