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No. 500: The Newspaper Comic Strip Alphabet

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The Newspaper Comic Strip Alphabet

First | Previous | 2021-05-27 | Next | Latest

Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/itoons/?comic=500

Strip by: KelpTheGreat, Conor

Caption: A is for
Panel: Archie
Caption: B is for
Panel: Beetle Bailey
Caption: C is for
Panel: Calvin and Hobbes
Caption: D is for
Panel: Dick Tracy
Caption: E is for
Panel: Etta Kett
Caption: F is for
Panel: The Far Side
Caption: G is for
Panel: Garfield
Caption: H is for
Panel: Heathcliff
Caption: I is for
Panel: The Inventions of Professor Lucifer G. Butts, A.K.
Caption: J is for
Panel: Jump Start
Caption: K is for
Panel: Krazy Kat
Caption: L is for
Panel: Little Lulu
Caption: M is for
Panel: Mutt and Jeff
Caption: N is for
Panel: Nancy
Caption: O is for
Panel: Outland
Caption: P is for
Panel: Peanuts
Caption: Q is for
Panel: Quincy
Caption: R is for
Panel: Rex Morgan, M.D.
Caption: S is for
Panel: Shoe
Caption: T is for
Panel: Terry and the Pirates
Caption: U is for
Panel: Uncle Art's Funland
Caption: V is for
Panel: Prince Valiant
Caption: W is for
Panel: Wizard of Id
Caption: X is for
Panel: Secret Agent X-9
Caption: Y is for
Panel: Yogi Bear
Caption: Z is for
Panel: Ziggy

The author writes:

It all started back when I was re-reading through the iToons archive. I liked the milestone strip #100, and thought that I could do another strip in the same vein for strip #500 - but this time, using only comics that have been syndicated in American newspapers. I had some ideas of how I wanted to proceed, but I first hit the forums and asked for advice. I received a lot of helpful suggestions, and even managed to snag a co-creator when Conor volunteered to help (THANK YOU!!). I also created a couple of polls over on GameFAQs, on the Contests board, to get some more opinions. Here's a screenshot of the second one (I didn't realize until after the first one had run its course that the board didn't archive, and the topic had been purged before I could screenshot it), minus the posts from other users.

I never came up with a strict set of criteria on how to select each strip, ending up making most of the decisions on gut instinct. Some factors I considered included longevity, peak popularity, name recognition, widespread appeal, media licensing, whether any awards had been won, and more.

Now, for the submission itself: obviously, I needed strips whose name started with each letter of the alphabet, with a bit of flexibility allowed. A strip was more likely to be considered if it was named after the main character as well. Each panel had to have the strip's name, a depiction of the main character(s), and the author's signature (or printed name if not available). Whenever possible, I used title panels from Sunday strips, because these often fulfilled all the criteria at once. I often had to create my own panels by stitching together the individual elements, and I think some of them turned out quite well (Etta Kett, for example). Other times I used covers of book collections. Basically, whatever was easiest to find and use.

This took well over six months to make, and more work was put into it than any other mezzacotta submission of mine, including The Feeny Saga. Most of that time was spent doing research. Here are detailed explanations for why I chose each strip:

A: Archie is definitely most well-known for the digest magazines, but the newspaper strip ran for over 50 years, and was in hundreds of newspapers. Andy Capp and Alley Oop were also considered, but I picked Archie for his undeniable recognition. The best-looking title panel I could find included the names Henry Scarpelli and Craig Boldman, but the serial has been worked on by a lot of people over the years. Strangely, the Wikipedia article doesn't (at the time of this writing) mention two of the people who worked on the strip: Henry Scarpelli and Stan Goldberg. I'm not very good at Wikipedia, so I made a note of it on the talk page; hopefully, someone more qualified than I will be able to update the article at some point.

B: B was a hard letter to decide on. There were a lot of strong contenders, including B.C., Baby Blues, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Buck Rogers, and Bloom County. B.C. and Bloom County were rejected because I was using other strips by the same creators. Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was a strong contender based on longevity alone, and Buck Rogers was a national sensation for some time, but Beetle Bailey took the spot for its global popularity.

C: The runners-up were Cathy, Curtis, and Close to Home, but Calvin and Hobbes was a no-brainer, really.

D: Dilbert, Doonesbury, and Dennis the Menace were the runners-up. But I went with Dick Tracy, which has won tons of awards, been running for 90 years, had commemorative stamps, radio shows, live-action movies, comic books, film serials, and more.

E: Most people, myself included, will likely never have heard of Etta Kett before. It ran for nearly 50 years, and was apparently quite popular. From what I could find out, it seems pretty similar to Archie, only with a female protagonist. Runners-up included Emmy Lou, Edge City, Eek and Meek, and Ella Cinders.

F: This was the letter that I ran the first poll on GameFAQs for, the one that I forgot to screenshot. This was a difficult letter, as there were a lot of good strips to choose from: Foxtrot, The Family Circus, Flash Gordon, For Better or For Worse, Frank and Ernest, and Funky Winkerbean. All of them ran for over 25 years, with Flash Gordon running for 69, but I ended up picking The Far Side, which only ran for 15. This is because although the rest of them are undoubtedly popular and influential - particularly Flash Gordon - The Far Side is almost universally recognized as being one of the best strips of all time, and has been very successful in licensing. One commenter on the poll said that The Far Side has sold more calendars than The Family Circus has sold book collections [citation needed].

G: There were a few other candidates, but the only runner-up worth mentioning was Get Fuzzy. But this is the letter G. It's Garfield.

H: Hi and Lois, Hagar the Horrible, Henry, Herman, and Hazel were all considered. Heathcliff won due to his longevity and popularity, even when facing such stiff (and similar) competition from Garfield.

I: "Inventions" wasn't actually considered in my initial selection, because I was mainly focusing on strips that had Wikipedia articles, and I didn't recognize the name. On my second pass, though, after being unimpressed by the other options, I did a double-take when I saw it was Rube Goldberg's strip. Yes, THAT Rube Goldberg. The guy whose name is synonymous with needlessly complex mechanisms that accomplish simple tasks. The guy who was honored by having the National Cartoonists Society's highest award named after him. It was an instant decision from there.

J: The only other strip that looked like it might be a contender was Joe Palooka. But Jump Start was a no-brainer. I used an edited image from the first book collection instead of a newer Sunday title panel, because I liked how it looked better.

K: Possibly the most influential comic strip of all time, Krazy Kat easily beat out the likes of Kudzu and Kerry Drake.

L: This was another of the hard decisions. Strong contenders for the spot included Little Nemo in Slumberland, Luann, and Little Orphan Annie. Like Archie, Little Lulu is more likely known for her comic books, but the newspaper strip was also well-received. The comic books by John Stanley are frequently cited as among the best of all time, and I can personally vouch for the accuracy of that assertion, having read many of them myself. So, like Archie, this entry was picked for its undeniable recognition of the character in general, not just the character's newspaper strip. Conor made this panel; didn't he do a good job?

M: Marmaduke, Mary Worth, Momm, Mother Goose and Grimm, Mutts, Moon Mullins, Marvin, and Miss Peach were all considered, but only the first two had a chance of standing up against Mutt and Jeff, which ended up winning anyway.

N: Between Nancy and Non Sequitur, the winner was obvious. Nancy was a household name for decades.

O: Over the Hedge and One Big Happy were runners-up. It was a toss-up between Opus and Outland, but despite generally preferring strips that had the same name as the main character, I decided to go with Outland.

P: Pearls Before Swine, Phoebe and her Unicorn, Pickles, Pogo, Popeye, and Pluggers were noticed as being possibilities for P, but it'd be wrong to call them contenders, much less runners-up. Peanuts dominated in all criteria. Conor made this panel, and I helped a tiny bit.

Q: In addition to being the best choice for the spot, Quincy was also the only strip that both fit the criteria, and had its own Wikipedia page. So it won by default. Conor made this panel.

R: Rose is Rose, Rubes, and Reg'lar Fellers were runners-up. Conor made this panel.

S: The last really big decision, this letter was between Sally Forth, Sherman's Lagoon, Shoe, Slylock Fox, Smitty, and Stone Soup. Going off of the results of the poll, I decided to pare it down to just the top three. I eliminated Slylock Fox since there was another children-oriented strip in the U slot, and then Sally Forth, since Shoe had both more book collections and more awards.

T: The runners-up were They'll Do It Every Time, There Oughta Be a Law, Trudy, Tumbleweeds, and Tundra.

U: My first thought was U.S. Acres, but we already had a Jim Davis strip in the submission, so I broadened my search. Uncle Remus and His Tales of Br'er Rabbit was a strong contender, but... those characters have been controversial at times, so I passed it over. Uncle Art's Funland fit the bill perfectly, and its status as "comics for kids" allowed me to narrow down the S category.

V: This is the single biggest exception to my criteria. After perusing the available V's, Vic Flint was the standout candidate. But he was also a private detective, like Dick Tracy, and I was trying to have some variety in the strips chosen, in addition to picking based on merit. Then I had a "duh" moment and realized that Prince Valiant was a far more recognizable, influential, and popular character. So I bent the rules on this one occasion.

W: Wizard of Id was the obvious choice, here. Wash Tubbs, Wee Pals, and Winnie Winkle were also considered in the running.

X: Another bending of the rules here, but there weren't many strips that even had the letter X in their title at all, so we went with the best available option. Conor made this panel.

Y: I'll be honest: I really wanted to put The Yellow Kid here. I'd already bent one rule for V, but I ultimately decided that this entry would be breaking too many. The actual strip's name is Hogan's Alley, so the Kid's name isn't even in the title. So I went with Yogi Bear. Like others on this list, he's probably most recognized for his animated show, and I even have a few of his comic books, but the newspaper strip ran for at least 19 years (the list of newspaper comic strips on Wikipedia says it ran from 1961-1980, but the Yogi Bear page says it ran until 1988. Any Wikipedia enthusiasts want to fact check those and make corrections somewhere?).

Z: This was a toss-up between Ziggy and Zits. Both strips had their own claims to fame, but I ultimately picked Ziggy based on him being more recognizable as a character.

All assets used were pulled from various online sources, including GoComics strips and results from Google Image Search. And I am NOT citing them all.