*** boys clothing : individual comic strips

Boys Clothing in Comic Strips: Individual Strips

comic strips
Figure 1.--Here we see a pannel from a Blondie strip in 1945. Alexander was pictured as a little boy at the time wearing short pants. He has since become a perpetual teenager.

We have some limited information on individual comic strips that have boy characers or are about boys. Some have lasted only a few years and are associated with decades. Other have not only lasted the creators whole career, but even been continued after the creator passed on. In some strips the characters stay the same age. In others like "For Better and for Worse" the characters age. And in some like "Blondie" the characters age and then stay the same. "Most of the comics we are familiar with are American. Hopefully readers will tells us a bit about comic strips in their countries. American comic strips are carried in other counties, but foreign strips with the exception of Canadian are not normally carried in America. Individual comic strips will be listed here in aphabetical order.

Beano (Britain)

D.C. Thompson which published the famous British comics "The Dandy" and "The Beano" were a Dundee (East Scotland) firm. A British reader writes, "And of course the most famous comic character of all is our Dennis the Menace from "The Beano" (now also a T.V. cartoon I hear). There was a public outcry in the 1990s when Dennis was depicted on the cover in a blue shell suit instead of his trademark red and black striped jersey and shorts. It turned out that the publishers were just having some fun with their readers and by the end of the strip Dennis was back in his proper clothes." A British reader tells us, "As far as I know The Danda and The beano are still published by the company in Dundee."

Big Ben Bolt (U.S., 1950- )

Big Ben Bolt was a prizefighter whose adventures and occasional historics were the story lines in this long-running strip. In 1964 he becomes the guardian for Andy Grant who he resuces from an abusive foster parent. He places Andy in the care of a eldely wealthy couple who outfit him for school in a short pants suit.

Blondie (U.S.,1930- )

No list of American cartoons would be complete without Blondie. The cartoonist was Chic Young (1901-73). He once explained the secret behind his strip, with which many identify, to restict the epidodes to eating, sleeping, working, and raising a family. The age of the characters is now frozen, but the kids were originally younger. Alexander began as a little boy, but is now a perpetual teenager. The only major change in the strip is that Blondie now is no longer restricted to the home, but has her own catering business. A series of movies appeared in the 1940s.

Bringing Up Father (U.S., 1913- )

This strip was created by George McManus (1884-1954). It was also known as "Maggie & Jiggs". It was the story od a nouveau riche Irish immigrant and his social climbing wife. Jiggs is always trying to escape from his wife's fancy parties so he can eat corned beef and cabbage in the kitchen. Actually this helped to popularize the dish in America. I don't remember now if a boy is involved. The fashions havent't changed from the 1910s.

The Broons (Scotland)

The Broons (i.e. Browns) are a famous, long-running Scottish cartoon strip about a Glasgow family. I do not yet have the full details as to when the strip was created and who the illustrator was. The strip we have comes from the 1950s, but I believe it was created earlier. This strip from The Broons in 1952 gives an idea as to the approximate age (14+) at which a Scottish boy of that era might get sensitive about wearing short trousers. Horace Broon in the strip borrows his father's trousers to impress his new girlfriend.

Buster Brown (U.S.)

Although now known mostly as a coroprate symbol for a shoe company, Buster Brown was the best known boy character in 20th-Century America. He was also the subject of popular films. The cartoon in has an interesting history. The first cartoons date from the 18th century and were political in nature. The comics as we known them today date to the 1860s and some of the first popular cartoon characters were kids--primarily boys.

(The) Dandy (Britain)

D.C. Thompson which published the famous British comics "The Dandy" and "The Beano" were a Dundee (East Scotland) firm.

Dennis the Menace (U.S., 1950- )

Dennis' clothes have changed over time. He commonly wore long pants coveralls or bibfront jeans. He used to dress up in short pants and blazers, often with saddle shoes. Dennis now mostly wear long pants. In contrast to Dennis' bibfront outfit, his little pal Joey almost always wears play shorts.

Dick Tracey (U.S., 1931- )

Chester Gould created Dick Tracey in 1931. The erstwile detective saw the world in black and white, good and evil. Gould created some memorable villians, as ugly as their natures. I don't remember a child sidekick in the series when I read it in the 1960s and 70s, although my memory could be faulty. Children surely were in some of the episiodes. There was a kid side kick in earlier strips--Junior. I think Junior was more commonly featured in the Tracey strips during the 1930s and 40s. Junior was an abused ward of a crook. Tracy saved him and he became Tracy's ward. He grew up, married Moon Maid and had a baby. When Moon Maid died he remarried. Junior joined the police and worked under Tracy. He wore knickers as a boy. Junior appeared as Tracey's kid sidekick in the 1990s movie and he wore knickers. A reader writes, "You mentioned that Dick Tracey had a 'sidekick' in a 1990 movie. I have not seen the movie, but it seems to follow the strip. His 'sidekick' was a teenager who wore 'knickers' and was named "Junior". If Junior had a last name, I do not remember it. I'm not real sure why he was referred to as Junior, because I always thought that Dick T. was single. Maybe it was simply an age thing. Dick T. had a girl friend named "Tess" and of course his working partner was the famous "Sam Ketchum". I haven't seen the strip in years. What has amazed me is that many of the technological fancies that "Diet Smith" came up with and that seemed so improbable, if not downright impossible, are now common place items in daily use. For instance the wrist radio and the wrist TV have now come into daily use by the populace in the form of Cell Phone and picture phones. Back then it seemed they were reserved only for law enforcement use. Really is amazing how so many writers have, like Jules Verne, been light years ahead of their time." [Clark] I'm not sure why the Tracey strip has disappeared. I think some editors thought it too violent.

Flash Gordon

A reader writes, "A couple that were in the science fiction realm that I enjoyed then were Buck Rogers and his famous Ray Gun (todays tazer and laser) and also Flash Gordon with a similar slant on way out technology of space exploration that is now commonplace." [Clark] One interesting aspect of these strips was a look at what the cartoonist thought might be future fashions.

Gasoline Alley (U.S.,1919- )

Frank King (1883-1969) was the cartoonist that created "Gasoline Alley". It was originally a strip about men's interest in carsm but it evolved to treat with the life and growth odf average Americans. It was the first major strip in which the characters aged as the strip went on. Before the characters had been frozen in time.

Katzenjammer Kids (U.S., 1897- )

The "Katzenjammer Kids" was the creation of Rudolph Dirks (1877-1968). This is the oldest comic strip still being produced. The strip is setvaround tyhe mischirvious antics of Hans and Fritz, the Katzenjammer Kids. It was one of the first cartoon strips to use regular characters, sequential drawings, and cartton symbols. I'm not sure what the eraly strip was like, but the outfits worn by the boys and aduklts haven't changed in the years I have seen it. One of the boys wears a ruffled collar, the other a black bow. They speak with a German accent. A reader writes, "Another memorable strip that seemed to disappear during World War II and at least in the South did not reappear was "The Katz and Jammer Kids". You mentioned the twins. Well their nemesis was their citified cousin "Rollo". As I remember Rollo was always dressed up (American style) like he was going to church, whereas the twins as you mention were much more casual in a European way. Mama was matronly and wore large billowing long dresses, here again if my memory is right, Rollo was always trying to get the twins in trouble and frequently, his stunts backfired on him. It seems to me that there was a younger trim lady (possibly Rollo's mother) who was always dressed in the latest 'chic' New York fashions. It was a fun strip and one that I miss." [Clark] I remember seeing this strip, I think in the 1960s and 70s.

Little Nemo in Slumberland (U.S., 1905-11)

This strip was created by Winspr McCay (c1867-134). It was the first to be drawn realistically and to use quality color printing. Nemo's daydreams and nightmares were fantassies with drahons and monsters, travels to Mars, and slums that turned into gardens.

Little Orphan Annie (U.S.,1924- )

The inspiration for Little Orphan Annie, was the James Whitcomb Riley poem "Little Orphant Annie". Riley's inspiration was a little girl he knew--Wesley Gray. Her favorite grandson, Clarence Colestock, is said to have looked much like her at the time she inspired Riley. Harold Gray (1894-1968) created this popular strip. Presumably he is related to Mrs. Wesley Gray, bit I do not yet have the details. Annie along with Shirley Temple helped to keep up the national spirit during the Great Depression (1929-39). Gray's morality tales of perseverence, independence, and courage helped to make newspaper strips and indespensible part of the American newspaper. Clothes were not a major feature of the strip. Annie always wore a red dress. I'm not sure if tgere were any important boy characters or how they were dressed.

Max & Moritz

A Dutch reader asks, "What about "Max & Moritz" by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908), the father of the comic strip?" I had always thought that the comic strip was an American creation, but it is the German illustrator and humerous poet that apparently is created weith inventing the comic strip. Wilhelm Busch was born in 1832, in the village of Wiedensahl near Hanover, Germany. His goal was to be a master painter, but instead his career took a very different path. His career, however, took a very different course. A popular German satirical magazine Fliegende Blaetter asked him to do some caricatures. The drawings proved popular and Busch began adding his own humorous verses. Gradually his cartoons grew longer and were done in elaborate multiple panes--thus they can be called the frst comic strips. The public loved his lively characters and slap-stick humor. It was for his fanciful verse, however, that he is best known in Germany. His two most famous charcters were two little boys, Max and Moritz. We do not have a page on the comic strip at this time, but we do have a page on the creator, Wilhelm Busch.

Nancy (U.S., 1938- )

Ernie Bushmiller (1905-82) created Nancy in 1938. It is one of the strips that is frozen in time. Many cartoonist envied Bushmiller for his ability to reduce gags and art to their simpelest elements. Nancy and her friend Slugo were mainstays of the funny pages for several decades. Slugo appearance never changes. He wears a kind of flat cap, a suit jacket, striped turtle neck, and long pants. I'm not sure if this was the case when the strip began, but it has been the case since the 1950s when I began reasing it.

Oor Wullie (Scotland)

D.C.Thompson of Dundee also published the cartoon strips "Oor Wullie" and "The Broons" in the Sunday Post. 'Oor Wullie' follows the adventures and misadventures of a small boy, about 8 or 9 years old, with spiky blond hair and black dungarees. He does the usual things that small boys do in British comics - gets into trouble with his teachers and the local bobby, plays truant with his gang, breaks neighbours' windows (usually by accident), fights the local bullies, torments softies and swots, eats vast quantities of food and sweets, and studiously avoids the romantic attentions of the local girls. But his heart's in the right place, and he loves his Ma. Most strips begin and end with Wullie sitting on his trademark upturned metal bucket. The artist was Dudley D.Watkins. They also brought out an Annual every year except for the war years when paper was short. Oor Wullie always wore his dungarees,which his mother was forever having to mend, but his pals always wore more normal Scottish boys' clothing.

Peanuts (U.S.)

A strip which had by the 1960s become very popular with kids and adults was "Peanuts" which was, of course, in cartoon style and had a timeless, rather than contemporary quality. And in that, the boys wore shorts.

Prince Valliant (U.S., 1937- )

Prince Valliant was created by Harold R. Foster (1892-1982) in 1937. Foster is famed for his realistical and detailed pannels. It was the last major strip to be created as a full-pagem full-color picture story. Foster's meticulous research for his Arthurian legend lent authenticity to battle scenes and domestic situations. The strip has changed over time, but in slow motion. The Primce is much older now and he has two boys, Prince Arn and ??, and two girls. The outfits that the boys wear do provide a reasonably accurate view of medieval boys clothing.

Tintin (Belgium)

The hero from Herg´┐Ż is kind of a national monument in Belgium and bedside book of all French speaking kids. The knickers he wore from the beginning of the trip became a trademark.

William Brown (England)

I believe that the fabeled William Brown (Our William) alsp appeared as a comic.

(The) Yellow Kid (U.S., 1895-98)

The Yellow Kid was the creation of R.F. Outcault and appeared for a relatively brief period. This was the first popular newspaper color cartoon. The name of the strip was "Hogan's Alley," but the star was the Yellow Kid. The tennament exploits of this Irish immigrant created enormous popular affectiion toward him. Two major New York newspapers fought over rival versions. It was the birth of "yellow journalism". The kis, however, wore a strange yellow robe, conveying klittle information about popular fashions.


Clark, Joe. E-mail message, April 7, 2005.


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Created: 12:54 AM 4/7/2005
Last updated: 3:55 AM 7/7/2005