Hmm - doing comics two days in a row. Not my intention; just happened, I guess. But this is more about those institutions we take for granted because they're unremarkable parts of a certain declining segment of the cultural landcape. Was it always so? Were they once interesting and experimental?
Three years after Hi and Lois started, the syndicate put out this behind-the-scenes look.
I never understood that type of nose. Broken, maybe? Pugnacious?
Chip was younger, at first. The accompanying strip had him playing in the backyard with Hi, rough-housing.
The "Big Picture Window" was a signifier of the new prosperous, suburban residence.
This note about Dik leaves out his most enduring contribution:
In the 1940s, he worked as an illustrator for Newsweek as well as for an advertising company, where he created the trademark logo for Chiquita.
I didn't know that. This also came as a surprise:
In 1954, Browne and cartoonist Mort Walker co-created the comic strip Hi and Lois, a spin-off of Walker's popular Beetle Bailey strip, featuring Beetle's sister, brother-in-law and their family.
Really. So there’s an extended universe! As they say. And shouldn’t.
There's no sense of Hi's veteran status now, but I wonder if they ever brought it up - or just kept it in the past, like a lot of dads.
It was an ordinary strip, but it hit the right spot at the right time, and had huge success. Now let's go forward two years, and see how they'd stretch out from time to time.
To indicate the lazy post-holiday mood, Browne just ran these simple sketches.
The pencil and paperclip give them the permission to run images like this; they signify that there's a level of reality above them, the one we're in.
You wonder what would have happened if they'd decided to switch to this style for the rest of the run.
Yesterday was just the start.
These bring back memories - only shadows, though, Moods. Glimpses through gauze.
Let's set the stage with this brand-building spot, presented without a shred of irony. (Post wouldn't make Shredded Irony until 1974.)
That's the world we're about to visit. It is not our world.
We're going to ease into the subject by starting out with a kid's cereal, and see how things progressed. Today: Alpha Bits.
“Look, Reddy.” Instantaneous recollection: Ruff and Reddy? Yes! Hanna-Barbera’s first, and one of the “earliest cartoon shows.”
Anyway, here they use the POWER OF SUGAR to defeat an alien invader. The wikipedia entry says the show was a pioneer in H-B’s style of “limited animation,” so there’s probably more animation in this ad than an entire 30-minute ep.
Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, of course. Music by Hoyt Curtin, of course.
Here He Comes to Enforce Intellectual Property
So . . . someone was making knock-offs? Some competitor tried their hand at the letter-cereal genre, but was doing kids wrong by skipping some letters?
Alpha Bits: The “Post” Man.
The minute I saw this I wondered if I actually remembered the mailman - the Phil Silvers mailman - from seeing the ads as a child, or remembered seeing the mailman on boxes when researching cereal. The only certain thing is the connection between the style of animation and my early days. It’s burned into the brain.
The voice on this character . . . is an interesting choice. Are we supposed to think “East Coast government employee”? A harried cigar-smoking guy who lives in the Bronx in a house where the living room furniture is covered in plastic?
It's not a good kids character. You don't know if they're setting him up to be a laughable hapless foil, like Lucky, or a hero who brings the cereal.
Alpha Bits "Post" Man #2
The somewhat unlikable mailman would be replaced by a gangly, hick-happy guy:
Alpha Bits: The Maddening Ghosts
Also in the animated vein, but terrifyingly hypnotic. If Mom was having a bad morning and this came on at high volume I think she’d be tempted to throw a coffee cup right through the screen, if only to shut off that maddening racket. I mean it NEVER STOPS
ALPHA BITS: The New Style
An adventure in every bowl! It’s the new style of animation, loose and crappy. We put up with it.
If the eating of the name destroys the thing itself - a bit of alchemy the commercials do not linger upon - then shouldn’t the octopus die when it eats the letters en masse? Or do they have to be arranged? There’s necromancy here that needs some rules.
ALPHA BITS & CIVILIZATIONAL DECLINE
You can tell when a culture starts to relax its opinions about drug use in the creative suites:
THE CASE OF THE UNKNOWN REFERENCE
Did the target audience know all these tropes? The source says "1979," which is plausible. Not sure it worked on kids, but it's interesting to see these sturdy archetypes resurrected, and more care put into the production than you'd find in the sloppy animation.
Wait a minute - they did another one, and changed the name?
ALPHA BITS: WINK WINK
Our last example: irony and self-aware meta-media knowingness have infected the kid’s ads.
From "cheerfully earnest" to "kids are in on the joke" in just a few decades.
Now two ways to chip in!
That'll do. More tomorrow, with a different farrago of stuff on top.