Happy Halloween

It’s the time of year for carving pumpkins and making mischief, which provides us with an opportunity to reprint another classic Tracy Twins page.  This memorable feature was written by Al Stenzel and illustrated by Dik Browne and made its debut in Boys’ Life magazine in October 1953.

In the January 1954 episode of The Tracy Twins, Dicky and Nicky’s grandfather, an old gent with a bowtie and suspenders who loved telling tall tales about past exploits and long-lost relatives, made his first appearance.  Grandpa became an integral member of the cast along with a set of typical 1950s Baby Boom parents.  Most of the plots revolved around clever schemes, often inspired by Grandpa’s stories, which inevitably backfired.

“I love the relationship between the grandfather and the twins,” Dik’s son Chance remembered in a recent interview. “It skipped a generation.  They were partners in crime.  There’s an innocence in it that seems to be missing today.”

This Tracy Twins page, with a Halloween theme, is a typical example of how one of Grandpa’s “bright ideas” has unintended consequences.

The Tracy Twins, Boys' Life, October 1957.

The Tracy Twins, Boys’ Life, October 1957.

A talented cartoonist in his own right, Chance has a unique perspective on his father’s technique. “He couldn’t do a panel that was not designed. Every one of these panels is a beautiful layout piece, like a course in how to maintain interest box-to-box.  If you back up and see the whole page, it looks terrific throughout.  There’s no drop out, the blacks are spread out evenly and when you get in close you can see all the thought that went into it.  He would draw everything before he put it to paper and pretty much knew what was going to happen with every line before the pen hit the paper.”

“He was using a cinematic technique.  He loved movies,” Chance added. “Some panels are like stills from a Frank Capra movie. He had the technical ability not to fear any kind of camera angle, low or high, and took it on to serve the story, never in a show-off way like ‘look what I can do.’  It all serves the story and the characters in the story.”

Chance stated proudly that, “in terms of the art, I consider my Dad to be one of the wonders of the world.  His style is so many different things.  I don’t know if there is any contemporary cartooning quite like it.  In terms of cartooning that straddles the big foot and little foot, four and five-finger styles, I don’t know if there is anyone else who does it all.  With these pages it’s just cartooning at its best.”

I couldn’t agree more.

– Brian Walker

40th Anniversary – Conclusion

The Sunday page we did for the 40th anniversary story in 1994 showed Beetle and his sister Lois flipping through pages in an old family photo album.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, October 23, 1994.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, October 23, 1994.

It was fun to imagine what Beetle and Lois might have looked like when they were younger and to speculate about the dynamics of their relationship.  We were writing the backstory of characters who had been around for decades.

The story concluded with a strip on the following Monday in which Sarge showed up to retrieve Beetle before he went AWOL.

Hi and Lois daily strip, October 24, 1994.

Hi and Lois daily strip, October 24, 1994.

Can you guess which Bailey/Flagston family member is missing in this panoramic scene?  We will tell you the answer in the next post.

We hope our readers have enjoyed seeing these strips from twenty years ago. This was an historic moment in the history of both strips.

It is hard to believe it was that long ago.

– Brian Walker

Anniversaries

Hi and Lois debuted on October 18, 1954 and is celebrating its 60th anniversary this week.  To commemorate the occasion, we did a special series, “Then and Now,” showing how things have changed during the long run of the strip.  On Sunday we will be showcasing a special anniversary tribute page.

Although fans of Hi and Lois are well aware of its historic connection to Beetle Bailey, the general public is probably not.

In 1954, as the Korean War was winding down, Mort Walker became concerned that readers would no longer relate to the military theme of his three-and-a-half year old comic strip.  So he sent Beetle home on furlough to visit his family.  Here is a scene from that two-week sequence in which Beetle’s future is debated.  The couple on the couch with the baby is his sister Lois and her husband Hi.Beetle54

Mort received hundreds of letters demanding that Beetle stay in the Army, so he gave in to the pressure and had him return to Camp Swampy.  Six months later, he launched a new comic strip, Hi and Lois, with Dik Browne as the artist.

To mark the 40th anniversary of Hi and Lois in 1994, we did a special series in which Beetle goes home again to visit his sister.  Here is the week of daily strips from October 17 to 22, 1994.Beetle Visit dailies 10:17-18 copyBeetle Visit dailies 10:19-20 copyBeetle Visit 10:21-22 copy

We will be running the conclusion of this story in the next installment, so stay tooned.

– Brian Walker