This can be a difficult time of the year for many people. The pressures of shopping, decorating, cooking and traveling often take the joy out of the season. A comic strip helps to relieve this stress by finding the humor in everyday life. More so than any other holiday, Christmas presents a wide variety of situations and possibilities for interactions between the characters.
This Hi and Lois Sunday page from 1999 was inspired by my own inability to remember the lyrics to familiar Christmas carols.
Hi and Lois Sunday page, December 19, 1999.
The competition between the twins is a fertile source for gag ideas. Dot is smart and precious and Ditto is mischievous and rebellious. They are opposite personalities in so many ways but sometimes they work together.
The winter scene in the drop panel at the top of the page is a particularly outstanding example of Chance Browne’s artistry. The snow covered Flagston family home looks cozy and warm inside and the church steeple and bare tree limbs in the background help to establish the cold nighttime setting. Chance can work magic with pencil, pen and ink.
We will be sharing more holiday themed strips in future posts so stay tooned.
– Brian Walker
The Tracy Twins, which was illustrated by Dik Browne, made its debut in the October 1953 issue of Boys’ Life magazine, one year before the first episode of Hi and Lois appeared in newspapers on October 18, 1954.
Here is a classic holiday-themed page from 1961.
The Tracy Twins, Boys’ Life magazine, December 1961.
In a recent interview Dik’s son, Chance, remembered how these pages were produced. “Al Stenzel [who wrote the feature] did large pencil layouts of The Tracy Twins pages on tracing paper with extensive directions on staging, costumes and historical details, since many of the episodes contained flashbacks and elements of fantasy and folklore.”
Chance described what these layouts looked like: “Stenzel’s drawings would be in vignette form, roughed in with a lot of notations and problem solving. They looked like a storyboard. He had a very naturalistic feeling for people, which my Dad brought to life. There was less design and more articulated anatomy, posing the characters in situations. A lot of thought went into it because of what they were trying to show in terms of the items in the panels and the people.”
“It was great to have a cartoon in which kids could relate to the characters,” Chance continued. “It wasn’t written down to them. Al Stenzel did a great job on these. Everything he wrote was really smart. He could get really wacky too. There was some true adventurousness in the writing that gave rise to these drawings.”
We will be reprinting more episodes of The Tracy Twins in future posts, so stay tooned.
– Brian Walker
It is always a challenge to come up with fresh ideas to mark the annual holidays. Thanksgiving is celebrated on Thursdays, so we usually do a daily strip on that day. The scene we show most frequently is the family sitting around the table discussing what they are most thankful for. Other topics involve the preparation, cooking and eating of the meal. Here is a strip from 1991 that shows the aftermath.
Hi and Lois daily strip, November 28, 1991.
Thanksgiving also falls during football season and the NFL currently broadcasts three games during the day. On a number of occasions, we have shown Hi and Thirsty, stuffed with turkey, snoozing in front of the TV. The family also sometimes goes outside for a game of touch football.
For this daily strip from 1994, I tried a different twist on the scenario that incorporated an element of Thanksgiving history.
Hi and Lois daily strip, November 24, 1994.
On Sundays before Thanksgiving we have shown Lois shopping for food and on Sundays after the holiday Hi is often eating leftover turkey. Here is a Sunday page from 1989 that predicts what will be taking placing four days later. Our readers don’t seem to mind if we play around with time a little bit in the strip.
Hi and Lois Sunday page, November 19, 1989.
We are very thankful for our many loyal fans. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
– Brian Walker