Back in Business

King Features has been overhauling our web site for the past few weeks which gave me some much needed time off. It’s been a grueling winter here in the Northeast. There are huge frozen mounds of icy snow everywhere and the temperatures have been frigid. We are looking forward to a major thaw followed by the beginning of spring.

In the meantime, here is a winter-themed Hi and Lois episode from a few years back.

HI and Lois Sunday page, January 20, 2013.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, January 20, 2013.

Eric Reaves, who joined our staff full-time in 2012, did a wonderful job with this page. The ski lodge and chair lifts in the background help set the scene. The family portrait in the last panel is particularly well done. Eric has captured the Hi and Lois characters perfectly and has them dressed in contemporary clothing. It’s always a challenge to maintain a consistent look to the strip while at the same time updating the things that are constantly changing.

For some of our readers, who plan to go skiing in the near future, taking a picture for next year’s Christmas card might not be a bad idea.

– Brian Walker

The Museum of Cartoon Art

I graduated from college at the end of 1973 and the following spring, my father, Mort Walker, asked me if I would like to accompany him and Joe D’Angelo, the president of King Features Syndicate, to look at a house around the corner from our family home in Greenwich, Connecticut. They were hoping to rent the 75-year old Mead mansion for a proposed cartoon museum. After we walked through the vacant, neglected white elephant, Mort asked if I would be willing to round up a few friends to help clean the place and paint the interior rooms. I had no idea that this was the beginning of a great adventure that would last more than three decades.

Here I am, fresh out of college, standing in front of the  Mead Mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, 1974.

Here I am, fresh out of college, standing in front of the Mead mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, 1974.

The Museum of Cartoon Art opened its doors to the public on August 11, 1974. After two years of phenomenal growth and success, it was quite a shock when our landlord, John Mead, informed us that he had no intention of renewing our lease on the building. He worried that the crowds were putting too much wear and tear on his family estate and didn’t want to expand the parking lot again. We had worked tirelessly to tell the world where we were and now we had to find a new home. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

After a frustrating year of looking at private homes and public buildings in the area, we finally stumbled on an ideal location. The old Ward’s Castle, perched atop a steep hill straddling the New York/Connecticut border, was for sale. After a few months of negotiations, the Ward family finally accepted our offer of $70,000. Ward’s Castle, which was completed in 1876, is the first house in the world built of reinforced concrete.   William E. Ward, who owned a nuts and bolts factory in nearby Port Chester, allegedly promised his mother, who was afraid of fire, that he would build her a house that was completely fireproof. It had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 1976 and, due to this distinction, we eventually received a $30,000 acquisition grant from the National Parks Service. After extensive repairs, the Museum opened to the public on December 11, 1977.

The Ward Castle as it looks today.  Photo by Phil Nelson, 2014.

The Ward Castle as it looks today. Photo by Phil Nelson, 2014.

After over a decade in Ward’s Castle, we became increasingly aware of its limitations. The building was continuing to deteriorate and we did not have the funds for ongoing restorations. Mort officially announced the board of directors’ decision to move the Museum to Boca Raton, Florida in January 1991. The Ward’s Castle was sold to a private individual and the doors closed to the public on June 30, 1992.

The Flagstons visited the Museum in 1989.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, August 27, 1989.

Hi and Lois Sunday page, August 27, 1989.

We will share more about the history of the Museum of Cartoon Art in future posts.

– Brian Walker

 

Censorship

Sex is taboo on the funnies pages. Newspaper editors do not think it is appropriate for their readers, who range in age from young children to senior citizens, to be exposed to anything that might corrupt their morals. In the movies and on television they show all types of sexual situations. This makes it hard for cartoonists to compete with other mediums when it comes to dealing with risqué topics.

Hi and Lois is cleaner than most strips. We rarely use swearing symbols, known as grawlixes, when the characters lose their tempers. Although Hi and Lois hug and exchange kisses, and are often shown in bed together, there is never any suggestion of intercourse.

On a few rare occasions we have shown some nudity. Here’s a strip from 1958 with Ditto in and out of the bathtub.

Hi and Lois daily strip, 1958.

Hi and Lois daily strip, June 30, 1958.

It’s natural for a young girl to be curious about her body. This wordless gag from 1964 is a classic.

Hi and Lois daily strip, 1964.

Hi and Lois daily strip, July 28, 1964.

Lois is an attractive woman and we dress her in nice clothes and even in a bikini now and then.

This episode from 1971 is the only time I can remember her appearing topless.

Hi and Lois daily strip, 1971.

Hi and Lois daily strip, September 28, 1971.

Somehow, these made it past the editors at King Features.

– Brian Walker