Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Dagwood Remembered

Anxious to use up my monthly Press Display credits before they go out of date I purchase a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle only to be reminded of how dull the American press can be. It is partly the way almost all American papers use front-page leads and inside follow-ups. This results in over-crowded front pages and then a mad scramble to try to find the rest of the story. Inside it results in a mass of headless stories sloshing around in a kind of wordy broth.

Looking for some justification of the 25p (or whatever) I had spent on gaining access to the paper, I eventually turned to the comic page and came face to face with the adventures of Blondie and Dagwood, Instantly I was taken back fifty years. My father would come in from work in the local factory with his copy of the Daily Sketch. I would turn to the cartoon page and there would catch up with the latest adventures of Blondie and Dagwood. Even then - in the late fifties - the characters were seriously out of date, stuck in a time-warp of what must have been America in the 1930s. But I lapped the stories up : Blondie and Dagwood were American suburban life : a kind of two-dimensional Desi and Lucy Show.

The Daily Sketch vanished in the 1960s and my father - unable to cope with change at the best of times - never brought a paper home again. Somehow, I assumed that Dagwood and Blondie had also sunk beneath the tide of the swinging sixties. It was therefore quite a shock to discover them still alive and looking not a day older than they were 50 years ago. Their adventures are just as vacuous as they ever were. According to their website (oh yes, they have a website) they still appear in over 2,300 newspapers in 55 countries throughout the world and have an estimated daily audience of 280 million people. I can't decide whether to be heartened or saddened by these facts : it is something I need to think very carefully about. Then I decide not to think at all but to read another comic strip instead.

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