The passage of time in the comics world

Yesterday’s Zippy, in a recent series on ageing in cartoon characters:

I’ll go back over the series and then explain what Gasoline Alley has to do with this.

In the first installment, Zippy and Griffy muse on the fact that as cartoon characters, they “show no physical signs of aging or decrepitude”. The second installment takes things further into the surreal, as a never-ageing Zippy confronts an aged Zippy in the Cartoon Characters Assisted Living Facility. And now, after a meditation on changes over time, Zippy announces that Gasoline Alley has offered him the opportunity to “grow old in real, elapsed time”.

Why Gasoline Alley? Wikipedia provides the answer:

The early years were dominated by the character Walt Wallet. Tribune editor Joseph Patterson wanted to attract women to the strip by introducing a baby, but Walt was not married. That obstacle was avoided when Walt found a baby on his doorstep, as described by comics historian Don Markstein:

After a couple of years, the Tribune‘s editor, Captain Joseph Patterson, whose influence would later have profound effects on such strips as Terry and the Pirates and Little Orphan Annie, decided the strip should have something to appeal to women, as well, and suggested [cartoonist Frank] King add a baby. Only problem was the main character, Walt Wallet, was a confirmed bachelor. On February 14, 1921, Walt found the necessary baby abandoned on his doorstep. That was the day Gasoline Alley entered history as the first comic strip in which the characters aged normally. (Hairbreadth Harry had grown up in his strip but stopped aging in his early 20s.) The baby, named Skeezix (cowboy slang for a motherless calf), grew up, fought in World War II, and is now a retired grandfather.

(Note the title of the Zippy strip: “Squeezix”.)

On Markstein:

Don Markstein’s Toonopedia (subtitled A Vast Repository of Toonological Knowledge) is a web encyclopedia of print cartoons, comic strips and animation, launched February 13, 2001. Donald D. Markstein, the sole writer and editor of Toonopedia, called it “the world’s first hypertext encyclopedia of toons” and stated, “The basic idea is to cover the entire spectrum of American cartoonery.” (link)

(The site is currently under revision.)


4 Responses to “The passage of time in the comics world”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    There’s a Mad parody called “Gasoline Valley” that takes liberties with “real time aging” concept, among other things.

  2. The Ridger Says:

    Some writers do the same thing – Rex Stout, for instance, famously never aged Archie and Wolfe (and their supporting cast), taking them from the 30s to the 60s unchanged by time, though the world changed around them.

  3. Lightning, Trees and Gasoline Alley « Spoon Feast Says:

    […] The passage of time in the comics world ( Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInDiggRedditStumbleUponTumblrEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Posted by Spoon Feast. Categories: Building Your Community. Tags: Comic strip, Gasoline Alley, Jim Scancarelli. Leave a comment […]

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