Kookie Zippy

Today’s Zippy goes back to 1962 and Kookie comic book #1:

(#1)

— meanwhile, engaging in a battle of beatnik poetry with the character Bongo from Kookie.

(Another in a long line of Zippy strips on beatnik customs, including invented beatnik poetry.)

Background on Little Lulu from Wikipedia:

“Little Lulu” is the nickname for Lulu Moppett, a comic strip character created in the mid-1930s by Marjorie Henderson Buell. The character debuted in The Saturday Evening Post on February 23, 1935 in a single panel, appearing as a flower girl at a wedding and strewing the aisle with banana peels. [Continued as a newspaper comic for many years.]

… Comic-book stories of the character scripted by John Stanley appeared in ten issues of Dell’s Four Color before a Marge’s Little Lulu series appeared in 1948 with scripts and layouts by Stanley and finished art by Irving Tripp and others. Stanley greatly expanded the cast of characters and changed the name of Lulu’s portly pal from “Joe” to “Tubby”, a character that was popular enough himself to warrant a Marge’s Tubby series that ran from 1952 to 1961.

The Kookie comic, mentioned in the Wikipedia article on the artist:

John Stanley (March 22, 1914 – November 11, 1993) was an American cartoonist and comic book writer, best known for writing Little Lulu comic book stories from 1945 to 1959. While mostly known for scripting, Stanley also drew many of his stories, including the earliest issues of Little Lulu and its Tubby spinoff series. His specialty was humorous stories, both with licensed characters and those of his own creation. His writing style has been described as employing “colorful, S. J. Perelman-ish language and a decidedly bizarre, macabre wit (reminiscent of writer Roald Dahl)”, with storylines that “were cohesive and tightly constructed, with nary a loose thread in the plot”.

… In the 1960s [after Little Lulu, Tubby, and Nancy and Sluggo] Stanley created a number of humorous titles for Dell Comics. These include: Kookie #1-2 1961-1962, drawn by Bill Williams. Kookie is a 20-something single girl living in a Greenwich Village-like environment with roommate Clara and working in a hip coffee shop. Supporting characters include Momma Poppa, the brash, overweight owner of the coffee shop, and Bongo and Bop and other beatniks. The subjects of their own back-of-the-book story, Bongo and Bop never interacted directly with Kookie.

 

(#2)

(#3)

Bongo and Bop:

(#4)

Background: vocabulary and stereotypes. The NOAD2 entry for beatnik / Beatnik is cautious on the origins:

ORIGIN 1950s: from beat [as in the Beat Generation, with beat as popularized by Jack Kerouac] + –nik on the pattern of sputnik, perhaps influenced by US use of Yiddish –nik, denoting someone or something who acts in a particular way

Michael Quinion’s affixes site notes:.

The ending had been known in English before the mid 1950s, notably in the Yiddish nudnik for a person who pesters or bores, kibbutznik for a member of a kibbutz, and in proper names such as Chetnik, a member of a guerrilla force in the Balkans. However, it was sputnik (literally ‘fellow-traveller’ in Russian), a satellite launched in October 1957, that introduced the ending to a wider English audience.

That brings us to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. From a 11/26/95 story in the paper “How Herb Caen named a generation” by Jesse Hamlin:

Chronicle columnist Herb Caen coined the word “beatnik” on April 2, 1958, six months after the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite into space. “Look magazine, preparing a picture spread on S.F.’s beat generation (oh, no, not AGAIN!),” read an item in Caen’s April 2 column, “hosted a party in a No. Beach house for 50 beatniks, and by the time word got around the sour grapevine, over 250 bearded cats and kits were on hand, slopping up Mike Cowles’ free booze. They’re only beat, y’know, when it comes to work.”

No one dounts that Herb Caen did have this moment of inspiration in 1958 — Jack Kerouc just hated the invention, by the way, and told Caen so — or that his invention was the spark for the (very rapid) spread of the term, but it’s entirely possible that other people put the beat of Beat Generation together with -nik independently of Caen.

In any case, the beatnik stereotype was around before Caen. From Wikipedia:

At the time the term Beatnik was coined, a trend existed among young college students to adopt the stereotype, with men adopting the trademark look of bebop trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie by wearing goatees, horn-rimmed glasses, and berets, and rolling their own cigarettes and playing bongos. Fashions for women included black leotards and wearing their hair long, straight and unadorned in a rebellion against the middle class culture of beauty salons. Marijuana use was associated with the subculture

The fashion included an assortment of linguistic usages: heavy use of the discourse marker like, vocative man, hip, square, cool (which sturdily survived), pig ‘policeman’, for instance.

The stereotype was widely manifested in popular culture, especially in two tv shows: 77 Sunset Strip (via the character Kookie) and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (via the character Maynard G. Krebs). Illustrations, with Wikipedia notes:

(#5)

77 Sunset Strip is an American television private detective series created by Roy Huggins and starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., Roger Smith and Edd Byrnes. Each episode was one hour long. … The show ran from 1958 to 1964.

… The series revolves around two Los Angeles private detectives, both former government secret agents: Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. played Stuart (“Stu”) Bailey … Roger Smith played Jeff Spencer, also a former government agent, and a nonpracticing attorney. The duo worked out of a stylish office at 77 Sunset Boulevard (colloquially known as “Sunset Strip”), between La Cienega Boulevard and Alta Loma Road on the south side of the Strip next door to Dean Martin’s real-life lounge, Dino’s Lodge. Suzanne, the beautiful French switchboard operator played by Jacqueline Beer, handled the phones.

Comic relief was provided by Roscoe the racetrack tout (played by Louis Quinn), and Gerald Lloyd “Kookie” Kookson III (played by Edd Byrnes), the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing, hipster and aspiring P.I. who worked as the valet parking attendant at Dino’s, the club next door to the detectives’ office. (link)

(#6)

Maynard G. Krebs is the “beatnik” sidekick of the title character [Dobie Gillis, played by Dwayne Hickman] in the U.S. television sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis [1959-63].

The Krebs character, portrayed by actor Bob Denver, begins as a stereotypical beatnik, with a goatee, “hip” (slang) language, and a generally unkempt, bohemian appearance. (link)

 

Kookie is something of a combination of beatnik and greaser, Maynard Krebs of beatnik and nerd. Different social territory.

So we get to kooky / kookie. From Green’s Dictionary of Slang:

kook (also cook, klookhead, kuke) (? cuckoo … but popularized followng the late 1950s US TV show 77 Sunset Strip in which the supposedly (by 1958 standards) ‘eccentric’ character Gerald Lloyd Kookson III (‘Kookie’), played by actor Edd Byrnes (b. 1933), became a teenage idol) … (US) a crazy person, an eccentric, albeit an acceptable one. [first cite 1956 from Nelson Algren’s Walk on the Wild Side]

kooky (also kookie) (orig.US) odd, eccentric (often with overtones of charm) [first cite 1959 in Motion Pictures, with reference to Edd Byrnes]

The beatnik poetry slam. Back to the Zippy cartoon, which is framed as a beatnik poetry slam between Bongo and Zippy. Zippy’s contributions are complex riffs on sources I can’t quickly identify, but Bongo’s references are to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and Dobie Gillis, plus an initial effusion that could just be inspired nonsense, with the purple octopus and its tentative tentacles (though I note that there have been reports of an actual purple octopus, at great ocean depths, and that someone has used Urban Dictionary to post a preposterous invention that, I suppose, tickled him and his friends: purple octopus: ‘when 8 gay men lose their virginity together’: purple for ‘gay’, octopus for ‘eight’).

Oh yes, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit:

(#7)

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit is a 1956 American drama film based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Sloan Wilson. The film focuses on Tom Rath, a young WWII veteran trying to balance his marriage and family life with the demands of his work for a New York television network, while dealing with the aftereffects of his war service.  (link)

But he came to be seen as the stereotypical Organization Man, the polar opposite of the Beatnik: on the train to Nowheresville.

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