Age cannot wither them

Today’s Zippy has Griffy and Zippy marveling, once again, that almost all cartoon characters, themselves included, never seem to age. In particular, Nancy and Sluggo are always and forever 8 years old — in Cartoonland, where age cannot wither them (nor custom stale their infinite variety). But in Ivan Albright’s art world, even Nancy, sturdy Nancy, grows old:


The background, from my 10/21/18 posting “Dark magic”, with Zippy on Ivan Albright and The Picture of Dorian Gray, plus:

a connection between surrealism and magic realism, Picasso as a cartoonist, and a note on the convention that cartoon characters don’t age.


Nancy and Sluggo. From Wikipedia:

(#3) Nancy and Sluggo in their prime, in a 1995 U.S. stamp (one of a set of Comic Strip Classics stamps issued that year)

Larry Whittington began Fritzi Ritz in 1922, and it was assumed by [Ernie] Bushmiller three years later. On January 2, 1933, Bushmiller introduced Fritzi’s [8-year-old] niece, Nancy [Ritz]. Nancy gradually became the focus of the daily strip, which was renamed after the character in 1938; Sluggo Smith, Nancy’s friend from the “wrong side of the tracks” had been introduced earlier that year

… On January 2, 2018, [cartoonist Guy] Gilchrist announced that after 22 years, his last Nancy strip would be February 18, 2018, which involved the marriage between the characters of Fritzi Ritz and Phil Fumble.

Following a two-month hiatus, the strip resumed on April 9 with “21st-century female perspective” from a person using the pen name Olivia Jaimes, the strip’s first-ever female author. [The strip goes on.]

The full set of stamps:



Nancy was 8 in 1933 when she first appeared in Bushmiller’s comics, hence she was born in 1925. It follows that in the real world, in 1995 (on the stamp) she would have been 70, and this year she’d be turning 94. As you can see in Albright’s painting of her in Bill Griffith’s comic strip.

Age cannot wither them. The title of this posting, a play on this passage from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (act 2, scene 2, lines 232–237):


Now Antony
Must leave her utterly.


Never, he will not:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.

Indeed, Antony will return to her, again and again, until they both die by suicide, Antony by sword, Cleopatra by asp.

National Theatre live. As it happens, I recently watched a stunning performance of Antony and Cleopatra (a National Theatre replay of its 2018 live broadcast, shown at the Aquarius Theatre in Palo Alto). It’s what I did on Superb Owl Sunday, February 3rd.

From the NT site on the original performance:

(#5) Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo

Broadcast live from the National Theatre, Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo play Shakespeare’s famous fated couple in his great tragedy of politics, passion and power.

Caesar and his assassins are dead. General Mark Antony now rules alongside his fellow defenders of Rome. But at the fringes of a war-torn empire the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony have fallen fiercely in love. In a tragic fight between devotion and duty, obsession becomes a catalyst for war.

Director Simon Godwin returns to National Theatre Live screens with this hotly anticipated production, following previous broadcasts of Twelfth Night, Man and Superman and The Beaux’ Stratagem.

Just afterwards, I filed a brief report on the performance, mostly in Shallow Mode, on Facebook, which I now paraphrase.

The performance is fabulous in many ways, and then the crucial asp turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous live snake (which I initially identified as a corn snake, but turns out to have been a similar-looking milk snake; details below).

While I was typing this sentence, the Outback chain offered an “unlimited steak and lobster special” on tv, which I of course heard as “snake and lobster”.

While I’m on shallow stuff, Cleopatra’s costumes are totally amazing. And Caesar is played by a really cute young black man, Tunji Kasim.


(Antony is, whoop whoop, Ralph Fiennes, with all the stops out but without shouting, the way so many actors playing this part do.)

On the snake, from the Guardian story of 11/29/18, “Love and hisses [headline writers do love those ouchy puns]: Cleopatra star Sophie Okonedo on acting with live snakes”:

(#7) Okonedo learning to wrangle snakes

The snakes are owned by Mark Amey, who specialises in animal handling for film and television
… The reptiles are all milk snakes, a type of constrictor.

From Wikipedia:

Lampropeltis triangulum, commonly known as a milk snake or milksnake, is a species of kingsnake. 24 subspecies are currently recognized. … The subspecies have strikingly different appearances, and many of them have their own common names. Some authorities suggest that this species could be split into several separate species. They are not venomous or otherwise dangerous to humans.

… Due to the many colors of the eastern milk snake (L. t. triangulum), it can resemble the coral snake, corn snake, fox snake, scarlet snake, and most importantly, the venomous snake genera Agkistrodon [cottonmouths, copperheads, and moccasins] and Sistrurus [a pit viper genus]

(On the corn snake, see my 5/23/17 posting “Corn snakes and eggplants”.)

So, it starts with ageless cartoon characters. And ends with snakes.

One Response to “Age cannot wither them”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    There are a few comic strips that I read in which the characters do age, and some others in which there’s evidence of time passing, although it doesn’t seem to result in aging.

    In both Doonesbury and For Better or for Worse, time seems to pass more or less in real time. Or it did, before the authors of both strips stopped writing new copy and started rerunning old strips.

    In Arlo and Janis, one could observe the title characters’ son and his contemporaries growing up — I believe Jimmy Johnson has said that time passes at about two-thirds speed — but Gene hasn’t been seen for a while.

    Jump Start‘s kids are getting older (they’ve added a few since I started reading it), although I’m not sure of the scale (and the twins seem to still be infants several years after their initial appearance).

    Then there are other strips whose characters age may not wither, but custom definitely stales their far-from-infinite variety.

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