Segregation in the soapy comics

Today’s Zippy takes us into the world of soap-opera comics, specifically those by Nick Dallis (with various collaborators):


(#1) Realistic cartoon characters from three Dallis strips: Rex Morgan, M.D.; Judge Parker; and Apartment 3-G (among other well-known soap opera strips: Mary Worth, Brenda Starr)

The characters in realistic cartoons are stylized sketches from life, while those in cartoony worlds are grossly exaggerated, some not even humanoid in form. Zippy himself is human (a Pinhead rather than a Roundhead) but cartoony — though as other Zippy strips have demonstrated, he can be made even more so (cartooniness is a recurrent theme in Bill Griffith’s world).

Then there’s the segregation theme, with realistic cartoon characters mostly taking the position that realistics and cartoonies shouldn’t mix in any way: stick / keep to your own kind! (Note the meta move of having cartoon characters espouse beliefs and attitudes about cartoon characters.) With the predictable tragedy of prejudice against mixed couples, joined by bonds of affection, sexual relationship, or matrimony.

Background: Dallis strips. From my 10/19/13 posting “In the comics world”, see the section on Nick Dallis strips.

Background: against exogamy and “mixing” in general. The exhortation to endogamy — to staying within your own clan, class, caste, ethnic group, religion, race, or other social group — was famously joined to the formulaic expression Stick / Keep to your own kind! in the song “A Boy Like That” from the musical West Side Story, which begins with Anita singing to Maria:

A boy like that
Who’d kill your brother
Forget that boy
And find another
One of your own kind
Stick to your own kind

A boy like that
Will give you sorrow
You’ll meet another boy tomorrow
One of your own kind
Stick to your own kind

You can watch the performance of the song in the 1961 film here (#2).

(The history of the formula isn’t important to my discussion here, but still I’m curious; I’ve inquired about it on the ADS mailing list, and hope to be able to report some responses as comments on this posting.)

Cartoonies as an underclass. The cartoon draws out an analogy between “inferior” races/ethnicities/classes in the US and cartoonishness in the comics. Realistics call for segregation, demanding that cartoonies be kept in their inferior places (literal places, locales, where they live; and figurative places, statuses, where they rank socially). They call for segregation and oppression.

But the story ever has been that attachments form even on the most barren and hostile ground. In particular, women realistics occasionally fall in love with male cartoonies, as in panel 3 — maybe not with Popeye, Homer Simpson, or Fred Flintstone, but with, say, Dudley Do-Right:


(#3) DD-R: flagrantly cartoony, and not very bright, but earnest and cheerful

While Griffith’s cartoon treats these matters with a light and mocking touch, I take him to be offering the analogy in urgent seriousness, as a highly compressed moral lesson in comic form. Good for him.

2 Responses to “Segregation in the soapy comics”

  1. [BLOG] Some Wednesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers models of segregation of cartoon characters from normal ones in […]

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From John Baker on ADS-L on September 20th:

    I see a few early examples of “stick to your own kind,” mostly on Google Books. It seems to show up mainly in romantic novels and stories.

    Joseph Altsheler, In Circling Camps: A Romance of the Civil War 28 (1900): “Stick to your own kind, I say, and you will be happier.” Commentary that an American woman should not marry someone suspected of being a foreign nobleman.

    Mary Moss, The Poet and the Parish 31 (1906): “You never get beyond wincing when they come out with the wrong word, the high school word. Correct in a dictionary, wrong in a parlour. Stick to your own kind, you’re really happier with them.” Advice that a woman would prefer a man of similar class and intelligence.

    George Pattullo, “Never Say Die!,” Sat. Eve. Post, June 8, 1912, at 8, 9: “”You stick to your own kind,” Michael admonished. “I won’t have none of my family mixing up with the likes of him. Sing? That dago yowls like a kiyote!”” An Irish-American father tells his daughter not to be interested in an Italian man who can sing.

    Peter Kyne, Webster – Man’s Man ch. 5 (1917) (Project Gutenberg): “”John, my dear boy, be careful,” Neddy Jerome counseled. Stick to your own kind of people-“” An older man counsels a young friend against a girl with a Spanish name.

    “Keep to your own kind” is also found, but may have a slightly different connotation.

    Annie Miller, Barbara Thayer: Her Glorious Career, a Novel 39 – 40 (1884): “But I will not encourage you in an entanglement with her. Keep to your own kind of women, and I’ll not interfere; but you shall not have the opportunity to try any of your arts – even painting – on her.” An older woman warns a frivolous young bachelor not to have a flirtation with an unsophisticated girl.

    Gertrude Brownell, The Truth about Camilla 63 (1913) (ellipsis original): “”I wish you to learn the danger there is in making love to . . . to tigresses! Will you remember hereafter-” His head was suddenly clutched, he felt claws through his hair, “to keep to your own kind, and let along such creatures as could eat you at a bite? A man should be the stronger, while you – I could dare, fight, love, ten to your one.”” A woman warns away a man she thinks beneath her.

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