Life in the Slow Lane

OK, enough about D-Day. Today’s “old” comic strip is from this past September, and in color at that. From the time I became a comic strip creator, I have sensed there is a trap in characters that never age. People in general tend to establish careers and families as young adults, and that includes comic strip authors. Like other writers, cartoonists write what they know. For these reasons, there has always been an abundance of comic strips about young families and children, and there have always been 70-year-old cartoonists still drawing comic strips about babies in diapers. It’s not entirely their fault. More than patrons of any other medium, readers of newspaper comics seem to expect the same thing on a daily basis. Not all of them, but enough of them that one cannot blame a working cartoonist for doing what it takes to bring home the bacon. Some comic strip authors sense this trap and try to avoid it by allowing characters to age in something like natural time. That has its own traps. We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “Life in the Slow Lane”

  1. Gasoline Alley is the oldest running-in-real-time strip that I read. The cast of characters has grown with new generations of kids, grandkids, etc. But the oldest character of all passed 100 several years ago. I wonder how much longer old Walt will stick around?

  2. My thought exactly Trucker
    But what would the strip be without Walt (and some of the other characters) somewhere in the background.
    Joel & Rufus
    .
    Just 17 days until the big celebration of Skeezix and Nina’s 75th wedding anniversary! (comment at strip)
    .
    I had a crush on Clovia when I was a kid

  3. For Better or Worse aged their characters in near real time. Including pets who died and family who died in strip. She ended strip but then rebooted it including being able to edit it and change a little. Do not know if plots changed?

    Interestingly I saw article on this comic but did not read on this very subject recently. I remember title asked question if this comic was an arcing soap opera or some such? Think it compared to a novel with four panels a day for years and years.

  4. I used to read Gasoline Alley about a half-century ago. My dad told me that he and Skeezix were the same age, which makes Skeezix about a hundred by now. Walt must be pushing 120. I agree with you, Old Bear – Clovia was a hottie. (Maybe still is, but I rarely see the strip anymore.)

  5. I don’t know much about Gasoline Alley, so I naturally made the mistake of googling images of “Clovia” just as my wife walked only to catch me checking out women’s underwear. I had some ‘splaining to do… ?

  6. Snuffy is coming up on his anniversary, and his artist, John Rose, has been doing guest appearances of characters from other strips. It’s fun to see who shows up next.

  7. Jimmy: Re cartoon characters aging/dying, don’t get any ideas about Gus. Face it…even at age 99, he’d still be the life of the retirement home.

    p.s. Jackie says no “Farleying” Ludwig, either.

  8. A perceptive post — I enjoyed it, and I read some of those strips every day even now. Jackie’s comment via Ghost on Farleying gave me a sad smile.

  9. Nancy. Think I learned “tunnerboomies” from Elaine. Learned a lot from her. Been having a grand time at Summer Theology Workshop, starting yesterday.
    Peace, emb

  10. Gasoline Alley has gone through periods where the aging effects slowed down, then abruptly moved forward when it was pointed out to the creators. Blondie started out in real-time, but once the kids reached their late teens, that timeline froze. There are a few strips like Baby Blues, Dick Tracy, Luann, and most recently of note, Heart of the City that, like Arlo and Janis, do move forward, but at a somewhat slower rate than real time.

    Often the illusion of the passage of time can be simulated by simply adding new members to the cast gradually, creating a sense of progress. There are many ways to make a strip seem to advance without actually going forward in time at all.

  11. I thought this would elicit a lot of comments. Ghost and I had interesting conversation on aging strips.

    Remember when Rex Morgan, M.D. finally married June Gale, R N. And they had baby? They must have been at least 70 and 60!! They had played fiotsie since 1950s I remember!

  12. Perhaps some cartoonists don’t allow their characters to age because they are nostalgic. I am that way to a degree. I wish that I could go back in time to the birth of my son and do everything all over again.

    Also, some cartoonists might not be enjoying growing older and don’t find it to be amusing. The pitfalls of aging are becoming more and more apparent to me, and there is not much that I am looking forward to.

  13. What about all the humor Geech had in there about seniors and aging? It was funny. So was Kudzu which did a lot of death jokes

    Well, maybe it just takes a southern cartoonist?

    Doonesbury creator is of southern origin as well. We see humor differently I think.

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