“Who are these people?”

For a comic strip that has been around as long as it has, Arlo & Janis is blessed with a steady influx of new readers, especially on the Web. Occasionally, when events skip from the title characters to their son and his family, many of those new readers are left asking, “Who th’ heck are these people, and where is Arlo & Janis?” Now this will be a snooze for most of you, who’ve been reading A&J for a long time, but I thought it would be fun to take time on the blog today to introduce those other people in Arlo & Janis.

We must begin, of course, with Gene. Simply, Gene is the son of Arlo and Janis. For years in the strip, he was an almost daily presence, playing the role of the precocious little boy. But the characters age in A&J, if not in real time something close to it. Eventually, he went off to college, but he spent his summers working in a seafood restaurant “on the coast” that belonged to the family of a childhood friend. You might rightly ask, “What coast?” It’s never specified, but I grew up visiting the beaches of the northern Gulf Coast, from Gulfport to Apalachicola, so I suppose influence from that area is inevitable. You are free to insert the coast of your choice.


That childhood friend was Mary Lou. Mary Lou grew up on the beach, and she and Gene first met when they both were about 12 years old. They may have been the same age, but when it came to “precocious,” Mary Lou was far beyond young Gene. Yet, they bonded as friends. For several years, Gene would return to the beach with his vacationing parents and renew his acquaintance with Mary Lou. However, “Lou,” as she’s sometimes called, was destined for a life crisis of her own, and the two drifted apart briefly. The age of digital communication being what it is, though, they never lost touch completely, and by the time Gene the college boy arrived to work at her family’s restaurant, they were in love. Having weathered her crisis, Mary Lou played a large role in the day-to-day running of her father’s restaurant and initiated Gene into the demanding business of hospitality.


That “life crisis” was Meg, Mary Lou’s daughter. An intelligent and good-natured only-child, she literally grew up in the family business. She spent many hours doing homework and coloring in her grandfather’s cluttered office, and she sometimes lagged for quarters with the bus boys behind the restaurant. To further amuse herself, she would sit in a booth at slow times and bundle silverware and napkins. To be sure, she inherited the family work ethic, but the child in her took immediately to the child in Gene. They’ve been buds from the time they met. And, no, Gene is not Meg’s biological father, since it often is asked.


Gus is the patriarch of the coast clan, Mary Lou’s father and Meg’s grandfather. Starting from nothing, “Pop” has owned and operated a series of motels and restaurants along the coast. He owned the motel where Gene’s family stayed on several of their vacations, which is why Mary Lou was living at the beach when she and Gene met as children. Actually, Gus’ real business all along was real estate, as he sold one concern and purchased another. That beach property you wish you’d bought back when it was dirt cheap? Well, Gus did buy it, and he’s done quite well. After the kids married, Gus made Mary Lou and Gene partners in his popular restaurant, and when he sold the site to developers he rewarded their hard work generously. It was this largess that is bankrolling their current dream of living for themselves on their small farm. A no-nonsense man with an infinite love for his daughter and granddaughter, Gus is one of my favorite characters.

Well, that’s about it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief recap. I would like to remind everyone that there’s one more week in the Kickstarter campaign to resurrect the parsonage in Camp Hill. If you’re interested, click on the link below. If nothing else, check out the video! I worked a long time on that sucker, believe it or not!

The Return of an Undead Building

Buy the new book, "Beaucoup Arlo & Janis!"Today's "Arlo & Janis!"

123 thoughts on ““Who are <em>these</em> people?””

  1. Good am. Been a long time reader but it was good to read the Bios. Like watching TV reruns in the summer. There are somethings you forget the first time and you enjoy seeing it again. Would like to see more of Gene and his family.

    Reply
  2. Gosh, Jimmy – you ARE up early! The bios of the other Day family is a nice touch. Always good to visit with old friends and far-away family…

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  3. Wow! A red-letter day at arloandjanis.com! Wonderful, these bios, Jimmy! I’ve been reading your work for years, but I did not recall Meg lagging for quarters or that Gus made money via real estate, exactly.

    You know, these are all such good people you’ve invented. No wonder we all keep coming back for more. Hope there are lots of newbies starting to read you. Two more things:

    “Picking and Grinning” is a great moniker for their produce stand—especially compared to that limp “Garden of Eatin'” one of them was throwing around once.

    But now to find out there really is picking there—what a cool surprise! Wow, Mary Lou and Gene are smart at beating the bushes for business. Ya gotta be. You know.

    Reply
  4. Gus reminds me of “Mike”, the Greek, who owned the Outrigger on Pensacola Beach back in the 60s. I was a pallbearer at his funeral. A great guy.

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  5. Just love your strip,….been reading it for a very long time…almost 80 yr old mother/grandmother/great-grandmother

    Thank you, Pat, and welcome! I hope you’ll visit us here again. I update more often than not. — JJ

    Reply
  6. Didn’t Gene have an older brother, way back when, or am I remembering a different cartoon?

    Gene never has had a sibling. You probably are thinking of ‘Zits.’ — JJ

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  7. Fran, that was in “Zits.” Jeremy had an older brother, Chad, who went off to college. (Remember the singing duo Chad and Jeremy from the ’60s?) He wasn’t actually written out, just stopped being mentioned.

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  8. Wow! Many people came out for this party! Great to have them. I’ve been reading A&J since the beginning since JJ is a fellow alumnus of Auburn University and I had a subscription to the Opelika/Auburn News back in the 70’s to keep up with all things Auburn. Keep up the great work, JJ and never forget: IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

    God bless us every one.

    P.S. If the Good Lord is willing, I have plans to attend my 50 year class reunion of the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine Class of 1967 in the Spring! WAR EAGLE !!!

    Reply
  9. Y’all need to stay around and keep partying. Must confess I like the matured Arlo and Janis far more than the early days. Oh lord, another pun! But I dislike “kid humor” so Gene improved with age.

    Pregnant Mary Lou was one of guttsiest arcs in comic history and Jimmy handled it so well. I loved her entire dysfunctional functioning family including Gus, the restaurant and the boat.

    The boat! The boats! What has happened to the boat?

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  10. Consensus seemed to be that Gene’s mysterious hair-color change was a syndicate colorist fail, which would have caused even more confusion and comment had it been corrected. Mary Lou has undergone more than one hair-color change, all of which have apparently gone unremarked. I wonder why. 🙂

    I believe we were recently promised an explanation of the schooner’s disappearance, but it has not yet appeared.

    Reply
  11. I’ve been reading Arlo & Janis since the 80’s and have 3 sons; age 34, 30, and 26. Gene has aged along with my sons. Stories reflected my son’s age but since Gene aged slower than real time, the comparison shifted from one son to the next. I always thought of Gus as being Greek like so many restaurant owners in Alabama and on the Gulf coast where I have lived fo

    Reply
  12. Guys, Jimmy’s Kickstarter fund raiser is at near $14,000.
    If you can, kick in a little more or kick in period, even if not huge amount. I had hoped he’d reach $20,000 and double his goal because this dream is selling hope. And hope is what faith and Christianity are about, should you want to view it in that respect.

    But think of it as a friend with a dream of leaving his town better than he found it. I like that.

    Reply
  13. I had a back story once, but a visit to my chiropractor fixed it.

    To those who just happened on the site, don’t worry, no purchase is required. If you love the strip, the book is great and well worth it. The kick starter project is also well worth it, but for a different reason.

    Reply
  14. Jimmy is shy about promoting himself. I am a semi retired huckster with few such inhibitions and we love Jimmy.

    Funny, no one must use huckster or inhibitions anymore, Hal didn’t know the way to spell. Oh right, it’s election year, so it’s normal behavior.

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  15. Inhibitions have fallen by the wayside. Someone posted on FB that we should not be attacking the two Presidential candidates character. My reply was “What character?” I would love to talk about the issues but both of these candidate’s characters are fatally flawed.

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  16. A friend posted a fully clothed Mrs. Obama and a totally nude possible First Lady. My observation was nudity was just fine with me but some how did not seem right for international diplomacy. Can you imagine the Queen in nothing or her husband?

    Or for that matter either of the candidates? This is no political statement, just under Ghost’s observation about those we don’t want to see without clothes. I don’t think we’ve had a President since JFK I would have wanted to see without clothes but perhaps the younger Bush?

    In case you wonder what this is about, look on Facebook or Twitter or just Google.

    Reply
  17. What color is Gene’s hair supposed to be these days? He started out black, then it was brown, and in today’s strip it was blonde. Is this an error by the daily colorer, or is he going through the rainbow of hair? Will he become a ginger? Or go grey early like Steve Martin?

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  18. I love the humor and loving relationships of this comics. The writer/artist is “spot on” with his observations of human behavior and he presents it with dry wit and subtle compassion. A long time fan. First thing I read daily. Way to go Jimmy!

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  19. I think, and hope, that Gus loves Gene almost as much as eh loves Mary Lou and Meg.

    And I meant to tell you, JJ, that the video was VERY impressive. It looks like the result of hard work.

    Reply
  20. Where I got this is a state secret.

    “WHOREHOUSE SUES LOCAL CHURCH OVER LIGHTNING STRIKE!

    What an interesting turn of events in Pahrump, Nevada…

    Diamond D’s brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business.

    In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding — with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

    Work on Diamond D’s progressed right up until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the whorehouse and burned it to the ground!

    After the brothel burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about “the power of prayer.”

    But late last week ‘Big Jugs’ Jill Diamond, the owner/madam, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church … “was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business — either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.”

    In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

    The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, “I don’t know how the hell I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork, that we now have a whorehouse owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that thinks it’s all bullsh*t.”

    Peace [piece?],

    Reply
  21. I recall reading some years ago that a female sex worker was running for mayor of the small Nevada community in which the brothel that employed her was located. I don’t if she was elected or not. I do remember thinking how refreshing it was to hear of a politician that actually admitted she was a…well, you catch my drift.

    Reply
  22. Why is it always the Baptists in those stories? Of course, it was a Baptist friend who told me this…

    “Jews don’t recognize Jesus. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope. And Baptists don’t recognize each other in a liquor store.”

    Reply
  23. Wait, he gave a mermaid a butt and tail and a small double chin? Ariel she isn’t?

    We always said Baptists wouldn’t look over the cloud they were on, they denied anyone else was there with them.

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  24. Most entertaining comments as usual, and I need entertainment. Stuck in rehab after banging myself up in a fall. Not too serious but will take a while. I have an iPad now,nifty but hard to type on. More later. Love to all, Charlotte.

    Reply
  25. Since I’m Mormon and we’re supposed to abstain from alcohol:

    Q: Why should you always take two Mormons with you when you go fishing and hunting?

    A: If you only take one, he’ll drink all the beer.

    Reply
  26. Miss Charlotte, I could entertain you personally if you’d want to call me. Last night I was talking to Mark to assure him they had finally located my heart and I missed turn onto toll road, ending up on a dead end that turned into a dirt road into a wildlife preserve. I turned the truck around and backtracked.

    However, I saw possoms, lots, shunk.one, raccoons, lots, a fox, one, and something that looked like a large mink or small light colored otter. Normally I like to see deer but it was remote, dark and lightening, so glad not to meet Bambi nor his mother. I saw them the other night.

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  27. Yes, I asked the question today what will happen if we abstain? I cannot force myself to vote for either one. I want to be able to truthfully say “Don’t blame me, I didn’t elect them!”

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  28. Just Googled Mrs. Trump’s nude photos and saw them described as “raunchy” which I agree with. So, I read the original GQ article where they appeared. GQ has thoughtfully put the original article online so we can make up our own minds.

    Entire article is raunchy in truth. Prurient in fact. Think I got that right. She had not married Trump and I am not going into the hooked image conveyed.

    But I think the other candidates deserve equal time and uncover age. Bill has taken off a lot of weight, I say we get to see him spread on a fur rug or in a good string too.

    Reply
  29. Charlotte in NH, won’t Siri do voice to text for you? I got myself a Pebble Time Steel smart watch and it has one feature I am coming to like very much. I can reply to texts sent to my phone by pressing a button on the watch and dictating it. The watch shows me what the text looks like, and if I approve it, away the reply goes, without having to type anything. I like this watch because it is not trying to be smarter than me, nor to replace the smartphone. It’s just another tool. Sam’s had it for $99 plus tax/shipping, which is a good deal over the $249 list price.

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  30. Nah. Very few, if any, politicians would fall into the “would-like-to-see” category.

    And Jackie, there are other candidates. And the write-in option.

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  31. I have a friend loyally working away for Bernie and his grass roots campaign. With her teenage daughter. Of course her husband and his family, friends of mine, are the most wonderful and principled individuals, people to admire because they believe and go their own way, not how someone says they should.

    I admire people like that. They don’t just give up. Her in laws canoed down the Loire Valley, camping, in a canoe they built in France. We were to go but didn’t. Who do you think I admire?

    We seem to have lost that spirit, most of us.

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  32. Glad to hear from you Miss Charlotte

    Just keep on getting better –

    Did I overhear you say you were over Manchester way – or farther North?

    I don’t want to depress you but while shredding FIL old papers found a statement
    from Clinic. Only ID is 1st&last name and town (no ZIP) Nov 1965
    Clinic was in house on Main Street.

    Hospital Care Out Patient
    Repair laceration rt forearm $15.00
    Office call $ 3.00
    Office call remove stiches(sic) $ 3.00 week later

    EKG Xray (sic) $35.50

    I make no comment

    Reply
  33. I remember how excited I was to register to vote, it mattered to me. I tore down to the courthouse in that red convertible. And there were the armed Federal Marshalls and the lines of long roped off African Americans waiting to register to vote for the first time in my parish.

    It wasn’t deliberate on my part, although no one would believe that because I was known to believe in equal rights and support intergration. But I have never forgotten that day. For me it was a simple act. They moved me rapidly in and rapidly out and said leave. But for others that act took courage and had been a long time coming.

    I think of that when I am disinclined to exercise my right to vote.

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  34. How come the media ignore the other runners?

    Saw one the other day – roughly-
    “I try to balance my gaining election knowledge with losing my sanity”

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  35. GM Debbe

    Sounds if the cooler unit is a little oversized if it is keeping cooler
    AND packing room cool. You may want to close the cooler door a little more.
    Not good going from cold to HOT.

    Zen Wisdom wit a twist

    5.    Always remember that you’re unique. Just like everyone else.

    B’ugs

    Reply
  36. Old Bear, isn’t that amount about equal to a month’s pay in 1965?
    Jackie..who lost your heart?? Or is Hal playing jokes again? Either way I’m glad you’ve/they’ve found it.

    🙂 hugs all around!

    Reply
  37. Oops, I am on a other computer. I gave up being anonymous. The cardiology hospital couldn’t find my heart. They thought they were hearing a new slushing sound and wanted a test done. After a long time tech admitted she couldn’t find my heart most of time which I knew already. So we ended up with an IV and a contrast dye, she found what she was looking for and we all went home. Except the janitorial staff.

    Reply
  38. Men jumped into machinegun fire and landed in 10 feet of water while wearing 150 pounds of gear so that I could mark a ballot and stick it in the mail box. I can do that.

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  39. Jackie
    Beware that dye – that is what killed my father – it stopped his kidneys.

    Maybe because your heart is so big they failed to recognize it.

    Llee
    FIL was making $2.25/hr as a truck driver &
    trying to get egg business started with 1000 hens.

    My mother made $1000.00 a year (working full time) 1938
    entering ticker trades in a ledger.
    I cost $25.00 in 1942.
    Don’t know if folks were taken or I was a bargain at 2x price – jury is still out.

    Reply
  40. Good morning Villagers….

    Jimmy, thanks for the bios….very informing. Will we see more?

    Miss Charlotte, so good to read your post and see that you are improving…please stay in touch and keep us updated.

    Old Bear, so true about going from cool to hot and humid, I had a touch of pleurisy a few days ago, but it’s gone now.

    Going supply shopping today, want to replace the digital thermometer and relative humidity thingy dingy I had. Stupid me placed it out in the hen house one day last week on top of one of the belt units…..what did Ian do? Started blowing and didn’t see it and now it’s in the pit. Plus, I love spending the Boss’s money at General Dollar.

    And GR, you are so right about the other candidates and write ins….I plan on voting, going to start doing my homework on other candidates….hope others will too.

    Happy hump day

    Reply
  41. Now that you’ve got two families going, I’m a little surprised that there isn’t any “married people humor” featuring Gene and Mary Lou. After all, they’re a lot younger…

    I sorta miss the smart red-haired girl. (What was her name?) But I don’t see how you could bring her back without making a mess of things.

    Regarding what things cost in the old days, I always plug the numbers into http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare For instance, a BBC production showed a man slipping a 1 pound note to a barmaid as a tip/bribe — during WW II. Once I saw that is equivalent to 100 pounds now, its significance became much clearer.

    Reply
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