Snoopy’s Seven Siblings and Other Secrets From the Sunday Funnies
As early as the late 19th century, comic strips in newspapers have provided some much-needed humor for generations of children, adults and adult children. From the thrilling adventures of Dick Tracy to picturesque nature walks filled with philosophical banter between a six year old and his stuffed tiger, the Sunday Funnies offer loyal readers brief moments of pleasure and escapism from what’s written in the more dire sections of our regular newspapers.
As the Sunday Funnies and newspapers in general become obsolete, it’s important to acknowledge the game changers from this fleeting industry, especially as memes and .GIFs take over our collective attention spans. By taking a look at the progression of such legendary comic strips as Peanuts, Blondie and Beetle Bailey, we can observe how our collective preferences for kindness, representation and humility have evolved.
Charles M. Schulz Never Wanted to Call His Strip Peanuts
Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all the other kids from Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip were originally pitched as part of a series called Li’l Folks in 1950. When Schulz met with United Features Syndicate to take his strip nationwide, the company had trouble with the name.
Garfield Wasn’t the Star of His Strip for the First Two Years
Comedy can be a difficult formula to master. Sometimes it takes a few years to figure out what gets the most laughs. Take Garfield’s creator Jim Davis, for instance. When he first got into the Sunday Funnies in 1976, he chronicled the life of an ambitious cartoonist named Jon Arbuckle who had a sass-mouthed cat named Garfield.
Calvin and Hobbes Never Expanded Its Empire on Purpose
From 1985 to 1995, Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes beautifully explored philosophy, politics and family relationships through the eyes of a six-year-old boy and his stuffed tiger. The strip expertly dodged addressing current events and pop culture and created a timeless collection that still attracts new diehard fans year after year.
The Family Circus Used to Be Way More Risque
When we think of The Family Circus, we think of a wholesome husband and wife and their four harmless children. Sometimes their comics are so heartwarming and borderline religious that it wouldn’t be hard to believe if Ned Flanders from The Simpsons was making these comics.
Franklin’s First Appearance Came 18 Years After Peanuts’ Debut
Franklin Armstrong, Peanuts’ first and only African American character, made his debut after returning Charlie Brown’s lost beach ball. It seems like a friendly introduction of a new character nowadays, but his 1968 inclusion in the Charlie Brown world happened during the contentious Civil Rights era.
Uncle Duke Was Originally a Straightforward Caricature of Hunter S. Thompson
When Garry Trudeau launched Doonesbury in 1970, it stood out for its biting social and political commentary. It was its own unique blend of realistic cultural observations mixed with traditional comic-strip storytelling. The characters Trudeau developed were based on relatives, real-life politicians and even gonzo journalists.
Trudeau’s Doonesbury Was the First Comic Strip to Win a Pulitzer
Five years after Doonesbury’s debut, Trudeau was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. President Gerald Ford even confessed his appreciation for Doonesbury at the annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association dinner.
The Family Circus’ Circle Had a Point
Before The Family Circus was nationally circulated, Keane was experimenting with another idea called Spot News. His plan was to provide humorous commentary on current events, but it was hard to stay timely due to the six-week lead time of cartooning.
Garfield and Jon Actually Love Each Other
There’s a theory making waves online that Garfield secretly loves his owner. If you pay attention to his biggest enemies — Mondays and Jon’s other pets — you’ll notice a pattern. Mondays meant Jon had to go back to work, and Odie and Nermal would suck up time Garfield could have with Jon.
Ziggy’s Bizarre Appearance Was a Ploy to Make Us Love Him
Tom Wilson’s Ziggy first captured the hearts of Americans in his debut strip in 1971. Even though he lacked hair, pants, a neck and other basic essentials, Ziggy became a lovable and heavily merchandised brand frequently spotted at all of your aunty’s favorite greeting card stores.
Wilson Was Training His Ziggy Successor for Decades
Before Wilson died in 2011, he had long been training someone to take over his beloved comic strip. Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., had been drawing the comic strip with his father since 1987.
Both Calvin and Hobbes Were Named After Historical Figures
It’s no surprise a comic strip that frequently held psychological and philosophical discussions had characters named after big thinkers. Calvin was named after John Calvin, the controversial French theologian whose basic idea of humanity’s base state was "total depravity." That explains a lot about little Calvin’s aversion to all people throughout the series.
The Kingdom of Id Got Its Name From Sigmund Freud
Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t the only strip to include psychological themes. The Wizard of Id first debuted in the Sunday Funnies on November 16, 1964, and of course, the medieval citizens were largely driven by their basic urges, needs and desires.
Almost Every Comic Strip Celebrated The Wizard of Id’s 50th Anniversary
By its 50th anniversary strip in 2014, The Wizard of Id earned respect from other cartoonists for keeping a diverse cast of characters that expertly critiqued modern societal topics in their own medieval ways.
Woodstock Was a Cannibal?!
It’s true. Woodstock, the yellow-feathered friend of Snoopy, made his first appearance on April 4, 1967. He only speaks in "chicken scratch" in the comics, but Snoopy was always able to understand his loyal follower. But in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, we all knew what he was saying when Snoopy was carving a turkey — "Let’s eat!"
The Internet Was Really Happy When Cathy Came to an End
When Cathy ended its run in 2010 after 34 years in the Sunday Funnies, there was a rather unpleasant celebration around the internet. It turns out Cathy had more struggles to worry about than men, chocolate, work and her mother.
But Cathy Was, in Fact, Ahead of Her Time
When Cathy Guisewite debuted Cathy in 1976, there wasn’t a gag-a-day comic strip in the newspaper that offered the perspective of a more modern woman. There were plenty of wholesome housewives in Blondie, Hi & Lois and The Family Circus, but Cathy Hillman was different.
Hobbes Wasn’t an Imaginary Friend
For diehard Calvin and Hobbes fans, Hobbes’ place in the world is a point of frequent debate. Was he real and only visible to Calvin? Was he simply a stuffed animal? If you ask its creator Bill Watterson, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Snoopy Had Seven Secret Siblings
To fair-weathered fans of Charlie Brown and the gang, Snoopy appears to be the only animal in the group of large-headed children. However, die-hard fans who followed the strip for years will remember that Snoopy had a slew of siblings. Seven, to be precise.
You Won’t Find the Same Character Twice on The Far Side
Sunday Funnies fans rejoiced when Gary Larson debuted The Far Side in 1979, offering a daily dose of insanity courtesy of cavemen, demonic humans and anthropomorphic animals with plenty of attitude.
The Stegosaurus’ Tail Got Its Name From The Far Side
The Stegosaurus was a Late Jurassic dinosaur that had an intimidating set of spikes along its spine all the way down to its tail. As threatening as it was, its brain was the size of a lime, so Larson obviously had to poke fun at it.
There Have Been 45 Peanuts TV Specials
A Charlie Brown Christmas is arguably the most well-known of the Peanuts TV specials. It’s also the first of an astounding 44 additional Peanuts prime-time programs. Some have focused on holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween, but others focused on more serious topics, like 1990’s Why, Charlie Brown, Why?, where one of Charlie Brown’s classmates gets diagnosed with cancer.
Editors Received Scantily Clad Blondie Dolls in Order to Get Her in the Sunday Funnies
It was difficult for cartoonist Chic Young to get a female-driven comic strip in the newspapers back in the late 1920s. First, he attempted to pitch titles like Beautiful Bab or Dumb Dora, but no one was interested. When he developed Blondie Boopadoop, he had a marketing idea that apparently no old-timey newspaper editor could resist.
Blondie Was Originally Meant to Be the Clumsy Dunce in the Dagwood Family
Once Young’s disgusting ad campaign won the hearts (or loins) of several newspaper editors, Blondie’s "dumb blonde" and overly sexualized persona was deemed unfit for 1930’s funny pages. So Young made her virile husband Dagwood the bumbling fool, and Blondie evolved into the intelligent voice of reason.
Hägar the Horrible’s Horrible Drinking Problem
When Dik Browne invaded the Sunday Funnies in 1973, readers assumed they would witness weekly raids and pillages from wild Vikings. Instead, they were treated to a surprisingly relatable series of cheeky domestic disputes between Hägar and his wife, Helga.
Browne’s Daughter Also Schooled Him on Women’s Rights
Besides drinking, Vikings are often also associated with pillaging unsuspecting townspeople, which includes kidnapping helpless women. This barbaric display of garbage behavior somehow crept its way into some of Hägar’s earlier exploits.
Bill Watterson Returned to the Sunday Funnies Without Anyone Noticing
Watterson avoided the public eye throughout Calvin and Hobbes’ run in the Sunday Funnies, but after his comic’s run, he seemingly disappeared. That is, until 2014, when he surprisingly reappeared as a secret guest artist for three Pearls Before Swine strips.
Beetle Bailey Was Banned by the U.S. Military
Addison Morton Walker debuted his comic strip Beetle Bailey in 1950, which depicted life on a fictional United States Army post. The fumbling Private Carl James "Beetle" Bailey was a dimwitted goof-off who often got himself in trouble for his lazy antics. Little did Walker know that Bailey’s fecklessness would lead to some serious trouble.
Beetle Bailey Openly Battled PTSD
Walker’s comic was rarely meant to be taken seriously, but before his death in 2018, he wanted to honor the troops that have been through so much after following their lives for so many years. In 2013, he tackled the serious issue of veterans returning from battle with brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Post Office Has a Thing for Peanuts
No, we’re not talking packing peanuts. To commemorate the 65th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the United States Post Office issued a collection of stamps with images from the special in 2015. But it wasn’t the first edition of Snoopy stamps to go on sale.