(This is the last in a series of interviews I did with cartoonists in 2003 for the Post-Star of Glens Falls, NY. It was roughly timed to co-incide with Blondie and Dagwood's 75th anniversary strip, which we ran extra-large by dropping a half-page of ad space in the Sunday comics section and rotating it 90 degrees so it took up the space normally given to three Sunday strips. The Library of Congress has strips from the early years of Blondie here.)
The year was 1933, and Blondie Boopadoop was making a momentous change in the comic strip that bore her name.
After three years of a very active social life, the beautiful young flapper married the man of her dreams, the son of multi-millionaire J. Bolling Bumstead.
They married, however, under a cloud of disapproval. Bumstead disinherited his son, and guests at the wedding gossiped in the pews. "What a pity!" said one guest, while another murmured, "They'll never be happy, mark my words!"
For nearly 75 years, Blondie and Dagwood have been proving them wrong, including nearly 64 years in the pages of The PostStar.
"Blondie'' first appeared in The Post-Star in December 1939, joining a page that included "Popeye," "Henry," "AlleyOop" and "Buck Rogers, 25th Century A.D.," as well as lesser known strips "Etta Kett," "Muggs and Skeeter," "Brick Bradford" and "The Old Hometown."
There aren't many strips older than "Blondie," but, more to the point, there aren't many that have maintained its freshness.
Dean Young, son of "Blondie" creator Chic Young and the strip's current head writer, knows how lucky he is.
"He created this fabulous cast of characters," he says. "When you put them together, sparks fly. Monkeys could do this!"
Perhaps so, but Dean Young put in an apprenticeship that made him an expert in the strip.
It began with growing up as the son of a famous cartoonist. Not only was "Blondie" a wellloved strip, but it spun off a series of 28 popular comedy films, a radio program and two attempts at a TV series.
Dean also helped out around the studio, though he didn't plan to follow his father's footsteps. "When I graduated, I had the crazy idea that I wanted an ad agency," he says.
He got his wish and even rose to a partnership, but "I just wasn't happy," he now confesses. "My father saw that and asked me to come back and work with him."
For the next decade, until Chic's death in 1973, they worked as partners, and then Dean took over the strip. Today, he works with artist Denis LeBrun, but the secret of "Blondie's" continued success began back in 1933, when Blondie's marriage revived the fading strip.
"We've always worked hard at not being an anachronism," Dean Young said. "We're constantly reinventing ourselves. There have been changes in hair, in clothes, and there have been references to the Osbournes, the Homeland Security. We try to be topical, to keep it fresh and alive."
That first change was in reaction to the Great Depression, when people were no longer amused by the excesses of a silly, pretty girl and her rich, foolish boyfriend. Blondie and Dagwood struggled along with the readers, trying to pay their bills and living in a small house with all the frustrations of real life.
Chic Young also made a decision to stop aging the strip. The Bumstead children, Alexander and Cookie, had grown from infants to teenagers, and that was where they stopped. At that point, Elmo, the annoying neighbor boy, was added to provide little-kid humor.
For years, "Blondie" strips also featured Daisy and her clamoring brood of pups, but the pups are gone now.
"There were always five puppies, and, in today's comic strips, that's an almost insurmountable challenge. There's just no room for that much detail," Dean Young says, then adds. "I think the pups are now living in all the neighborhood homes."
In the past decade, the strip has seen other changes, too. In 1995, Blondie made headlines by going into the catering business, which provides new gags as she and her partner, Tootsie, deal with the odd requests of customers, and, of course, Dagwood's tendency to consume the inventory.
"We've also added the carpool," Dean Young says. "The carpool added some more characters for us, and, besides, the bus had to go. Nobody takes the bus to work anymore."
Dagwood's carpooling friends can handle all the gags that formerly involved strangers on the bus, plus they can add some based on their own personalities, as well as their collective annoyance with the never-prompt Bumstead.
But some things in "Blondie" have not changed over the years.
If Blondie herself somehow changed from a blonde Clara Bow into a blonde Jane Russell over the years, only readers old enough to know who those women were will have noticed, and most of them would associate her with yet another actress of the past: Myrna Loy, the perfect wife and mother, who always manages to get her way without ever losing her appeal.
After all, it was the gorgeous Blondie Boopadoop Bumstead who, as they ran through the rice back in 1933, said to her new husband, "You'll help me with the dishes, won't you darling?"
And he has been, for nearly 75 years.