This winter is a Walk-On-The-Wild-Side.  One day (well, kinda) the sun beats on you like a conk buster; the next, the chill wind takes a chunk out of you with its pearly whites. It’s a double bind, resolved only by wearing layers that you can add or shed, stowed in pocket or pouch.


The weather is ever-changing.  Connecticut feet thrash through snowbanks and lurch across icy  streets.  Mother Nature is behaving like the Katzenjammer Kids.  Hans and Fritz, those happy little savages, make their home a shambles and exasperate everyone with their hijinks. In the longest-running newspaper comic in history, the Katzenjammer family finally settles on a tropical island.  Cannibal Island.  With Long John Silver. And his Band of Pirates.  Mother Nature had it in for them too.

I loved these crazy kids.  They made the breakfast milk squirt through your nose.  Just recently, though, I indulged my curiosity and discovered that Katzenjammer is a combination of the German Katze , “cat,” and jammer , “distress.” As in, the howling of cats.  (It’s also German slang for a hangover.) The kids are irreverent tricksters with innocent faces who seldom get caught by the truant office, Der Inspector.  And their Mama turns a blind eye to her “liddle anchels.”

The writer, Rudolph Dirks, was inspired by the children’s story, Max and Moritz. He was one of the first comic writers to use a permanent cast of characters and put dialogue in speech balloons.  I wonder what Dirks would think about manga. And the book-sized volumes of it~ tankobon. Or a manga kissa ~ a cafe where people drink coffee, read manga and stay overnight. Think of it….Katzenjammer manga.  Now there’s a comic with Baditude!

I cut my reading teeth on TV ads ( All, Tide and Cheer introduced me to word families as the world turned) and then moved on to comics. Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty. Calvin and Hobbes. Kathy.  (I still can’t believe she hung up her pantsuit.)  Here’s my Top Ten List ( in no particular order) of long-running comic strips that made me smize.*

  1. The Family Circus
  2. Dennis the Menace
  3. Beetle Bailey
  4. Calvin and Hobbes
  5. The Katzenjammer Kids
  6. Archie
  7. Nancy
  8. Blondie
  9. Cathy
  10. For Better Or For Worse

Oh No! I can’t stop…………

  1. Little Orphan Annie
  2. Funky Winkerbean
  3. Garfield
  4. Zippy
  5. Bloom County
  6. Doonesbury

The Funnies. Dont’cha love ‘em? Beetle never gets older.  Hagar never gets bored with the same old Viking raids.

Farley the sheepdog saves a life.

Lacey Davenport struggles with Alzheimer’s.  Blondie gives us the Dagwood sandwich. Teacher Les Moore’s wife faces cancer.  Calvin, a carefree fatalist, and his buddy Hobbes toboggan away to forever go exploring.



A sequence of drawings. Interrelated panels.  Text in balloons.  A peek into the human condition.   A Mother Lode of Awesome.


Toni 1/26/11

*smile with my eyes…What comic makes you smize?



  1. My sisters and I loved Brenda Starr, Dondi, and The Jackson Twins. We wanted long eyelashes like Brenda, a boyfriend with big eyes like Dondi, and the everlasting bond of love and affection of the Jackson girls. We’d pass the funny pages around and ask each other during the day, “Did you see what happened to Brenda today?” And the smarts–we wanted to be clever and smart like these characters.

    One of the Jackson girls knew alot of science. At one point they were confined to a cave. Their kidnapper left them with matches. When the one twin started to light them so as to be comforted by the light, the other one–the one with the scientific bent–said, “Don’t. It’ll use up our oxygen faster.” For a while I used that particular gambit–matches use up oxygen–in the plot of my stories. Come to think of it, I still sometimes use a little science factoid to launch or turn a story. Hmmmm. I can now describe the literature that has influenced my writing. SMIZE.



  2. i was a too serious kid 😦 so i didn’t like the comics, movie cartoons or silly TV shows (I Love Lucy). i realize now that i missed a lot of smiles and smizes…maybe next time.


    1. Hi Ellie,
      There are miles of smiles waiting for you Right Now….That someday? it’s today. Sidestep that banana peel and watch The Three Stooges, Looney Tunes, Jack Benny or Lucy/Ethel on the line at the chocolate factory. (This is my free prescription for you, I’m kind of, not really, a doctor, but then aren’t we all? ) Do you remember Norman Cousins? Anatomy of an Illness is his memoir that put the humor/health connection on the map. Cousins described how he recovered from a usually irreversible and crippling connective tissue disease with a regimen that — among other therapies — included laughing at Marx Brothers movies. My suggestion: Comedy Central. Sooner Than Later.


  3. now,i do watch comedy central and love old carol burnett shows when i find them. i think i’ll order some lucy and jackie gleason cd’s too if they’re available. but then i’ll have to put down my serious books and watch them.

    i do remember norman cousins and the book about how he used laughter on his road to recovery.


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