11 Things You Might Not Know About Blondie

King Features Syndicate
King Features Syndicate

For close to 90 years, Chic Young’s comic strip Blondie has been a constant in newspapers around the world, reaching an estimated 280 million readers in 55 countries. Despite its title, most readers are probably more familiar with Blondie’s husband, the sandwich-consuming Dagwood. Check out some facts about the comic’s origins, its feature film franchise, and a very unfortunate incident involving a dirty word that rocked Blondie's readership to its core.

1. BLONDIE WAS INSPIRED BY 1920S FLAPPERS.

IDW/King Features Syndicate

Before Blondie debuted in 1930, cartoonist Chic Young had attempted to create a female-driven strip without a lot of success. Titles like Beautiful Bab and Dumb Dora were some of the more unfortunate ideas, with Young preoccupied by the notion of having a vapid leading lady. For Blondie, Young initially pursued the “dumb blonde” stereotype before dialing down the chauvinism and allowing the single, mingling Blondie Boopadoop to appear at least as intelligent as the succession of boyfriends courting her in the strip. Later, Blondie would become the voice of reason [PDF] to fiance Dagwood Bumstead’s bumbling presence, inverting the gender roles of Young’s previous strips.

2. YOUNG SOLD THE STRIP BY SENDING EDITORS A PAPER DOLL OF BLONDIE IN LINGERIE.

For the debut of Blondie, Young’s syndicate, King Features, launched an aggressive mailing campaign in an effort to entice newspaper editors to pick up the strip. Editors first received a letter “announcing” the engagement of Blondie and Dagwood, which was followed by protestations from the Bumstead family and eventually a cardboard suitcase that cautioned them not to peek inside. Naturally, everyone did. Inside was a paper doll cutout of Blondie wearing lingerie, with her “wardrobe” (more paper doll clothing) included.

3. DAGWOOD WAS ORIGINALLY THE HEIR TO A RAILROAD FORTUNE.

He might strike you as incapable of tying his own shoes, but there was a time when Dagwood Bumstead carried real potential. Instead of his current working-stiff incarnation, Dagwood was originally heir to his billionaire father’s railroad fortune. But when he married Blondie in 1933, the Bumstead family effectively disowned him, fearing Blondie was only out for his money. The couple’s move to the middle class was Young’s way of acknowledging the fallout of the Great Depression.

4. DAGWOOD WENT ON A HUNGER STRIKE IN ORDER TO MARRY BLONDIE.

With the Bumstead family highly skeptical of Dagwood’s plans to marry Blondie, the would-be groom decided to earn their blessing by going on a hunger strike that played out in real time. For 28 days, Dagwood refused to eat and grew frail until his family finally consented to the marriage. The narrative stunt drew the attention of new readers, raising Blondie’s profile on the comic pages.

5. DAGWOOD AND BLONDIE SCANDALOUSLY SLEPT IN THE SAME BED.

King Features Syndicate

For a good portion of the 20th century, it was seen as proper to depict married couples on television or in comics as sleeping in twin beds, eliminating any hint of carnal activities happening off-screen. (Or in this case, off-panel.) But Young thought this was juvenile and insisted that Blondie and Dagwood appear sleeping in the same double bed. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two had their first child, Alexander, in 1934.

6. THE EARLY STRIPS HAD AN UNFORTUNATE PREOCCUPATION WITH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

While Blondie and Dagwood got along without incident, the same couldn’t be said for another couple featured in the strip’s early years. One of Blondie’s earlier suitors, Hiho, married girlfriend Betty and the two became supporting characters in the strip. Hiho and Betty had what could be considered a tumultuous relationship, with each threatening to punch out the other on a regular basis [PDF]. Young eventually phased the two out, replacing them with far less volatile Bumstead neighbors Herb and Tootsie Woodley.

7. DAGWOOD ENDORSED NUCLEAR POWER.

After the atomic bomb was dropped twice to bring an end to World War II, American citizens understandably grew skittish about the ramifications of wielding such power. To ease their minds, the U.S. military partnered with Young to produce 1949’s Dagwood Splits the Atom, a “fun” booklet that sees the character shrunk down in size to help readers understand atomic power and nuclear fission. Although other comic characters like Popeye appear, it’s Dagwood who has the honors of blowing a neutron into a uranium atom in order to split it.

8. YOUNG’S DEATH PROMPTED NEWSPAPERS TO DROP THE STRIP.

Although Young’s son Dean had been working on Blondie and was prepared to take over writing duties when his father passed away in 1973, newspapers weren’t so sure. According to Young, more than 600 papers canceled the strip when his father died, fearing it would suffer a drop in quality. Young persevered and eventually won over the naysayers, reclaiming space in the papers and adding several hundred more. (Currently, Young writes the strip and artist John Marshall illustrates.)

9. THE STRIP LAUNCHED 28 FEATURE FILMS.

In 1938, with Blondie firmly entrenched on the comics pages, King Features and Young agreed to license the strip to Columbia Pictures for a series of live-action feature films. The movies were shot quickly and economically with stars Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake portraying Blondie and Dagwood, respectively. The studio produced 28 features between 1938 and 1950. Attempts to adapt the comic to television were less successful. A 1954 pilot was unaired, while a 1957 series lasted just one season. Another 13-episode iteration was produced in 1968-69, with Bruce Lee appearing as a karate instructor in the last episode.

10. THE STRIP CAUGHT FLAK FOR USING A DIRTY WORD IN 2004.

With their relatively trivial subject matter, comic strips rarely have the potential to offend. A 2004 Blondie entry proved to be an exception. In the strip, a character uses the word “scumbag” to describe a baseball umpire. Readers wrote in to Dean Young to lodge complaints, with Mr. Young and his proofreaders apparently unaware that “scumbag” is a euphemism for a used prophylactic.

11. ALMOST EVERY COMIC STRIP CHARACTER AROUND DROPPED IN FOR THEIR 75TH ANNIVERSARY.

King Features Syndicate

Before shared universes were a thing, Blondie’s 75th anniversary strip published September 4, 2005 had a cameo from virtually every notable comic strip character past and present. As Dagwood and Blondie hold up a cake—shaped like a sandwich, naturally—they’re surrounded by Ziggy, Garfield, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Dilbert, and dozens of others. In the weeks leading up to the strip, the comics pages were full of Blondie references and sight gags.

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

PBS Will Air A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas, Saving the Holiday Season

Charlie Brown and friends ready for a feast.
Charlie Brown and friends ready for a feast.
Apple TV+

Last month, it was announced that the Peanuts holiday specials for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas wouldn’t air on network television this year, breaking a tradition that began more than 50 years ago. Instead, they’d be available to stream on Apple TV+. Even though non-subscribers would be able to view the programs for free on certain dates, the news still caused a small uproar across social media.

Now, PBS is here to save the day. As Deadline reports, Apple TV+ has given the channel permission to air A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) once each, without ads. PBS and PBS KIDS will broadcast A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving on Sunday, November 22, at 7:30 p.m. EST; A Charlie Brown Christmas will follow a few weeks later on Sunday, December 13, also at 7:30 p.m. EST. Not only will the broadcasts help foster a collective holiday spirit at a time when families might not be physically together, but they’ll also give people without access to Apple TV+ an opportunity to enjoy the specials.

Though the shift to streaming upset some Peanuts fans, it’s not the first time that the rights have changed hands. CBS originally produced and premiered the holiday specials beginning in the 1960s, but they gave the reins to ABC in the early 2000s. Whether the PBS broadcast will become a new annual tradition remains to be seen; in the meantime, all Peanuts content, new and old, will live on Apple TV+.

If you can’t catch the holiday specials on PBS this year—and if you can access Apple TV+—feel free to stream A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for free from November 25 to November 27, and A Charlie Brown Christmas from December 11 to December 13.

[h/t Deadline]