What if comic strip characters aged normally?

Published 11:17 am Thursday, November 15, 2018

Did you realize that November 24 marks the 100th birthday of the venerable (and still-published) comic strip “Gasoline Alley”?

Besides presenting wholesome depictions of small-town life, “Gasoline Alley” has reveled in the distinction of being the first comic strip to let characters age normally. The clock started ticking on Valentine’s Day, 1921 when bachelor Walt Wallet found an abandoned baby (eventually nicknamed “Skeezix”) on his doorstep.

For the past half-century, I myself have enjoyed learning more about the Wallet family tree (even though I wish Sen. Elizabeth Warren would quit insisting, “Well, I was always told that I was part of the Wallet family – or Michael Doonesbury’s third cousin twice removed or SOMETHING”).

On the other hand, I am relieved that only a handful of other strips (such as “Funky Winkerbean”) have tried letting their cast grow older. What would it be like if all cartoonists started letting the calendar guide the destiny of their characters? A few possibilities spring to mind:

– “Garfield”: Years of neglected dental care leave the fundamentally flawed feline consuming his lasagna intravenously.

– “Blondie”: Mr. Dithers dies from a broken foot after kicking a goofing-off-past-retirement-age Dagwood in the titanium posterior.

– “Hi and Lois”: Baby Trixie, all grown up, joins a class-action lawsuit concerning the skin damage caused by Mr. Sunbeam.

– “B.C.”: Our heretofore urbane cavemen get stuck in the crotchety rut of ranting to their descendants about having to walk to school in an Ice Age, uphill both ways.

– “Hagar the Horrible”: everyone’s favorite Viking forgets why he entered Greenland.

– “Popeye”: The salty sailor, Wimpy and Bluto all get conked in the head with a can of spinach after Olive Oyl laments that gravity is taking its toll and no one can tell the difference.

– “Peanuts”: Aging characters get loaned out for the animated TV special “It’s The Fiber-Rich Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

– “Mutts”: A little pink sock is no longer good enough for Mooch the cat. Now it has to be a prescription orthopedic pink sock.

– “Zits” and “Baby Blues”: They get renamed “Age Spots” and “Cataracts R Us,” respectively.

– “Big Nate”: Spirited sixth-grader Nate actually outlives his Permanent Record.

– “Prince Valiant”: Val’s trademark bowl-cut hairdo sort of migrates from his dome to his ears, and only the fabled Singing Sword can keep them trimmed.

– “Andy Capp”: that irrepressible English ne’er-do-well introduces the Lexit movement‒ as his liver exits his body when he is tossed from the pub. High jinks ensue.

– “Marmaduke”: the owners of the boisterous Great Dane’s great-great grandson must use a hoist to lift him onto unsuspecting visitors.

– “Dilbert”: the hapless engineer suddenly realizes that he has spent the past 15 years in a casket instead of a cubicle. Potato, po-tahto.

– “The Family Circus”: the only dotted lines Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and P.J. must worry about are the ones on the document giving medical power of attorney to their own children. (“Which one of you is itching to pull the plug on me?” “Ida know.” “Not me.”)

– “Dick Tracy”: the chisel-chinned cop doggedly pursues his rogues gallery of grotesque villains, but only if he can drive 30 miles per hour in the passing lane.

Don’t even get me started on “Ziggy!” He already forgets to wear pants! Can you imagine…

See you in the funny papers!