Blondie was created by my father, Chic Young, in 1930. Blondie began her cartoon life in the same flighty, pretty-girl flapper image of my fatherrsquos earlier strips (some of which, in his own words, were better not remembered!).
For historical purposes, they were: The Affairs of Jane, Beautiful Bab, and Dumb Dora(appropriately subtitled, Shersquos Not So Dumb As She Looks). Anyway, Blondie Boopadoop was a gorgeous flapper who had a ton of boyfriends…one of whom was Dagwood Bumstead. Dagwood, in those days, was the bumbling, playboy son of billionaire railroad tycoon J. Bolling Bumstead. In his town, J. Bolling not only owned all of the property on his side of the track, but also all the property on the other side of the track….plus 3,000 more miles of the track!
Dagwood wasnrsquot exactly a successful playboy. For instance, his polo pony would stop and eat grass in the middle of the field during a chukker. And once, when he became lost in his own mansion, he experienced the humiliation of having to join a sightseeing tour to get back to the living room.
All of a sudden, the Great Depression was upon us. With families facing disaster, farms being foreclosed, tenants being dispossessed, and nothing on the horizon but despair…this comic strip about a flighty blonde and her boyfriendrsquos millions was not so funny anymore. The Blondie magic began to evaporate as more and more newspapers dropped the comic strip. Blondie was headed for ignominious doom and extinction.
Then, a miracle happened! Blondie and Dagwood fell in love. Really in love. More than any comic characters before them. They made plans to get married which, at the time, was a bold departure in comics.
So, in true storybook fashion, love conquered all obstacles. After a tumultuous engagement that included a 28-day, 7-hour, 8-minute, 22-second hunger strike, these two unlikely misfits tied the matrimonial knot in the memorable comic strip wedding scene of Feb. 17, 1933.
Dagwood, of course, was immediately disinherited by his parents for marrying ldquothat gold digger blonde.rdquo When J. Bolling wrote him out of his will, Dagwood and Blondie had to go out into the world and hack it like the rest of us.
Settling down to a modest lifestyle with children and a dog, they became concerned with real life: making ends meet, raising a family, eating and sleeping. And, these four same topics are still the primary ingredients of the strip to this very day.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
My father was Chic Young, the original creator of the Blondie comic strip. My mother, Athel, was a concert harpist. They met at one of my mom’s concerts and two weeks later he proposed. We always had a big gold harp in our house and plenty of beautiful music swirling about …inciting my dad to remark, on more than one occasion, that my mom was always harping on something!
When I was 1 year old, our family moved to California. My parents wanted to be in Hollywood, where Columbia Pictures was about to begin filming 24 Blondie motion pictures starring Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton. Before my senior year of high school, we moved to Florida where I still live today.
After my graduation from college, I worked for an advertising agency in Miami. I was with the agency for a couple of years before moving on to become a sales promotion executive. When my father suggested that I come back home and work on Blondie with him, I couldn’t get packed quickly enough.
“On the job training” in my dad’s studio was fun! My dad and I worked a lot and we laughed a lot; it was a great production and a great father-son relationship. Some of the fun was that our studio was right on the bay. I invented a device that would ring a bell in the studio when a fish struck a line at the end of the dock. It was pretty exciting when the bell went off, and we would race out to see what it was. Usually it was a saltwater catfish or something else that we’d have to throw back, but occasionally we were rewarded with a nice surprise. In between the fun and games, my father taught me every little nuance about running a big-time comic strip.
I worked with my father for 10 years before his death in 1973. Blondie, at that time, appeared in 1,600 newspapers worldwide. In the weeks after my father’s death, however, more than 600 newspapers dropped the strip on the basis of his death alone. I was devastated in every way imaginable. The magic seemed gone and, as far as I was concerned, the strip was doomed.
In the following weeks, more and more newspapers dropped the strip. I was near rock bottom when the last words my father had spoken came back to me. Literally on his deathbed, he said, “Listen, don’t worry about the comic strip, if it seems funny to you, do it.” And so I started doing just that. If it seemed funny to me, I did it. My dad must have known what was in store for me, because his foresight turned out to be a beautiful piece of wisdom. Suddenly the magic was back…and so were the lost newspapers!
I am most happy, thrilled, and delighted that, in the years since, we have added more than 700 additional newspapers to the Blondie client list. I think some of that momentum can be attributed to the characters not becoming anachronisms. I’ve worked hard to keep the strip contemporary and when Blondie started her own catering business, it even created a national media frenzy, culminating with Peter Jennings’ selection of Blondie and me as World News Tonight’s “Persons of the Week!”
I am deeply indebted to three great artists who have labored on Blondie with me and contributed so much to its success. Jim Raymond, my father’s longtime assistant and artist, was my first collaborator. Jim’s brilliant artwork is the pantheon and serves, to this day, as the model for all of our graphics. After Jim’s death in 1989, Stan Drake assumed the artistic responsibilities until his death in 1997.
Today, Blondie head artist John Marshall and his assistant, Frank Cummings, are carrying on in the tradition of their predecessors and doing a most wonderful job.
When I’m not working on Blondie, my favorite activities are spending time with my family, spearfishing, skiing and playing chess. As for any resemblance I may have to Dagwood Bumstead…well, Dagwood and I both have “black belts” in buffet and we both like naps. But I believe that the biggest commonality has to do with the fact that we’re both family men, and I think the strip reflects that. I guess you could say that I’m Dagwood’s alter ego, but hopefully, with a little more finesse.
Awards and Distinctions:
Dean was voted a Jaycees Outstanding Young Man of America in 1968, was a National Society of Arts and Letters Gold Medal Winner, a distinguished LaGrange College Alumni Award winner, and “ABC Person of the Week” in 1991.
Being a state swimming champion in high school was the forerunner to his continuing passion for water sports in adult life. He was the State Spearfishing Champion of Florida for twelve consecutive years starting in 1973; competing in nine national championships. The Florida Skin Divers Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
John Marshall began his cartooning career at the age of 14. At the urging of his grandmother, he sent some cartoons to Parade magazine, where, to his surprise, he sold one. A few years later, he sold another cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post.
In 1976, after graduating with honors from Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., Marshall worked as art director at an advertising agency in Binghamton, N.Y. In 1980, Marshall began a career in freelance illustration and cartooning, lasting more than 20 years. Some of his many clients included IBM and General Electric. In 1982, he created the syndicated comic strip Buford. He has also illustrated two books on golf; one for Golf Digest.
Between 1989 and 2003, his editorial cartoons regularly appeared in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. He received an honorable mention in the New York State Associated Press Association Writing Contest in 1996. From 1994 to 2002, many of his editorial cartoons appeared yearly in Brook’s Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year. His cartoons have been reprinted in a variety of venues including the book “Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul.”
From 1994 to 2000, Marshall was the artist for Walnut Cove, a comic strip distributed by King Features Syndicate. In 2001, Marshall launched an online comic panel entitled The U.S. of Play, which appeared in syndication until January 2003.
Marshall began assisting on Blondie in December 2002 and became head artist in May 2005.