I was surprised to read recently that not only has Archie Comics introduced a gay character into the feature, but that Archie is now married and his teacher Mrs. Grundy had died of cancer. The idea, says an Archie Comics artist, is to make comic book classics “more contemporary and relevant,” always a smart idea these hip days.
In an effort to keep up with a few old comic book favorites of my youth, I found that similar radical changes in their once-amusing lives have been happening since I last read them half a century ago. I’m well aware how action heroes like Superman, Batman and Spider-Man have been updated on stage and screen, but hadn’t realized other popular comic book characters have been updated to seem more modern and socially relevant:
* Blondie finally decided to leave Dagwood after she revealed her 54-year affair with Herb Woodley next door. (How else could she stick with such a doofus husband?) Hapless Dagwood (who Blondie says was an abusive manic-depressive) was let go from his job at the A.C. Dithers Company–not for incompetence but due to downsizing. He is now in a homeless shelter and a methadone program. The Dithers company itself is in Chapter 11 and Mr. Dithers has severe dementia. Blondie, meanwhile, died her hair purple, wears lip and eyebrow rings and has become an environmental activist. Their daughter Cookie is a lesbian aroma therapist in Berkeley and Alexander left home at 14, joined the Crips and is serving a 15-year sentence for severely beating up Charlie Brown.
* Little Lulu took to the streets at 16, with Tubby acting as her pimp. She tried to make it as a porn star, and then had a brief marriage to Sluggo, who was dumped by Nancy after a 24-year relationship that was going nowhere. Lulu was last heard from singing with a punk band in San Francisco. Fritzi Ritz has been married seven times, once to Joe Palooka (now a pro wrestler working for $50 a match in Reno) and once to Popeye, who left Olive Oyl, a recovering anorexic who peddles jewelry in Venice, Calif.
*As for Popeye, he and Wimpy opened a bait shop and burger joint in Cape Cod, but it went under after seven months. Popeye sued Wimpy for non-payment of debts allegedly to buy hamburger meat, and now runs a tattoo parlor in Tijuana with Swee’pea.
* Donald Duck became an angry rightwing fanatic and had a quack show on an Orange County FM station before being arrested for trying to blow up an abortion clinic in Glendale. His nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie opened a deli that was bought out by Scrooge McDuck, now a major GOP fund-raiser. Minnie Mouse died after a botched breast implant procedure. Daisy Duck, still struggling to make it in cartoons, is a gun-toting fundamentalist in Boise, Idaho.
* Dick Tracy also fell upon hard times after Tess Trueheart split with Flat-Top and he now works as a bouncer in Mutt & Jeff’s, a gay bar just off the Jersey Turnpike. Mutt was murdered while coming out of the bar one night at 3 a.m. and Jeff had a sex-change operation but just switched back to be eligible for the Old Comic Book Heroes Home.
* When Mickey Mouse’ career went south, he opened a head shop in Anaheim, was arrested and became a panhandler outside Disneyland, where he now poses for photos for spare change. He left Minnie in 1984 for Petunia Pig, who left home after Porky announced he was gay and later moved in with Pluto. Goofy was diagnosed with severe autism, but found work as a greeter at a comics-challenged clinic for funny paper characters that have gone astray, unable to handle the struggles of modern American life.
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