Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of things come and go; Hula – Hoops, vinyl records, poodle skirts, Madras shirts and Gantt pants just to name a few. But there are some things that we had back in the day that have stood the test of time and still are with us today. One of those hallmarks of our times is the Sunday Morning Comics.
We called them by many names; Sunday funnies, the funny papers or simply the funnies. But they were there in all their glorious color, even back when newspapers published only in black and white. The comics were always in color, at least as far back as I can remember. Sunday mornings would find us rising early, making breakfast, going to church then while Mom, made the family Sunday dinner, Dad would keep us kids from getting underfoot by gathering us all on the couch and reading us the Sunday comics. We must not have been the only family in town that had the Sunday morning comic tradition; WMBR radio’s Tommy Tucker read the comics to the city’s kids every Sunday morning. Sometimes we would get back home after church in time for Tommy’s reading but if we didn’t Dad would fill in with what we missed. I was 7 or 8 back in those days and I was still learning to read. I remember, even after Dad and Tommy were finished, going back over the comics, reading every panel and forming the words for myself. I guess it could be said that the Sunday Morning Comics were instrumental in my early education.
I remember fondly those early strips; Little Iodine, Mutt and Jeff Little Orphan Annie, The Phantom, Prince Valiant, Buz Sawyer, Alley Oop, Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, Popeye, Marmaduke, Pearls Before Swine, Captain Easy, Buck Rogers, Tarzan and The Adventures of Tintin, Judge Parker, Blondie (named Dagwood in the very early days), Mary Worth, Dick Tracy and his faithful Sam, Bringing Up Father, Buck Rogers, Captain Easy, Flash Gordon, Pogo and one of my favorites, Jimmy Hatlo's They'll Do It Every Time. Many of these strips have long since faded into the mists of time but are some still being published today.
Even when I went to college, I would always find a copy of the comics, usually in the cafeteria, courtesy of some kind soul who would leave it neatly folded on the edge of one of the long communal tables that we had back then. For a few minutes before lunch, I would be transported back to that magical time with Dad’s voice ringing in my ears as I poured over my favorite strips. Well, most of them. This is when I discovered that the strips in the comics were not the same nationwide. Two of my favorite strips in The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Prince Valiant and the Phantom were not carried by The State in Columbia. I sorely missed them but they were replaced by new favorites. When I am back in Jacksonville, even today, I can see those old favorites again.
The comic pages themselves have changed significantly too. The pages of my youth were plenty and bountiful. The comic section contained four or five pages with comics on both sides with three panels per side. Today, there are only two pages with five or six strips per page. This means that the panels themselves are typically much smaller and therefore harder to read. With the ravages of time and the economy taking toll on the comics, they are but a faint replica of those glorious pages of my youth!
But that doesn’t stop me. Every Sunday morning, after my pancake breakfast, I recline in my easy chair and carry on my lifelong tradition of reading the Sunday Morning Comics. A smile crosses my lips as I read the new and the old with my Dad’s voice and that of Tommy Tucker ringing in my ears. Oh MY!