Monday, October 17, 2011

The Funnies (Funny Papers), Comic Strips, and Learning to Read

Known as today as the comics, Marash Girl's dad knew them as the funnies.  He would come home from work, exhausted, and after supper (he called it supper, even though it was a weekday), still at the table, before reading the tough stuff, he would turn to the page of  black and white funnies (usually 4 frames per episode) in Boston's daily, the Boston Traveler, Evening Edition. Terry and the Pirates (remember the Dragon Lady and the chicken that always ate the buttons that popped off of whose shirt was it?), Blondie (and Dagwood -- the Mashed Potato Sandwiches and the one day Dagwood, sick of Mashed Potato Sandwiches, threw away what turned out to be a Roast Beef Sandwich), Little Orphan Annie (and Daddy Warbucks and her dog Sandy - "Arf!") . . . those were Marash Girl's favorites, and, possibly her dad's.  That was way before Peanuts came to the fore.  

As a little girl, Marash Girl always wanted her dad to read the funnies to her, but looking at the strip of images he would say, "This man says Hello, and that one says Goodbye, Hello Goodbye!"  Well, Marash Girl knew from the images that more than Hello Goodbye was going on, and would beg her dad to unlock the secrets that the pictures and print suggested, but her dad held firm, and said, "Well, you'll have to learn to read, to read them!"  Although he expressed the opposite of today's methods of how to encourage a child to read, his method worked (thanks be to God!), and though not the funnies, Marash Girl is still reading (and writing) to this day.


  1. i remember dad saying that all too well. well, payback was in the offing with a five year old, moi, sitting on the kitchen floor with a book with a large print edition of little red riding hood in his hands. every other word, literally, i would ask mother or dad how to pronounce the word, and what the word meant. they could not back hand me with the comment of, 'go look it up in the dictionary', because for an illiterate five year old they were my dictionary. i was sans i phone, ipad, i anything, except for the little i on the floor sitting and grappling with every other word in 'little red riding hood'. the following year, was a year of marveling, as it was the year i reviewed a number of the books with whose words i had wrestled the year before, like Jacob with the angel. except in this match i did not limp off the victor. i strode off the playing field with a vocabulary that no longer needed assistance from mom and dad, and finding 'little red riding hood' simple and now boring because there was no overcoming involved. funnies might have been acceptable but comic books were not. the latter were verboten, absolutely; access to such had to wait for summer camp and the marketplace of campers weighted down with their 'possibles', an impossibility in our home, but a necessity for those flung far, far away from parents and performance. dad understood that funnies were like dessert, or a demitasse, that a little went a long way, and that anymore than a little made for a fat head, or a wiring of the heart, a wiring that he, an electrician, knew all too well to be an unhealthy one.

  2. Marko Pasha remembers...

    I too grew up with comics, both the newspaper comics and comic books. From the Boston Globe and the Framingham News I grew up with L'il Abner, Mutt and Jeff, Andy Capp, Our Boarding House ect... Of comic books I had Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Yogi Bear as well as Sad Sack and Beetle Bailey. I wasn't interested in the horror or "action" comics. I read comics and full text or proper books at the same time.
    I had two boxes of comics next to my bed, along with books.
    My parents were ambivalent about comics. They enjoyed the newspaper comics as much I did, or anybody did. Also they bought me the comic books. At the same time they had a dim view of comics which guess dated to the holy inquisition against horror comics put on by Senator Estes Kefauver.They also tended to have a high snobbishness towards comics.
    In the fifties I had Little Golden Books which my mother read to me over and over until she was sick of them. When I about seven she started to push me to read on my own as well as to look up words in the dictionary.
    My own comment is that when teaching children to read comics should naver be used as substitute for full text books, but they can be a good supplement or compliment. As Peterson says a dessert.
    When I was in college I had a classmate who the daughter of the founder Harvey Comics.
    As I mentioned, in a previous post, my parents were in the antique business. My mother had a specialy of books and paper. At some point in the 70s of 80s she sold my comic book collction.
    Th,th,th, that's all folks....

  3. while reading comics in the waiting chair of an old time barber shop in Cleveland Circle, i picked up a comic book in the pile that was always there, a comic book i had never before seen, or recognized as familiar. it is the ending i remember, the story, less so. It would be fitting to describe it as a soap opera horror comic, if there were such a genre. alas, in this comic, i learned that two heads are not always better than one, because the comic story ended with the man’s love interest removing her head and holding it in her hands, while sprouting another.
    Perhaps the political elite could be better understood from the vantage of this cognitive experience, as a two headed comic horror, Janus with two heads and four faces.

  4. Marko Pasha replies....

    Bravo! Well stated! Comics are a reflection of the real world. We see Janus in politics everyday.

  5. In this posting, Marash Girl forgot to mention the comic strip character Denny Dimwit who was always sitting on a high stool in the corner of the classroom with a dunce cap on his head. Anyone ever seen a dunce cap?

  6. Marko Pasha says...I remember dunce caps in the comics. I've never seen an actual dunce cap. I don't remember Denny Dimwit. He may have been before my time

  7. @Anonymous Dennie Dimwit was in the comic strip Winnie Winkle which appeared from 1920 to 1996. It was created by Martin Branner. So unless you were born after 1990, Dennie Dimwit was not before your time, Marko Pasha!

  8. have you not noticed that the twentieth century's dunce cap is the mirror image of what was worn by upper class medieval maidens?