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The Bumstead Family History
By Dean Young, Melena Ryzik
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 King Features Syndicate, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE BUMSTEAD FAMILY ALBUM
Family members — you can't live with them and you can't live without them! But why would anyone want to live without the Bumsteads? Since 1930, Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead, along with their children Cookie and Alexander, have brought humor and joy into the homes of millions of Blondie fans around the world.
This enduring domestic comedy continues to make an indelible impression in the hearts and minds of Blondie fans who connect with the Bumsteads' ability to cope, without losing sight of the little things that count. People recognize and relate to the Bumstead family because they see themselves and their loved ones reflected inside the paneled walls of this adored comic strip.
The Bumstead Family Album is a celebration of family at its most genuine. As you thumb through the pages of this book, take pleasure in the book's most simple and universal truth: "home is truly where the heart is." So, sit back, relax and enjoy some treasured quality time with family.
Blondie was born on September 8, 1930, and she was already a knockout. With wavy golden tresses, pouty lips, long-lashed eyes, and a sensational shape, this one-of-a-kind cartoon figure quickly enchanted millions. The original doyenne of domesticity, she eventually grew to symbolize the myriad changes in American womanhood. With a relentlessly can-do spirit, a husband, two kids, a dog, a job, and a house in the suburbs, Blondie epitomized that combination of pluck, humor, and passion that drove the American Dream at a time when the nation needed it most – and we loved her for it.
But it wasn't always so. The pretty woman in the ruffled dress arrived in the nation's newspapers as a two-dimensional—as in pancake-flat—stereotype of a character that had already captured the public's imagination: the flapper.
A symbol of women's growing independence in the years following the Nineteenth Amendment, the flapper was a rebellious risk-taker and a free spirit. In the jubilant post–World War I years, she was a perfect subject for the pages of the daily and weekly comics, which could chronicle her adventures, and misadventures alike. As a fun-loving, man-chasing young lady with the perfectly comic surname Boopadoop, the early Blondie displayed a decidedly screwball sensibility. Yet her creator, ChicYoung, recognized something more than a newsprint-ready blonde joke. She wasn't a dizzy blonde as much as she was a dizziness-inducing blonde, embodying the whirlwind lifestyle that the "It" girls of the era seemed to suggest.
But the Depression put a damper on this party-heavy image. As Blondie's real-life counterparts were evolving, so was she. First she traded ditziness for a diploma as she became a student, then a slew of boyfriends for the eternal Dagwood Bumstead—of the J. Bolling Bumsteads, rail industry titans and the funny page answer to the Vanderbilts.
Blondie and Dagwood's first date wasn't depicted in newsprint, but it probably involved a soda, a sandwich (pastrami on rye) and a chaste kiss—if Dagwood was lucky (about the kiss, that is—he definitely got the sandwich). Preternaturally awkward, he was nonetheless a millionaire, the beneficiary of his father's riches. Blondie, on the other hand, was beautiful but decidedly lower middle class; she had graduated from student to secretary and still lived with her mother. Nonetheless, Chic Young quickly realized that it was a match made in newspaper heaven—the pathetic playboy and the gorgeous, suspiciously good-hearted, blonde. Was she a gold-digger? Was he handsome enough to keep her attention? Would their affection survive the perils of real life? Like any industrialists worth their rep, the J. Bolling Bumsteads didn't care for reality. They disinherited their only son, inadvertently paving the way for a historic, ever-expanding relationship between Blondie and Dagwood and the nation, which quickly fell for this unlikely couple. It's a love affair that's lasted more than seventy-five years, and counting.
Blondie has remained beautiful for every one of those seventy-five years. Without the benefit of plastic surgery, Botox, or even, seemingly, diets or exercise, she has managed to retain her increasingly sensational figure and luminous skin. (If only real life were as kind as newsprint!) Her clothing, though, has undergone a makeover—where once Chic Young lifted her fashions out of the Sears, Roebuck catalog, now she is devoted to Bloomingdale's.
Cartoonist Dean Young, who took over the comic strip after his father Chic's death in 1973, actually does all of Blondie's shopping, picking her wardrobe out of catalogs and fashion magazines (not Vogue—the middle-class Bumsteads are on a budget) for artist John Marshall to illustrate. Working together, Dean and John—and all the artists before him, including Jim Raymond, Stan Drake, and Denis LeBrun—have taken pains to keep the characters, especially Blondie, up-to-date with today's trends and technologies. They use cell phones and computers. Blondie's iconic curly flapper 'do has become more relaxed, and her personality more astute. In the 1990s, she entered the workforce with her very own catering business. Now in her mid-thirties, where she'll likely—and enviably—stay, Blondie has evolved from a frivolous good-time gal to a modern, accomplished businesswoman. In the process, she's cemented her status as America's favorite blonde.
Read by hundreds of millions of people the world over, adored by all, Blondie has overseen an empire that has spanned newspapers, books, radio shows, TV, (a 1957 series starring Arthur Lake, another series from 1968 to 1969, and an animated version in 1987, starring Loni Anderson as the voice of Blondie and Frank Welker as Dagwood), and twenty-eight full-length Columbia Motion Picture movies. From 1938 to 1950, Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake brought Blondie and Dagwood to life on the big screen. Today, even a Broadway musical is in the works.
The Blondie cast has appeared in nearly every medium that's fit to print, including greeting cards, towels, figurines, light switch plates, lunch boxes, and cookie jars. Appearing at pop culture auctions and on eBay, Blondie paraphernalia is considered very collectible. As one of only a few comics to survive the political, social, and economic upheaval of the thirties and come out stronger for it, Blondie is not just a comic strip; it's a phenomenon.
Through all the changes she's seen and undergone, though, the character Blondie has maintained a consistent voice and presence in American culture. Above all, she is a loving wife, mother, and friend. Her devotion to Dagwood is one of the founding principles of the strip. In fact, Blondie is in many ways an idealized woman.
"A fantasy," says Dean Young, "for every guy in the world."
The Bumsteads' long and loving relationship gives hope to misfits everywhere, and the comic's success is no doubt based partly on the idea that a woman like Blondie could go for a guy like Dagwood.
But Blondie is much more than the sum of her (very substantial) parts. In fact, one of her most important roles is never mentioned, though it's evident in every panel. Blondie is, in fact, the strip's "straight (wo)man," the Hardy to Dagwood's Laurel, the Ricky to his Lucy. Whenever he flails through a situation, it is Blondie's reaction—the smile, the surprise, or, let's face it, the long-suffering sigh—that gives heft to the humor.
Dagwood may be the funny one, but Blondie is the constant—the backbone of the strip. No wonder it's named for her.
Excerpted from Blondie by Dean Young, Melena Ryzik. Copyright © 2007 King Features Syndicate, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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