Hooray for the Red-White-&-Blue Fantasy Comics Page!

Occasionally in this space, we gather a random collection of comic strips — household names and forgotten gems alike — and run them as a Fantasy Comics Page. No newspaper of which we’re aware ever ran precisely this collection of strips, but we can assemble a comics page that likely Never Was, but under the right circumstances Could Have Been.

America celebrates its Independence Day on Sunday, July 4th (with the holiday observance occurring on Monday the 5th). Turns out the same Sunday-holiday/Monday-observance condition existed exactly fifty years ago, in 1971. So it seemed appropriate to put together a Fantasy Comics Page from July 5th of that year.

Gordo, Nancy, Gummer Street, and Peanuts spoke directly to Independence Day themes in the strips you’ll see below. Hank Ketcham’s lesser-known comic, Half Hitch, and the famous Beetle Bailey, from Mort Walker, offer humorous takes on the U.S. military. It was impossible to pass up the day’s Bringing Up Father offering — whoever thought the word “groovy” would be heard in Jiggs’s earshot? — and the single-panel series The Girls serves up a wry summer smile.

Girls creator Franklin Folger (1919-2007) was a lifelong Cincinnati resident (except for a brief period during World War II when he was stationed in Texas). His father and grandfather both drew for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Girls was originally featured there before gaining national syndication. “People were not meant to be hurt,” Folger was once quoted as saying, and the gentle humor in his comics output reflects that outlook on life.

Born in 1946, Phil Khron was twenty-four years old when he sold his comic strip, Gummer Street. Though well received in both North America and Europe (it appeared in several issues of Italy’s Eureka magazine), the series ran for only two years.

As a little holiday bonus, we’re also including this July 4th, 1971 article from the Grand Junction, Colorado Daily Sentinel. It does not tell a particularly uplifting story, but it provides some direct insight into the financial and business factors that influenced newspapers a half-century ago, and how those factors affected comics strips in general and adventure comics in particular. Comics fans sometimes ask, “How could the newspapers keep shrinking the number and size of strips on their pages? Didn’t they get it?” This article at least addresses one newspaper’s view of the realities they faced while making decisions about the comics they provided to their readers.

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