Archive: Barney Google & Snuffy Smith

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Family Circus, 1/10/21

Ha ha, it’s funny because kids instinctively know that adults long ago lost their capacity for make believe and are trapped in the dull, grey prison of everyday life!

Crankshaft, 1/10/21

Ha ha, it’s funny because Crankshaft desperately needs to hold onto some small specific joy in life or else he gets terribly depressed!

Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 1/10/21

Well, that got … too grim, probably! Anyway, let’s talk about horses. You wouldn’t know it now, but back before Snuffy Smith was ever dreamed up, Barney Google was a wildly popular media property, and that popularity was almost entirely driven by Spark Plug, Barney’s universally beloved horse, to the extent that for a while the strip was called Barney Google and Spark Plug. And yeah, it’s been a while — like, literally 99 years — but surely King Features Syndicate and Hearst Communications, the current owners of the Spark Plug intellectual property, can capture lightning in a bottle here again, right? Spark Plug may have had his day, but Li’l Sparky will be the character whose ancillary marketing products every child will be asking for this summer, probably! Kids like horses still, right? Horses and wordplay? Horses and … newspaper comic strips?

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Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 12/9/20

Say what you will about Snuffy Smith, but this is a strip that respects its own world-building. It has been long established that, while Hootin’ Holler’s denizens may engage in a certain amount of chicken-based barter with one another, and occasionally pay for potions from unlicensed apothecary Granny Creeps, Silas’s general store is the only place in town where money is exchanged for legitimate goods and services in the manner in which we flatlanders are accustomed. Does it seem weird to order pizzas from such an establishment? Maybe, but any Snuffy trufan knows it would be even weirder if we pretended that Hootin’ Holler had a local Domino’s or some such.

Family Circus, 12/9/20

The question of “If our religion is the only way to salvation, what happened to everyone who never heard about our religion because they died before it started or reached their part of the world?” is old and widespread enough that it has a fancy theological name, “The Fate of the Unlearned.” Still, part of the fun of the Family Circus is seeing kids say the darnedest things as they begin the encounter the problems of the adult world, and indeed I did actually chuckle to myself at seeing Billy look at that picture and think “Gee, it’s sad these cavemen never got a visit from Santa! Also, they’re probably in hell now.”

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Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, 12/4/20

For those of you who don’t know the history (and really, why would you), this comic strip started out as Barney Google, in 1919, and the titular character was a sharp city slicker, but then the strip aimed to cash in on the Depression-era vogue for hillbilly humor already being exploited by Li’l Abner, so Barney went and visited his pal Snuffy Smith in Hootin’ Holler, who by the 1950s had become the strip’s main character, with increasingly infrequent visits from Barney Google. The current creative team brought back Barney in 2012 in his first appearance in 15 years, and he’s appeared intermittently since, but this week he’s actually taken Barney and company back with him to the city, which raises the question: we all know that this strip’s main setting is a grotesque, distorted caricature of rural life, but what will its take on urbanity be? Well, it appears to be people dancing in brightly lit clubs with floor-to-ceiling windows that make them visible from outside, where various draft animals rear about grotesquely on dirt streets, so, in other words: accurate.

Dick Tracy, 12/4/20

Meanwhile, in Dick Tracy, another decades-old strip whose depiction of everyday life is composed of multiple layers of continually updated nostalgia, one of our villains has terribly injured himself in a sewer while the other is about to be killed by his own giant spider, which he keeps captive for venom-milking purposes. How sad is Dick going to be that he doesn’t get to shoot anybody? Maybe he’ll shoot the spider, but his heart won’t really be in it.