Comic Strip History - Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping up With The Joneses

Here's one that surprised even me, and one which comes with a little bit of uncertainty that I hope to clear up.

I was, in fact, quite uncertain about this myself when I first started researching it. I have been aware for many years that there was a comic strip called Keeping Up With The Joneses, created by Arthur Momand, that first appeared sometime between 1913 and 1916. The strip revolved around the McGinis family, who were always trying to one-up their wealthy neighbors, the Joneses. The Jones family never appeared in the strip, of course. They were merely referred to by the McGinises constantly, usually in reference to how jealous they would be if they saw what one of the McGinises had purchased or done. According to Momand, this was inspired by his experiences after he moved to New York, and he and his wife's attempts to not be shown up by their wealthy neighbors. He realized how futile it was to do so, and wrote a comic strip to satirize this. The Jones name was, according to him, chosen due to how…


Unexpected Comic Strip Creators - Mickey Spillane

Mike Hammer

Detective stories and comics have gone hand in hand ever since the early days of the medium. One of the most famous comic heroes, Batman, first appeared in the pages of Detective Comics, which has become one of the longest running comic books in history, as well as lending its name to one of the two biggest comic companies, DC Comics. Even before Batman's debut, Dick Tracy and others were solving crimes and mysteries on the newspaper page. Those kinds of stories have always been popular with readers, but I imagine they were also popular with writers and newspapermen, given that mysteries and intrigue gave readers a big reason to pick up the next day's paper to find out what happens next. In order to create a popular detective strip, it seems logical that a newspaper syndicate would look for someone already skilled in writing that kind of narrative. In 1934, King Features had done it with Dashiell Hammett, who I've written about previously, and in 1953 a much smaller syndicate, Phoenix Features, would get t…


Comic Strip History: Milquetoast

The Timid Soul, 1940

Milquetoast was a word that I first encountered in a comic strip, though not the one this blog post is focused on. In Berkeley Breathed's strip Bloom County, and its sequel strip Outland, there was a character named Milquetoast, who was apparently a cockroach, though he didn't look much like one. I remember being ignorant of how to pronounce his name, though I didn't really give it much thought as I figured it was just a weird name Breathed had come up with.

It was certainly a strange joke word created by a cartoonist, but not one coined by Breathed.

The word first appeared in 1924, in a comic strip called The Timid Soul by H.T. Webster. Webster had been doing single panel gag strips for the New York Tribune since 1912. His panels appeared under a number of different recurring titles, which would change depending on the subject matter of the gag, but none of them had any recurring characters. In 1924, he moved to the New York World, and while he did continue his other panels under their various other tit…


Comic Strip History - The Worry Wart

The Worry Wart, March 6, 1929

Most times I've done research for posts about words that originated in comic strips, I've been able to find fairly consistent information about where and when they first appeared. The information I was able to find may not have been very plentiful, but at least it told a consistent story. Not so with "worry wart." It seems pretty clear that the phrase originated in a comic strip, but no one seems to agree on when. I think I've found the correct answer, though.

What all the sources I found do agree on is that there was a character called "The Worry Wart" in the comic strip Out Our Way, created by J.R. Williams. Out Our Way was what you might call a nostalgia comic. It centered around people who appear to live in the late 19th century in rural surroundings. Most of the characters are unnamed, though many of them reappear from time to time. The jokes generally revolve around relatable situations that the reader would probably remember from their childhood, or possibly remember hearing about from their grandp…


Pogo, January 1, 1967

Pogo, January 1, 1967

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Not a lot to say about this. Just want to wish everyone a happy new year, and to submit this new calendar for consideration.