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Comics: Meet the Artist

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Dean Young
"Blondie"
Friday, August 26, 2005; 2:00 PM

Join Washington Post Comics page editor Suzanne Tobin online once each month to discuss the comics pages. From artists to writers to editors, Tobin is joined by a different guest for each show. This week, Tobin will be joined by "Blondie" cartoonist Dean Young to discuss "Blondie's" 75th anniversary.

Tobin and Young were online on Friday, Aug. 26, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the art of cartooning.

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Suzanne Tobin: Welcome, comics fans to another edition of "Comics: Meet the Artist." Today we have Dean Young of "Blondie", who is joining us from his studio in Florida, where he is anxiously peering out his windows to see if Hurricane Katrina is going to make an appearance. Welcome, Dean and thanks for joining us Live Online. Congratulations, Dean on the 75th anniversary of "Blondie.:

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Dean Young: Thank you, Suzanne, and The Washington Post, for helping with Blondie and Dagwood's big 75th anniversary blowout.

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Fairfax Station, VA: Dagwood is always dragging out the old Bumstead family

photo albums, but we never hear about the Boopadoops.

Does Blondie have any sisters or other relatives? Are Chic

Youngs's other creations, Beautiful Babs and Dumb Dora,

related to her?

After 75 years, isn't it time for Mr. & Mrs. J. Bolling

Bumstead to forgive their son? Of course, if I'm wrong, you

can tell me to go climb a stick and holler "fire."

Finally, since Blondie and Dagwood were married on

February 17, 1933, aren't you jumping the gun a bit with

this 75th anniversary party?

Dean Young: Let me answer the questions in reverse order.

The chronological order of what's going on here is perfect because the comic strip's inception was Sept. 7, 1930, which means it's the 75th anniversary of the strip. That really is what we're celebrating, not the Bumsteads marriage.

My dad did start out doing flapper strips, including The Affairs of Jane (as my dad admitted, that was a strip better not remembered) as well as the two you mentioned, but none of the characters were related to one another.

As for the Boopadoops, the only member of Blondie's family who ever figured in the strip was her mother, which was inconsequential then and would be now also.

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Suzanne Tobin: Here is today's strip: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/comics/king.htm?name=Blondie

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Washington, D.C.: I was wondering what Blondie would look like at 75?

Dean Young: Now you know! Actually she's about 90, but she looks pretty good. There are some advantages to being a comic strip character...one of them is that you don't need plastic surgery.

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Hollywood: Is Blondie a natural blond?

Dean Young: Oh, absolutely, she's always been a natural blond. For heaven's sake, how do you think she got her name?

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Alexandria Va.: Sometimes when Blondie and Dagwood run into people on the street and talk to them, the people look less like cartoon characters and more like portraits of real people? Are my suspicions correct, that sometimes these people are based on friends/relatives?

Dean Young: No, they are not. Sometimes and on some rare occasions they'll be friends of mine that I'll include in the comic strip. But, by and large, we do try to engineer funny looking people. Everybody in our comic strip is a little odd, but, hey, so are real people.

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Suzanne Tobin: Blondie and Other Comics (The Post, Aug. 26)

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Rome, Ga.: Will we ever see Dagwood's parents back in the strip? Dagwood shares his family photos w/Cookie and Alexander. It seems like the kids would like to see their grandparents.

As a fellow LaGrange College graduate, I appreciate the "Blondie" exhibit that was held at the college's art museum some years ago, featuring original drawings by your father. Will the exhibit be shown again anywhere?

Thanks so much for taking my question!

Dean Young: Hello, fellow Panther! I don't have the answer to the exhibit question. I actually gave the college some of the original artwork, so I guess you'll have to ask them. I can't quite remember how that all transpired.

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Washington, D.C.: Will Cookie and Alexander ever give their parents gtandchildren?

Dean Young: Not in my lifetime. I have seem other strips actually grow out of their strips, and my idea is to continue to have a comic strip, so you might say that everybody is stunted in their growth. And that's the way it is and that's the way it's gonna be.

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Brewster, NY: Hi Dean. It's been fun seeing characters from

other strips next to each other (especially to

compare their heights!). I was just wondering how

the crossover happened: was it your idea or the

syndicate's? Did rival syndicates resist? Did you

and the other cartoonists involved all brainstorm

at once?

Robert

Dean Young: I'm the culprit. I'm afraid that I'm responsible for orchestrating that whole scenario. It started when I was trying to decide what exactly I wanted to do for Blondie and Dagwood's anniversary party. When the idea came to me that I wanted them to celebrate with the rest of their friends from the comics pages, it really germinated from that idea. When I realized that all these comic characters would be with the Bumsteads at their big anniversary party Sept. 4, the idea occurred to me that it would be alot of fun if those characters showed up unexpectedly at the Bumsteads' house two weeks early, to frolic and cavort with them for the two weeks leading up to their big party. And then it got more legs right then, when I started speaking to some of my fellow cartoonists, and all of a sudden we're into my colleagues in the industry doing references to the Bumsteads' big party in their comic strips. So now we probably have 24 major cartoonists that are making reference to the Bumsteads anniversary in their own comic strips, and for what I feel is a juxtaposition of comic strip characters all over the funny pages.

As for the other syndicates, we never asked them. Didn't want to know.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there going to be a collection of the anniversary strips and the crossovers w/other strips?

Dean Young: I suppose at some point...don't have anything in the works right now. I've been so busy planning the Bumsteads' party I haven't had a chance to think about that. When things calm down, maybe.

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Laurel, Md.: I remember watching Dagwood Bumsted on Sunday mornings. Do you think there will be a made-for-TV movie of Blondie some day?

Also, how did the idea of Blondie come up? It seems like the TV show, the focus was on Dagwood. Even though, as a woman, Blondie had all the answers.

Dean Young: There were TV shows at different times during my father, Chic's, time of the strip. I can imagine why the focus was on Dagwood because all the comedy revolves around Dagwood, with Blondie being the straight lady. She really sets Dagwood up for the gags, and that really is my raison d'etre. My license and the validity comes from this, if you look at Blondie as a real person she's this gorgeous, voluptuous blond, and then there's her husband, who looks like an alien from the planet Zork. But that's my validation because Dagwood can do things without all his oars in the water and it's okay, because then you say, look who he's married to. So that's how he gets away with it. That's my license to kill.

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Curious, Pa.: Was Blondie ever shown pregnant in the strip or did Alexander and Cookie just "show up" at some point?

Dean Young: There was reference to the fact that she was pregnant, but it was never actually shown in the comic strip. All of a sudden, she had a child, and it was kind of a miracle. That's before my time, and during that era, back in the '30s, that wasn't appropriate material for comic strips.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Congratulations on your 75th!

Does it feel strange drawing the characters from other strips? It's been a hoot following this in the funny papers!

Dean Young: Thank you for you good wishes. It doesn't feel strange at all, they're all neighbors of the Bumsteads, a couple inches to the left or right, or a little up or down, so it's like the whole wacky, zany community that they live in. That's their world, so it actually feels real.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Do the other cartoonists tell you in advance what they are going to do when their cartoons show their characters receiving the invitations and going to the anniversary, or is this a surprise to you to see how they react?

Dean Young: Alot of the cartoonists did show me, and alot of it is a surprise to me. So I'm enjoying looking at the comics pages each day, and happily seeing what surprises are in store for the Bumsteads anniversary.

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Silver Spring, Me.: How DOES Dagwood stay so slim considering his love for his sandwiches? I never see him exercising.

Dean Young: Boy, I know. There's another comic strip miracle. Because as we all know, Dagwood has a black belt in buffet.

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Washington, D.C.: On behalf of the American Motor Vehicle Association (AMVA), we would like to formally thank you for your years of promoting energy-conscious carpooling. According to one of our recent extensive surveys, "'Blondie' and Its Affects on American Carpooling," we found that approximately 50 million people have decided to carpool during the past 75 years specifically because of the "Blondie" comic strip.

So thanks again for all your help with promoting safe, fuel-efficient, time-saving, and money-saving carpooling.

Dean Young: Well, by golly, thank you for offering those illuminating statistics and lauding the Bumsteads for being responsible for them.

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Germantown: What kind of dog is Daisy? I saw she's a German shephard-collie-Alaskan malamute mix, and a friend says she's a mutt.

Also, is she neutered?

Dean Young: Daisy is absolutely a mutt, and I'm not sure about the neutered putt. Did she have quintuplets at one point in the '30s and they were named after the Dionne quintuplets.

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Gosh, Daisy must be 550 years old! Are her pups ever going to make another appearance?

Dean Young: No. The pups, I imagine, are somewhere in the neighborhood, but, in my tenure, I found that drawing five little puppies in each panel was more than I can bear.

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Washington, D.C.: Does anyone else in the family have ambitions to continue the strip should you decide to bail out on it in the future?

Dean Young: My daughter, Dana, has been working with me for the last 16 years. She's been working in a creative capacity and I hope that she'll be able to take it for the next 75 years.

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Rockville: Has J.C. Dithers ever gone to a therapist for anger management sessions? He seems to have some anger management issues to work out.

Dean Young: Yes, actually he has. He's been to several anger management counseling services, and they've done absolutely no good whatsoever. It's been a total waste of money.

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Alexandria, VA: What is the secret of Blondie and Dagwood's successful marriage?

Has either of them ever had an affair?

Dean Young: Well, that's pretty funny. I had to laugh at that one myself. They have never had an affair and they never will. This is one couple that is truly in love with one another in the same way as Antony and Cleopatra or Romeo and Juliet.

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Annandale, Va.: Dagwood's inheritence must've finally come through! I thought his parents disowned him when he married Blondie, but if he didn't get the money from his rich family then either Blondie WAY overcharges in her catering business, Mr Dithers pays Dagwood much more than he's worth or Cookie's doing something you can't print in newspapers.

Dean Young: Dagwood's family will never give him an inheritance, but

Dagwood hopes some of the lottery tickets he bought will work out to pay for the party.

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Alexandria, Va.: Who draws the "outside" characters? Do you draw, say, Hagar when he appears in Blondie? Do other artists draw Dagwood when he's visiting there?

Dean Young: We drew all the outside character from all the other strips, but we did the Dagwood and Blondie characters in the other strips if we got an opportunity to see what the cartoonist was doing before it went to press. Being the sticklers we are, we asked if we could just tweak our characters in their strips.

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Potomac: Blondie is hot!

Thank you.

Dean Young: Thank YOU! What a nice compliment.

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Arlington, Va.: So what about Dagwood's parents? This would be a great opportunity to see their return...even briefly. Any chance?

Dean Young: No chance.

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Wheaton, Md.: When was the last time a new character was introduced to the strip?

Dean Young: Well, we've introduced new characters periodically, like when Dagwood started carpooling instead of taking the bus to work. We're pretty happy with the cast of characters that my genius father created. This wonderful menagerie of characters are like chemicals, when they come in contat with one another there's always a big explostion. He left me with two great things, this wonderful cast of characters and some of his talent.

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Falls Church, VA: What are the hairs that stick out on either side of Dagwood's head supposed to signify? I always assumed he used Brylcream to the extreme, but it also looks kind of punk-rock too. Has he always had the same hairstyle?

Dean Young: It wasn't so pronounced in the very early strips, but it gradually became more pronounced. The reason is that you need for your main character to have some identifying characteristic, and you certainly can't miss that coif.

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John, Virginia: Can you tell us all the other comic strips that will feature

Dagwood and/or Blondie showing up in the feature and

inviting characters from that strip to the anniversary? I don't

want to miss any!

Dean Young: I actually can. Garfield, Mother Goose and Grimm, For Better of For Worse, Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey, B.C., The Wizard of Id, Marvin, Family Circus, Mutts, Bizarro, Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy, Rose Is A Rose, The Born Loser, Hi and Lois, Curtis and Cathy. There are probably some more that I don't know about, but those are the ones that I've definitely heard from.

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Washington, D.C.: Am I correct in thinking that Dagwood's clothing has never changed over the years? Also, the other day Blondie was in bed, waiting for Dagwood. One of the straps on her negligee was down. Did you do that on purpose?

Dean Young: You have very good eyes. You're looking at our comic strip way too closely, but good for you!

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Fairfax, Va.: It's been really cool seeing other comic strip characters in Blondie and it's also been cool seeing Dagwood in other strips, but why is it only the really lame strips that have been doing the exchange? I would love to see what would happen if Dagwood slipped into Boondocks, Pearls Before Swine or Get Fuzzy.

Dean Young: Well, excuse me, the cartoons that I've just mentioned to you, are not exactly the lame ones. They are the major league cartoonists in the world. What newspaper are you getting? Is it on another planet?

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Upper Marlboro, MD: Oh, so they are celebrating 75 years of knowing each other and 72 years of marriage? Is "everyone" from your cartoon syndicate invited to the party, or will the guests include your favorite cartoons? I can't wait to see how this gets pulled off.

BTW, cute strip today introducing the tyrants to each other.

Dean Young: You're right on the money, but the real celebration here is the 75th anniversary of the comic strip.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Young: Many popular cartoons of my youth - "Maggie and Jiggs, Mutt and Jeff, Smokey Stover, " etc. have vanished, while "Blondie" is still going strong. I'm like to hear your views on this, and, if he ever discussed it with you, what "Chic" Young thought. thanks

Dean Young: I attribute Blondie's longevity and durability actually to several factors...I think that over the long haul of the 75 years, we have been able to maintain the quality of our graphics, and we take a great deal of pain to ensure that what you see in the comic strip is what you see in the world today. Their phone is a digital phone, Blondie uses a laptop computer in her business and Dagwood has a computer at his job, so the whole process of updating the artwork is one of the essential parts of the strip's durability. I think we have also managed to stay current with the humor, as humor has gotten more complex and sophisticated over the years. And the consistent quality of the gags in Blondie is another reason for her success. The last piece of the mosaic is the affection of the family. Here's a family that actually likes each other, and, in today's world, with all the dysfunction that we have, it's nice to look in on a family, in this day and age, that actually likes each other.

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Suzanne Tobin: Dean, for the record, can you tell us briefly how "Blondie" came to be?

Dean Young: My dad began with by doing three flapper strips in the '20s, including The Affairs of Jane, Beautiful Babs and Dumb Dora.

At that time, cartoonists did not own their comic strips, and Dumb Dora had achieved a moderate success, and my dad went into the president of the syndicate and asked for a raise, and he was turned down. So my dad said he wouldn't do Dumb Dora anymore. So they told my dad to take a hike and that they would get someone else to do the strip. Which is exactly what they did. The following week, my Dad left New York and went home to Connecticut, without a job, and spent the next week creating the Blondie comic strip. He brought it back to the syndicate the next week, spread it all out on the president's desk and said "What do you think of that?" It was like a slam dunk, because it was so good and they could see that. So the syndicate agreed to take it on, but my dad said "Not so fast, this time I want to own this comic strip." So he was really one of the first cartoonists to actually own the rights to his own comic strip, and that's how the Blondie strip got started.

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Suzanne Tobin: Dean, thanks so much for being so generous with your time. It's been a pleasure.

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Dean Young: I'd like to extend a personal invitation to all of you to join us at the Bumsteads big anniversary party on Sept. 4. I'll see you in the funny papers.

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