Reg Smyth's Andy Capp debuted in 1957. The title character was a working class man who didn't actually work. He smoked and drank and gambled, and was quick with a backhand to his wife if she screwed up. In the 1980s, Smythe quietly stopped drawing the cigarettes that often dangled from Andy's mouth and the wife beating jokes dropped off in favor of marriage counseling jokes. Smythe died in 1998 but the strip continued on under the auspicies of Roger Mahoney and Roger Kettle with Andy still out of work, and throwing away his gambling earnings on beer and pool. In April of last year, Kettle was replaced by "Goldsmith and Garnett" with Mahoney still handling the art chores. (I believe it's Lawrence Goldsmith, but I can't find a first name credit for Garnett.)
This strip from February 13 is pretty typical for what Mahoney, Goldsmith and Garnett were coming up with...
And here's the next day's...
And the rest of the week...
And here's what struck me: they didn't just have him quit cold turkey. It's actually been shown (comically) to be a bit of a struggle...
It's certainly not without precedent that modern comic strips makes significant character changes. In 1992, Tom Batiuk changed Funky Winkerbean from a gag strip in a perennial high school setting to an aging-in-real-time dramedy. More recently, Jim Davis gave long-standing loser and perpetual bachelor Jon Arbuckle a girlfriend. And, of course, Smythe himself dropped smoking and wife beating from Andy's repertoire, as noted above.
I asked Batiuk once, several years ago, how he was able to make such radical changes to his strip, given syndicates' penchant for maintaining the status quo. He whole-heartedly agreed with my assessment of their willingness to change, but noted that he was able to push that through because he tied that change to his contract negotiations he was going through at the time. Davis, I expect, has enough clout that he can pretty much do what he wants.
So I'm curious about the change here. Is this something the creators are trying to slide in on their own? Something mandated by their syndicate acting on comments from a health agency? Just an attempt to change things up because newspapers are flailing and willing to try anything different at this point? I just doubt that the current Andy Capp crew has leverage that someone like Davis has.
If you liked Andy Capp as a lout, though, I don't think you'll have much to worry about in the near future, based on this March 2 strip...
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