The Return Of... Phil Fumble?

By | Thursday, December 06, 2012 4 comments
I caught a bit where was promoting the return of Fritzi Ritz's old boyfriend, Phil Fumble. There was a bit of hyperbole in the announcement, but that's pretty common practice. But it took me a second to realize that the Fritzi in question was "Aunt Fritzi" from Nancy. But Phil Fumble? Who the hell is that?

Before I go any further, let me reproduce the strips in question. (The storyline is still running, by the way, so there's clearly more yet to come.)
So I did some digging since they're clearly making this into some kind of deal. Fritzi Ritz started as its own strip in 1922 by Larry Whittington. Ernie Bushmiller took over in 1925 and kept drawing the strip until the late 1940s, but the strip continued on with a series of ghost artists until 1968.

The character of Nancy was introduced in 1933 and soon began dominating the strip. In 1938, the daily strip was renamed Nancy although Fritzi Ritz continued on as a Sunday-only one.

I'm a bit confused about Phil, however. I've found several allusions to his having his own strip, but I can't find anything concrete about it. Wikipedia cites him (on Fritzi's page; Phil doesn't have his own) as being Fritzi's regular boyfriend beginning in 1938, but there's no mention of when/where he first appeared. Or when his own strip debuted. Or when it was cancelled. Or what his strip was actually called. Or who drew them.

As Fritzi's boyfriend, he obviously held less importance as Nancy largely took prominence. His apparent last previous appearance was sometime around 1967, but I haven't been able to find anyone definitively pinpointing when that was. Regardless, he was clearly only a bit player by that point, and had no real significance to the strip.

Now, I appreciate the continuity nod that they're giving Phil here. Open acknowledgement that stuff happened in the strip before now is pretty rare in comic strips any more. Almost unheard of in gag strips. So good on brothers Guy and Brad Gilchrist for that.

But here's my thing. Why is this a story? I mean, I had to look up who Phil Fumble was, but I'm not that expert in 1930s comic strips. But that I tried looking him up, and NO ONE seems to know anything about him or his strip suggests that he never held any significance. We're not talking about some arcane proto-comic from ancient Babylon here, we're talking about a character who headlined his own strip and remained in the funny pages through the late 1960s. There are easily people still around who might remember him, but he was so completely insignificant that no one does.

So does that warrant a comeback? Does that warrant an new extended storyline, complete with explanatory backstory and mild social commentary? If you're starting from a point so far in the past that you have to spend a week and a half just catching readers up to speed, why not create a whole new character? Maybe one that might be more interesting and relevant? Clearly, Phil was not either so why bring him back?

Oh, and also... what's the deal with Fritzi staring at Nancy's bow like that in the second strip?
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Richard said...

It's clearly meant to be a pun on the word "beau" but I can't figure out why.

Matt K said...

Hah, I like it. I hadn't gotten that.

Loved the reference to "Three Rocks," though.

Randm said...

Fumble almost always used to wear a bow tie in the "Fritzi Ritz" comic strip.

Anonymous said...

Phil Fumble was loosely based on Ernie Bushmiller himself. Bushmiller created the Sunday only Phil Fumble topper strip in 1932. After a short while Fritzi Ritz Sundays and Phil Fumble Sundays were exactly one half page each. In late 1938 the Sunday nancy strip debuted, replacing the Phil Fumble strip. From that point on, Phil became Fritzi's boyfriend (they had never interacted with each other previously), until Fritzi's Sunday strip ended in 1968. Phil never appeared in the dailies until now.