Birmingham Historical Comic Strips -- Birmingham News, The Sixties

The '60's mark the transition, for me, from this project feeling like a historical expedition to a tracking of modern changes -- not only was I born in the '60's, but by the end of the decade, at least half of the strips on the comics page of the News were strips that are still running today, and another quarter were strips that have ended since around 1995.


The short-lived Laffin' Place experiment ended in early January, and with that Ginger, The Better Half, and Uncle Charlie went away. Brother Juniper, which had been running without an author credit and, usually, without even a strip name, was promoted to the comics page, credited to Fr. Justin McCarthy and Len Reno, and settled in for a nice long run. Doctor Bill was also moved to the comics page, tucked in some corner or another. In late January, These Women! came to an end, at least in the News, after almost twenty years.

In February, John Prentice was finally given a credit for Rip Kirby. From February to May, a forgettable gag strip named Moco ran; in May it was replaced by Virgil "Vip" Partch's Big George! In September, they dropped Willie Lumpkin and juggled some stuff to make room for two new strips -- Thorn McBride, a Buz Sawyer clone, and the revival of Barnaby.

Moco,Morgensen and Cornelius,Times Mirror Syndicate
Thorn McBride,Frank Giacoia,Copley Press
Barnaby,Crockett Johnson, Hall Syndicate
Big George!,Virgil Partch,Publishers Syndicate
Brother Juniper,Fr. Justin McCarthy and Len Reno,Publishers Syndicate


In January, Doctor Bill wandered away. In February, they dropped Barnaby and Henry, apparently showing a bias against bald kids or something. The replacement for those strips was worth some discussion, though.

Sometimes, the text is the subtext. From February until April, the News ran Under the Stars and Bars. The strip was a straightforward historical strip giving a neutral telling of the history of the U. S. Civil War. The News had run several historical strips over the years, and this strip follows neatly in that vein and came from a reputable syndicate and artist (Fred Fredericks, whose biggest resume item is a long stretch on Mandrake, where his work doesn't show any more racial tension than the occasional bit of Kipling-style White Man's Burden Bearing). Nonetheless, there's really no way to consider running a history of the Civil War in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961, as a non-political act. Overall, the News was moderate enough to annoy both sides in the conflict, but this wasn't their brightest moment.

In an odd bit of timing, during the time I was working through the '60's, the News drew fire from civil rights groups for one of Scott Stantis' editorial cartoons.

In May, Apartment 3-G came to stay; in November, they picked up a Flintstones strip.

Under the Stars and Bars,Fred Fredericks,none listed
The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera,Hanna-Barbera Productions
Apartment 3-G,Alex Kotsky,none listed


The Flintstones was dropped in June; Miss Peach was added in September.

Miss Peach,Mell,Herald Tribune


In February, they dropped Miss Peach. In April, the credit for Rip Kirby was changed to Prentice and Dickenson and they added Dan Flagg. With a strip named "Dan Flagg", the only real question is whether it's a two-fisted adventure strip or a parody of one; in this case, they were serious about it. Andy Capp joined up in September, still in full wife-beating mode.

Dan Flagg,Don Sherwood,McNaught Syndicate
Andy Capp,Reg Smythe, Hall Syndicate and Daily Mirror


In February, they dropped Rip Kirby, and in November, they dropped Dan Flagg. The credit for Steve Roper changed to Saunders and Overgard in February. In November, they added Wizard of Id. Along the way, they switched to a new format where almost all the strips were moved to the comics page (The Girls was left out, moving to the society page, and depending on how many strips they were carrying at a given time, Steve Roper and/or Dondi might stay in the classifieds for a couple more years), and the page actually became the right-hand column of one page and the left-hand page of the facing page, with a panel sometimes placed in one or both of the non-comics columns. This format lasted through the rest of the '60's and beyond.

Wizard of Id,Parker and Hart,Publishers Newspaper Syndicate


The only change for the year was to add Smilin' Jack, an aviation adventure strip, to the classifieds.

Smilin' Jack,Zack Mosley, none listed


From March to July, they ran Peter Scratch, a private eye strip in the mold of the Peter Gunn TV show. From May to November, they ran Pauline McPeril, the adventures of a secretary-turned-bait-because-she-couldn't-type for a generic intelligence agency written by Mell Lazarus under a pseudonym. In November, they also dropped Smilin' Jack.

Peter Scratch,Lou Fine,Newsday
Pauline McPeril,Felton and Rickard,Publishers Newspaper Syndicate


From March to September, they ran Soozi, which falls somewhere in the line of succession between It's Me, Dilly and The Meaning of Lila (I'm sure that line probably starts somewhere before Dilly; I just don't know where). In September, they picked up Redeye.

Soozi,Weldon and Oksner,none listed
Redeye,Gordon Bess, King Features Syndicate


From September to December, they ran a strip based on the Laugh In TV show, made up entirely, I think, of material from the show. In December, they picked up an odd but good little strip called Perkins. Perkins featured no dialogue and was based on visual jokes or puns each day -- in panel 1, Perkins looks up at a circle above his head; in panel 2, the circle is at eye level; in panel 3, the shape is now a half-circle on the floor; in panel 4, a mouse runs out of it. Lots of 4th wall breaking going on in this one.

Laugh In,Dety,News Syndicate
Perkins,John Miles,Register and Tribune Syndicate


In March, they dropped Perkins after too short a time, although the strip continued in syndication until 1980. In July, they picked Marmaduke back up and placed it in a twice-a-week rotation with Big George! and Brother Juniper in the spot between the Jumble predecessor and Dear Abby.

Marmaduke,Anderson and Leeming,National News Syndicate

The Seventies

Last Updated: October 9, 2007