Comic Strip Inspiration

On this date in 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas, featuring characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip, first aired on U.S. TV. It has become a classic.

So, today, with Christmas on the way and Charlie Brown celebrating his 57th anniversary in the movies, let’s discuss writing inspiration and comic strips:

In the past or the present, have you followed a particular comic strip?

Have any of the characters in that comic strip inspired or influenced characters or plot in your writing?

37 thoughts on “Comic Strip Inspiration

  1. Even though I’m definitely old enough to have grown up during the decades when we had physical newspapers, I can’t say I faithfully read any comics, though I did read Charlie Brown and Garfield.

    The thing that stands out to me about comics is that we used to take Silly Putty and lay it over the comic strip in the newspaper to make the ancient version of a “photocopy” of the comic strip image on the putty.

    There’s been a number of occasions in life where I felt like Charlie Brown when he went to kick the football & somebody snatched it. And I love Garfield’s snark. Both go to show when you really have a well-developed character, they not only resonate with the reader but the reader remembers them as though they were almost real–and that is not easy to do, but awesome when it happens.

    • I’m like you, BK. I remember glancing through the newspapers and comic strips, but I didn’t follow any particular one. And yes, Charlie Brown trying over and over again to kick the football, while Lucy pulls it at the last second. I remember thinking that reminded me of some events which caused pain in my growing up years.

      Well developed characters that we really got to know.

      Thanks for your comments.

  2. Thanks for the blast from the past, Steve.

    Brenda Starr was my favorite comic strip–the intrepid, glamorous female reporter pursuing mystery plots in serial form. The daily paper showed only three panels but the Sunday paper was much longer and significantly advanced the storylines. I couldn’t wait for Sundays to see what would happen with Brenda and the mysterious man with the black eye patch.

    • Wow, Debbie, sounds like Brenda Starr may have even inspired your writing career? The power of graphic stories. Wouldn’t it be exciting to have the ability to draw (and write)? I don’t recall any of your books having an antagonist with a black eye patch. Hope your weekend is exciting.

    • Well. You just solved a years long mystery for me. A cousin used to jokingly refer to me as Brenda Starr and I never had any idea where that came from. LOL. So in your list of accomplishments for the day, include family mystery solver. 😎

  3. Good morning, Steve. I first discovered comics in the Sunday papers when I was three. That is how I learned to read. Dick Tracy was The Man. It took me a few weeks to discover that there were comic strips in the daily newspaper as well. I read almost all of the strips, but with an emphasis on the detective strips like Kerry Drake, Steve Roper, and of course Dick Tracy. Oh, and Little Orphan Annie. I still read Dick Tracy, but all of them inform my reading and writing to this day.

    Thanks for a great question this morning, Steve, and have a great weekend!

    • Good morning, Joe. And I was wondering whether this topic would have any interest for our TKZ readers. Debbie finds a role model for a career in writing, and you learn to read with the comics. I bet school reading class was boring. They should have just handed you the paper.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the comics, and have a great weekend!

  4. Like Joe, I learned to read via the comics. Li’l Abner, Fearless Fosdick, Marmaduke, Beetle Bailey, Dennis the Menace, Andy Capp … and Peanuts. I didn’t care for Brenda Starr or (despite the name) Terry and the Pirates. I wanted them short and preferably funny–because at our house, we called them the funnies.

    • Ah, yes, Terry, we called them “the funnies” also. I wonder if they shouldn’t have been called “the early readers.” Amazing how the combination of pictures and words tell a story that is so compelling to children. I also wonder if anyone has studied how much the absence of physical newspapers (and funnies) has affected early learning to read. Bring back the papers.

      Thanks for telling us your experience.

  5. I’ve always loved, and been inspired by the Snoopy “Dark and Stormy Night” writing series.

    • Thanks, Michelle, for sharing your experience. Sounds like the “Dark and Stormy Night” series was good enough to inspire a book. And Snoopy was a writer. How perfect. Hope you have a productive weekend.

  6. I remember reading the “funnies” when I was a kid. Peanuts,Nancy, and <Dick Tracy are a few I recall, but I wasn’t an ardent follower of any of them.

    However, now I follow Snoopy (@snoopy) and Charlie Brown (@peanuts) on Twitter. I continue to be in awe of how much wisdom and expression Charles Schulz was able to convey through a few simple line drawings.

    I can’t say that I’ve used any comic strip characters as the basis for my own characters, but Snoopy’s frequent manuscript rejections are an inspiration for all authors. 🙂

    • I thought of your twitter posts after I picked this topic. I see your tweets where you retweet Charlie and the gang. Very amusing and insightful.

      It is amazing how much a single picture, or a few, can convey with a few sentences. When I was growing up, and my father was giving me projects for the day, he would always grab a piece of paper and say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

      And Snoopy had his frequent rejections, but he eventually got “A Dark and Stormy Night” published. There is hope.

  7. Fun question, Steve! Growing up, I read “Peanuts,” “Wizard of Id”, and “Beetle Baily.” Like Michelle, Snoopy’s writing inspired me.

    Later, in college, “Bloom County” was a must-read. The intrepid hacker-inventor Oliver Wendell Jones was a favorite character. A professor telling him, “There are no new ideas, MisterJones,” really hit home with this then-young writer trying to figure out how to come up with ideas.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Dale. I must confess that I never saw Bloom County. And, it just struck me that I never read the paper while I was in college. I had my nose in the text books constantly.

      I hope that message to Oliver Wendell Jones made you more determined to show the professor that there indeed were many new ideas, just waiting to be imagined.

      Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  8. I adore Snoopy. He’s also one of the few cartoons I can draw. Whenever we buy cards for the pipsqueaks, I add Snoopy and Woodstock. They love it. He hasn’t inspired any characters of mine yet, but never say never, right?

    Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend, Steve.

    • Thanks, Sue. Your pipsqueaks are fortunate to have your personal Snoopy and Woodstock drawings. I hope they are saving them.

      Never thought about it before, but it would be neat to be able to quickly sketch a cartoon character when autographing a book.

      Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend. also, Sue.

  9. Golly. Great topic. Nostalgia strikes! On Saturday evenings, our father would bring home for us both the LA Times and Herald-Examiner Sunday editions, which each had its own comics. Over the years, I remember in particular Prince Valiant (“Prince Violent,” in Mad Magazine), Li’l Abner, Terry & the Pirates (with never a single pirate!). Later, Kelly (& Duke), Rick O’Shay, Jerry Van Amerongen’s “The Neighborhood,” and Foxtrot. Now, For Better or Worse (reruns), Pickles, Pearls Before Swine, and Dilbert. Calvin & Hobbes remains my all-time favorite, ended before it could become ordinary.
    Peanuts, alas, became totally predictable decades ago, the same gags being run over and over. Others have attained the same fate or otherwise lost their edge. I’ll not list them; the list is long and sad.

  10. Yeah, this takes me back…

    We had six growing up . . . my mom and dad and four kiddos.

    In our local paper, there was a cartoon called Family Circus. Mom and Dad never missed, and as we got older, neither did we.

    Each installment seemed curiously familiar. 🙂

    • Sorry for the delay in my response, Deb. The website was saying that I talk too much. All my attempts at responding to comments (JG’s, yours, and JSB’s) were met with “Denied for too many attempts.” Apparently our IT specialist has fixed things. Thanks, Brian!

      When I told my wife about my woes, she got this glint in her eyes, like she was wondering how she could shut me up, too.

      But I digress. Our family had five kids, and we read “Family Circus.” Big families and lots of conflicting agendas. Fun.

      Hoping you have a conflict-free weekend.

  11. Comics have never influenced me although I’ve always been a fan. In GUARDIAN ANGEL I did use the Swedish Chef from THE MUPPET SHOW as my inspiration for Bubba, a good old boy Swedish chef who was a sniper in WWII. He was both comic relief and played a pivotal violent role in two scenes. He also provided the meal for the happily-ever-after wedding reception for the hero and heroine at the end of the book. He was so much fun to write.

    I spend a lot of time in the comments sections of “Ten Cats,” “Breaking Cat News,” and “Ballard Street” at GoComics. Lovely people, and the cat cartoons are charming. “Breaking Cat News” has really beautiful art, much of it water colors, and really fun story arcs about the cats’ adventures in a family. “Ballard Street” is just weird.

    • Thanks, Marilynn, for your comments. Very interesting. I liked your use of the Swedish chef for GUARDIAN ANGEL. And great suggestions for cat lovers. Comics are fun.

    • Ballard Street was the workaround to continue “The Neighborhood,” Jerry van Amerongen’s even weirder syndicated strip. I love his cartoons, especially: “Several people told Mrs. Halsey her new hat looked too much like a frisbee.” (Mrs. Halsey’s hat is being snatched from her head by a large dog, hair pins flying in all directions.)

  12. Like many here, the ‘funnies’ taught me how to read. And they are the first thing I read Tuesday thru Saturday when my paper comes–I actually still get a daily paper. 🙂 I miss Pogo and Calvin and Hobbes and For Better or Worse. I probably read every strip in our paper. Great topic!
    Oh, and I got the “denied for too many attempts”, too.

    • Good morning, Patricia, and thanks for continuing to try to get on the site. Glad you did. And we’re never closed here. Our site administrator told us that GoDaddy was having problems world wide. Hopefully it’s fixed now.

      Amazing how many people learned to read on the funnies. And yesterday’s post by Reavis confirmed that graphic stories, like comics, have inspired some of us to try new ideas or genres (or even to mix genres).

      We used to get our local daily paper, but it continued getting small and smaller. I used to say I needed to use a magnifying glass to find it at the end of the lane.

      Thanks for your comments, and hope you have a great remainder of the weekend.

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