Classic Comics Move Into the Future

By now, you'd think Blondie would be ready for retirement — after all, the buxom suburban housewife and star of her own comic strip recently turned 74.

But instead, Dagwood's spouse is still visible in major newspapers nationwide, just as young, blonde and shopping-obsessed as ever. And she's even on the Web.

Somehow, the classic comics — some of them almost 100 years old — still strike a chord with readers today. And in what is perhaps the ultimate sign of the times, they're moving online.

"They talk about broad, general topics such as family, work and friends — things that are eternal, things that are just as true today as they were 50 years ago," said Jay Kennedy, editor-in-chief of comic-strip giant King Features Syndicate (search), which launches its Web site on Monday.

"More and more people will be getting their news in sources other than print, and we want to be in touch with that," Kennedy said of the new site.

DailyINK joins a gaggle of other Web sites run by the major comic-strip syndicates — including, and — that have already taken the art form into cyberspace.

"[It's for] people who read comics in newspapers, but want to see more," said Kennedy.

DailyINK, which has an annual subscription fee of $15, features the company's 75 new and old strips — including "Blondie," "Family Circus," "Dennis the Menace," "Zits" and "Mutts" — and highlights some vintage ones dating back to the 1920s and '30s.

First on the oldies list will be Popeye the Sailor Man, who debuted in the strip ""Thimble Theatre" in 1929.

Some people, however, scratch their heads at what keeps the generations-old favorites so alive, saying the humor is corny, the characters outdated and the situations passé.

"The reason newspapers continue to stick with aging, unfunny strips is because they're predictable," said Coury Turczyn, Webmaster of online pop culture magazine "Editors know there's an audience for these ‘classics,' whereas they don't know whether people will like a new, edgy strip."

But the classic funnies are trying to evolve in the modern age. Characters today are drawn with everything from hip hairdos to modern technology such as DVDs, cell phones and the Internet.

Storylines have also been updated to reflect the times. A decade ago, Blondie Boopadoop — the yellow-haired bombshell flapper married to Dagwood Bumstead — ditched her full-time housewife duties and started working in the "Blondie" comic strip, which began running in 1930.

More recently, the eternally single Cathy, heroine of the not-quite-old but not-quite-cutting-edge "Cathy" strip, got engaged this past Valentine's Day to her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Irving.

"When interest in a strip is fading, you do often notice some new character or situation inserted to try to reignite that interest," said comic artist Dan Killeen (search). "Sometimes it's effective and sometimes it's not."

Though the changes often seem few and far between, Kennedy said they're there, but subtle.

"There used to be a lot of drinking jokes," he said, pointing to the alcoholic neighbor Thirsten in the "Hi and Lois" strip, who lost his red, bulbous nose and no longer stumbles around drunkenly.

"You don't see that anymore," Kennedy added. "It [alcoholism] is more defined as an illness — the public's attitudes about drinking have changed."

Newer artists say newspaper readers' loyalty to older comics is such that the younger ones sometimes don't get much of a shot in print.

"Familiarity is a mighty thing," said Killeen, who has struggled to find a home for his "Steve" strip. "People freak out when their favorite, tired strip gets pulled for some new, unfamiliar strip."

But he thinks putting the classics on the Internet, where the cutting-edge artists once reigned supreme, can only benefit the industry. "Exposure is increased for the little guys," Killeen said.

And Kennedy defended the veterans as ageless, saying they're not irrelevant or dated.

"They're the best of that field," he said. "They've withstood the test of time."