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Comics of the Nickel and Dime Decade

March 15, 2011

Though comics did not begin in the 1930s, many of our most beloved, time enduring comic strips were created during this decade. Many, such as, Superman, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie, have made the jump from comic strip to the big screen, resulting in attracting a wider fan base and ensuring a more concrete existence for the characters in the years to come.

Americans during this time were hungry for an escape from the realities the great depression had brought them. They sought comfort, even if it were for a few short minutes, in reading the adventurous tales of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. They dove head first through the printed pages laid before them and into a mini jungle vacation, joining Tarzan and Jungle Jim on exciting quests or tagging along with Terry and the Pirates for exotic destinations all over the world. They enjoyed putting themselves in the shoes of their favorite superheroes such as Superman, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, and Batman and found refuge in the slapstick humor of Krazy Kat.

Some comics during the ‘30s included the hardships that its readers were personally experiencing. Little Orphan Annie’s comic strip, for example, included economic collapse, unemployment, and gangsters. After all, the “dirty thirties” was a time when gangsters, mobs, outlaws, and many other criminally involved groups became very popular. The fascination the public shared with gang activity may have led to Dick Tracy’s success as well.

With such hardships surrounding the everyday lives of people, Blondie, "Chic" Young’s comic strip, reminded them that love is sometimes worth more than money. Blondie Boopadoop, a flighty flapper, dated rich playboy Dagwood Bumstead, son of a millionaire. The strip did horribly until Chic decided to make the characters fall in love. This change prompted Dagwood to ignore his fathers disapproving view of Blondie, act against his father’s wishes, and go on a hunger strike in a desperate attempt to prove his love to Blondie. They wed in 1933, and Dagwood, stripped of his wealth and family inheritance, was nonetheless happy with his reliably practical new bride. Americans immediately warmed to the humorous daily reminders that love, not money, conquers all.

During economic hard times and wartime people not only want to be entertained, they need it. However, people will traditionally downgrade their more expensive entertainment offerings. When times are tough, human beings seek refuge in fantasy but having the money to take a family out for a night on the town, or even to a movie, was sometimes just not an affordable option. Comics were something families could enjoy in the comfort of their own homes together and have a great time doing it.

Inexpensive entertainment to be enjoyed at home is on the rise yet again and, taking a note from the ‘30s, many seem to be happily embracing the trend.

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