Back in November there was an email exchange between Mike Rhode and I and then with Bob Harvey and myself over a recent 9 Chickweed Lane sequence that intimated a sexual encounter between two characters – more specifically the loss of virginity of Amos and Edda. Unable to get a hold of Brooke McEldowney for comment, I dropped the idea of doing a story on the story-line. I’m glad to see Mike and Bob have written about it. In a largely conservative (and touchy) medium of newspaper comics, the idea of suggesting characters engaged in whoopee – virgin whoopee at that – seems difficult at best, but it appears a few artist have pulled it off successfully.
Last year, a few months before the Lisa Moore cancer story-line ended in Funky Winkerbean, Tom Batuik, the creator of the strip, took Darin and Jessica through the deed, but only hinted that the deed was indeed done. The Daily Ink archives didn’t go back far enough for me to post a sample strip, but as I recall, the characters were alone, Darin said something to the effect that he was ready (previously he had told Jessica that he wanted to wait) and then the next day, the comic showed Darin leaving her place with her leaning against the door jam with hair mussed up and saying something like, “Go get ’em tiger.” Okay, that might have been a line from a Spider-Man movie, but it was something akin to that. Prior to the Lisa Moore story, Funky Winkerbean wasn’t a strip I followed closely, so I’m not sure if the characters were indeed virgin, but because they were teenagers, I suspected they were. I watched for a backlash from readers, perhaps not because of what was intimated, but due to the character’s age. You never know what’s going to twist whose knickers. As far as I can tell, nobody made a stir.
Bob tells me in an email that Doonesbury’s Garry Trudeau did a four day sequence that back in 1976 that ended with characters Joanie and Rick in bed. Again the actual act not shown, but made clear what had transpired. The previous day’s strips showed someone calling Joanie’s empty apartment then pans out down the street and slowly pans over to Rick’s place where it zooms into the bedroom as seen below.
Doonesbury © Garry Trudeau
But the winner, for tact and imagery has to go to Brooke for his graceful handling of the subject in the November 8th strip by using a series of hand gestures.
9 Chickweed Lane © Brook McEldowney
In an email to Bob and published in his Rants and Raves newsletter, Brooke reveals some of the consternation in treading on this subject.
I’d been thinking about this sequence for a long time, mainly because the characters were edging that way all on their own. A lot of reader commentary has erupted over it, in particular warring camps representing love and romance vs. morality (with a smattering of concern over cartoon characters as role models). Me? I just think it is fiction, two characters, and a story. Getting away with it has been the tricky part. Not a word was ventured by my syndicate, United Feature, much to their creditâ??and it must have caused them moments of concern. The thing is, the story is not over yet. I’m still tiptoeing along the tight rope.
Writing about 9 Chickweed Lane in light of the Amos and Edda sequence, Mike Rhode writes on his blog, “I like this strip. We need it in the [Washington] Post. And then they can censor it.” While masterfully done, he’s right, not all papers will appreciate the delicate handling of American’s most taboo topic – well at least in newspapers.