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Comic Strip Rarity: Ribbons and Haywire

In 1979 Steve Carpenter, an artist for Hallmark Cards, Inc. created a curly haired dog for a greeting card. A Hallmark executive saw the drawing and thought it had possibilities … as a comic strip.

Card companies had had a long association with comic characters. In 1960 Hallmark itself began a very successful relationship with Charles Schulz. Of course a sizable part of the profits realized from the Peanuts cards went to licensing fees. Competitor American Greetings saw success when one of their cartoonists, Tom Wilson, brought them Ziggy. Perhaps Hallmark was hoping to replicate that accomplishment with a character they owned.

The drawing of Ribbons was a start, but more was needed. In 1980 Ed Wallerstein, a humor editor and writer in the Hallmark bullpen, received the assignment of fleshing out the details of Ribbons’ universe. Walter, a bit of a curmudgeon, and Alice, whose heart is as big as all outdoors, were created to be Ribbons’ owners. Their grandchildren would come around on occasion to create some conflict in Ribbons’ life. But the real mischief-maker is Haywire.

 

 

While Ribbons is a pampered princess, Haywire is the neighborhood version of a Bowery Boy. Haywire doesn’t mean to cause trouble, but hey, he’s a dog on the loose and is trying to survive.

 

Like most cartoonists and humor writers of the time, Steve and Ed no doubt dreamt of making it big with a comic strip. That hope was spoiled a bit because “Ribbons” was a corporate planned and controlled entity. This meant the Ribbons (and Haywire) jokes and ideas had to go through layers of management approval. That the creation shouldn’t offend anyone’s sensibilities put a damper on the humor.
For example: I have the feeling that Haywire was originally conceived more as a Dead End Kid than a latter-day Bowery Boy. Creativity by committee is seldom a formula for success.

Anyway, Hallmark sold King Features Syndicate on the idea, a sort of updated Lady and the Tramp with much more human interaction, and, after some more  development, Ribbons made its debut on September 20, 1982.

 

After a year and a half the strip was in a bit fewer than 50 newspapers. In an effort to boost interest (and promote the Haywire character) the strip was retitled Ribbons and Haywire on February 13, 1984. About that same time Ed Wallerstein stopped contributing gags to the strip.

 

The last strip with Ed’s signature was February 25, 1984. The strip was then written and drawn by cartoonist Steve Carpenter, possibly with some gags coming from the Hallmark writers’ bullpen.

 

The strip continued for another year, ending on Sunday April 21, 1985.

above: the last daily from April 20, 1985

 

Ribbons and Haywire did do some traveling before the end.

Well, that’s not what I meant. I was talking about Canada …

and Finland …

and the United Kingdom.

 

 

Hallmark managed to produce some Ribbons and Haywire merchandise.

 

And, even rarer than the strip, a 1985 mass market paperback book:

 

 

After the strip ended both creators continued with Hallmark.
Ed as humor writer and editor and manager (1974-2010) and
Steve as artist, designer, and creative director (1975-2016).

 

sources:
The Ribbons Sales Kit, mostly presented here,
Going Haywire by Mark Johnson
and a couple strips from Wikia La BD de Journal au Québec

 

below: more dailies from the first month

 

 

 

Community Comments

#1 Mary McNeil
July/28/2019
@ 5:23 pm

Thanks for showing Ribbons & Haywire – one I’d missed entirely. Kind of a sweet strip.

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