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Zippy Forces a Comic Strip History Lesson


Zippy © Bill Griffith; Gnome and Hitchhiker © King Features Syndicate

Today’s Zippy, featuring The Pinhead visiting Paul Bunyan and The Little Hitchhiker in Foozland
(or are they meeting Zippy on Earth-Z?), may need some explaining.

The confusing Foozland was created by Gene Ahern in his weird and fascinating comic strip The Squirrel Cage. Paul Bunyan was introduced and was the main character in The Squirrel Cage for a couple years.

Attentive readers of The Squirrel Cage know the little gnome — a doppleganger for the the Little Hitch-hiker (who also appears in the Foozland strips) — is actually Paul Bunyan, the mythic logger giant from American tall tales!

And then:

After Paul Bunyan tangles with an ill-tempered witch, he is reduced to a pint-sized lawn-ornament style gnome and banished to the mysterious country of Foozland, where the laws of humans and nature are radically different from our collective reality. After this transformation, the strip never again refers to the gnome as Paul Bunyan. He is essentially a cipher, with no name, no purpose, and no character…

But rather than just quote screwball specialist Paul C. Tumey, read his account of Foozland here.
And here is Carl Linich with his view of skewed Foozlandishness.

 

Community Comments

#1 Kip Williams
November/30/2020
@ 5:01 pm

Great history. I came in at the tail end of The Nut Brothers, but if my cursory research is right, Ahern hadn’t drawn it since 1936, when he turned Our Boarding House (the strip The Nut Brothers were the topper for) over to Bill Freyse. Their wall-eyed whimsy went right over my shiny young head much of the time.

I must find out more about this. Fantagraphics must have reprinted some of it, right? Or Bill Blackbeard or somebody.

#2 D. D. Degg
November/30/2020
@ 9:34 pm

The only “book” I find is a pdf from Ken Pierce
http://www.kenpiercebooks.com/squirrel.htm

Otherwise it’s search the Tumey and Linich sites for Foozland.

#3 Kip Williams
December/1/2020
@ 9:11 am

I found a handful of Squirrel Cage and Nut Brothers in an oversize nemo collection of screwball strips that I bought in the 80s. The amazing part is that I went right to it on the shelf–no doubt the unusual size helped.

#4 D. D. Degg
December/1/2020
@ 12:27 pm

While I had thought of, but did not mention, Tumey’s recent Screwball book which, naturally, has a chapter on Gene Ahern, the older nemo special completely slipped my mind. Here’s a peek: http://jeffoverturf.blogspot.com/2011/05/gene-ahern-nemo-annual-1-part-6-and.html

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