The boys are prepubescent, but their exact age is unclear, as is their relationship to each other … Are they twin brothers? Friends? The same kid in alternate universes? Or is it more of a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation?
It doesn’t really matter. Goofus and Gallant are symbols more than characters. In every issue, they play out a sort of Calvinist destiny. Their essential nature was preordained by a higher power long ago—Goofus forever doomed to be a screwup, Gallant to be a smug little do-gooder.
The higher power that created them was Garry Cleveland Myers, who first wrote a version of the strip called “The G-Twins” at the magazine Children’s Activities, before he co-founded Highlights with his wife, Caroline Clark Myers. But in another sense the characters sprang directly from the moral compass of society.
Since 1948, Goofus and Gallant, the stars of their eponymous comic strip in Highlights for Children magazine, have taught generations of kids the dos and don’ts of how to be.
Julie Beck, at The Atlantic, spent some time at the Library of Congress reading decades of Goofus and Gallant strips taking special note of the changing customs and mores through the past 75 years of Highlights for Children, and then discussed the changing attitudes with Christine French Cully, Highlights’ current editor in chief.
Every installment of Goofus and Gallant now has a line at the top that reads “There’s some of Goofus and Gallant in us all. When the Gallant shines through, we show our best self.”
From Mental Floss (2017): 7 Engaging Facts About Goofus and Gallant
3. ONE ARTIST DREW THE STRIP FOR 32 YEARS.
Once Myers secured the rights to the two characters for Highlights, he enlisted illustrator Marion Hull Hammel to draw their adventures (and misadventures), taking them from the elfin creatures of the early days to the human boys of the 1950s and beyond. Hammel wound up drawing it for 32 years; Sidney Quinn took over when she retired and worked on it through 1995. Current artist Leslie Harrington has been on the strip since 2006.
Update: Made a stop at Barnes and Noble today and checked the June 2023 issue of Highlights for Children – Leslie Harrington remains the credited illustrator.