Contemporary comic strip artists relate stories situated in very different kinds of imagined worlds, each with its own unique cast of characters and settings that typically reflect widely diverse aspects of modern life.

Bedtime Story?

As her young daughter Alix waits patiently for a bedtime story, Valerie (Val) Stone expounds humorously on the irrelevance of fairy tales to her own life. Jan Eliot’s impeccably drawn comic strip Stone Soup focuses on the daily lives of Val, a single mother, her household that includes her two daughters and mother, her workplace, and her sister. The trials and triumphs of this blended family form the heart of this strip, making it unusual among family-centered comics that traditionally feature two-parent households. Eliot’s first comic Patience and Sarah was followed by Sister City, which was renamed Stone Soup in 1995, when it became nationally syndicated.

Jan Eliot (b.1950). Stone Soup.“ Ahhh . . . Fairytales,” 1996. Published by Universal Press Syndicate, January 12, 1996. Ink over graphite underdrawing with paste-on. Gift of the artist, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (039.00.00) © Jan Elliott [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-31375]

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Comic Filled with Commentary

Aaron McGruder casts a sharply satirical eye on relations between blacks and whites in his highly successful, provocative comic strip The Boondocks. Through the voices of Huey Freeman, his brother Riley, and their grandfather, McGruder fearlessly targets American presidents, public office holders, performing artists, and institutions. In this Sunday feature that is produced entirely digitally, Huey and his friend Caesar take on the FBI. McGruder launched his strip in print in 1997 in the University of Maryland’s student newspaper while completing a degree in African American Studies. When syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate in 1999, Boondocks appeared in 195 newspapers, making McGruder one of the few black cartoonists represented on the comics pages of major daily newspapers.

Aaron McGruder (b.1974). The Boondocks, “Hello, FBI?,” 2002. Published by Universal Press Syndicate, January 6, 2002. Digital print. Gift of Universal Press Syndicate, 2006. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (040.00.00) Boondocks © 2001 and 2002 Aaron McGruder. Used courtesy of the creator and Universal Uclick. All rights reserved. [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppbd-00269]

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Fictitious Comics History

Zippy, the muu-muu clad pinhead created by Bill Griffith, first appeared in the underground Real Pulp Comix #1, in 1971, then in the Berkeley Barb in 1976, and became a daily strip in 1985 that won a devoted following. In this example, Zippy and his friend “Intal” share enthusiasm over the ink work of the fictitious “Morty Mishkin” in Atomic Duck comic books. Their pleasure disappears when Mishkin’s son sends word that his father would have wanted everything to be given to the Library of Congress. This strip spoofs comic book fans’ admiration for late, great comic artists’ work.

Bill Griffith (b. 1944). Zippy the Pinhead. “Tragic Ending,” October 5, 2007. Pen and ink, with traces of opaque white and graphite. Purchase, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (041.00.00) © Bill Griffith. Distributed by King Features Syndicate. [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-31376]

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A Dog's Fantasy

Patrick McDonnell imagines his leading character Earl, accompanied by his friend Mooch, transporting a potential home provider to the Animal Shelter in this Sunday feature of Mutts. McDonnell carefully sequences his animal characters’ actions and thoughts in order to reveal their quirks and traits of personality. He occasionally advocates for animals’ welfare, as seen in this thoughtful strip. Fulfilling a lifelong ambition with the 1994 launch of Mutts, McDonnell has since received numerous awards including the National Cartoonists Society Reuben for Cartoonist of the Year in 1999.

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Patrick McDonnell (b. 1956). Mutts. On Duty, 2001. Published by King Features Syndicate, November 4, 2001. Ink and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Gift of the artist, 2006. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (042.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-31377]

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