Dan Corkery: Beetle, Hagar, Hi and Lois: It's all in the family

Dan Corkery: Beetle, Hagar, Hi and Lois: It's all in the family

I'll say one thing about Hiram and Lois Flagston: They've aged well.

So have their kids. So well, after 60 years, they're still kids.

The names might not sound familiar, but you know them by their comics title: "Hi and Lois."

For those who have already read today's comics section, you know that the creation of Mort Walker and Dik Browne is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

This past week, the current writers for the strip — Brian and Greg Walker, sons of Mort — have had an ongoing theme of "then" and "now."

For example, last Monday's strip (we publish the daily "Hi and Lois" online) opened with the Flagstons car shopping, circa 1954.

"It gets 16 miles a gallon," the salesman says.

"There's room for the whole family," Hi notes.

Next frame, car shopping today.

Salesman: "It gets 46 miles a gallon."

Hi: "Where do I put my golf clubs?"

Giving the strip a fresh look while maintaining its family fun has been the job for the Walkers, along with artists Chance Browne, the son of Dik Browne, and Eric Reaves. (You might recognize Chance's name; his dad created "Hagar the Horrible." Chris and Chance Browne are on the "Hagar" team now.)

"The trappings of civilization are constantly changing," Brian Walker told The News-Gazette last week, "but the basic elements of family life and family dynamics still ... remain the same."

Not only has the strip been about family, but behind the drawings, it's about family, too. Since the mid-1980s, the second generation of Walker-Browne has been the creative force.

In the '80s, Mort Walker "determined that the writers on the strip were his generation, and they were long past diapers and family life," Brian Walker said. "And Greg, Chance and I were just getting started having our families. So we've been doing that since then."

Is there a third generation ready to take over?

"It's hard to say," Walker admitted. His son, Greg's kids and Chance's daughter all have their own careers.

His father, on the other hand, is still quite active in comics.

"Mort is still drawing 'Beetle Bailey.' It's pretty amazing, for 64 years," Walker said. "It's the longest time any creator has ever worked on his original comic strip."

And Mort's creative team for "Beetle Bailey," of course, includes family. Greg Walker does the inking and lettering, while Brian, Greg and Neal Walker, along with Jerry Dumas, help generate the "gags."

"So it's kind of an extended family business."

And the family business apparently has many more years ahead.

"It's going to be challenging to continue after my father is gone some day," Brian Walker said. "Of course, he might live to be 120 at this point, which would be great."

There are even more family connections:

— Lois, who appeared with her parents in an April 1954 strip, is the sister of Beetle Bailey. Six months later, in October, "Hi and Lois" became a spinoff — probably before the term was even coined.

— Dik Browne officiated at Brian's wedding in 1981. And last week, Chance Browne performed the wedding ceremony for Brian's daughter.

"The thing that's great about 'Hi and Lois' is that it's not only a shared family enterprise, but it's about family," Walker said. "A lot of inspiration comes from our own family lives.

"I call it the functional family in a dysfunctional world."

Dan Corkery is a member of The News-Gazette's editorial board. He can be reached at 217-351-5218 or dcorkery@news-gazette.com.

Comics website

If you like comics, we have a website for you: http://www.news-gazette.com/section/comics.html.

Here you'll find 78 syndicated comic strips from King Features. Some of these you can already read in the print edition of The News-Gazette. But if you are a fan of "Spider-Man," "Dick Tracy," "Mallard Fillmore" or "Grin and Bear It," for example, this is the Internet place for you.

Further, our website — available to both desktop and mobile users — offers horoscopes and puzzles from King Features:

http://www.news-gazette.com/entertainment/horoscopes

http://www.news-gazette.com/entertainment/puzzles

 

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion
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