Interview: Bruce Canwell on IDW’s Blondie Vol. 1

Blondie Vol. 1

Blondie Vol. 1

Bruce Canwell is the Associate Editor of the Library of American Comics who, through IDW, have brought us such outstanding collections as the Bloom County: The Complete Library, the Complete Little Orphan Annie, the Complete Terry and the Pirates, the Family Circus Library, and many others. This month, they begin their collection of the classic comic strip, Chic Young’s Blondie. Westfield’s Roger Ash contacted Canwell to learn more about this volume.

Westfield: What is there about Blondie that makes it a good addition to the Library of American Comics (LOAC)?

Bruce Canwell: In Terry And The Pirates Volume 1, our very first release, we said the goal of LOAC is to preserve “the long and jubilantly creative history of the American newspaper comic strip.” Few series have run as long or are as jubilant as Blondie. The Bumsteads are pure Americana — like baseball and apple pie, and just about as popular. Roger, I bet like me, you remember growing up not only reading Chic Young’s comic strip, but also seeing the Penny Singleton/Arthur Lake Blondie movies being rerun on TV, and maybe you even remember the 1968 Blondie television show (with Patricia Harty as Blondie, Will Hutchins as Dagwood, and good ol’ Jim Backus as Dagwood’s irascible boss).

Exploring a strip that’s been part of the nation’s cultural fabric for more than three-quarters of a century is right up The Library of American Comics’s alley.


The first BLONDIE daily. Dagwood minus his cowlicks — a heavier set, grumpier-looking J. Bolling Bumstead (Dagwood’s father) — and Blondie . . . once again, it’s Blondie like you've never seen her before.

The first BLONDIE daily. Dagwood minus his cowlicks — a heavier set, grumpier-looking J. Bolling Bumstead (Dagwood’s father) — and Blondie . . . once again, it’s Blondie like you've never seen her before.


Westfield: The early Blondie strips are very different from what the strip is like today. What can people expect in this book?

Canwell: Everyone knows the underpinnings of the modern Blondie, right? Dagwood bowls over the mailman on his rush to work. Mr. Dithers catches Dagwood napping or goofing off in the office. Blondie helps get Dagwood out of trouble, or finds herself in hot water. The births and growing up of son Alexander and daughter Cookie. It’s the comedy of the classic American nuclear family . . .

Except our Blondie is different from all that. We’ve said this book is “Blondie like you’ve never seen her before,” and we ain’t kidding!

We’ll take you back to the very beginning of the strip, where you’ll see Blondie and Dagwood’s courtship — and what a wild courtship it is. Dagwood is the son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Bolling Bumstead, and they’re even richer and snootier than the name sounds. Blondie Boopadoop (her maiden name) is a little flighty, a little scatter-brained, but she’s always decked out in the latest fashions and catching the eye of many a good-looking guy.

The course of true love definitely doesn’t run smoothly in the early Blondie. Mr. and Mrs. Bumstead scheme to keep the young lovers apart, fearing Blondie is a gold-digger trying to get her hooks into the family fortune. The phrase “we’re on a break” hadn’t been invented yet, but from time to time our two lovebirds are apart and others move into the picture. Sometimes there’s temptation even when they’re together — is Blondie attracted to the hunky lifeguard during her beach vacation with the Bumsteads? When everyone’s attending Rasbry College, will Blondie’s frumpy roommate lure Dagwood away once she’s been transformed into a raving beauty? Before Twilight‘s Bella and Edward, or David and Maddie of Moonlighting, or Sam and Diane from Cheers, Blondie and Dagwood were pop culture’s original “will they or won’t they?” couple!


A meeting of the minds across three generations, as Blondie confers -- in her own unique manner -- with Dagwood's mother and grandmother.

A meeting of the minds across three generations, as Blondie confers -- in her own unique manner -- with Dagwood's mother and grandmother.


Westfield: Even with the differences, are there touchstones – such as Dagwood’s love of sandwiches – that readers will recognize in the characters?

Canwell: The two touchstones that link the original Blondie to the series we all know are [1] the love between Dagwood and Blondie, and [2] the whacky situations those two crazy kids gets into. No Dagwood sandwiches in sight — actually, quite the opposite. In this book you’ll get to read one of the most famous sequences in comics history — Dagwood’s hunger strike! To say more than that would spoil the fun.


Davis the boytoy lifeguard and Dagwood vie for Blondie's attentions, as Dagwood's bemused father looks on.

Davis the boytoy lifeguard and Dagwood vie for Blondie's attentions, as Dagwood's bemused father looks on.


Westfield: Some readers may not be familiar with the flapper lifestyle. Will historical context about this and other elements in the strips be included in the book?

Canwell: It wouldn’t be a Library of American Comics book without text devoted to jubilantly creative history, now would it?

Brian Walker is diving into the history of Blondie for us and having a ball in the process. Brian has a special love for the great comedy strips, as you know if you read our Eisner-nominated Bringing Up Father volume, where he and I shared writing duties. Here’s a little LOAC behind-the-scenes peek: as the pieces of this book were being assembled, I zapped LOAC’s editorial director, Dean Mullaney, a note that included this line: “This text piece is shaping up to be right in Brian’s wheelhouse. He loves finding the small details and connecting all the dots to depict the bigger picture, and that sensibility should serve Blondie Vol. 1 well.” So readers are in good hands with Brian doing the text-writing honors.


"Blondie Like You've Never Seen Her Before" indeed! Owners of this 1930s-vintage paper doll set saw Blondie depicted in her unmentionables.

"Blondie Like You've Never Seen Her Before" indeed! Owners of this 1930s-vintage paper doll set saw Blondie depicted in her unmentionables.


Westfield: What special features can readers look forward to in the book?

Canwell: The granddaughter of Chic Young, Blondie‘s creator, has graciously opened up her files and scrapbooks to us, which means we have access to some incredible artifacts, many of which haven’t been seen in decades. There’s some fantastic promotional artwork and articles King Features produced to hype the strip, as well as Blondie paper dolls and other merchandise. Everyone at LOAC Central was bouncing off the walls when this stuff started coming in, that’s how terrific it is.


While "on a break," the boy next door starts looking mighty good to Blondie . . .

While "on a break," the boy next door starts looking mighty good to Blondie . . .


Westfield: Are there any other Library of American Comics books on the horizon that you’d like to mention?

Canwell: As folks who are reading our blogs at www.libraryofamericancomics.com know, I’m not bashful about talking up future projects!

The mysterious and mystical Punjab will be making his Little Orphan Annie debut later on this year, in the sixth volume of our Annie series.

We have found a batch of amazing biographical facts about artist Cliff Sterrett, plus some little-seen promotional artwork that is going to make our oversized Polly And Her Pals a real delight.

Right now we are hard at work on Genius, Isolated: The Life And Art Of Alex Toth. This is easily the most ambitious book we’ve attempted in our four years of existence. Wait’ll you see both the rare artwork and the facts we’ve discovered about the man who drew Zorro and created the look of Space Ghost and The Herculoids!

And we’ll have more of our usual suspects, too — more Dick Tracy, more Bloom County, more Li’l Abner and Rip Kirby. Around the holiday season, we’ll also release King Aroo, Volume 2. If you read Volume 1, you know that’s going to be the perfect little stocking stuffer!


Dagwood's father bought Rasbry College so Dagwood and Blondie could attend. Now he's trying to break up the happy couple! Check out J. Bolling in his dean's robes and mortarboard -- what a hoot!

Dagwood's father bought Rasbry College so Dagwood and Blondie could attend. Now he's trying to break up the happy couple! Check out J. Bolling in his dean's robes and mortarboard -- what a hoot!


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Canwell: Roger, I’ll end on a serious note. In June, the sad news came regarding artist extraordinaire Al Williamson and Adrienne Colan, the wife of that “painter with a pencil,” Gene Colan. The comics community was enriched by their contributions and is lessened by their passings. Everyone at The Library of American Comics extends our sympathies and sincere best wishes to the Williamson and Colan families and their friends.


This strip, leading up to the wedding, is the launch-pad for BLONDIE as we know it. No more wealth, no more meddling relatives. Dagwood and Blondie prepare to tie the knot, and begin their lives in the work-a-day world.

This strip, leading up to the wedding, is the launch-pad for BLONDIE as we know it. No more wealth, no more meddling relatives. Dagwood and Blondie prepare to tie the knot, and begin their lives in the work-a-day world.

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