7 Bizarre Early Versions of Famous Cartoon Characters

#3. Blondie Was Almost Sex in the City

Blondie is like a 50s TV Sitcom that somebody forgot to cancel. Despite being the title character, Blondie plays the background role of a diminutive housewife while Dagwood, the main character, eats "hilariously" large sandwiches and naps on the couch. It's hackish and irrelevant today, but at least they stuck to their guns -- such as it is, such it always shall be.

Above: The only universal constant.

But in the Beginning:

Via Library of Congress

Blondie was originally the strip's focal point, they just never bothered to change the title. She wasn't married to Dagwood at all; it was just a strip about a single girl living it up in the city. The series began in the early 30s, and Blondie was a "flapper chick" with the dignified last name of Boopadoop.

She was always better than Dagwood deserved.

The story revolved around her over-the-top hedonistic adventures and glamorous social life. So why the change?

Because the stock market crashed the year before the series debuted.

It was a devastating time for comics. And also people, probably.

Newspaper readers weren't exactly interested in the misadventures of a fun-loving single girl in the glitzy city, who liked having rich gentlemen callers. They bought the paper to read the news, look for jobs and maybe boil it later to add much-needed texture to their shoe-leather burritos. So the series was reformatted, and Blondie's beau at the time of the change, Dagwood Bumstead, asked her to marry him so they could settle down. But there was a problem: Even Dagwood was originally a wealthy socialite and they first had to bankrupt the pair. The ensuing storyline had Dagwood's parents disowning the couple because they considered Blondie a skank, well below their social standing.

Now that Dagwood was on his own financially, he got a mid-level job working for Mr. Dithers, he and Blondie got hitched, and his wacky, eating-disorder hijinks became the series' main focus. It says a lot about the priorities of the time: People were so despondent that, even in fantasy, they couldn't set their sights higher than a steady, crappy job, a comfortable couch and a giant sandwich.

Via Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppe
Wow! That's a story I can relate to! Tell us about the bread again, mister ...

#2. Popeye Was a Minor Side Character to Olive Oyl

Popeye is the ultimate underdog and the champion of everyone's least-favorite canned vegetable. We all know the basic premise of a Popeye the Sailor Man short: Popeye tries to woo the rail-thin Olive Oyl, Bluto (professional bully at large) beats Popeye up and kidnaps Olive Oyl, Popeye eats some spinach and beats Bluto nearly to death.

Remember kids, hurting people will make women love you.

But in the Beginning:

The comic strip that originated Popeye actually had nothing to do with him. The strip in question was called Thimble Theater and didn't feature the titular sailor at all. It did, however, feature Olive Oyl, her brother Castor and her boyfriend Harold Hamgravy (later shortened to just Ham Gravy). Seriously, this is just getting sad -- people were really hungry back then.

Via The Glyph
Even the villains just wanted a modest meal.

Ten years into Thimble Theater's run, Ham and Castor set out on a trip to an island casino. They needed a boat that needed a sailor, and that's where they first encountered Popeye. Popeye played a minor role in the story: He got the pair to the casino and then was shot by gangsters in the process, presumably never to be seen again.

Via cartoonflophouse.blogspot.com
Get this man his own strip!

Popeye was only intended to be a one-off character -- a means to get Ham and Castor to the island and nurture some cheap drama. But reader reaction to the burly curmudgeon was so positive that he was brought back and given an expanded role. Thimble Theater's popularity sky rocketed, Castor was given the axe, Olive was relegated to the background and Ham Gravy changed his name and went on to become President of these United States.

#1. Beetle Bailey Wasn't in the Army

Beetle Bailey is a sad sack of a soldier who is perpetually stuck in basic training, and often physically abused by Drill Sergeant Snorkel. Somehow that's supposed to be funny, and not the first half of Full Metal Jacket.

But in the Beginning:

It had nothing to do with the Army. Though Bailey was always the title character, his original moniker was "Spider," and the strip was about the wacky shenanigans of a kid going to college.

The standards for "wacky shenanigans" were a lot lower back then.

So what happened? Well, early on in the series, Beetle "accidentally" joined the Army. This was meant to be a one-off storyline poking fun at military life. But with America just entering into the Korean War at the time, Beetle's military antics proved especially popular -- so it was decided he would not return to school after all. He was stuck in the Army, against his will.

Via cbgxtra.com
With a depressing use of reverse psychology

Since enduring the horrors of war isn't exactly "wacky," Beetle is a member of the only infantry unit to never leave basic training. It's not exactly exploring new ground by trying to find humor amidst violence and tragedy -- it's just a constant rehashing of old gags with Army life as little more than a novel backdrop. Though credit should be given: Beetle Bailey is, to this day, the only comic strip based on the complete and permanent destruction of a child's dreams for a better life.

Aside from Family Circus, of course.

Anthony Scibelli is a handsome stand-up comedian and comedy writer. You can find him at his blog, There's No Success Like Failure. Brian Daniel does a webcomic called Shifter.

And pick up our book because it'll show you how to reinvent yourself as a smart person.

For more insane origin stories, check out 5 Classic Board Games With Disturbing Origin Stories and 7 Shockingly Dark Origins of Lovable Children's Characters.

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