March 5th, 2018
by Mort Walker
The Sunday page above shows what it would look like if Beetle drew the comic strip that he stars in. This type of self-referential humor is called, “metacomics” by cartoon scholars. Over a decade earlier, King Features announced something new.Sam’s Strip was ahead of its time when it debuted in 1961. Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas’ offbeat creation took the inside joke to a new level, playing with the basic elements of the cartoon form, experimenting with different art styles and featuring famous characters from other strips. Sam and his cartoonist assistant owned and operated the comic strip they inhabited. The Yellow Kid, Jiggs, Krazy Kat, Dagwood and Charlie Brown were among the many familiar faces who made walk-on appearances. Sam and his assistant discussed the inner workings and hidden secrets of life within the panel borders. This type of self-referential humor, called “metacomics” by scholar Thomas Inge, had been explored previously by Al Capp, Ernie Bushmiller and Walt Kelly and has been used on a more regular basis by such contemporary cartoonists as Garry Trudeau, Berke Breathed and Bill Griffith. Sam’s Strip never appeared in more than sixty papers and was terminated by its creators in 1963. It is considered a cult classic among comic-strip aficionados today.
In 2008, Fantagraphics published the complete run of Sam’s Strip in a single volume. Although it is now out of print, used copies can still be purchased and a Kindle version is available at Amazon.
Next week we will continue our Timeline series with a Sunday page from 1974
– Brian Walker
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