Bringing Up Father (March 7, 1945)
by George McManus (1884-1954) and Zeke Zekley (1915-2005)
23.25 x 5.75 in., ink on paper
In 1904, young George McManus was hired by Pulitzer’s New York World as a cartoonist. While he was there he created such strips as The Newlyweds, which comics historians consider the first family comic strip. In 1912, William Randolph Hearst hired McManus away to start a comic strip about a guy called Jiggs, a lower class man who came into a lot of money. With their new wealth, Maggie, Jiggs’ wife, wanted to enter the upper crust of society but Jiggs just wanted to hang out with his old friends at the local bar playing cards and pool and eat his simple favorite foods. This is the classic strip Bringing Up Father, which is counted as the longest running comic strip of the 20th Century (1913-2000) after The Katzenjammer Kids, 1897-2006). A few more that started after 1913 now have longer absolute running times, post-2000.
McManus had masterful line work with a strong deco feel to his designs. Over time, he developed the recurring motif of animating the background paintings in certain panels, and this is generally delightful.
The whimsy in the funny papers often sits in sharp contrast to the news of the day.
By March 1945, things were looking up for the Allies. Facing a siege of Berlin by the Soviets, Hitler had withdrawn to his bunker about 3 months earlier. And in less than 2 months, on the last day of April, he would commit suicide in that bunker.
FDR was less than a month away from his death at this point. In his public report to Congress on the Yalta Conference, on March 1, he made the noteworthy and open acknowledgement of his paralysis: “I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say, but I know that you will realize that it makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs.”
In Germany, the Wehrmacht began calling up 15- and 16-year old boys on March 5, the same day that the US Army entered Cologne, about 375 miles from Berlin.
On March 6, 1945, the day of this particular strip, Germany launched “Operation Spring Awakening,” the last major German offensive of the war, near Budapest. After about a week, the Soviets had countered and pushed the Germans back.
By March 10, the last German troops west of the Rhine withdrew to the east as Bonn and Godesburg, along the river to the south of Cologne, we occupied by US forces.
And on March 18, the Allies made heaviest daylight bombing raid, to that point, on Berlin. The next day, Hitler ordered destruction of the country’s infrastructure to prevent their use by the Allies. Two days later, Hitler made his final public appearance, awarding medals to members of the Hitler Youth.
I also have the strip from the day before (March 6) and the composition of the two strips is interestingly parallel, ending with the 2-panel spread and including a silhouette panel in the middle.
March 6 and 7 (reformatted):