Déja Vu and One Chicken’s Odyssey

If you joined this weblog recently AND have been paying attention to the Squirly & Earl cartoons I’ve been running every Sunday AND are from Birmingham, Alabama AND are no spring chicken, you may have found yourself disoriented by weekly sensations of déja vu.

That’s because all of the characters and jokes in my present-day squirrel humor series are blatant steals from cartoons that ran in the (recently folded, I’m sad to say) Birmingham Post-Herald between 1970 and 1972.

Above left: "Ms. Kackle" in my April 9 Squirly & Earl cartoon. Above right: The same hen appearing as "Mrs. Henpeck" in a 1971 Tops & Button panel.

Because I was the cartoonist who drew the original Tops & Button series from which the these cartoons and usually renamed characters are lifted, I’m allowed to refer to my spree of thievery by the more polite term: remakes. I explained all of this back in February when I was just getting this blog underway; I’m only mentioning it here for the benefit of those aging Birminghamians and Birmingham refugees (you know who you are) who have come in late.

I needed to spend a few moments addressing an unrelated Squirly & Earl housekeeping matter anyway. This weekend I noticed to my embarrassment that I had accidentally run the same S&E installment on two different Sundays, separated by a month of so. I’m sure this caused much consternation abong my legions of Sunday squirrel humor fans, all of whom were too sensitive to my feelings to share their distress with me personally. Never wanting to short-change my loyal readers, however, I want you to know that I have belatedly corrected my error: the Squirly & Earl cartoon now archived as my April 2 offering is different from the one first posted on that date originally.

As I uploaded the aforementioned replacement, of course, I was siezed with uncertainty about whether today’s children grow up hearing the nursery rhyme about Little Miss Muffet, which couldn’t be avoided when I was a kid and on which the presumed humor of that particular cartoon rests. Maybe the spider-spooked lass in the nursery rhyme has faded into obscurity in the intervening years. Conversely, if today’s youngers do know the verse and have been inquisitive enough (as I never was in the first six decades of my life) to look up the actual dictionary definition of a "tuffet," then the panel will draw a total blank. Everything depends, after all, on the slightly provocative sound that a child’s tuffet can take on when one has no idea what a tuffet is. Such is the fragility of comedy that assumes that readers are as ignorant as the cartoonists entertaining them!

A final note: the "Mrs. Henpeck" first incarnated in Tops & Button took a brief side trip into disreputability (see the drawing at left) during the years before her recent reemergence as "Ms. Kackle." Since I often wonder if anyone is actually reading this blog beyond the handful of loyalists who occasionally post comments, let me take this opportunity to run a small test.
To the first person reading this (other than a family-member of mine) who can correctly identify the work of art in which this drawing first appeared I will send the original art from a Tops & Button panel featuring my cranky chicken — IF you contact me by email with your answer before noon tomorrow Eastern Daylight Time. To the next nine people who provide this information during the same time period I will send an autographed sketch of either Mrs. Henpeck, Ms. Henpack, Ms. Kackle, or Squirly & Earl — depending on your preferences.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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