Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Obscurity of the Day: Perky and Beanz

Cartoonist Russell Myers hit a huge home run in 1970 when he created Broom-Hilda, a very funny and rather surrealistic strip about a witch, a troll and a vulture. In the 80s, though, the strip seemed to sputter a bit, degrading from a mega-hit into a mere success. Myers reacted by offering a second strip through his syndicate, Tribune Media Services, called Perky and Beanz.

The new strip was much more down to earth than Broom-Hilda. It starred a precocious 8-year old girl who comes to live with her grandpa, Alphonse G. Beanz, a cantankerous retiree. Co-starring was a depressed dog, Yoyo and an assortment of neighborhood oddballs. The humor was of the tried-and-true clash of generations variety.

It was a pleasant enough strip, I suppose, but the problem I see is a mistake that seems to crop up on the comics pages over and over. Myers, who was pushing 50 when the strip was introduced, substitutes lame pop culture references for any real insight into the generation gap. In one week alone, for instance, there are gags about Motley Crue, the Garfield comic strip, Doctor Ruth and Calvin Klein jeans. There's no actual wit involved, as if the references themselves are somehow intrinsically funny. They aren't, and they smell of desperation. Yet the week of strips I'm referring to isn't from well into the run on an off week for Myers, these are in the second week of the strip's run!

The Myers name was enough to sell a few newspaper editors on the strip but not many. The Sunday and daily strip began on September 23 1985 and wore out its welcome in most papers pretty quickly. Myers' home paper, the Chicago Tribune, in an unusual instance of showing solidarity with one of their creators, ran the strip for its full two year run, ending September 6 1987.


This strip ran for a few months in the BOSTON GLOBE. I remember in the first strips that the GLOBE ran, Beans was VERY cantakerous, as you said, bur near the end of the strip's run, Myers drastically altered the BEANZ character, slimming him down, changing his face (smaller nose and eyes, less jowly) and softening his dispostion. I was wondering if he did that because he was coming off as TOO abrasive to the readers/attempt to salvage the strip.
Thanks for bringing up that point Chris. I meant to mention that and forgot. Beanz did get a makeover in June 1986, a very abrupt one in which he was changed just as you describe. This sort of Hail Mary pass isn't uncommon in foundering features, but how making Grampa even LESS interesting as a character was supposed to reverse the fortunes of the strip is a mystery to me.

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