Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Obscurity of the Day: Mixed Singles / Boomer
Mixed Singles, a somewhat groundbreaking daily and Sunday strip, debuted on November 13 1972. In the early 70s the country was loosening up, admitting that unmarried people weren't all living a monastic life, getting paired up at church socials and marrying as virgins. As goes the country, so go the comics, so United Features contracted with creators Mel Casson and William F. Brown for their new strip about the residents of a swinging singles apartment building Given the extremely prudish strictures of the comics page, Casson and Brown got away with a surprising amount of semi-adult humor about the single life.
Casson was already a veteran of the comics page, having written the excellent strip It's Me, Dilly and created the daily panel Angel. Brown, although also a cartoonist, was more involved with performing arts, having written the play The Girl in the Freudian Slip and worked on quite a few TV programs including The Jackie Gleason Show. During the run of Mixed Singles, Brown would make an even bigger splash as the librettist for the hit musical The Wiz.
Brown and Casson claimed to share writing responsibilities about equally on the strip, and the art chores were generally split with Brown handling pencils and Casson inks.
In January 1973 a new character, Boomer, was added to the already large cast of regulars at the apartment house. The cowboy-hat wearing chauvinist jock had a lot of repellent qualities, but for some reason Brown and Casson fixated on him. He eventually became the star of the strip, and when he wed in March 1975 the title of the strip was changed to Boomer.
The gradual shift in focus from singles to young marrieds was presumably a marketing decision. Although Mixed Singles had found a home in some big city papers on the liberal-leaning coasts, the strip didn't really have much of a foothold in conservative middle America. The change did actually seem to have a positive short-term effect in terms of the number of papers that carried the feature, but sales soon dropped off again. The strip limped on with a slowly but surely dwindling roster of papers until August 1 1981.
Note: according to Ron Goulart the Sunday was dropped earlier than the daily, on 4/29/79, but Don Mangus has reported to me that he has a Sunday dated 7/20/80, and the strip was advertised in E&P as a daily only in 1979-80. Can anyone clear up this discrepancy?