Tuesday, June 09, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Francie

Sherrie Shepherd's Francie, which was distributed by United Feature Syndicate for a whole decade from 1986-96, probably shouldn't qualify as an obscurity with a run that long. However, despite its longevity, it never seems to have made all that much of an impression on the nation's funny pages.

Such tends to be the fate of many strips that are demographically focused. While there's certainly nothing wrong with a strip about a single mother, in fact it seems like a great springboard to me, Francie's gags basically make that one fact the focus of the strip on nearly a daily basis. No doubt this was at the behest of the syndicate, who saw it as a selling point. The problem with strips focused so sharply is that readers who don't fit the demographic feel excluded. While I'm sure the single mothers in the audience liked Francie -- it was pleasantly drawn, the gags were well-delivered, and it rang true -- that particular demographic may not be populous enough to make for a hit strip. The rest of us were not given a way to get hooked. This might have been correctable if Francie and her kids had strong characterization. However, the single panel daily format is awfully limiting in that respect. Francie is the designated gag deliverer, and her two kids may as well be mutes for as often as we hear from them. Where is there room for us to warm up to these characters?

In fairness, I have to point out that I've not seen much of the Francie strip from later in its run. Perhaps these issues were dealt with, and that's why the strip ended up having a very creditable ten year run.

Francie ran from September 29 1986 to August 31 1996, as a daily and Sunday feature. Creator Sherrie Shepherd has since continued in the graphic arts and cartooning, including occasional appearances as editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Times.


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