Monday, June 29, 2015


Obscurity of the Day: Hippy

Okay, so anyone like to take a wild guess about the date when Hippy was being offered to newspapers? No? Well, yeah, it is a tough one. After all, the iconic image of the dirty, stupid, stoned counterculturist has been in vogue many times. In the early part of the century they were Bohemians, then in the 1950s they were beatniks, in the 60s (the classique period) they were know as hippies, and in recent times they were the 99%ers or Occupiers.

Why is it that anyone concerned enough about the status quo to speak up about it is safely ignored by the establishment by simply branding them as having imperfect hygiene? I remember when Wall Street was occupied a few years ago, I got quite the dose of nostalgia when, seemingly within hours of the story breaking, every pundit in the media apparently read the same memo and started making fun of the Occupiers as being unbathed. It was like watching TV back in 1968, when every show thought it was comedy genius to dress someone up in a Flower Power shirt and sandals, and have them act as vacant-eyed and dim-brained as, oh, say, George W. Bush.

Oops. Sorry, thought for a moment this was my other blog, Okay, back on track.

As you actually probably did guess, George Gately's Hippy debuted sometime in 1967 (exact date unknown to me -- must've been the drugs, man). That was the Summer of Love year, of course. (You can see some pics of it here, in which even the barefoot hippies appear to be surprisingly hygienic.) Hippies were a national fascination, and Gately evidently decided that a comic dealing with a beautiful curvaceous flower child, along with hackneyed hippie gags that were already getting stale, might be a winner.

Gately was already syndicated by the Chicago Tribune-NY News Syndicate with his Hapless Harry strip, and they agreed to take Hippy on, as a daily-only panel. Hippy, however, did not sell well at all. My guess is that you had liberal editors who found the panel trite and stupid, and conservative editors who weren't about to turn their papers over to a feature about the hated hippies. Not sure which editors that leaves as the market for Hippy.

Even though Hippy didn't do at all well snagging clients, it was advertised in E&P until 1970, though I've never seen any actually printed that late. Luckily, Gately came up with a vastly more popular new comic in 1973 called Heathcliff.

Oh, one last thing. That bottom sample in which smoking bananas is mentioned stimulated some dim memories of people telling me that you could get high from smoking banana peels. The memories are unclear as we might well have been experimenting with other smoking options at the time. Anyway, I looked it up, and it turns out there was a rumor that banana skins could be smoked to get a buzz. Well, turns out it was just idle stoner talk. Here's the Straight Dope on smoking bananas.


The Straight Dope traces the "smoking bananas" rumor to a Berkley Barb article 1967. I always heard that it was sparked by the line "Electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze" in Donovan's 1966 hit "Mellow Yellow" (although Donovan has since said that the reference was to a vibrator).--Doug
I also heard the Donovan reference, but as corroborating evidence after the rumor had caught on. "See, that's what Donovan was talking about back when he made 'Mellow Yellow.'"
I'm not sure it was the hippies that bothered the editors so much as the girl in scanty clothing in every panel. This seems like it was intended more for those naughty gag digests of the 60's than a newspaper strip.
Jeez, look at those flies circling very one of those filthy hippies!
Glad I was a freak, not a hippy.
As to that bottom panel: the reference to sniffing glue surprised me. I don't think it would pass muster on today's comics pages.
Also about that bottom panel: Look at that! Forty years ahead of its time - nose rings. Far-out, Man!
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