Thursday, December 08, 2016


Obscurity of the Day: Biddie and Bert

Bob Donovan spent thirty-some years of his cartooning career as assistant to Fred Lasswell on Barney Google & Snuffy Smith, but he did get nationally syndicated on his own once. His feature Biddie and Bert, a strip about a retiree couple, was distributed by the Hall Syndicate from June 25 1962 to January 15 1966.

Interesting thing about this strip is that though it may seem like it is mining a standard genre today, in 1962 it heralded the arrival of an entirely new class of human -- the active retiree. Between Social Security, company pensions, longer lifespans and modern medicine, the days had finally come when the end of our work lives was not generally very close to the same date as the end of our lifespan itself. And those lucky enough to experience some years of  retirement were now often healthy and independent enough not to spend that time whiling away the hours in a rocking chair.

Although the pioneering Biddie and Bert probably should have sold better, perhaps newspaper editors thought then the same way they did later on. According to one syndicate man of my acquaintance, there's no need for strips about  retirees, because they are a captive market -- they will buy the paper every day no matter what. Why bother catering to them?


Back in the late 50s, early 60s I visited Fred Lasswell's studio in Tampa, Florida. I met Fred and also Bob Donovan who was working on the then new, unsold strip, Biddie and Burt.

I was a teenager then and a neighbor of mine took me up there to meet Fred and show him my portfolio. He was very nice and encouraging.

I remember seeing Fred a few more times over the next year or so to get his input on ideas. --Beacham Owen

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