Wednesday, November 09, 2022
Obscurity of the Day: Dear God Kids
If Charmers didn't give you a case of sugar shock, Bears In Love didn't make your brain melt, and Kisses didn't send your glycemic index into the red zone, then prepare for guaranteed diabetic overload, here come the Dear God Kids.
In the 1980s the cherubic children with adorably innocent questions for the Almighty graced everything from cards to mugs to calendars to books to coasters to statuettes to stickers to posters ... well, you get the idea. Creator Anne Fitzgerald of Limerick, Ireland, came up with the idea sometime before 1982, but the origin of this licensing bonanza is a little murky. Supposedly she attended a licensing fair and encountered a German firm that sold novelty phone pads. She suggested a pad that was headed with a "Dear God" aphorism; the firm tried it and the pads sold like a Biblical rain of frogs. Fitzgerald being an artist, she came up with the idea of adding cute kids as the speakers of these pithy lines, and a marketing bonanza was born.
Fitzgerald might have been a marketing wunderkind, but to be fair, she did seem to take her religion seriously. She wrote many books in which the Dear God Kids get Bible-based answers to their questions, the goal being to help kids understand how the Christian deity thinks in a cute, non-threatening format. But to be clear, the dynamo that ran this fad was all the junk that took up shelf space at your local K-Mart.
A newspaper feature for the Dear God Kids started in an unpredictable venue, Britain's notorious tabloid newspaper, The Sun (the one with topless girls on page three)*. It came to the U.S. under the distributorship of King Features, debuting on February 13 1984. American newspaper editors, perhaps sensing that the feature was essentially an advertisement for Fitzgerald's cornucopia of licensed gewgaws, wisely stayed away in droves.
King Features gave the feature a sporting chance, keeping it on the roster for almost four years. By then the craze for Dear God Kids had pretty much run its course, perhaps drowned under the mountain of over 1000 different licensed products dumped on the market. The kids were retired from American newspapers on January 2 1988.
Many thanks to Mark Johnson, who supplied me with the proof sheets seen above for the initial and final weeks of the feature.
* Oddly, this feature is not mentioned in the newly published book The A To Z of British Newspaper Strips by Paul Hudson, which otherwise seems pretty darn all-encompassing. It's also a captivating read for this comic strip fan, whose knowledge of British comics has all the depth of an Andy Capp gag.
As a cartooning hobbyist, I did my take of a comic strip with children in it from 2020 through 2022. I attempted to put some of the same endearing qualities in it. For example, I notice that everyone wants to anger everyone else in this world, so I always avoided making my characters angry in this series. I have been curious what some other people's take is on my kid comic strip, though, as I have showed it to very few.
It would be hard to not say there was some sort of connexion, or inspiration, with another feature we put out several years prior to this one,
"Children's Letters to God" by Stuart Hample. (1968-1976)
Hample's panel was initially so successful, he had a prime time TV special on it in 1969, but it tanked very fast. It was reasoned that it might be offending to some for it's possible frivoulous religous aspirations, and it was changed to "Children's Letters" midway through it's run.