Folks, this might come as a shock, but the original Charlie Brown didn’t have zigzags on his shirt, nor eyebrows above his alarmingly wide-set eyes. Okay — maybe we’re being a little nitpicky with the eyebrows, but there’s certainly something strange about good ol’ Chuck in his 1950s Peanuts form. The same goes for Jon Arbuckle, whose eyes have grown tenfold in size since the downer’s first Garfield appearance. While wandering the depths of the Internet for our previous roundup of early character sketches, we kept bumping into these fascinating first comic strips of Charlie Brown, Garfield, Calvin, Hobbes, and more. So, since it’s always enjoyable to note the not-so-subtle changes in popular characters, we decided to save said strips for a roundup of their own. Click through for a good laugh, a bit of history, and ten debut comic strips featuring our favorite cartoon characters.
On October 2, 1950, nine newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Boston Globe, were treated to the very first Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. The strip featured a fresh-faced Charlie Brown, a rude boy with a seemingly receding hairline, and a quiet girl with a bow in her hair. The Chuck hater would later be revealed as Shermy, and the girl, Patty, eventually led way to another Patty, but of the “Peppermint” variety. Before Shulz’s Peanuts strip, the cartoonist had pegged Charlie’s name to four of his previous characters. Clearly, none of them were true Charlie Browns.
June 19, 1978 saw the debut Garfield strip by Jim Davis. At first, Davis planned to center the comic around Jon Arbuckle, a down-and-out cartoonist and owner of the sassiest of sassy cats. Davis’ newspapers, however, immediately found the cat to be funnier than the main man, and insisted that Garfield be drawn as the protagonist. The lasagna-loving feline, Arbuckle, and Odie soon settled into their modern cartoon bodies and the rest is history.
Calvin and Hobbes
Here we have cartoonist Bill Watterson’s monumental introduction of Calvin to Hobbes. Published on November 18, 1985, this first strip inspired kids nationwide to go outside and rig some tuna fish sandwiches in hopes of finding their very own tiger. Did you?
The Addams Family
Charles Addams, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, became famous for his satirically grim depictions of the modern family, otherwise known as The Addams Family. At first, the Addams were a nameless group, premiering on April 6, 1938 with the above one-panel strip about a vacuum. Once the television show was in development, Charles Addams was asked to finally name his characters. From then on, Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, and Wednesday took their places as members of our gloomiest American family.
On October 16, 1970, the nation was introduced to its new roommate, Mike Doonesbury, by cartoonist Gary Trudeau. Since his debut, this strip’s namesake has progressed from the above college student to a senior citizen, aging throughout his daily comics.
Berkeley Breathed published his first Bloom County strip, which sprouted from his college newspaper comics, on December 8, 1980. Until their final appearance on August 6, 1989, the folks and animals of Bloom County provided the world with the small town humor that won Breathed the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in editorial cartooning.
Here we have the first appearance by Popeye, as illustrated by cartoonist E. C. Segar. The character debuted in Segar’s Thimble Theatre strip on January 17, 1929 as a dimwitted sailor who fumbles his job on a ship. So, remember — if it ever comes up at a trivia night, Popeye’s first lines were, “‘Ja think I’m a cowboy?”
What do you get when you put hillbillies in a satirical comic strip? Al Capp’s Li’l Abner, of course! Here we have the first appearance of the strip’s namesake on August 13, 1934 as he ponders the meaning of life and supper. Li’l Abner looks a bit maniacal as he emerges from the water, no? If we didn’t know better, we’d assume he’s a swamp person coming to eat humans.
Dennis the Menace
Hank Ketchem’s Dennis the Menace premiered on March 12, 1951. The strip, which took place in Wichita, Kansas, followed a rambunctious kid named Dennis who just couldn’t behave himself. Next time you get pulled over, try that line on the police officer and let us know how it goes.
Here we have good ol’ Dilbert, whose office shenanigans debuted on April 16, 1989. At first, cartoonist Scott Adams’ strip chronicled Dilbert’s and Dogbert’s lives at home, but the panels eventually came to mostly take place in Dilbert’s workplace.