My father was Chic Young, the original creator of the Blondie comic strip. My mother, Athel, was a concert harpist. They met at one of my mom’s concerts and two weeks later he proposed. We always had a big gold harp in our house and plenty of beautiful music swirling about …inciting my dad to remark, on more than one occasion, that my mom was always harping on something!
When I was one year old, our family moved to California . My parents wanted to be in Hollywood, where Columbia Pictures was about to begin filming twenty-four Blondie motion pictures starring Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton. We moved to Florida in my senior year of high school, where I still live today.
After my graduation from college, I worked for an advertising agency in Miami, Fla. I was with the agency for a couple of years before moving on to become a sales promotion executive. But when my dad suggested that I come back home and work on the comic strip with him, I couldn’t get packed quickly enough.
“On the job training” in my dad’s studio was fun! My dad and I worked a lot and we laughed a lot; it was great production, and a great father-son relationship. Some of the fun was that our studio was right on the bay. I invented a device that would ring a bell in the studio when a fish struck a line at the end of the dock. It was pretty exciting when the bell went off, and we would race out to see what it was. Usually it was a saltwater catfish or something else that we’d have to throw back, but occasionally we were rewarded with a nice surprise. In between the fun and games, my father taught me every little nuance about running a big-time comic strip.
I was able to work with my father for ten years before his death in 1973. The Blondie comic strip, at that time, appeared in 1,600 newspapers worldwide. In the weeks after my father’s death, however, more than 600 newspapers dropped the strip on the basis of his death alone. I was devastated in every way imaginable. The magic seemed gone and, as far as I was concerned, the strip was doomed.
In the following weeks, more and more newspapers dropped the strip. I was near rock bottom when the last words my father had spoken came back to me. Literally on his deathbed, he said, “Listen, don’t worry about the comic strip. If it seems funny to you, do it.” And so I started doing just that. If it seemed funny to me, I did it. My dad must’ve known what was in store for me, because his foresight turned out to be a beautiful piece of wisdom. Suddenly the magic was back…and so were the lost newspapers!
I am most happy, thrilled, and delighted that, in the years since, we have added over 700 additional newspapers to the Blondie client list. I think some of that momentum can be attributed to the characters not becoming anachronisms. I’ve worked hard to keep the strip contemporary; and when Blondie started her own catering business, it even created a national media frenzy, culminating with Peter Jennings’ selection of Blondie and me as ABC’s “Persons of the Week!”
I am deeply indebted to three great artists who have labored on Blondie with me and contributed so much to her success. Jim Raymond, my father’s longtime assistant and artist, was my first collaborator. Jim’s brilliant artwork is the pantheon and serves, to this day, as the model for all of our graphics.
After Jim’s death in 1989, Stan Drake assumed the artistic responsibilities until his death in 1997.
Today, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, Blondie head artist, John Marshall, and his assistant, Frank Cummings, are carrying on in the tradition of their predecessors (in grand style!) and doing a most wonderful job.
When I’m not working on the comic strip, my favorite activities are spending time with my family, spearfishing, skiing, and chess. As for any resemblance I may have to Dagwood Bumstead…well, Dagwood and I both have “black belts” in buffet and we both like naps. But I believe that the biggest commonality has to do with the fact that we’re both family men, and I think the strip reflects that. I guess you could say that I’m Dagwood’s alter ego, but hopefully, with a little more finesse.
John Marshall began his cartooning career at the age of 14. At the urging of his grandmother, he sent some cartoons to Parade magazine, where, to his surprise, he sold one. A few years later, he sold another cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post.
In 1976, after graduating with honors from Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla., Marshall worked as art director at an advertising agency in Binghamton, N.Y. In 1980, Marshall began a career in freelance illustration and cartooning, lasting over 20 years. Some of his many clients included IBM and General Electric. In 1982, he created the syndicated comic strip, “Buford.” He has also illustrated two books on golf; one for Golf Digest.
Between 1989 and 2003, his editorial cartoons regularly appeared in the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin. He received a honorable mention in the New York State Associated Press Association Writing Contest in 1996. From 1994 to 2002, many of his editorial cartoons appeared yearly in Brook’s Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year. His cartoons have been reprinted in a variety of venues, including the book, Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul.
From 1994 to 2000, Marshall was the artist for Walnut Cove, a comic strip distributed by King Features Syndicate. In 2001, Marshall launched an online comic panel entitled “The U.S. of Play,” which appeared in syndication until January 2003.
Marshall began assisting on Blondie in December 2002 and became head artist in May 2005.