Printed newspapers are a dying breed these days—with circulations dropping and newsroom downsizing an ever more common occurrence—as more consumers get their news digitally. Extras like comic strips have been just one of the victims of this trend, with their space in the pages reduced and increasing reliance on cheaper reruns over fresh new syndicated offerings.
But in the mid-century years, the newspaper was an integrated part of life and daily routines. In the 1940s, newspapers (and radio) were essential for keeping up with the latest happenings in the second world war. And, of course, the funnies provided some welcome momentary distraction from what was happening in the world.
Here’s a quick look at some influential, classic comic strips that started in the 1940s. Some of them are still reprinted as reruns today. When you’re finished here, there are some even more familiar names in our roundup of classic comic strips that started in the 1950s.
Popular 1940s Comic Strips
- Archie – Americans first met Archie Andrews in 1942, when Bob Montana created the first Archie comic book. He and his teen friends Jughead, Betty, Veronica, et. al. later entered the realm of newspaper comic strips in 1947. The daily strip ran in about 700 newspapers, and while it’s still rerun in some, publication of new material ceased in 2011.
- Brenda Starr, Reporter – Dale Messick created this daring, glamorous, Chicago-based reporter for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in 1940. He drew the strip until his retirement in 1980, though he scripted it until 1982 with Ramona Fradon illustrating; several other women would write and illustrate the comic over its lifetime. The strip was most popular in the ’50s, running in about 250 newspapers, but it continued until 2011.
- Buz Sawyer – This was an innovative, influential work in the niche genre of adventure comic strips. Created by Roy Crane and debuting on November 1, 1943, it recounted the tales of Navy pilot and oil company troubleshooter John Singer “Buz” Sawyer and his sidekick Sweeney. Crane worked on the strip until his death in 1977, and new strips continued to be produced until 1989 for an impressive 46-year run.
- Gordo – Scripted and illustrated by Gustavo “Gus” Arriola, this comic strip is widely lauded for introducing Americans to Mexican culture and promoting international understanding, as well as environmental awareness. It began running in 1941 and continued for 44 years until 1985. Arriola produced the strip, which centered around the life of Mexican bean farmer Perfecto Salazar “Gordo” Lopez, daily for its entire run.
- Hazel – Creator Ted Key said the character Hazel—a bossy live-in maid for a middle class family named the Baxters—came to him in a dream in 1943. The strip debuted that same year in The Saturday Evening Post. It ran in the publication weekly until it discontinued operations in 1969, after which Hazel went into daily newspaper syndication. Key drew the strip for 50 years, until his retirement in 1993.
- Pogo – The beloved anthropomorphic animal characters in Pogo were first introduced to America in 1948, and the strip ran until 1975. Created by cartoonist Walt Kelley, it was also revived by other artists from 1989 to 1993. The strip is highly regarded for its literate wit, political and social satire, finely detailed drawings, and burlesque humor, as well as its knack for simultaneously appealing to children on one level and adults on another.
- Rip Kirby – Produced from 1946 until 1999, this strip tells the story of Remington “Rip” Kirby, a World War II veteran turned private investigator. Created by Alex Raymond, over a dozen writers and illustrators worked on the strip during its 53-year run. It quickly became noted for breaking away from the stereotypical rough-and-tumble private detective seen in so much of the pulp fiction popular at the time.