These days, we’re witnessing a major decline in the circulation of printed newspapers, as well as their ongoing efforts to cut costs. Print papers are no longer the primary source of news for most Americans, who turn instead to the internet. But once upon a time, the daily newspaper was a prominent part of the daily routine, and comic strips served as a beloved bit of amusement to lighten the experience.
There were a number of classic comic strips that started in the 1950s. It was a time when habits like reading the paper at breakfast or in the evening were a standard, comforting part of everyday American life. And even though this is now mostly something from a bygone era, these popular strips are still so familiar today. In fact, in most cases, they’re still being produced today, and those that aren’t are still widely syndicated as reruns.
So, take a look at these popular comic strips that started in the 1950s. You’re undoubtedly familiar with them all. Then, if you’re also interested in slightly more literary, less illustrated reading material, click on over to our list of classic American books published in the 1950s.
Popular 1950s Comic Strips
- Beetle Bailey – Introduced to America in 1950, Mort Walker’s classic, set on a US Army base, was one of the oldest comic strips still produced by its creator when Walker died in 2018. It’s known for one of the largest cast of characters of any comic strip, but a few of the main ones include Private Beetle Bailey, his platoon leader and nemesis Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel, Snorkel’s bulldog Otto, Brigadier General Amos T. Halftrack, and his sexy secretary Miss Buxley.
- Peanuts – Easily the most famous and influential comic strip of all time, this Charles M. Schultz gem launched in 1950 and ran original strips until 2000 (with reruns still widely published to this day). Featuring beloved characters like Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus van Pelt, Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, and the rest of the gang, it was syndicated in more than 2,600 newspapers at its peak in the late 1960s.
- Dennis the Menace – Created by Hank Ketcham, the story of mischievous 5-year-old Dennis Mitchell began in 1951. His freckles and blond cowlick quickly became famous, as did his antics and his tumultuous but endearing relationship with his cranky old neighbor Mr. Wilson. The strip has run in more than 1,000 newspapers and in nearly 50 countries, and continues to this day, thanks to the efforts of former assistants to Ketcham.
- Bazooka Joe – This comic strip first appeared in 1954 and is still well-known, but not because it appeared in newspapers. Rather, the misadventures of this eye patch-clad boy and his friends were told on wrappers of pieces of Bazooka Bubblegum. This unique marketing strategy was hugely successful, with the comic strip becoming a cultural touchpoint for kids in the ’50s and ’60s, and it continued until 2012. Since then, it’s only been an occasional feature of the product’s packaging.
- Hi and Lois – Mort Walker and Dik Browne’s beloved comic strip debuted in October 1954. The family, the Flagstons, first appeared in Beetle Bailey; Lois is Beetle’s sister. This story of a typical suburban middle-class family is still produced today as a so-called zombie strip (one taken over from its creator following retirement or death), but it’s stayed close to home; new editions are written by Walker’s sons Brian and Greg and illustrated by Browne’s son Robert.
- Marmaduke – Snoopy wasn’t the only famous canine comic strip character rolled out in the 1950s. America first met this lovable, messy Great Dane in 1954, and creator Brad Anderson produced the strip until his death in 2015. His son Paul still draws new strips, which remain in wide syndication. Marmaduke is often cited as one of the more monotonous classics, but that hasn’t kept it from winning awards and remaining so popular that attempts to cancel it have often been met by protests from newspaper readerships.
- Andy Capp – This famous English comic strip started running in August 1957. Created by Reg Smythe, it tells the story of the checkered cap-clad lazy ne’er-do-well Andy, who has a penchant for drinking and gambling and a tendency to spend the night in jail, and his long-suffering wife Flo. Their contentious but loving relationship is still being captured in new zombie strips since Smythe’s death in 1998.