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The Saturday Comics: Dondi

6 Oct

October 6, 2012

Dondi was a comic strip about a war orphan brought to America. It ran from 1955 to 1986, a great run in any book. But before I begin, I need to point something out.

I never took Dondi seriously. He tended to talk, especially in the early days, in some sort of half-kiddie, half-foreign gibberish never heard from the mouth of any child anywhere. And worse, he looked like a monkey. Not any old monkey, Dondi looked just like Speed Racer’s monkey Chim-Chim.

From wikipeida, which is also often written in some sort of half-kiddie, half-foreign gibberish:

Dondi’s original backstory describes him as a five-year-old World War II orphan of Italian descent. The boy had no memory of his parents or his name, so when a pretty Red Cross worker said he was “a dandy boy,” he thought she was naming him “Dondi.” Two soldiers who spoke no Italian, Ted Wills and Whitey McGowan, found the child wandering through a war-torn village. The soldiers brought the child back to the United States and Ted eventually became his adoptive father.

Like other comic strip boys, such as Dennis in Dennis the Menace, Dondi’s character never ages. This became problematic in later years, as Dondi’s age made the origin story implausible. Eventually, references to his Italian origin ceased, and he was adopted by Ted and his wife, the former Katje Bogar. “Pop” Fligh, a former pro baseball player, became Dondi’s adoptive grandfather when he married Ted Wills’ widowed mother. Following this, Dondi was portrayed simply as an adopted child, although in the early 1960s there was a reference to his being an orphan of the Korean War. During the mid-1970s, there was a reference to his being from Vietnam.

A recurring character was Mrs. McGowan, who was the mother of Whitey McGowan. In a rather startling development for a comic strip at the time, Whitey and his new bride died in a car crash on their honeymoon, leaving Dondi to Mrs. McGowan, who had initially resented the boy, but came to love him and accept him as her grandson. This explanation was permitted to fade into the mists as the strip grew farther away from World War II.

So Dondi’s parents were killed in a war (take your pick which one) and then his adopted parents were killed in a car crash? Wow, what could be worse? The movie version of Dondi. How bad was it? Here is the theme song:

Once you finish washing out your ears, assault your eyes with these examples of Dondi’s newspaper strip. And speaking of eyes, notice that Dondi’s are just dark black spots.

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