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.

19 Responses to “The Saturday Comics: Dondi”

  1. zathra October 6, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    O.K., after listening to the Dondi theme song, I think I have hyperglycemia. I need to go see my doctor about getting some insulin.

    If they had done a strip about young GANDHI, THAT would have been interesting. Just sayin’. 😉


    • bmj2k October 6, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      Wow, it was awful, wasn’t it? I read a lot about that film and I think we are lucky that there are no clips on Youtube.


      • zathra October 6, 2012 at 12:54 am #

        If anybody has a copy of that film, they should send it to me. I know some people who will stick the copies in the payload of a rocket headed into an asteroid’s path.
        Or use them as the foundation for building an artificial coral reef.

        Cute is one thing, but, sometimes it can be carried too far…..
        ….. Like Honey Boo Boo.


        • bmj2k October 6, 2012 at 12:59 am #

          If you can find one, get a copy of the Medved brothers’ The Golden Turkey Awards and the sequel, Son of The Golden Turkey Awards. That’s where I first read about Dondi and some other “amazing” movies.


          • zathra October 6, 2012 at 1:10 am #

            That title rings a bell, can’t put my finger on it, & I need to hit the library instead of reading excerpts of books online. My literary – fu is getting week.


            • bmj2k October 6, 2012 at 1:30 am #

              Might be hard to find, but if you can afford it, check out these copies on ebay. My copies won’t be sold for any price. I consider these must reads.


              • zathra October 6, 2012 at 1:35 am #

                I also need to hit some used – book stores. In my home town, we had ’em EVERYWHERE, like mushrooms after a heavy Spring rainstorm.
                The few bookstores in this area where I live now are mostly religious bookstores, unfortunately.


                • bmj2k October 6, 2012 at 1:45 am #

                  Haven’t seen a used book store in my part of town, but if I really wanted to I’d go into Manhattan and go to The Strand.


                  • zathra October 6, 2012 at 1:53 am #

                    Maybe for a Christmas present, I could be really, really SHAMELESS & ask for an Amazon membership, since they seem to be a great media source, & they’ve expanded lately.


  2. ssrijana October 6, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Why would anyone make such a movie? wasn’t the comic bad enough..


  3. Thomas Stazyk October 7, 2012 at 12:53 am #

    This was the first thing I read after returning from vacation. I need another vacation.


    • bmj2k October 7, 2012 at 12:54 am #

      I promise a much better strip next week, the 1940’s Batman strip.


  4. 12th Man June 2, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

    I wish “Dondi” was out on DVD.


    • bmj2k June 2, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

      A part of me does too, a small part.


  5. Howard Sample June 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    This is a picky point, but in that “Reva” strip from Dondi, the date given is 12-9….but I”m about 90% sure that the Reva story sequence ran in late 1974—-but 12-9 was on a Monday, that year—-not a Sunday, as the strip implies.


    • bmj2k June 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

      No one loves picky points more than me!


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