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Comic Strip / Conchy

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Conchy was an American comic strip that ran from March 2, 1970 to February 5, 1977. The strip was created by cartoonist James Childress, and ended with his suicide in 1977.

Set on a desert island with a group of beachcombers as the main characters, the strip addressed serious issues of its time. Conchy consisted of both typical gag strips and strips about serious subjects like nuclear proliferation, political corruption and death. These ruminations were usually courtesy of either Conchy or Oom Paul, as both characters were highly individual thinkers.

The main characters were:

  • Conchy — An Everyman beachcomber.
  • Oom Paul — A pipe-smoking, somewhat cynical individual who self-assuredly assumes the position as mentor to the small island clan.
  • Bug — A rugged-looking but gentle individual who enjoys life to the fullest simply because he never gives much serious thought to anything.
  • ? - a reformed cannibal, although not everyone is convinced he has given up his old ways.
  • Patch and Duff — A pair of twin troublemakers who live in a cave.
  • Sea urchin — Philosopher of the tide pools, thoughtful but quiet.
  • The islanders — The original residents of Conchy's island, the islanders co-exist peacefully with the beachcombers, but they are constantly plagued with a never-ending hot- and cold-running war with the inhabitants of the neighboring East Island.
  • The king — The ruler of Conchy's island and—according to Fanon—cousin to the king in The Wizard of Id. (Strip creator James Childress was friends with The Wizard of Id creator Brant Parker, and there are many similarities between the two kings).

Conchy contains examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In one arc, Conchy meets a talking doll that has acquired sentience. However, after Conchy has to change its batteries, it reverts to being an ordinary doll.
  • Appeal to Obscurity:
    Conchy: Is there any chance the war with the East Islanders will reach the nuclear stage?
    The King: Not a chance. North Island tested a nuclear bomb and since then we've all been a little uneasy.
    Conchy: North Island? There is no North Island.
    The King: Exactly.
  • Astral Projection: Oom Paul has been known to meditate so hard that he accidentally detaches his consciousness from his body. Hilarity Ensues when he decides to inhabit a rock or a plant.
  • Beachcombing: All of the non-native inhabitants of the island are beachcombers (although the strip predates the widespread prevalence of metal detectors). Occasionally the strip's humour will derive from whatever strange item they find washed up on the shore.
  • Beat Panel: A frequent occurrence, usually involving either Conchy or Oom Paul pondering whatever idiocy or insanity has just been presented to them before passing wry judgement.
  • Cigar Chomper: The King is never seen without a cigar clenched in his teeth.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The cynical Oom Paul is always ready to point out the foibles of his fellow islanders, or the world in general, in an extremely dry fashion.
  • Erudite Stoner: Oom Paul gives off this vibe (and it is never specified exactly what he has in his pipe).
  • The Everyman: Conchy is by far the most normal inhabitant of the island.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Conchy's neighbour used to be a cannibal, but has now become a vegetarian. Not everyone on the island is convinced.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Duff is prone to this. Upon learning that Jupiter has 12 moons, he points out that Mars has two, Earth has one, and Venus and Mercury have none, he reaches the conclusion that the Sun evaporates moons.
  • Intellectual Animal: The sea urchin, who spends his days making philosophical musings about life at the bottom of a tidal pool.
  • Master of Disguise: One arc involves a Pygmy master of disguise disguising himself as a banana on the beach. Partway through, he is joined by another Pygmy master of disguise disguised as a starfish. Eventually the starfish deserts, and the banana is caught when an Islander hears him whistling the national anthem.
  • Medium Awareness: During the newsprint shortage of the 1970s, several characters made reference to the crisis and what a threat it posed to their existence.
    • Conchy can see the copyright notice in the gutters of the strip and knows what it is.
  • Message in a Bottle: Conchy finds a bottle washed up with a message in it reading "IF FOUND WASHED ASHORE, PLEASE RETURN TO BOB!". Conchy returns it to the bottle, tosses it back in the ocean, and it floats with the Unsound Effect of "Bob, Bob".
  • Must Have Nicotine: Duff. He once announces to Conchy that he has quit smoking and launches into a spiel about how much better he feels. When Conchy asks him how many days he has been clean, Duff admits he probably should wait until his last butt goes completely out before he starts counting. On another occasion, he runs out of cigarettes and sticks his head in the smoke from a campfire out of desperation.
  • One-Word Title
  • Only Sane Man: Conchy and Oom Paul split this role between them, with Conchy being The Everyman and Oom Paul being a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The island includes a tribesman who turns himself into a werewolf by power of suggestion, another who becomes a wolf under the light of the noon sun, and a clam infected with lycanthropy. Rule of Funny definitely applies.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Retired Monster: Conchy's neighbour is a reformed cannibal, although not everyone is convinced he has given up his old ways.
  • Rules of the Road: When Oom Paul finds himself hemmed in by a No Loitering sign, a One Way sign, and a No Entry sign, he looks annoyed and then flaps his arms and flies off.
  • Scary Scarecrows: The ex-cannibal complains that people don't believe he is now a vegetarian instead of a cannibal. Conchy points out that his scarecrow might be sending the wrong message. Said scarecrow has a human skull on it.
  • Soulful Plant Story: Parodied for laughs in one arc where Oom Paul accidentally detaches his consciousness from his body and ends up inhabiting a small bush. As the arc goes on, he gradually starts thinking more like a plant, including having "an overwhelming urge to sit here and photosynthesise".
  • Telegraph Gag STOP: In one strip Conchy is walking along and finds a STOP sign in the middle of the beach. After spending a panel staring at it, Conchy thinks "I feel like part of a telegram".
  • Those Two Guys: Patch and Duff
  • Time Capsule: Patch and Duff accidentally dig up a time capsule marked "Do Not Open Till 1984". When they open it, it is full of 1984 calendars.
  • World War III: World War III breaks out in one arc. Being on a remote island, the characters only learn about from television. However, the war ends almost as soon as it begins when the supercomputers in charge of launching the missiles put them in orbit around Pluto instead of launching them at enemy powers.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: In one strip, the king turns back an invasion from the East Island by standing on the beach holding a sign that reads "TURN BACK. WE'VE ALL GOT LEPROSY".