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Early Installment Weirdness / Comic Strips

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Left to right, top to bottom: May 28, 1979; September 7, 1981; October 21, 1996; February 18, 2013.
So much for liking Mondays.
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Susie Derkins asks Calvin to cheat and give her the answer to a test question in an early strip. In all later appearances, she is depicted as a serious student who resists Calvin's constant requests to help him cheat in any way.
    • In Susie's first appearances, she and Calvin both seem to internally acknowledge that they have crushes on each other underneath their insults and animosity. This soon changes with Susie switching her affection to Hobbes and Calvin panicking over even the thought that Susie likes him.
    • The very first strip features Calvin catching Hobbes in a tiger trap; this was supposed to be how they first met. However, a later strip near the end of the comic's run had Hobbes recall Calvin spent most of his infancy "burping up", hinting he had been with Calvin for much longer. This may actually have been intentional on Watterson's part, as a way to further blur the line about what exactly Hobbes is.
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    • Dinosaurs used to be drawn in a cartoony style like the rest of the strip, with inaccurate anatomy and occasionally interacting with cavemen. After Watterson decided to research them for new story possibilities, he put in much greater effort in depicting them accurately (for his time). They, and other fantasies, also began to be drawn realistically in contrast to the strip's usual cartoony look.
    • Calvin was shown as a member of the Cub Scouts in a few early strips. Watterson originally thought this would provide plenty of interesting scenarios for storylines, but quickly dropped it after he realized Calvin was not the sort of kid who'd ever join up with the scouts. The Running Gag of Calvin's dad taking the family on horrible camping trips filled the same purpose and fit the strip's atmosphere much better.
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    • The series of strips with Uncle Max was intended to open up storytelling possibilities, but Watterson realized how awkward it was to have characters interact with Calvin's parents without ever referring to them by name and dropped the idea; Max never appeared again in the comic's run.
  • Garfield has lots of it.
    • There was considerable Art Evolution: Garfield had a much fatter, uglier design that was strictly quadrupedal; Odie had black ears instead of brown ears (Jim Davis has implied that this change was done to make him look less like Snoopy), and the art was looser with less of the cartoonish roundness it would take on in The '80s.
    • Jon's claim to be a cartoonist in the very first strip; this is rarely mentioned again.
    • The May 28, 1979 strip has Garfield states he loves Mondays. A running gag throughout the series' run is that Garfield hates or has bad luck on Mondays.
    • The early strips' humor also relied more on wordplay (in one early strip, Lyman jokes about watching a movie where a student puts a tack on his teacher's chair because he likes movies where "the guy gets the girl in the end"; another has Garfield calling a diet "'die' with a T") and topical references (early strips reference Brigitte Bardot, The Mickey Mouse Club, Labor Day, college football, and Weight Watchers, among other things). Jim Davis gradually phased out wordplay and topical references in order to make the strip more marketable in other countries.
    • Several early strips used more than three panels, which rarely happened again after the first year or so. Even then, the few exceptions afterward still fit into the three-panel format just by dividing one of the three panels (most notably the Halloween 1989 arc).
    • A few strips in the first year don't feature Garfield at all, including the aforementioned "guy gets the girl in the end" strip, and another where Jon ogles a magazine centerfold.
  • Dilbert was initially focused on the personal life of Dilbert and Dogbert, and was largely Garfield except with a dog who can talk and a lot more in the category of random paranormal weirdness. The office-based strips came a few months later and even then only occasionally appeared. They more or less took over a few years later.
  • Thimble Theater used to be about Ham Gravy and his manager until they hired a certain sailor named Popeye.
  • Rick O'Shay was a humor comic set in the 1950s and 60s until it transitioned to the 1860s and, while still having comedic elements, turned into more of a western adventure/drama strip with more realistic art.
  • Peanuts had a lot of oddities early on:
    • The art was quite different: heads were more oval-shaped, and far more perspectives were used (including three-fourths views) before it shifted to the minimalistic "front or side only" style.
    • Early on, Charlie Brown was originally a more cheerful child who liked to play pranks instead of the sadsack loser he'd be known for, and Snoopy was a non-sentient dog who didn't seem to belong to anyone in particular, as opposed to being Charlie Brown's pet and clearly sentient enough to enact his own myriad fantasies. Overall, the writing was a lot more lighthearted and of a "kids say the darnedest things" nature, as opposed to the drama, philosophy, religion, and fantasy of later strips.
    • A few early strips had background appearances by adults, or even offscreen dialogue from them. After a while, the strip became entirely focused on the children.
    • The original lead characters besides Charlie Brown were Shermy and Patty, not to be confused with Peppermint Patty. And even when some of the iconic characters were introduced, their characterizations were quite different. For instance, Linus, Lucy, and Schroeder all entered the strip as toddlers. Linus originally was a hyper-intelligent youngster instead of an Innocent Prodigy, and Lucy a precociously cute Cloud Cuckoolander instead of a bossy Jerk with a Heart of Gold. By The '60s, the personalities had settled into place.
    • Many of the other iconic characters who would later become iconic members of the cast did not exist until well into the strip's run: Peppermint Patty (1966), Woodstock (1967), Franklin (1968), Marcie (1971), Rerun (1972), and the unseen Little Red-Haired Girl (1977).
  • Early on, FoxTrot was a lot more realistic and down-to-earth family strip, with realistic character interactions and only occasional bouts of "nerd" humor. Throughout the 1990s, it began gradually shifting more and more toward a less reality-based strip with greater emphasis on "nerd" humor, pop culture references, satire, and increasing damage to the fourth wall. The art and lettering were also a lot looser and more sketchy, as opposed to the stiffer, more "geometric" style the strip has had since roughly the mid-90s.
    • Pretty much everyone's characterizations got flanderized along the way.
      • Roger went from being merely clueless and harried to rivaling Homer Simpson in the Bumbling Dad department.
      • Andy went from merely being concerned for her family's well-being to an exaggeratedly meddlesome and overly-strict disciplinarian. Also, she had a different haircut early on, but this was changed in the strip's first year to make her look less like Paige. Finally, she was originally established to be a newspaper columnist, but this was abandoned after a few years.
      • Peter's massive ego and exaggeratedly Big Eater tendencies were not established until several years in. Before this he was just a normal teenage male.
      • Paige's Lethal Chef tendencies didn't show up for a few years either; in fact, one strip in the first year even has Peter bribing her into baking cookies, a task that would result in Epic Fail any other time. Prior to this she was just a teenaged girl who was interested in shopping and boys but had no luck in the latter.
      • Jason became increasingly nerdy over the years, going from a somewhat normal 10-year-old boy interested in bugs, dinosaurs, and video games to someone capable of writing programs that can take down the entire Internet, and who does his entire year's worth of homework on the first day.
    • Eileen Jacobson and Morton Goldthwait, the respective rivals of Jason and Paige, did not appear until several years in.
    • Jason's teacher was originally Miss Grinchley, who was implied to be very old, strict, and easily angered. She retired after a few years (and only one on-panel appearance) and was replaced by Miss O'Malley, who started out more supportive of Jason's overachieving antics before settling into Apathetic Teacher mode.
    • Before Jason was established as a high achiever who loves school and is oblivious to sports, he was shown in one strip joining Peter and Paige in groveling to the parents on report-card day. In another strip, both he and Peter bring their mitts to a baseball game in hopes of catching a foul ball, and both are heartbroken when the ball they were straining for lands in Paige's popcorn. (Furthermore, Paige is indifferent to the TV cameras aimed at her.)
    • One very early Sunday strip has a throwaway gag of Jason playing Dungeons & Dragons with Peter, who has never been seen doing anything of the sort since.
  • In the early Zits strips:
  • Bloom County evolved massively. Early on, it was a bunch of people living in a boarding house, with Milo Bloom as the main focus. Over time, many details were fine-tuned, many characters were dropped, and the strip shifted to the main focus of Milo, Binkley, and Opus the penguin. (Berkeley Breathed himself has said that he felt the strip didn't really find its focus until Opus became a regular.) The art style was also very blobby and unrefined, with a different lettering style.
  • When it started out in the 1960s, The Family Circus had stiffer and more rounded art; PJ didn't exist yet; and the dad was more of a stereotypical deadbeat dad/buffoon type who was seen sneaking booze into family events and pounding on the table to ignore his wife. By the 1970s, the dad was overhauled into a much cleaner-cut and more sympathetic figure.
  • Beetle Bailey:
    • The strip started as a comic about college students. When it didn't take off the characters enlisted in the army on a whim. Sixty years later they have yet to graduate from basic training.
    • Sergeant Snorkel started out as long-faced and only mildly overweight, and he acted like an actual drill sergeant should. Most notably, during this period he never acted violently towards Beetle, instead issuing various standard army punishments, like peeling potatoes. He was also married and had children (although his wife was only shown once, and his kids were only referred to).
  • In Get Fuzzy, Rob's eyes were almost always covered up by a pair of giant sunglasses in the strip's early years, if not hidden by other means.
  • Early on, Pluggers was drawn and written by Jeff MacNelly of Shoe fame. After a few years, so many readers began submitting gags to him that he made the gags entirely user-submitted, and later handed art duties to Gary Brookins so that he could focus all of his efforts on Shoe. (Brookins also became the artist on Shoe after MacNelly's death in 2000.)

Alternative Title(s): Newspaper Comics


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