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Jerome Christenson: Missing Buckles already with comics fans everywhere

Jerome Christenson: Missing Buckles already with comics fans everywhere

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Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

Well, there’s no more Buckles.

No, we’re not facing some COVID-generated belt shortage, but the little dog on the comics page is gone for good.

I’m a lifelong devotee of the comic pages. Dennis the Menace was created just a year before I was and was my childhood role model and inspiration (although, as of late, some folks have been insinuating that role has been divvied up among Ed Crankshaft, Dilbert, and Garfield — with Hagar the Horrible showing up at mealtime). Dad got me hooked on newspapers when he read me the Sunday funnies and through the years there’s been many a day when the only things in the paper I cared to read featured the likes of Beetle, Dagwood and Mary Worth.

Now the comics page in the paper may be a constant, but the strips that populate it do change. Dick Tracy’s no longer pounding the beat. Pogo met the enemy once too often and The Far Side finally went too far. But the comics page is slow to change — and that’s the way folks like it. Politicians and celebrities can come and go, but Mr. Dithers better stay in the corner office. Editors know that and I received a particularly personal education in the importance of comic page permanence a number of years ago.

Y’see, this isn’t the first time Buckles walked off this comic page.

I’m a bit foggy on the exact circumstances that led up to the decision, but I was on the editorial board that concluded the comics page had become a bit stultified and would benefit from the inclusion of some new, up and coming strips. The pleasant little strip featuring Paul and Jill’s partially anthropomorphized house pet, along with his bushy-tailed, back yard nemesis, Scrappy; Arden, his bird-brained interlocutor and several other domestic dramatis personae was adjudged to be among the dispensible.

It was also Gayle’s favorite comic strip.

To say that my wife was displeased to discover that the adventures of a nondescript house pooch had been supplanted by some unfamiliar, rather avant-garde, and all too edgy for the breakfast table strip was about like saying Roosevelt was annoyed by Pearl Harbor. Let’s just say that domestic bliss was put on hold until a certain errant editor expressed proper penitence. Meantime, she discovered the editors of the Star-Tribune hadn’t been so rash and unwise and early next morning the Strib — Buckles in a secure slot in the Variety section — landed on my doorstep.

While Gayle was moderately mollified, a significant number of vocal subscribers were not. Well beyond a tempest in a teapot, this was disorder in a dog dish and it was quickly clear the only way to get the public to sit and stay was to bring back Buckles.

Which we did.

Unfortunately, this time there’s no bringing back. After 25 years at the drawing board David Gilbert has retired the strip. Two Sundays ago Buckles went tail-wagging off the comic page — every comics page — this time for good.

By the way, I never canceled that subscription to the Strib, before long I was hooked on a couple of strips and didn’t care to start the day without them.

And no, Buckles was never my favorite strip, but for the last 11 years I doubt if I ever missed a day. Y’see, for that short fraction of a minute Gayle was back in my life and my world was as it might have been.

So I’ll miss that little dog and all his line art friends. It will join all the other people and things that are with me now only as memories … gone, but still enriching my days and comforting my nights. Now and into forever.

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