Bringing Up Father by George McManus

George McManus, Bringing Up Father, December 10, 1937

George McManus (1884-1954) was drawing comics almost from the very beginning of the last century. His first success was with a strip called The Newlyweds, which he started in 1904. The Newlyweds was the first American comic strip to take family life as its subject. In 1913, he started Bringing Up Father, a strip about a working class Irish-American family that has won the Irish Sweepstakes and become suddenly rich. Jiggs the patriarch, though constantly dressed in a top hat and fancy suit, wants to keep enjoying his working class pleasures (including sneaking out to a tavern to hang out with his buddies from the old neighborhood). His wife, Maggie, wants desperately to belong to the upper class but doesn't quite pull it off--and bitterly resents Jiggs' unwillingness to play along. Their beautiful daughter Nora, on the other hand, adopts to her new station in life easily. Bringing Up Father is a parable for assimilation.

The jokes in Bringing Up Father are not brilliant (as one can see in this example), but the strip was hugely popular. One reason must have been the art--the art deco drawing style that McManus developed was highly influential. In particular, it influenced Hergé, creator of Tintin, and subsequently Joost Swarte, the cartoonist who invented the term "clear line" to describe the style McManus pioneered. This style can be characterized as lacking any shading and employing highly controlled, evenly weighted lines.

There is one large book collection of Bringing Up Father in print.