thrift store finds: we love you trudy

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

One of the cool things about digging around for these old comic paperbacks is that occasionally you run across something that’s completely new to you. I consider myself to be decently versed in comics history but every once and awhile, I find a comic collection and I just know NOTHING about it.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I found We Love You Trudy by Jerry Marcus.

Printed in 1978, this collection of one-panel gag strips focuses on the trials and tribulations of an average suburban household. Trudy is your basic one panel domestic comic strip: lots of jokes about misbehaving children, misbehaving pets, misbehaving in-laws, that type of thing. It ran from 1963 to the cartoonist’s death in 2005… and yet, I’ve never seen Trudy before I ran across it in our thrift store.

One of the things I flat out admire about this comic is the main character herself. Instead of being the typical comic strip mom (Mommy Thel from The Family Circus, Alice Mitchell from Dennis the Menace), Marcus imbue Trudy with a kind of insanity that women do not often get treated with in the newspapers. Comic mommies don’t really get to do a whole heck of a lot. They roll their eyes when Jeffy says something cute, or they get interrupted when Dot and Ditto bring a live snake into the kitchen. Comic moms have absolutely no life to them.

Now, you can argue that the point of those strips I mentioned wasn’t to take the mother characters and fully flesh them out and you got me. In a comic strip like Dennis the Menace, Alice is the straight (wo)man. I get that. A cartoonist needs to have your main character be the star… but I’ve never understood why that meant making the secondary characters cardboard cut-outs. I remember reading something that Bill Watterson wrote about the challenge of Calvin’s parents as characters in Calvin & Hobbes, saying how hard it was for him to write them truthfully because they basically serve as foils to Calvin’s plans, and therefore it was hard to give them depth beyond anything four panels a day could offer him.

This is one of the reasons I loved reading strips like this:

and this:

Marcus has a wonderful talent for characterization, something that’s entirely lost on most other one-panel gag strips. Trudy is drawn and written wonderfully as a mother, wife, and individual with her own inner life. Trudy is NOTHING like Alice Mitchell. She’s cracked!

I love the way Trudy looks genuinely malicious when she’s talking to her husband here. What a neat, dark choice to make for what is essentially  comic strip.

Or this one

The bland look of pride KILLS me!

Marcus has a haphazard, scrawling line that works quite well for the weird, often frustrating world that Trudy inhabits.

Again, I find that strip to be a bit darker than ones normally found in newspaper strips. For Better, For Worse might dare to suggest that a housewife’s life can be occasionally unfulfilling, but Marcus’ teetering draftsmanship sells the idea on a whole other level.

I found myself impressed with Trudy. It’s a good strip and I’m glad I found this collection… but I have to point out something about We Love You Trudy that just cracks me up. Look at that cover again and you’ll notice under the drawing of Trudy’s family you’ll notice the words “Featuring FatKat.” FatKat is the family’s feline companion and he is featured in something like EIGHT of the comics in this collection. Marcus thoughfully provided a ten-page back feature of what I’m guessing is material exclusive to this paperback collection, entitled “The FatKat Glossary.”

The backup FatKat pages are kind of awful, just full of groan-worth puns and not at the caliber of the rest of the comics in this collection

It made me wonder, “Why the hell did Jerry Marcus and his syndicate put SO much faith in the presence of this character?” FatKat’s not half as charming or interesting as any other of Marcus’ characters.

I think the answer might be pretty straighforward. in 1978, United Feature Syndicate debuted Jim Davis’ Garfield. We Love You Trudy was published in 1978, a product of King Features Syndicate. Perhaps this was an attempt to glom onto some of Garfield’s appeal? It’s clear from some of the digging I’ve done that Fatkat’s been a part of the strip since it came into existence… but maybe Marcus decided to focus more energy on the character in light of Garfield’s overwhelming success? Again, I have no idea but it’s fun to speculate.

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5 Responses to “thrift store finds: we love you trudy”

  1. Yep, it sure reminded me of the old days when I was raising my five children, and my name is really Trudy. My first child was born in 1969 and the last in 1981. Lots of trials and tribulations, but then no one said life would be easy, only that it would be worth it!

  2. My father named me after this character and I was born in the 60’s!!! I have been trying forever to find the actual comic books forever. As a child I would sit and read the Sunday comics fascinated about Trudy’s character. I have been left with a wicked sense of humour! Thank you so much for sharing this:)
    My name is Trudy Ann (the ‘Ann’ because the priest would not baptize me as ‘Trudy’ was not any Saint’s name!!!).

    • Christopher Pearce Says:

      Thanks for commenting! I’m just now reading Roger Ebert’s memoir and he mentions something about having to have a special dispensation for taking a name during his confirmation that wasn’t a canonized saint. Also, I did not know that Catholics were not allowed to give pets names of saints. Rover was OK… Max was not.

      • Hi Christopher,
        I have to give you this link so you believe me about my name:
        http://www.trudyannschai.com/Trudy_Anns_Chai/Press.html
        I am from India and the priest actually baptized me Gertrude (which is a Saint’s name)… but Trudy Ann is what they put in the books! Go figure. The picture you see in that link is me reading Jerry Marcus’s comics. Ha ha.. I did not know about the pet names! Crazy rules eh?

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