Who's really the man of the family? Two stalwart funnies-page families - the Bumsteads of "Blondie" and the Flagstons of "Hi & Lois" - may be puzzling over that question for quite some time.
Dagwood Bumstead's sundry neuroses grow more deep in Sunday's shocking episode of "Blondie," in which this conservative family-man starts to dabble with living the life of a transvestite. We're not sure who to feel more sorry for - Dagwood, whose mental shakiness is now manifesting itself in way even stranger than anything that has come before, or Elmo, the impressionable, young neighbor boy whose puberty could be affected by Dagwood's increasingly odd habits.
Meanwhile, over at the usually staid "Hi & Lois," Lois Flagston and her always-put-upon neighbor, Irma Thurston, dress themselves in football gear and start grunting about the house during their husbands' weekly football watch. For Lois, the move is perhaps the result of years of Hi's emotional withdrawal from family life, the ever-increasing brood of Flagstons driving him to isolate himself from this money-sucking horde. And for Irma, whose oft-inebriated husband has displayed Tea Party tendencies in recent strips, we suspect her aggression marks an effort to subdue her spouse and cut off his control of the household.
But if these two staid comics clans are starting to dip their toes in cross-gender politics, can others be far behind? Isn't namby-pamby woodsman Mark Trail a prime candidate for a sex change?
We expect Blondie to start wearing more masculine clothing while taking up a daily residence at the gym, while Mary Worth starts drinking more scotch. Look for Alice Mitchell of "Dennis the Menace" to start asserting herself as if she were taking medication for low testosterone.
Only "Mutts," perhaps, with its absence of human beings, may be safe.
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