Editor’s letter: Feminism and the funnies

Friday, December 01, 2017

Hi, friends:

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. After a fun but somewhat hectic week in Miami, I’m happy to be back in Northampton and back to my usual routine.

I’ve been looking forward to publishing this week’s cover article, “A Funnies Story,” which introduces “Phoebe and Her Unicorn,” a comic strip that will start running in the Gazette later this month, thanks in part to second grader Katie Champoux, who brought it to our attention. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say Katie’s love of reading, writing and drawing inspired us to try something different. You’ll find her interview with “Phoebe” creator Dana Simpson alongside mine in the story starting on page 12.

In order to make room for “Phoebe,” we had to say so long to “Beetle Bailey,” Mort Walker’s long-running comic strip that’s set at a fictional United States Army military post and that can be traced back to the 1950s. “Beetle Bailey” has been running in the Gazette at least since the 1980s, according to our managing editor, Dan Crowley, who recently spent time combing through our archival stacks.

It’s a bittersweet goodbye, and while “Beetle Bailey” will be missed, Simpson’s “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” is a breath of fresh air. As Simpson puts it, “Representation matters,” and it’s nice to see a girl get the star treatment in a comic strip that also includes characters of different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. 

Kids and the funnies have a long and storied history, of course. While I was in Miami, my father told me about the 1945 strike by newspaper delivery men in New York City. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia famously read comic strips like “Little Orphan Annie” to kids and their parents over the radio.

The comics are a natural way to entice kids into reading the newspaper. Like many children around her age, Katie also enjoys the Gazette’s Kid Scoop every Wednesday, and young people are excited to see weather-forecast drawings and book reviews by their peers in our pages. Personally, I’d like to see more cub reporters, too. (Perhaps you remember that nine-year-old girl reporter, Hilde Kate Lysiak, of Pennsylvania, who made national headlines when she broke the news of a homicide in her hometown, scooping her adult competitors.) 

Kids and parents/guardians/teachers: Is there an important story in your community that we should be telling, or that you want to tell yourself? Email me at bhauser@gazettenet.com.

The only thing I love more than writing about enterprising kids is reading about them. I got a kick out of Shell Lin’s profile of The Slime Sisters, who are the subject of this week’s “People Watching,” on page 5.

I also enjoyed Steve Pfarrer’s write-up of local literary heroes, Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple. The mother-daughter duo have been writing children’s books together and independently for 20 years, and at 2 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, at Forbes Library in Northampton, they’ll talk about their penchant for collaboration and their recent books about birds. As it happens, December is a good time of year to go owling around here — as the two women can attest.

Finally, Ilan Stavans is back with this week’s “Friday Takeaway,” a musing on mirrors and identity.

Hope you have a fantastic weekend. Don’t forget: Tomorrow evening is Northampton’s Holiday Stroll, from 5 to 8 p.m. on Main Street.


Brooke Hauser