11 Nov 20200 Comments
Several years ago I had a chance to work on a collection of one of my very favorite comics, The Gumps, by Sidney Smith. In this edition, for the Library of American Comics Essentials series, we collected the year leading up to the tragic death of Mary Gold in 1929, the first comic strip character to actually die following a protracted and very melodramatic illness.
A decade before the saga of Mary Gold, The Gumps had another extended illness narrative, this one involving the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-20. The narrative came at a transitional period in the life of The Gumps, as Smith began shifting away from the domestic comedy gags that had dominated the first couple of years of the strip, increasingly focusing on long-arc seriality.
To catch you up. In 1918, the Gumps had been fooled by a conman claiming to be their millionaire Uncle Bim. When the real Uncle Bim arrived from Australia, they were understandably suspicious. But just as they became convinced of the authenticity of their generous relative, he became dangerously ill with the Spanish Flu. What follows is the daily adventures of the Gumps in the midst of the pandemic.
Jared Gardner is a professor and patient at the Ohio State University.