Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Art History

Reader 1

Bill Anthes

Reader 2

Matthew Delmont

Rights Information

© 2014 Dahnya Nicole Hernandez


This thesis examines a selection of American newspaper comic strips from approximately 1930 to 1960. At the height of their runs, many strips appeared in upwards of a thousand newspapers in the United States alone, and syndicates crafted and adjusted the content of these strips according to their image of the average American. This work discusses the pop cultural significance of these strips as well as the traditional American values revealed through each of them. Three strips in particular are the focal point for this thesis: Blondie, created by Chic Young in 1930, Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray in 1924, and Li’l Abner created by Al Capp in 1934. The first chapter, focusing on the relationship between Blondie and Dagwood Bumstead, will discuss how power within the family hierarchy is predicated on moral character, as well as how the recurring theme of punishment develops through Dagwood’s personal failures. The second chapter will look at the idea of cultural regularity in Little Orphan Annie through an examination of Daddy Warbucks. It will also deal with themes of leadership and legacy as communicated by the relationship between Annie and Warbucks. The third and final chapter will discuss how the satirical strip Li’l Abner responded to Blondie and Little Orphan Annie in terms of its rejection of traditional family hierarchy, specifically relating to male-female relationships. Ultimately, this thesis seeks to illustrate how a selection of comic strips expressed certain moral values, and the way in which they placed the characters at the mercy of following those values.