Considering the impending death of Opus (previously known from “Bloom County” and “Outland”), I’ve deceided to chronicle the 5 most gruesome deaths in syndicated comic strip history.
Even in the “safe” confines of the “funny” pages, death is no stranger. Usually such tragedies are meant to humanize the series, and are usually played out with well-though out empathy (who didn’t cry over the dead bird or the baby raccoon in Calvin and Hobbes?).
I’m not documenting any of those.
I found the five most cruel, senseless, or downright bizarre deaths in the history of comic strips. Here we go:
5. ABOUT 3% OF DICK TRACY’S VILLAINS.
Chester Gould (Dick Tracy’s creator) had little qualms about killing off bad guys. Legend states he actually maintained a miniature cemetary in his back yard, erecting a gravestone for every Dick Tracy villain that ever met his fate (and later adding gravestones for real life villains like Adolf Hitler and Mussolini). Within this top five, I want to submit the top 5 most brutal deaths in the Dick Tracy strip-
5) Queenie – Plunging into a steamboat’s smokestack.
4) Gargles – Completely dismembered by falling panes of glass.
3) Jerome Trohs – Scalded to death in an outdoor shower by his mom.
4) Laffy – Bled to death by wounds suffered from a broken ether bottle, but he was laughing so hard he couldn’t seek help.
1) Heels Beels – Hid in a prop soda bottle to evade capture. The soda bottle was lifted to a billboard sign 200 feet above the ground. With noone to hear his cries for help, he died of exposure and thirst.
4) ALDO KELRAST (FROM THE MARY WORTH COMIC STRIP)
This mustachioed, Chef Boyardee-looking individual pestered Mary Worth with his devotion, until after an intevention by Mary’s friends (apparently so sick of her meddling in their lives, they wanted to meddle in hers), poor lonely Aldo got wasted and drove his car off a cliff. While at his funeral, Mary was asked if she was thinking of Aldo. Knowing the story arc was indeed at a close, Mary replied that her thoughts were actually on the handsome young doctor she met.
Aldo got served at his own funeral!
3) JOHN DARLING
This beloved character spin-off of Tom Batuik’s popular “Funky Winkerbean” comic strip met his end when Tom, as he was enduring licensing issues with syndication, took things into his own hands and drew in a gunman to blow the main character to pieces in front of thousands of funny pages readers.
Yeah, even Garfield himself. Even if it was an exploration by Jim Davis, you couldn’t possibly make a list like this without mentioning a week of probably what might just about the most jarring, disturbing series of strips to appear in the funnies, especially in the mind of the average comic strip reader, besides…
1) DOUG MARLETTE ACCIDENTALLY EULOGIZING HIMSELF.
Pulitzer Prize winning Doug Marlette was known for his syndicated comic strip “Kudzu”, which ran for 26 years before the author’s fatal car crash. A prominent gag in the strip was preacher Will B Dunn, whose strips had him eulogizing unnamed bereaved, while having a hard time actually saying anything good about them. As most professional comic strip artists turn in art nearly a month before it is published, the comic strip ran for nearly a month after his death, including a comic stip shortly after which portrayed Will B. Dunn presiding over the funeral of a man who had passed in a car wreck.