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Thursday December 31, 2009 8:51 am

Forgotten Comics: James Childress and Conchy




Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Reviews

ConchyJames Childress was a genius. A sharp, funny writer and a terrific cartoonist who deserves to be better known and whose work should be written about more often. After years of trying, he finally developed Conchy, a comic strip about a group of beachcombers that resembled Johnny Hart’s B.C. in certain stylistic bits, but his humor was not as mean-spirited and sitcomish. Childress’ work was infinitely more thoughtful and insightful. Plus he was very funny.

Conchy is the strip that B.C. dreamed of being – funny gags mixed with philosophical thoughts of contemporary life by a cast of characters who lived at the beach. Sharply written with strong characters, its closest comic strip cousin was probably Tumbleweeds by Tom K. Ryan from the same period.

Conchy had an odd run. Childress started out self-syndicating it in 1970. The strip was picked up by Publishers Hall in 1974 who, according to reports, wanted him to move away from his subtle social humor and quiet moments of reflection and go more gag-oriented. He disagreed and left the syndicate in 1976 and went back to self-syndication. Then, because of personal issues not related to the strip (which was gaining papers), he committed suicide in 1977.

Conchy is barely a footnote now. It has almost no presence on the internet and if you didn’t know it, you’d never stumble across it. There were three paperback collections of the strip – all are worth finding. Conchy, Man Of The Now; Conchy On The Half-Shell; and Conchy, Living In Tomorrow’s Past.

Brant Parker, creator of The Wizard of Id, wrote the introduction to Conchy On The Half-Shell and called Childress “a born cartoonist.” I’ll have more on Childress in 2010 so stay tuned.

You can read more about James Childress and his wonderful creation here and here.

More sample strips can be found here.

[Artwork: Cover to Conchy On The Half-Shell © James Childress]

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