All Mr. Dithers wants to see occupied is Dagwood’s desk chair.
That is part of the adventures of Dagwood Bumstead, which includes a mention of the City of Picayune in Friday’s “Blondie” comic strip, which appears in the Picayune Item as a daily feature.
Picayune’s mention in Friday’s strip that also is released in other publications gives Picayune a name recognition boost worldwide, says the artist who draws the feature, Frank Cummings, a former Picayune resident and former employee of the Picayune Item.
It’s an honor, and good fortune, to appear in one of the most historic, continuously circulated comic strips in the history of the art form.
“Blondie,” rated the world’s No. 3 comic strip behind “Peanuts” and “Garfield,” is distributed worldwide in more than 2,000 newspapers and translated into more than 30 languages. It is distributed by King Features, the largest company in the world that syndicates features for newspapers and other publications.
Friday’s episode will involve the “Occupy” movement and Picayune. That’s all that can be revealed before the release date because the column is embargoed until then.
Cummings lived in Picayune for about 10 years when his father worked at Stennis, and the younger Cummings worked at the Picayune Item from 1980 to 1984 as an advertising representative. He later studied commercial art at the University of Mississippi.
After his job at the Item, he moved to Natchez and worked for the Natchez Democrat. He is married to Barbara Owens, formerly of McNeill.
Cummings said that it was a surprise to him that Picayune was featured. He receives a file of transcripts from Dean Young each week (Dean Young is “Blondie” founder Chic Young’s son), to which he draws the strips. Cummings draws the weekday strips and head artist John Marshall draws the weekend strips.
“Dean still writes the dialogue to this day. It was his dad, Chic, who created the strip in 1930. Dean just wrote Picayune into the strip and there it was. He knew I was from Picayune, but he never told me he was writing the city into the strip,” said Cummings.
“Throughout the world each day the comic strip always appears,” said Cummings, who in 2004 submitted his own idea for a comic strip to King Features. Company executives didn’t like his strip, but they liked the way he draws and hired him to draw “Blondie.”
Cummings had moved to Birmingham, Ala., to work for an ad agency.
“I just sort of was in the right place at the right time,” said Cummings. “I just sort of fell into it.”
He has been drawing “Blondie” since 2005. He and his wife still live in Birmingham. Marshall lives in New York City and Young in Clearwater, Fla.
The comic strip is still owned by Dean Young and his family.
Cummings, 52, said when he looked on his “proof sheet” and saw that Picayune would be in the column, he called his friend, Tom Andrews, former Item publisher, and told him about it. Andrews then called the Item.
The “Blondie” comic strip is one of the most popular ever created, and one of the most lucrative comic franchises. It details the adventures of Dagwood and Blondie Bumstead and their friends, Mr. Dithers and other characters, like the dog Daisy. And who hasn’t eaten a Dagwood sandwich.
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