Comic strip collection review: Tumbleweeds by Tom K. Ryan

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To say that Tumbleweeds is just a cowboy comic strip is something that people who have never read Tumbleweeds would say.  It has one of the largest casts of characters of any syndicated comic strip out there: The cast list from Wikipedia reads like this:

  • Tumbleweeds, the main character, is a laconic cowpoke who would rather be anywhere else, but has no real ambition to do anything. Like his namesake, he is content to tumble wherever human foibles may carry him. His worst nightmare is to be caught by, and married to, Hildegard Hamhocker.
  • Blossom, Tumbleweed’s first horse; usually found asleep.
  • Epic, Tumbleweed’s toothless, alcoholic, plug-chewing, sway-backed horse; once a U.S. cavalry horse but drummed out of the service
  • Ace, a professional gambler, Tumbleweeds’s best pal and a real smooth operator.
  • Judge Horatio Curmudgeon Frump is the magistrate/mayor of Grimy Gulch. A pompous windbag who became a Justice of the Peace
  • The Sheriff, a man with a ridiculous handlebar moustache, is the short-handed “long arm of the law.”
  • Deputy Knuckles, who does not carry a gun but has a yo yo instead.
  • Quiet Burp is a diminutive lawman from Texas. His name, a play on Wyatt Earp, is a character name also used in the comic strip Rick O’Shay.
  • Hildegard Hamhocker, the town’s only known woman, is drawn as a stereotypical homely old maid, trying to snag Tumbleweeds as a husband.
  • Echo is an orphan girl. Cute and precocious, she knows how to use those qualities when necessary. She is Hildegard’s adopted niece.
  • Pajamas is Echo’s lazy pet dog
  • Claude Clay is Grimy Gulch’s undertaker, whose motto is, “You plug ’em, I plant ’em.”
  • Wart Wimble is a grave-digger who works for Clay
  • Blackie is Grimy Gulch’s saloon keeper.
  • Soppy Sopwell is the town drunk.
  • Grover Galley is the dotty editor of the Desert Denouncer newspaper.
  • Percy is a sardonic newsboy and copyboy for the Denouncer.
  • Dusty Dewlap is a local cattle rancher. He only hires Tumbleweeds when he is desperate.
  • Snake-Eye McFoul is an outlaw.
  • Snookie is Snake-Eye’s little brother, who suffers from an overactive pituitary gland. Though only 12, he appears to be in his thirties. He dresses in “Little Lord Fauntleroy” outfits.
  • Ham and Beans are muleskinners. Beans, who is short and loud, screams at the big, gentle Ham for pampering the mules to the point of carrying them around like infants.
  • Slats is a cowboy who is always leaning on the fence.
  • Hogarth Hemp is the town hangman.
  • Clodwell Gunkley who apparently wandered into the wrong strip, according to whoever he encounters, is a semi-effeminate bulk of a man whose speech patterns are somewhat similar to those of Ed Wynn. Ace was pleased to learn that Gunkley had wandered into the strip, because “If there’s a way in, there’s a way out!”

The 6 7/8 Cavalry

  • Colonel G. Armageddon Fluster, commander of the 6 7/8 Cavalry and Fort Ridiculous, is a parody of George Armstrong Custer. The Poohawk Chief refers to him as “Goldilocks” and “Poopsie.”
  • The 6 7/8 Cavalry itself consists of a major and troopers under Fluster’s command.
  • The General is Fluster’s superior.
  • “Mole Eye,” a scout from Fort Ridiculous, is almost always shown coming in from the desert with a couple of arrows sticking out of his back; he wears a buckskin with the word “Scout” on his hat.

The Poohawks

  • The Poohawk Chief is always lamenting his tribe’s pathetic standing.
  • Little Pigeon is the Poohawk Chief’s daughter, and “a flower among the weeds.”
  • Limpid Lizard is a klutzy Poohawk (Indiandom’s answer to Daffy Duck) and a suitor to Little Pigeon.
  • Green Gills is a Poohawk injun and was an early suitor to Little Pigeon.
  • Lotsa Luck is a very rich Poohawk, depicted for years as mute and communicating by writing notes. He soon started using a very posh voice when he had vocal cords cloned from William F. Buckley Jr. surgically implanted. He was a suitor for Little Pigeon.
  • Drudgeworth is a chauffeur employed by “Lotsa Luck” to “drive” his horse.
  • The Poohawk medicine man.
  • Screaming Flea is the smallest Poohawk, formally speaking in ornate word balloons. He is very sensitive about the size of his nose, which is enormous.
  • Bucolic Buffalo is the biggest and strongest of Poohawks, but he is not very smart. He is another suitor for Little Pigeon.
  • Rain Drop is a boy, the only apparent child in the Poohawk Tribe, and at least as smart as some of the adults.
  • Hulking Hawk is fearsome tribe-member and a more suitable suitor to Little Pigeon than Limpid Lizard, according to the Poohawk Chief.
  • Purple Polecat operates the trading post.

Tumbleweeds

Tumbleweeds is a multifaceted strip that embraces the worlds within worlds concept of comics.  A storyline may include the Poohawks and the Calvary or it may just be a story between the lovesick Hildegard Hamhocker and Tumbleweed himself.  There are lots of places to go with this strip.

It seems that Tom K. Ryan took Mort Walker’s advice with Beetle Bailey and created at least one new character every year.  The official Tumbleweed site is : http://www.tumbleweeds.com/index.html but the strip can be found in newspapers and at the Kings Features syndicate site online.  It was launched in 1965 and is still going strong today.

This is the first collection of the series published in 1968 by Fawcett and is a small paperback form, as were most comic collections of the era.  In this collection we are introduced to many of the characters of Grimy Gulch, although the 6 7/8 Calvary had not yet been introduced.  It is wild fun in the wild wild west, with the main character Tumbleweed sitting in the drivers seat of his old house Blossom.  This is one of the classic cartoons of the era which in terms of art is similar to B.C., Wizard of Id and Crock which all came out around the same time.

The early works are a little hard to find, at a decent price anyway, but they can be found cheap on Amazon if your not to particular about condition.  there is also a best of collection which can be gotten for free on the Amazon Kindle.  I would highly recommend the collection as a welcome addition to any serious comic strip collector.  So until next time True Believers, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.

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My own little tribute to the series.  🙂

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