Comic Collection Review: Classic Andy Capp by Reg Smythe

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Once again we travel down into the catacombs, into the ancient cellar filled with it’s casks of vintage root beer, beneath the vineyards with it’s waving plains of  Sassafras and fennel, past the brewing center with the root beer monks silently toiling away in their holy mission to make the perfect root beer, until we come to the very bottom.  The tunnels which are hand carved through the solid granite rock bed and at the end of these treacherous winding tunnels is the vast cavern that houses the Official Root Beer Party’s Comic Archive.  In hermetically sealed perfection, a multitude of volumes lines the shelves which stand like towering monoliths.  A small army of specially trained root beer monks tend to the volumes to preserve them for posterity.  In full sealed body suits they gingerly handle the volumes and scribe them by hand into the great leather bound ledgers.  

From this library which only the Root Beer Party members have access to, I now examine the volumes of Andy Capp.  

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In these politically correct time, one has to wonder how such an anachronism such as Andy Capp can exist.  Well, it has changed over the years, he is still the drunken lay about, but he is no longer the celebrated wife beater he was from his first inception.  The name Andy Capp is actually a pun if you happen to posses an English accent.  Without pronouncing the H, his name is translated to H’andycapp.  While the subject matter of the strip has always seemed odd, it does speak to a certain part of the population in much the same way as Married with Children or other such shows spoke to a population that is often marginalized and unrepresented.

Reg Smythe actually based the strip on the relationship between his mother and father.  A father he rarely ever saw once he left for good.  Flo is actually the name of his mother and was the original title of the comic until he came up with the pun to use as the name for the strip.  While much of the comic is taken to light hearted, it is based upon a very real situation and a part of life which is often overlooked, or goes unspoken in the modern world.

There may be some sociological study based on the works of Reg Smythe that has been done, but if there are, they are not readily available.  But Andy Capp is a humorous look at a very sad and even painful situation and I think it is the reason for it’s continued success.  People can marginalize it as some sort of anti-woman propaganda, but anyone who has read deeply into the comic series can see that Flo, Andy’s Wife, is not only the center of the comic, but the protagonist as well.

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It wasn’t until around the 1970’s that Flo began to actually win the fights and subsequently the physical fighting has all but disappeared in the modern comic.  Once in awhile Andy will fight in the bar or on the field, but there is no longer any physical fighting between him and his wife.

So is Andy Capp an anachronism?  We should ask: has this sort of domestic situation been eliminated in the world?

Smythe, through levity brought attention to a very real part of our world and a very personal part for himself.  Andy Capp has brought attention to a very real situation and should be seen for it’s contribution to the world.  It has been toned down over the years to fit into the modern politically correct attitudes of the world, but is that, in and of itself a problem?  Should we sanitize the very comics that are bringing attention to these issues?  Will that make the problems go away or simply leave the unspoken?

Reg Smythe brought a sense of levity to a situation that was beyond his control.  Maybe it was the only way he could have gotten through it and maybe it was the only way he knew how to communicate it to the world.  This is a comic which can be read many ways, but Smythe made sure, through his immense talent, that it could always be enjoyed as a comic first.  You can read Andy Capp as a sociological study, or a comment on the oppression of women, or even just as a comic on the funny page, but we should all read Andy Capp because however it may speak to you, it is a comic with a lot to say.

So now, we return the vintage volumes to their rightful place upon the shelves as the garbed monks make haste to attend to their rightful position and order along the shelf.  We head back up to world to attend to our duties as members of the Root Beer Party.  To spread the word of the root beer and comics to the entire world.  From our vast estates, we perfect the recipe for the elixir of life and preserve the legacy of sequential art.  From the cave paintings of our primitive ancestors, to the pixilated masterpieces of the digital age, we seek out the best and brightest masters of the art and bring them to you, the True Believers.  So until next time, may your mug always be frosted and your root beer always foamy.  

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