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Tumbleweeds was a popular long-run comic strip which offered a skewed perspective on life in the Old West. Writer-artist Tom K. Ryan (1926 - ) (who signed the strip "T.K. Ryan"), was very familiar with conventions of the Western genre he satirized. Launched September 1965, the strip was distributed for decades by King Features Syndicate.

Jim Davis, who created Garfield, was Ryan's assistant (from 1969 to 1978) while developing another strip, Gnorm Gnat.[1]

After a 32-year run, Ryan retired and brought Tumbleweeds to a conclusion on December 30, 2007.[2]

Characters and story

Tumbleweeds is set in and around the town of Grimy Gulch, in an unspecified Western territory. Other locations include the nearby village of the Poohawk tribe of Native Americans, and the US Army outpost Fort Ridiculous, which is manned by the 6 7/8 Cavalry.

Grimy Gulch

  • Tumbleweeds, a laconic cowpoke who'd rather be anywhere else but has no real ambition to do anything. Like his namesake, he's content to tumble wherever human foibles may carry him. (His worst nightmare is to be caught by and married to Hildegarde Hamhocker.)
  • Epic, Tumbleweed's toothless, alcoholic, plug-chewing, sway-backed horse; once a U.S. cavalry horse but drummed out of the service for spitting tobacco juice on a superior.
  • Ace, a professional gambler, Tumbleweed's best pal and a real smooth operator.
  • Judge Horatio Curmudgeon Frump, magistrate of Grimy Gulch. A pompous windbag.

Contents

  • The Sheriff, with a ridiculous handlebar moustache, the short-handed "long arm of the law"
  • Deputy Knuckles (comic relief parody of "Dopey Deputy") The reason the Sheriff is so short-handed.
  • Quiet Burp, diminutive lawman from Texas-only slightly bigger than "Screaming Flea" (a play on Wyatt Earp, and a character name also used in the comic strip Rick O'Shay).
  • Hildegarde Hamhocker, the town's only woman, drawn as a stereotypical homely old maid, trying to snag Tumbleweeds as a husband (she tries to persuade him that they could live in "connubial bliss," and he responds that he likes it just fine living in Grimy Gulch).
  • Echo, an orphan girl. Cute and precocious, and knows how to use those qualities when necessary. Hildegarde's adopted niece.
  • Pajamas, the world's laziest dog.
  • Claude Clay, the town's undertaker, whose motto is "You plug 'em, I plant 'em."
  • Wart Wimble, a gravedigger who works for Clay. "With Wart at the spade, you've got it made; rest assured, you're well interred."
  • Blackie, Grimy Gulch's saloon keeper.
  • Soppy Sopwell, the town drunk.
  • Grover Galley, crack brained editor (got hit with a printing press' composing stick which "scattered his type") of the Desert Denouncer newspaper.
  • Percy, sardonic newsboy and copyboy for the Denouncer.
  • Dewlap, local cattle rancher. Only hires Tumbleweeds when he's desperate.
  • Snake-Eye McFoul, an outlaw.
  • Snookie, Snake-Eye's little brother. He's only twelve, but due to an overactive pituitary gland, he looks like he's in his thirties - including an unshaven "eight-o'clock shadow", mustache and cigarette. Dresses in "Little Lord Fauntleroy" type outfits.
  • Ham and Beans, the mule skinners. Ham is short and loud. He screams at the big, gentle Beans for pampering the mules to the point of carrying them around like infants.
  • Slats, a cowboy who is always leaning on the fence.
  • Hogarth Hemp, the hangman (ropes typically being made of his surname).
  • Clodwell Gunkley, who apparently wandered into the wrong strip, according to whoever he encounters. An semi-effeminate bulk of a man who talks kind of like Ed Wynn and has a passion for marshmallows.

The 6 7/8 Cavalry

  • Colonel G. Armageddon Fluster, commander of the 6 7/8 Cavalry and Fort Ridiculous; a parody of George Armstrong Custer. He is referred to as "Goldilocks" by the Poohawk Chief. In a typical episode, Fluster attempted to flatter his superior "The General" with the "help" of the Poohawk Chief, which only resulted in Fluster being "promoted" to the "lead horse" on the General's stagecoach.
  • 6 7/8 Cavalry, A major and troopers under Fluster's command. In a typical episode, they were defeated in their own Fort Ridiculous by the Poohawks.
  • The General, Fluster's superior.
  • "Mole Eye", a scout from Fort Ridiculous (almost always shown coming in from the desert with a couple of arrows sticking out of his back); wears buckskin with word "Scout" on his hat.

The Poohawks

  • The Poohawk Chief, forever lamenting his tribe's pathetic standing.
  • Little Pigeon, the Poohawk chief's daughter: A flower among the weeds.
  • Limpid Lizard, a klutzy Poohawk (Indiandom's answer to Daffy Duck) and suitor to Little Pigeon. Butchers the English language.
  • Green Gills, a Poohawk injun and early suitor to Little Pigeon.
  • Lotsa Luck, a very rich Poohawk (depicted for years as mute and communicating by writing notes) soon started using a very posh voice when he had vocal cords cloned from William F. Buckley Jr. surgically inplanted. Often did revert back to notes during strip's run.
  • Drudgeworth, a chauffeur employed by "Lotsa Luck" to "drive" his horse!
  • The Poohawk medicine man.
  • Screaming Flea, the smallest Poohawk (formally speaking in ornate word balloons);Very sensitive about the size of his nose, which is enormous. (and the Chief can't resist making fun of)
  • Bucolic Buffalo, the biggest, strongest Poohawk (but not very smart); a running joke is anyone who makes him mad is sent "south" (into the ground) by Bucolic Buffalo, often Lotsa Luck or the Poohawk Chief. He once found a pair of discarded boxing gloves out on the desert–and ate them!
  • Hulking Hawk, maybe not quite as big as Bucolic Buffalo, but fearsome nonetheless and a more suitable suitor to Little Pigeon than Limpid Lizard, according to the Poohawk Chief.
  • Purple Polecat, operates the trading post.

Appearances in other media

Tumbleweeds was to be one of the strips animated in Filmation's 1978 series The Fabulous Funnies (along with Broom-Hilda, Nancy, Alley Oop and others) and was included in the series' premiere episode with Alan Oppenheimer doing the voice of the title character. However, after the first episode aired, it was learned that Filmation lacked the rights to use the property, and the segment was removed from future episodes.

Tumbleweeds Gulch became an MGM theme park attraction, and the strip also was the basis for a Las Vegas stage show. In 1983, Tumbleweeds was adapted into a musical comedy for high school productions by the same company that adapted the strip Luann.[1]

Book collections included Presenting the Best of Tumbleweeds: An, Uh, Unusual Saga of the Old West (Cool Hand Communications, 1994), plus numerous mass market paperbacks published by Fawcett.

References

Sources

  • Strickler, Dave. Syndicated Comic Strips and Artists, 1924-1995: The Complete Index. Cambria, CA: Comics Access, 1995. ISBN 0-9700077-0-1.

External links








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