The Comic Strip Skippy, and Mathematics

There’s an excellent chance you don’t know Percy Crosby’s comic strip Skippy, and that’s a shame. You know its progeny, though. It was one of the first worldly-child comic strips, focused on kids but paying attention to them as thoughtful beings with deep and complex emotions of their own. If this sounds kind of like Peanuts, it should; Percy Crosby was one of the people Charles Schulz drew influence from, and every kids comic strip since then has been a reaction to Peanuts.

The comic is contemporary to George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, but is wildly different from it, not just because it gets remarkably little attention from modern cartoonists considering its influence. It’s also, though, contemporary to Robert Benchley, and in I think a very important way: you see, Skippy as a comic strip is funny, and in about the ways you expect a modern comic strip to be funny. It may be dated in its references, just as a Benchley essay (or film) might be, but in structure, in pacing, in characterization, in what jokes are about it could fit on the contemporary comics page without that standing out of place.

Skippy explains how he's able to overcome worry, using the stars as his example.
Percy Crosby’s Skippy for the 24th of July, 1927. Worry and the stars.

Happily the strip’s been revived on, and I wanted to bring an example of it to your attention. This one originally ran on the 24rd of July, 1927, and I admit it’s not a knee-slapper. It’s more of the sentimental, faintly inspirational comic strip, but in ways that work for me. In the dialogue I can certainly hear the forebears of Linus and Charlie Brown, or Pogo and the Rackey-Coon Chile, or Quincy and his friends, or Calvin and Hobbes, or many more great personae. I hope you like.

And if that’s not to your tastes, over on my mathematics blog I talk about another bunch of comic strips, none of them Skippy, although I also don’t talk about Fourier Transforms. Someday I will. I just don’t need to just yet.


Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

5 thoughts on “The Comic Strip Skippy, and Mathematics”

    1. Oh, you’re most kind, thank you. I’ve been a comic strip fan for a long while, though, and it’s easier than it’s probably ever been to appreciate comics like Skippy these days.


  1. Crosby grew up in Richmond Hill NY about 4 blocks from where my old house was. It was a great place to grow up in and I can see traces of it in his strips. The town was vbery family oriented and as a result there were tons of kids on the streets day and night. Tough kids & buillies, and smart kids in glasses, and flirty young girls who giggled a lot standing at the corner bus stop in front of Dooleys Irish bar. We listened to the Yankees and Dodgers & later on the Mets. We played baseball on the street with fat kids, skinny kids and if we felt like walking a dozen blocks we had a big park to play in! (Forest Park)


    1. Ooh, thank you for the perspective. I confess I don’t know much about Crosby’s biography, so don’t know how to see parts of his upbringing in his work. Or at least to see what seems to be that upbringing versus seeing what just struck him as a particularly good (or plausible, or salable) bit of design.


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