Comics Tribute: Brenda and Basil, the Comically Lovely Story

Like most people, I get my news from the Internet or TV, not from comics. I still read my local papers for local news, but I stopped buying Sunday papers years ago. Still, I remember the role the Sunday newspapers used to play in family life.

Before the Internet, part of every Sunday included a trip to a bakery for fresh danish and the purchase of the Sunday edition of Newsday. We would all head to my grandparents’ house for Sunday dinner. When we arrived at the house, the pastries and the newspaper were put on the dining room table. Everyone would grab a cup of coffee and start calling “dibs” on sections of the paper. The men would try to get the sports section, but there seemed to be a silent pecking order in play and the oldest male got the sports section first. The others would peruse the national news or read the classified ads while waiting for their turn with the sports section.

Women grabbed the home section and all the furniture advertising inserts so they could torture themselves looking at nice new furniture that their men would never buy them. Recipes were cut out with good intentions, put into a cookbook, and never seen again.

I always grabbed Parade Magazine and my all-time favorite page in every Newsday, the center page where the crosswords and puzzles were. I could usually get about half the crossword done, but my favorite was the cryptogram.

Parade Magazine predated People Magazine and we relied on it for our celebrity news. Parade Magazine, Red Book and Lady’s Home Journal were ever present on our coffee table. I remember Red Book and LHJ always had Breck girls on their covers.

But the real treats of the Sunday newspaper were the comics, the full-color funny pages. On the front page there was Blondie and Dagwood, a lame comic that modeled itself after I Love Lucy, or vice versa. On the inside page, top left, was Prince Valiant. Opposite him, top right hand side, was Ripley’s Believe It or Not. I learned a lot of trivia from comics. The reason I know a piano has eighty-eight keys isn’t because I could play piano, but because one of the criminals in the Dick Tracy comic was named Eighty-Eight Keys. Then there was Dondi, an Italian war orphan struggling to survive in war-torn Italy. There was B.C., which I loved. Pogo was popular, but I never liked it. Lil’ Abner was always funny.

I slowly and carefully read every comic, saving the very best one for last: Brenda Starr, Reporter by Dale Messick. What a great comic! Brenda Starr had bright red hair and green eyes and looked just like my Aunt Carol. Brenda was forever trying to catch up with her paramour, Basil St. John, a black-Irish hunk who was doomed to search the world for the rare black iris flower because he had a terminal disease that could only be controlled with the extract from the black iris. This was before the days of Internet, cell phones, and twitter. Brenda had to use her news connections to find Basil. And whenever Brenda did find Basil, the author Dale Messick would treat us to a Brenda and Basil kiss so passionate it burned a hole in the paper.

Bogey and Bacall, Beatrice and Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing)…they got nothin’ on Brenda and Basil. I believe they’re right up there with the greatest romances of all time.

And you thought comics were just for silly putty—silly you…

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