Comics

Trots and Bonnie

Shary Flenniken portrayed her comic strip characters "with a complete lack of adult-world moralizing or editorial restraint."

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Shary Flenniken began her career with a brief stint in underground comix in San Francisco before earning a coveted regular slot in National Lampoon, from the early '70s to the early '90s, for her comics about a pubescent girl named Bonnie, her talking dog, Trots, and their pals. It seems hard to believe these appeared in an over-the-counter national magazine (even one with a rep for edgy naughtiness). They portrayed with wildness, honesty, and humor this "dangerous time in a young woman's life…with a complete lack of adult-world moralizing or editorial restraint," writes cartoonist Emily Flake in her introduction to Trots and Bonnie, a new book collection of Flenniken's old strips.

Flenniken gives heft to the comics through sharp ironic feminism. When Trots writes porn on walls with his urine, Bonnie asks, "How come girl dogs don't write?" Trots replies, "They never wrote anything important, so God took their ability away."

Flenniken also delivers in her elegant linework heartfelt and painful touches, as when Trots and Bonnie help a rape victim by walking her home dressed up like a football player, with Trots in spiked collar and fake fangs. "We should call a policeman," they suggest. "He was a policeman," comes the reply. Flenniken was proud to make Lampoon readers—mostly young men—confront the reality of rape in that context.

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  1. Anyone using the spelling COMIX needs an editor.

    1. Now do your handle.

      1. He’s not wrong though.

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    2. BITD, comix was used for undergrounds while comics generally referred to all-ages stuff that either could pass the Comics Code censors. Graphic stories that were not Code-approved [Mad, Creepy and the other mags from Jim Warren, etc ] were comics, too. They wouldn’t show nudity, but ticked all the other boxes that got Wertham and pols like Kefauver bent out of shape. National Lampoon wasn’t an underground, but it did show boobies on interior pages. Think of the other comics and cartoonists they ran. Neal Adams drawing Son-O’-God? Shary’s sometime husband, Bobby London and his Dirty Duck? Vinnie Shinblind, Invisible Sex Maniac? Bode’s Cheech Wizard ? Most of that stuff was comix

      1. Aha! I found the 2-page strip where Bonnie and Pepsi rock out!

        https://dochermes.livejournal.com/378851.html

        I always wanted to hear “Mr Mag Wheels”…..

      2. either could pass the Comics Code censors… or didn’t bother to submit to the Code, like Dell or, later, Gold Key.

        Need that edit button.

  2. Ah, yes…going to college and discovering Nat Lamp((National Lampoon). Would laugh my arse off at some of the best uninhibited writing outside of Hunter S. Thompson.
    Trots and Bonnie was one of my faves but then there was Dirty Duck and Dr. Colon’s Monster.
    National Lampoon, where are you now that we need you?

    1. You inhabited a far more rarified college culture. In my day we got our uninhibited cartoons from the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers.

      1. Them too.
        And Mr. Natural.

        1. My intro to underground comics was from my roommate at a 3-week summer debate seminar at Georgetown U. This Japanese-American from Bloomington, IN, who sounded every bit a Hoosier had been held out of school by his parents so he was already 18 the summer before his senior year. He bought some Zap Comix, FFBs and a few others down on M St and let me read them. Captain Guts! Crumb’s Moonbeam McSwine! Wonder Warthog I had already met in mags like Cycle Toons, which our town barber picked up with the Sports Illustrateds.

    2. We read NatLamp in our early 1970s Catholic high school. The writers and editors were our people: O’Rourke, O’Donoghue, Kenney, Kelly etc. We bought it at the 7-11 a quarter mile from school and read it in the debate club room, deep at the back of our study hall in the basement of the auditorium, while listening to Zappa, the Firesign Theatre and sometimes the Fugs. The debate nun never caught on, or never let on, if she did.

  3. Novels written by women have been very popular in France since the 17th century, and in Great Britain since the 18th century. In pre-Civil War America the most popular novelists were women, something that both Nathaniel Hawthorne both complained about. By the time Shary Flenniken was drawing these cartoons, of course, the name of successful female novelists in the world was legion. Since when does “sharp ironic feminism” translate into “Welcome to my pity party”?

  4. That’s it?

    That’s all we get on Trots and Bonnie? Idiot feminism?

    What about the lack of morals in children? The joys and horrors of freedom? The unthinking herdlike stupidity of society?

    You’ve reduced greatness to brain dead ‘current year’ platitudism without a second thought.

  5. My favorite was the one with Bonnie’s dyke gym teacher and Trots ends up wearing the strapon. I enjoyed them all but then again I only read National Lampoon in the 1970s (it definitely sucked by the time PJ left). I had no idea it ran up until the ’90s. The good editor/contributors were all rich and/or dead by the early 1980s, IIRC

  6. The `poon limped on. Early 1980s did have “O,C. & Stiggs,” which was good, stupid fun. I’ve never seen the film Altman made from it. “Bill & Ted” are sort of a Bizarro version of OC&S, and Alan Moore’s “DR & Quinch” just turned them into aliens. “Bill & Ted” are, at heart, nice kids, if dim, as are the more clued-in Wayne
    & Garth from SNL. They, and even Beavis & Butthead owe something to OC&S.

  7. You know lads, all this is dating the lot of us. Millennials and even GenX would have no idea what we are talking about.
    Nat Lamp, underground Comix and all the rest….the good ole days.
    Head shops…..Patchouli incense and tie dyed T shirts.

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