Saturday, March 19, 2016

Breaking the Gummi Wall

There's a sugary place in Seatle that's renowned for being the second-largest depository of chewing gum stuck to its wall.  Late last year, it was forced to clean up the colorfully disgusting surface due to health issues.  The concern wasn't the amount of sugar available, but more along hygenie issues.  While it sounds like the outlandish premise to a classic Simpsons episode, it's something that actually happened.

I'm only bringing this news up because it's tangentially related to the title heading, and figured it was too bizarre to pass up on search results.

By all rights, The Gummi Bears shouldn't have been as good as they turned out to be - a barely fleshed-out premise, influenced by a punny take on a candy, using character designs from the ruined concepts of The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain which is currently being reconsidered for a revival, preferably done right).  For all of Lloyd Alexander's complaints about how the movie bastardized his work, the cartoon series' success skewed closer to his source material, and paid more attention to the more competent female role.  (A welcome inversion of the Trinity Syndrome, where the male lead's self-esteem is bolstered in contrast to the woman's ability)

However, what worked so well for the television screen was drastically neutered for the comics page.  Since the only purpose for acquiring a slot on the funnies (other than taking up valuable advertising space) was to retain copyright and produce public awareness of their property, it shouldn't have been surprising that such a fondly remembered series should be reduced to pandering to a childish audience.  Yet it still remains a surprise.

There aren't very many available resources for finding samples of Gummi Bear comics, since the few newspapers that carried them didn't keep them for very long.  As with most licensed properties, they were only kept around long enough to serve their purpose.  A cursuory survey of their strips show hardly any variance in their formula - being little more than one-off jokes set in a widescreen format that could've been put to better use, usually limited to just two characters, and with barely any dialogue.  Comics broken up into panels were even rarer, and just as unmemorable.

Yet there were a few instances of the comic being aware of their surroundings, as if the cartoonist was straining against the limitations of the form, and wanted to rail against the corporate structure bearing against them.  Showcasing a desire to expand the conventions beyond the borders of a daily strip, and maybe move onto long-term storytelling.

Or possibly, I'm projecting, and reading too much into what's basically just another flawed comic strip.

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