Cigar Smoking In The Comic Strips: A Symbol Of Power, Mischief, and Worldliness

Posted by Corona Cigar Co. on Nov 2 2016

J. Jonah Jameson

Cigar Smoking In The Comic Strips: A Symbol Of Power, Mischief, and Worldliness

If one looks back on the Golden Age of American comic strips—from the early part of the twentieth century to roughly the middle of it—one is struck by how many characters smoke cigars. Some are still very well-known to a contemporary audience: Daddy Warbucks in Little Orphan Annie, for example, is a famous cigar smoker.

Others were famous and praised in their day, even past the Golden Age. The cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, for example, created a political cartoon, Shoe, that ran in nearly 1,000 newspapers and won him three Pulitzer prizes. One of the characters in it, P. Martin Shoemaker, was a bird who ran the local newspaper…while puffing on his cigar. MacNelly himself was an enthusiastic cigar smoker, according to Cigar Aficionado, as were many cartoonists of the Golden Age.

Why? Cigar Aficionado advances intriguing reasons. Like cigar-smoking characters in movies and television, cigar-smoking characters in comics tend to be associated with power and being the boss. This is certainly true of Daddy Warbucks, who combines those qualities with being beneficent toward those who’ve experienced hard knocks. Another famous cigar smoker from the comics is J. Jonah Jameson from the comicbook Spiderman. Known for his tough attitude and short temper, Jameson is often seen with a cigar in his mouth both in the comics and in the movies. His character perfectly portrays the typical 'boss' who is hard to please and always tough on the employees.

Cigar-smoking cartoon characters also exhibit what MacNelly terms “worldly gruffness,” which is why he drew a seasoned newspaper editor with one. They aren’t surprised by shenanigans or turns of the wheel of fortune. They’re not harmed by them.

Cartoon cigar smoking symbolizes, in the words of the magazine, “confidence and cockiness; mischief and majesty.” In one of the cartoons of the Golden Age, Barnaby, the cigar smoking Mr. O'Malley employed his cigar as a magic wand to help along the title character. In Walt Kelly’s famous Pogo, Alfred the Alligator—a worldly companion of the title character—used a cigar.

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