Broadway Blip – Musicals Based On Comic Strips
The Daily Comics and the Sunday Comics used to be an essential part of America’s reading. Little strips of humor, divided into panels of three, eight, or sometimes sixteen, we all had our favorites that we looked forward to. Interestingly, there have been several Broadway musicals based on comic strips. Considering the simplified nature of storytelling in comic strips, it is somewhat surprising that the authors of musicals were attracted to such properties. This may be why most of the musicals based on comic strips have struggled to run.
Here are some musicals based on comic strips:
The Addams Family: Charles Addams created this wickedly satirical, always macabre comic strip which appeared in The New Yorker. Gomez and Morticia Addams were an eccentric couple, fixated on death and gloom. The Broadway musical imagined what it would be like when their daughter Wednesday brought her “normal” fiancée home to meet the family.
Annie: The most successful of all the comic strip musicals, Annie is in reference to Little Orphan Annie created by Harold Gray, which debuted in 1924. Obviously, the story is of an orphan girl who finds happiness in the home of the wealthy Oliver Warbucks. The musical was an enormous Broadway hit, and it also received an Off-Broadway sequel in Annie Warbucks.
Doonesbury: Gary Trudeau’s strip was mostly political satire, mocking the president as well as a group of recent college graduates trying to find their way in the world. The musical focused on the grads, but audiences didn’t really care for the hit comic strip in musical form.
It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman: A daily comic strip launched in 1939, Superman is one of America’s most iconic superheroes. Originally authored by Jerry Siegel and Illustrated by Joe Shuster, the comic followed newspaperman Clark Kent and his alter ego, the powerful crimefighter Superman. The musical was basically inspired by a typical Superman strip.
Li’l Abner: Al Capp’s world of colorful and kooky characters came to life in both the comic strip and Broadway musical Li’l Abner. Both follow the story of Abner Yokum and the citizens of the Podunk, backwoods Dogpatch, USA.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark: Authored by Stan Lee, Spider-Man debuted in 1962 as a comic book series. The Amazing Spider-Man, a strip that hit papers in 1977, continued the tale of Peter Parker, the man who could shoot spider webs and climb tall buildings like an arachnid. The musical stayed true to the source material and, despite a much longer run than it could financially sustain, is considered one of Broadway’s most calamitous flops.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown: Though it originated Off-Broadway, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown did eventually come to Broadway in 1971. Based on the beloved Peanuts comic created by Charles Schulz, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was a day-in-the-life of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and the other pint-sized members of the Peanuts Gang.