Thursday, August 2, 2012

Z - z - z - z - z - z

For almost forty years now, Cecil Adams, the world's smartest human, has been giving readers "The Straight Dope" on their strange and seemingly unanswerable questions. What does "The Straight Dope" have to do with cartoonists? Well, this week in his column, Mr. Adams answers the burning question: Why does the letter Z signify sleep (as in "Catching some Zs")? Mr. Adams' assistant, Sam Clemens, found the answer: Zs are used to signify sleep because that's how cartoonists have done it for over one hundred years, beginning with Harold Knerr and The Katzenjammer Kids. In fact, today--August 2, 2012--is the one hundred and ninth anniversary of Zs in the comics. Just one more example of how cartoonists have enriched American culture.

Neither Harold Knerr (1882-1949) nor Rudolph Dirks (1877-1968)--the original cartoonists on The Katzenjammer Kids and The Captain and the Kids--was lucky enough to have called himself a Hoosier. So what does "The Straight Dope" have to do with Indiana? Well, from its beginnings in the murky past, "The Straight Dope" has been illustrated by Slug Signorino, a Hoosier by residence and possibly also by birth. Why only possibly? Because little is known of Mr. Signorino, just like little is known of Cecil Adams. Even Slug's real first name is a secret to everyone but his closest associates. (I have an idea what it is, but I'm not telling.) In any case, today Slug Signorino has provided his usual illustration for Cecil Adams' column, and it shows the Captain emitting a trail of Zs as he is thrown from an ejection seat. Compared to many of Slug's pictures, this one is pretty normal.

You can see the website of "The Straight Dope" here and Slug Signorino's website here.

Copyright 2012 Terence E. Hanley

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