Bunky, in his typical frame of mind. Artist: Billy DeBeck.


Original Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1926
Creator: Billy DeBeck
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Cartoonist Billy DeBeck is rightly acclaimed as the creator of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. But even some of his ardent fans don't know about his most unusual hero — Bunky, short for Bunker Hill Jr., who first appeared in a King Features comic with the unlikely (at least for a …

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… hero's vehicle) title of Parlor, Bedroom and Sink, a phrase that might be used in an advertisement for a tenement apartment aimed at less well-to-do families.

The first thing about Bunky that was unusual for a hero was that when the strip began, on May 16. 1926, he hadn't yet been born. In fact, the first episode concerned the wedding of his parents, Bunker Sr. and Bibsy. Their adorable offspring was added to the cast offstage, while Dad, not the responsibility-accepting type, was off having wildly improbable adventures. He first met Bunky when Bibsy caught up with him, on November 13, 1927. From then on, Bunky was the star. Tho a typical baby at first, he quickly evolved into the man of the house, protector and benefactor of his hapless mother — even while dressed in the bonnet and gown he was first seen in, and without growing an inch. He had an ability to function as an adult that would put a Junior Woodchuck to shame, and his vocabulary rivaled that of cartoondom's most erudite vers libre poet, archy. He was much more of a "superbaby" than Herky, who is often cited as such.

Bunky's comic was the topper to Barney Google's Sunday page. The title began acknowledging his star status in 1932, when it was changed to Parlor, Bedroom & Sink Starring Bunky; and completed the process three years later by dropping the reference to the apartment, which wasn't where Bunky and "Mother, Dear Mother" (as he called Mom when he wasn't using more flowery phrases for her) lived anymore. In fact, they'd become as mobile as Prince Valiant or Popeye the Sailor, who could turn up anywhere in the world.

Often, the reason for their mobility was Fagan (later spelled "Fagin"), as vile a villain as comics ever saw, who was introduced in 1928. Even Dr. Doom and Desperate Desmond weren't capable of such base villainy as Fagan, who would steal pennies from a blind man's cup and kick dogs that weren't even in his way. Robbing widows and orphans, which, with Bunky Sr. long out of the picture, Bibsy and Bunky Jr. resembled closely enough, was routine for him, but sometimes his villainous designs on them were more despicable yet. He even, somehow, managed to corrupt Bunky's diction — if Fagan hadn't, it's hard to believe Bunky would ever have said "Youse is a viper, Fagan" even once, much less made a catch-phrase of it, which he did.

DeBeck died in 1942. By that time, World War II paper shortages were beginning to make full-page Sunday comics scarce, but Bunky, which was popular enough to have encroached on Barney's own space at various times in the past, continued under Joe Musial (The Katzenjammer Kids) and Fred Lasswell (who took over the main strip). The series finally bit the dust in 1948.


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Text ©2007-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features Syndicate.