Marvin. Artist: Tom Armstrong.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: North America Syndicate
First Appeared: 1982
Creator: Tom Armstrong
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There are comic strip babies who grow into kids (like Buttercup Hawkins), teens (like Alexander Bumstead) or even …

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… adults (like "Skeezix" Wallet). Marvin Miller isn't one of those comic strip babies. For more than two decades, he's simply been a baby — learning to walk, going through potty training, cutting the occasional tooth … even Zoe MacPherson, who's also made a long-running schtick of babyhood, has out-developed Marvin.

Cartoonist Tom Armstrong launched Marvin's strip as a seven-day feature on Sunday, August 1, 1982. It was distributed by North America Syndicate, which also handled Mark Trail, Willy & Ethel, Sally Forth and others. The syndicate was later absorbed into King Features (Hi & Lois, Grandma), which distributes Marvin today. Armstrong's prior credits include Two-S, which ran in the campus paper at the University of Evansville, Indiana during the early 1970s, and the artwork on John Darling, which was written by Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft).

Marvin's mom and dad, Jenny and Jeff Miller, are typical parents. They deal with tantrums, food fights and inadvertent destructiveness of all kinds, and through it all, love their offspring beyond reason. And Marvin is a typical baby, with his own naive but highly innovative way of looking at the world, heedless of whatever havoc he may happen to wreak, and possessed of an utterly self-centered attitude that the adults in his life are there only to serve him — an attitude not entirely without basis in reality. Those three are the only humans in the family, which is rounded out by a dog, Bitsy.

It's no-doubt the family's very typicality, the familiarity of the daily gags, that makes the strip so successful — tho circulation is down from a high well in excess of 500 papers, Marvin is still read in nearly 400 communities worldwide. Another factor may be that unlike a lot of comics about babies, this one uses Marvin as the point-of-view character. In other words, it's less about a baby seen by adults, than about adults seen by a baby.

Honors bestowed on Marvin include a "Best Comic Strip" award given by The Northern California Cartoon and Humor Association during the strip's first year, and the 1996 Elzie Segar Award (named after the creator of Popeye and O.G. Wotasnozzle) for extraordinary achievement, given by The National Cartoonists' Society. The character has also been used as spokestoon by the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences.

On March 10, 1989, CBS aired Marvin in a half-hour special, Marvin: Baby of the Year. Jeff was voiced by Dave Madden, also heard in The Partridge Family: 2200 A.D. and the 1970s version of Mighty Mouse. Jenny was Kathy Garver, who once played Miss America in an animated version of Spider-Man. Marvin himself was Dana Hill (Max Goof, several voices in Rugrats). It was produced by Southern Star Productions (Teen Wolf, Berenstain Bears). Other media penetration includes several books reprinting his adventures from newspaper comics.

As popular as he is, Marvin's future is assured. He'll no-doubt continue to appear in hundreds of papers for years to come. And he isn't very likely to grow up.


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Text ©2004-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © King Features.