9 CHICKWEED LANEOriginal Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: United Feature Syndicate
First Appeared: 1993
Creator: Brooke McEldowney
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The storyline of 9 Chickweed Lane is a lot like that of Gasoline Alley, in miniature a multi-generational family soap opera where it's best to be a long-time reader if you want to be fully aware of the characters' relationships and what's going on but it's mainly a gag-a-day comic, eschewing lengthy continuities for the most part. It started out focusing on the residents of the address
named in the title, consisting of the women of three generations of the Burber family, but has branched out and evolved from there (they age slowly, but do age). They don't even live at that location anymore.
The family's middle generation is represented by Juliette, who, as the series opened, was 40-something; recently (and unpleasantly) divorced, and a tenured professor at The University of New Hampshire. Juliette had (and continues to have) a robust fantasy life, strong enough to rival that of Rose Gumbo, including an invisible childhood playmate and an alter ego, "Panther Woman" (her Siamese cat, Solange, playing the part of the panther). After a 2005 confrontation with the school's board of trustees, Juliette switched careers and is now a dairy farmer, married to Dr. Elliot Greene, and teaching part-time.
Juliette's daughter, Edda, was first seen as a pre-teen, getting high grades in her Catholic school while vexing the nuns with her quick wit and sometimes snarky (but not mean-spirited) attitude. She, too, has a healthy fantasy life, including an alter-ego, the superhero Superlative Girl. From an early age, she demonstrated creative talent as a ballet dancer and concert pianist. Today, she's living in New York with her childhood lover, Amos Van Hoesen, and pursuing a career in the performing arts.
And then there's Gran Juliette's mom, Edna O'Malley. Crusty but lovable, with hidden depths. (Her past includes a stint as a USO showgirl, secretly working as an Allied agent in World War II.) Gran is currently involved romantically with the terminally odd Thorax, former owner of the New England farm where Juliette wound up moving. The cast is rounded out with ex-boyfriends, former schoolteachers, and miscellaneous friends and acquaintances.
The whole family was created by cartoonist Brooke McEldowney, who is also responsible for the on-line comic Pibgorn, which is about a bevolent sprite of the same name. Pibgorn characters occasionally guest-star in this strip, such as when the cast turned up at Juliette's 2007 wedding with Elliot. It was launched either Monday, July 12, 1993, or three weeks later, August 2 of that year (accounts differ) by United Feature Syndicate (Nancy, Broncho Bill).
In the tradition of Polly & Her Pals, the Sunday strips sometimes feature stunning play with the conventions of comic strip art. In 2006, it was named "Best Newspaper Comic" by The National Cartoonists' Society, sponsors of The Reuben Award.