L-r: Granny, Cranberry, Cap'n Gramps. Artist: Don Dean.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: McNaught Syndicate
First Appeared: 1945
Creator: Don Dean
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The famous feud between Al Capp (Long Sam, among others) and Ham Fisher (Joe Palooka and not much else) involved conflicting claims to having created the first hillbilly family in comics. But cartoonist Don Dean (Pokey Oakie) demonstrated that a comic strip doesn't have to be about hillbillies …

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… to be an imitation of Li'l Abner. Dean's Cranberry Boggs was as complete an Abner imitator as they come, despite the fact that it was set on a New England seacoast.

Few if any human beings, male or female, have "Cranberry" as a given name. Still, the name "Cranberry Boggs" sounds familiar to residents of the area. A cranberry bog is a type of geological feature, where the tart but sweetened Thanksgiving treats are grown. The human character of that name was grown in the region too. He was orphaned at a young age, before the strip started (on Monday, January 8, 1945), and was raised by his grandparents, whom he called Granny and Cap'n Gramps.

Cranberry wasn't as big and dumb as Abner Yokum, but he was pretty big and pretty dumb. He and Cap'n Gramps worked as lobster fishermen in the rustic town of Codville (later called Cod Cliffs). Most of the stories took place on dry land, in and around the town. Where Cranberry failed as an Abner knock-off was in the wildly inventive stories and fantastic adventures — Dean's New England was flat and prosaic compared with Capp's hill country.

Cranberry was also distributed by a smaller syndicate. Whereas Abner was marketed alongside such superstars as Peanuts and Tarzan, McNaught Syndicate, which distributed Cranberry Boggs as a seven-day feature, had a lineup whose stars included The Jackson Twins, Mickey Finn and the like. Cranberry's media penetration was limited to a few reprinted pages in Big Shot Comics, where the most famous original features were Skyman and The Face. Other McNaught strips reprinted there included Dixie Dugan and Charlie Chan.

Nor was Cranberry Boggs a standout even in his less stellar surroundings. In fact, the strip lasted only until 1949. Today, it's scarcely even remembered.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © McNaught Syndicate.