Emmy Lou and girlfriend, carefully following instructions. Artist: Marty Links.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Consolidated News Features
First Appeared: 1944
Creator: Marty Links
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The doings of teenagers started being a separate genre of comics about the time it was starting to be noticed that teenagers themselves were a separate demographic, and not just adults who hadn't quite gotten there yet. Harold Teen became prominent as …

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… "America's typical teenager" just as the "Roaring '20s" were about to start, and a generation later boys a lot like him had spread all over the comics page — girls too, but with few exceptions (e.g. Etta Kett, and she started out rather specialized) only in supporting roles.

But as the 1940s began changing everything, the guys began being crowded out by a bevy of young ladies — first Penny (1943), then Bobby Sox (1944), then Susie Q. Smith (1945), and then the flood.

Cartoonist Marty Links named her daily panel and Sunday strip after the fashion statement that characterized teenage girls of the 1940s and early '50s so strongly, the whole lot of them were often called "bobbysoxers". Like Mutt & Jeff before it and The Far Side after, Bobby Sox started at The San Francisco Chronicle, but was soon distributed nationally. The syndicate Links worked through, Consolidated News Features, was far from a giant like King Features or The Chicago Tribune. But it did manage to field a few other noticeable features, such as Life's Like That, by Fred Neher (Goofy Movies), which ran over 40 years; and even a short-lived licensed version of Woody Woodpecker.

By the way, if you happen to be confused by the the given name of the cartoonist, you're not alone. So, apparently, was The National Cartoonists' Society, of which she was one of the first female members. Correspondence from the Society was addressed to "Mr. Marty Links" even after she'd given birth to her first child. She offered to send them her bust size.

Like most slang describing teenagers, "Bobby Sox" was destined eventually to sound quaint. In 1951, when the term was still a couple of years away from the dustbin of history, Links re-named the feature after its star, Emmy Lou. Unencumbered by obsolescent expressions, she and her boyfriend, Alvin, continued in the same vein for decades.

Emmy Lou had her first brush with television as part of the ongoing series Shirley Temple's Storybook, hosted by the thirty-something former child star, who presented a different story each week. The Emmy Lou episode appeared November 6, 1960, when the show had been running two years. Emmy Lou was played by Bernadette Withers and Alvin by Jimmy Boyd, both in their only toon-related roles.

The second came a couple of years later, when she was tried out for a TV show. The April 29, 1962 episode of Mr. Ed had a teenage character named Emmy Lou Harper, played by Joanna Dix, and functioned as a pilot for The Trials and Tribulations of Emmy Lou Harper. It didn't become a series.

Later yet, she starred in one of several rotating segments, others of which included Alley Oop and The Captain & the Kids, in Filmation's animated series, The Fabulous Funnies. There, her voice was done by Jayne Hamil, who also did Nancy on that show, but lacked other voice credits. The Fabulous Funnies ended in 1979.

1979 was also a momentous year in the newspaper comic itself. By that time, it had become difficult for the cartoonist to stay ahead of the curve while marching inevitably into middle age. Her own children having reached adulthood, Links made a decision in that year, that there was no place for Emmy Lou and her friends in the modern world. By the last week in December, 1979, they were gone.

Marty Links then went into other areas of cartooning, particularly the design of greeting cards. She later became known for Kidlinks, featuring endearing child characters, and avoided the unfathomable world of teenagers.


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Text ©2007 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Consolidated News Features.