Arlo and Janis. Artist: Jimmy Johnson.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Newspaper Enterprise Association
First Appeared: 1985
Creator: Jimmy Johnson
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The Baby Boom generation — the one that made the 1960s what they were — was, in some ways, a departure …

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… from what had gone before. But in many basic ways, it was just like every other. In their first flowering of adulthood, its members were ambitious and idealistic, and convinced they'd never be anything else. And when they became middle-aged and ordinary, a lot of them — such as the protagonists of Arlo & Janis — couldn't quite believe it.

Arlo (whose name may or may not be a reference to Mr. Guthrie) has a nondescript office job with an amorphous corporation. Like millions of others, he wears a tie to work (but not when he doesn't have to), isn't very impressed with management's ability to manage, and doesn't particularly care for what he's doing, but hey, it's a living. He has the usual dad's difficulty relating to his (and Janis's) teenage son, Gene.

Janis (whose name may or may not be a reference to Ms. Joplin) has a job a lot like Arlo's, but is less often seen at work. She has the usual mom's difficulty relating to her (and Arlo's) teenage son, Gene.

Gene has a typical teenage son's difficulty relating to his parents. As an example of rebellious youth, he isn't the least bit like a '60s kid. Which isn't surprising, since the whole family was introduced on Monday, July 29, 1985, when Newspaper Enterprise Association (Kevin the Bold, Red Ryder) launched Arlo & Janis. Gene was very much a pre-teen at the time.

Together, they're a lot like other comic strip families, such as the Foxes, the Flagstons or, those quintessential middle-aged parents with teenagers, the Bumsteads. Cartoonist Jimmy Johnson, who created the daily and Sunday strip, compares Gene, Janis and Arlo to Larry, Moe and Curly, respectively. The family cat, Ludwig, he adds, corresponds to Shemp.

Because they age in more typical comic strip time than, say, the cast of Gasoline Alley, Arlo and Janis have pretty much let their time peg fade away. It's no longer plausible to claim people at their stage in life came of age as long ago as the 1960s. But they still retain a '60s-style attitude about how the world is run, and they still appeal to their original audience — as well as to a sizeable portion of those who came along later.


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Text ©2006 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Jimmy Johnson.