The whole Safe Havens cast. Artist: Bill Holbrook.


Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: King Features Syndicate
First Appeared: 1988
Creator: Bill Holbrook
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Cartoonist Bill Holbrook (Kevin & Kell) broke into big-time syndication in 1984, when King Features launched his On the Fastrack, a comic strip about a typical '80s ruthless corporate environment. He followed it a few years later with a second King Features strip, this one about a Fastrack Inc. employee's home life, concentrating …

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… on his young daughter's attendance at pre-school. Safe Havens, named after the day care center, began on Monday, October 3, 1988.

Samantha Argus, the daughter in question, didn't stay in pre-school any longer than the average real-life kid — in the tradition of Skeezix Wallet and (to an extent) Alexander Bumstead, she grew up. She's remained the star of the comic while Miss Havens and her institution were left behind as she attended grammar school, high school and eventually college. Only two of her contemporaries, Dave and Jenny, are still around after having been part of the cast from the very beginning.

Dave is Samantha's soulmate, a fact the two still haven't realized, tho it seems obvious to everyone else; and Jenny has been her best friend all this time. But both stand in sharp contrast to Samantha. Dave is dyslexic, whereas Samantha is a science whiz. Jenny is self-centered and not a very nice person, whereas Samantha is cheerful and outgoing. Others in Samantha's life come from "The Other Clique". When their school decided students' personal lives were its business, and made an official list of their cliques, these are the ones who didn't fit in anywhere else and were listed as "Other".

Jenny and Dave aren't the only major contradictions in Samantha's life. Tho devoted to scientific rationality, she can see and have conversations with her dead grandmother through any reflective surface. Grandma's mission in post-life is to see that Samantha experiences life more directly than just through her computer. She also has conversations with living dust bunnies, and one of her roommates is Remora, a 415-year-old mermaid. The Other Clique has a mascot who is a cat cloned from a dog. A genetic experiment has the unexpected result of turning her family dog into a school guidance counselor.

Dave, who got into Havens University despite his handicap, has talents to compensate for his learning disability. He's been a basketball star for years. In fact, his being traded to another high school resulted in the introduction of Ming, who later became, at least temporarily, another of Samantha's college roommates.

Samantha's father, Donald Argus, pre-dated Safe Havens. Holbrook probably chose his surname from the fact that he was Fastrack's safety inspector, and the multi-eyed Greek deity, Argus, is a symbol of watchfulness. Her mom, Jeanine, went into politics and is now a state senator. Samantha has four siblings, Sylvester, Steve, Shondra and Sophie. Only Sophie is younger; the others are grown and off on their own.

Now in its third decade and giving no signs of slowing down, Safe Havens will probably follow Samantha into the early years of her post-schooling career, and beyond.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Bill Holbrook.