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Beads in the Comics

Beads show up in the comics a lot. Or maybe they are just easier to keep track of there.

Gary Larson's "The Far Side" cartoons are pasted all over doors and walls of museum and university departments of anthropology.

A café at lunch time. A row of similarly attired men are eating soup. One has his shrunken head pendant dangling in his soup. He stops, spoon in mid-air and the caption reads, Nonoongo froze -- worried less about ruining a good head than he did the social faux pas.

Another Larson panel shows four native Americans outside their wigwams. Two are holding necklaces, one of round pendants, and the other of claws. The fellow with the claw necklace says, Well, Red Cloud, it just so happens I did go ask the chief! A bear claw necklace is a symbol of honor -- a Grizzly Adams fingernail necklace is not! Quite so, Gary. The right necklace at the right time is always important.

Cathy is always wearing beads. She wears her heart as pendant rather than on her sleeve. Sometimes the string is too thin to show up in the strip. At other times, it's on a necklace of round beads. I am not sure what color it is, but in one Sunday episode it was violet.

On one of Cathy's visit to a clothing store. The saleslady chirps, Spring is a celebration of womanhood! She recommends Beady ethnic wear. (Think about that.)
I know who I am, and the only thing that's appropriate are business suits and blue jeans.
Saleslady: Pretend You're Someone Else!

There is a new twist on beads from a "Close to Home" panel. A man is showing off the beaded curtain he installed as a garage door to a neighbor. He explains, My 17-year old drove the car into the garage door three times, so I finally just said the heck with it and installed the beads. Not a bad idea.

Cartoon strips that feature Native Americans often have beads woven into their plot. One is "Catfish" by Wright. In one strip Trader Jim ("Franchises Available; Born to Barter") holds up a string of beads to two natives saying, Here's a fine string of quality beads... Five Buffalo hides!

One customer whips out a jeweler's loupe and declares, These are nothing but cheap costume jewelry... One Buffalo hide.

Another "Catfish" tells the same story in reverse. A white, bearded man in a Flea Market asks a native son sitting there, Do ya accept beads and trinkets?
The dealer answers, Sure... as long as they are wrapped in bills or credit cards.
For more on along these lines see
Beads Buying Manhattan.

The most consistent bead lover among cartoonists is Tom K. Ryan, who does "Tumbleweeds." Several friends have sent me examples of his strips over the years; it is not carried locally. Hope Ryan doesn't mind me quoting him at such length.

A Native American behind a rock says to a white man, Guess what... Geronimo's favorite bead necklace broke.
White man, Oh, major tragedy.
He leaves and returns shot full of arrows, You might have mentioned the 2,000 grouchy Apache braves on their hands and knees.

Another strip: He (handing over a necklace:
Fer you, Sweets! The sacred bead necklace.
She: Why's it sacred?
He: Tiny bead, so round so fair/ Strung betwixt your fellows there Impaled on a long string line/ Beads in front and beads behind! Doth it not feel rather odd/ With that string run through your bod? Doth yer inhibitions shout/ For unfettered worlds without? Alas, disemboweled doo-dad/ It appears that you've been had.
She stares blankly.
It inspired my 'Hymn to the Common Bead.'

Note: one or more images on this page may be copyrighted. I believe their use is covered by the
"fair use" clause (Section 107) of the U.S. Copyright Law. If any copyright holder informs me in writing
 that the use is not fair, I shall remove the image in question.


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