Thursday, June 10, 2021

Please Explain This to Me! No. 3: Happy Birthday, Pops!

Here's a one-page gag from DINO #10 (Charlton Comics, Cover Date: June, 1975) that I truly do not understand!

It's the birthday of the "POPS" character who was a regular in the FLINTSTONES newspaper comic strip.  (...and, of course, Charlton called him "GRAMPS" instead of "POPS"!)

He's 80 years old!  

...Um, but... what, now?  


"The fact that I was born in '095?"  Is there something I missed?  If so, anyone wanna explain it to me?  

Fred and Wilma clearly get it!  

Not sure about Pebbles and Dino... but they don't look nearly as puzzled as I did when reading this! 

I don't have an answer, so take your best shot... and "Please Explain This to Me!"  

...And, while you're at it, perhaps you can also explain how this qualifies as a DINO gag!  

Oh, wait... I know! ...It's CHARLTON! ...That must be it!  But, I'd still like your thoughts on the gag itself!  

...And why DINO even got his own comic in the first place!  


Elaine said...

Someone asks, "Wow! A hundred years old! What's your secret?"

Compare these responses:
--I was smart enough to eat right and exercise daily.
--I was smart enough to stay active in my retirement.
--I was smart enough to get born in 1921.

Yeah, it's a lame joke: my secret to reaching the age of X is getting born X years ago. It definitely doesn't work when you can't use a year counting back from the current year in the joke, since the scene is not supposed to take place in the present!

It's possible that the joke *only* works well if it's set up the way I did: that is, if you have three people answering the question serially that way.

Joe Torcivia said...


I think you’ve “Explained This to Me” as well as it could possibly be explained!

As someone whose stock-in-trade is “lame jokes”, this one somehow managed to be even too lame for *me* to get!

Yes, it DOES “work”, to the best extent it can, when executed as in your example!

And maybe if there were a BANNER overhead saying “Happy Birthday Pops -2021” (or “1975” when this comic was published) it might have been clearer, but you CAN’T DO THAT with The Flintstones!

And, since you can’t assign a “taking-place-date” to a Flintstones story, as you could with MOST other characters – even (theoretically) The Jetsons, the “ ‘095 “ becomes completely meaningless!

Then, in a true case of “me overthinking”, for The Flintstones (..and ONLY The Flintstones!), the “BC years” would move BACKWARD toward the “Year Zero”, wouldn’t they? Math has never been my strong subject but, if Pops were born in “ ‘095 “, then this poorly executed gag would be taking place in “ ‘015 “?

But, this is Charlton… and this is what you should be prepared to expect from Charlton – a mixed bag routinely spanning “Great to Terrible”, and ”Inspired to Incomprehensible”, while running that gamut with a uniquely frightening regularity demonstrated by NO other publisher!

HERE’S another Charlton Dino gag that manages to be ALL FOUR at once! …No mean feat, that! …And I have another really good Dino gag in the Blog Archives, yearning to be free!

I would imagine that Mutt and Jeff would have presented this same gag with a much higher degree of skill – and, if so, it would probably have been set up as you suggest!

However, this is most likely a case of “Charlton being Charlton” and someone like Joe Gill finding a new use for some very old joke he heard in vaudeville, or someplace, and applying it to perhaps the ONLY set of characters in the Charlton stable, for which it would not work! …Gotta love Charlton!

Sérgio Gonçalves said...

Kudos to Elaine for explaining the joke so well. Now it makes sense! I didn't get it either!

As Joe points out, the gag really doesn't work in this case, as there is nothing to indicate which year this story is supposed to take place in. Also, the birth year '095 doesn't make sense, as whether it be BC or AC, society was well past the Stone Age by that point! Unless of course they were using a different calendar back then, which is logical. Then again they celebrate Christmas. All this overthinking, of course, shows how abjectly the joke falls flat.

Elaine's explanation is likely the one that is most accurate. But I have a fun explanation I'd like to share:

Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles don't get it either. But they're adhering to what I call the Homer Simpson principle for reacting to bad jokes:

As a side note, I like the Pops character, but I would imagine that to people used to watching the cartoon show, it must have been odd seeing this character that never appeared in the show appear all the time in Flintstones comic strips and comic books.

Joe Torcivia said...


Thinking about it a little more (…which, by now, must be more than ANYONE has thought about this gag EVER – including its writer and editor, it would seem), the comic in which it appeared was published in 1975…

…So, for Pops to be 80 years old and born in a year designated as “ ‘095 ”, the gag would have to take place in some undetermined year analogous to 1975! ‘175, anyone?

That would make it all the more bizarre, even for Charlton, because one’s “getting the gag” (to whatever extent one COULD “get” such a gag) is dependent on its being PUBLISHED in 1975, given the (arbitrary or purposeful) declaration of Pops’ birth being in “ ‘095 ”, rather than any consideration inherent in the joke itself! …“Me, overthinking!”

That’s a great Simpsons clip (…but, aren’t they ALL?) and I *could possibly* see it from Fred, but not from Wilma. Maybe Charlton explained the gag to Wilma in advance and she’s simply chuckling at the absurdity of it all. The same circumstance could also explain Fred’s semi-uncharacteristic “wry smile”, something Homer could never achieve after Season One.

HERE is Sergio’s link for your “joke-getting enjoyment”!

Finally, Pops never seemed all that strange to me, in that we had the Gene Hazelton Flintstones strip locally until the very early seventies. He was a better, and more logical, addition than The Great Gazoo!

Where he was at-odds, however, was with the long-bearded “Grandpa Flintstone” who sometimes concurrently appeared in some of Vic Lockman’s Gold Key Flintstones stories. Since Grandpa appeared to be cast as Fred’s father (and Pebbles’ “grandpa”), and Pops seemed to also be closer to Fred than Wilma, the two seemed incompatible to my (now rather obvious) tendency toward “overthinking”. …But since Averi and Cici have FOUR grandfathers (two biological, and two step – of which I’m one), it no longer seems at all odd to me.

So, let’s hear it for grandfathers! Maybe, I might even get to do a version of that joke someday! If so, I’ll do my best to adhere to Elaine’s model!

joecab said...

That Fred face in the last panel looks like it was kinda ripped off from one of Gene Hazelton's own last panel Freds in the comic strip, no? (Also, hello Joe!)

Debbie Anne said...

The only way I can think of to make it clearer would make the joke even dumber…
“A toast on your 80 long years! What’s your secret?”
“Having been born 80 years ago!”
Eye rolling abounds, or even the comic staple of people falling backwards with their feet in the air.

Joe Torcivia said...


I’m betting your feelings of “Fred-Face Deja-Vu” refer specifically to “the straight line going across the top of Fred’s eyes”, with a slight glance toward the reader. I always liked that little touch of Hazelton’s and, in junior high, often drew Fred with such an expression. Sometimes, I used it on non-Flintstone characters as well.

It also shows that Ray Dirgo at least worked to improve his art, compared with his earlier Charlton efforts. Gotta give him some credit for that.

Joe Torcivia said...

Deb writes: “Eye rolling abounds, or even the comic staple of people falling backwards with their feet in the air.”

Don’t forget the “PLOP!” when they fall!

Of course, there’s always this:
“A toast on your 80 long years! What’s your secret?”
“Live 90 years, and lie about your age!”

…Hey, I kinda LIKE that!

Debbie Anne said...

Aother variant:
"A toast on your 80 long years! What's your secret?"
"I haven't died yet."
PLOP! (Everyone around him falls backwards...not him dying!)

Joe Torcivia said...

Great one, Deb!

If we keep it up, this could become the next “Bad Goat Jokes”!

Anyone got a catchy name we could assign to it?

Comicbookrehab said...

Maybe it's a reference to a joke from a commercial..I remember a Yogi Bear comic from the Charlton era that ended with a nod to the "Hi, Guy! How are you today!" commercial with the next door neighbors sharing the same medicine cabinet.

Comicbookrehab said...

There IS such a thing as "Angel Number 95", which symbolizes universal love, an adventures & witty personality and personal freedom. If this is it, it's a very "Family Circus"-esque bit of wordplay at work.

Joe Torcivia said...


Two very interesting possibilities…

I was not aware of "Angel Number 95", but I would put NOTHING past Charlton.

As for the commercial, I remember the Yogi Bear gag (…and remember the commercials very well, because Chuck McCann – then known to me as a fixture of New York kids’ TV in the ‘60s – was the “guy on the other side of the medicine cabinet”) and thinking that, if it’s ever reprinted in the future (and maybe Harvey actually did so in the ‘90s) that gag would completely fall flat, or just be “blipped-over” as a quirky curiousity.

Don’t ask me for any other specific examples right now, but I’m certain Charlton did other, similar “topical references” that would have the same effect later in time. Hey, at least they were not shy about “living in the moment”!

But, having lived through those times, and having paid a lot of attention to the media and pop culture of those times, I can pretty much say that “ ‘095 ” was not a media or pop culture reference… Though, given the character involved, perhaps it was a “POPS” culture reference! :-)

If anyone can come up with something-seventies I was unaware of that could have inspired this gag (in Charlton’s own unique way, of course), please offer it here.

Comicbookrehab said...

I remember reading that Yogi Bear comic from the 1st issue of the Harvey reprints from the 90's - it starts off being about making pancakes, then ends with the medicine cabinet bit and Yogi telling Boo-Boo "Somebody installed that guy from the TV!"..or something like that, as if the writer had a fever dream and decided the plot would be a prequel to those commercials..definitely a case of writers writing stories that keep themselves amused!

Joe Torcivia said...


Fever dreams for one’s own amusement? Yeah, that was Charlton to a “T”!

Funny, I did that only once as an experiment to see if I could get away with it – and because the Australian English translation I was given to work with was so golly-fraggin’ awful!

It was in UNCLE SCROOGE #403 from Boom! Studios, when things were much more lenient than they are today. I filled it with lots of current political, media, and entertainment stuff, knowing that (like the Yogi medicine cabinet bit) it could never be reprinted in that form. HERE is the GCD link I prepared explaining some of it – but not all.

Perhaps, as somewhat of a karmic or cosmic warning that I should never do this again, my CREDIT was left off of that issue – as is noted HERE!

Just curious, did you “get” the Yogi medicine cabinet bit when you first saw it in the ‘90s, or was it more like so many gags in Looney Tunes, where you eventually “get them” over time?

Comicbookrehab said...

I did not understand the bit with the medicine cabinet until a few years later, when I saw a clip of that commercial with Chuck McCann as part of a "Restrospective" TV special about memorable TV commercials - THEN I understood where that was coming from.

Comicbookrehab said...

Over at Mark Evanier's blog - the recurring "Advice for Writers Breaking Into The Business" posts - often cautions people not to fill their scripts with references to inside jokes or political, contemporary, entertainment topics - so it's kinda interesting when work gets through that flies in the face of that conventional wisdom.

Joe Torcivia said...


You write: “…so it's kinda interesting when work gets through that flies in the face of that conventional wisdom.”

Yep, “interesting” and sometimes bewildering once a few years have passed. That’s why I only did it once.