When Frank King started Gasoline Alley, Walt Wallet was twenty nine and Henry Ford wouldn’t retire the Model T for nine more years. Every Sunday Walt, Doc, Avery, and Bill talked about taking care of cars.
Li’l Abner was 19 years old when we first met him and he stayed 19 forever after. Instead of aging, Dagwood evolved; no longer, for example, smoking a pipe. As a convenience for cartoonists, most comic characters neither age nor evolve. In Gasoline Alley, however, each year the main characters are another year older. Baby Skeezix, for example, grew up, graduated from high school, got his first job, joined the army during WW II, and married Nina. When they had their first child, Chipper, Skeezix and his little family guaranteed that a series of cartoonists would never be out of work. All this is fine, but we have a problem. Walt would be the oldest man alive today. Also, Joel and Rufus don’t seem to have aged at all.
Frank King exaggerated his brother-in-law, Walt Drew, to draw Walt Wallet. He exaggerated a doctor Johnson in his hometown, to draw Doc Smartley. He exaggerated his friend Bill Gannon to draw Bill. And he assembled a variety of human fragments of Scottish origin to draw Avery. He said, “Almost anyone, with a little exaggeration, would make a good comic character.”
After Walt found a baby at his door, Gasoline Alley became a domestic strip in which the normal patterns of life direct a gentle comic soap opera involving Walt’s friends and family in homespun American small-town humor.