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The Wizard of Id

From Academic Kids

The Wizard of Id is a humorous medieval-themed comic strip by American cartoonists Brant Parker and Johnny Hart. It began in 1964, and currently appears in some 1000 newspapers over the world. It is syndicated by Creators Syndicate.

The strip has been considered among the most popular daily comics of our time. It follows antics of a large cast of characters in a versatile setting, a shabby kingdom called Id. It pokes fun at a range of topics, and its simple style gives it a harmless feel that could be enjoyed by any age group.

The names of both the strip and the kingdom come from the Freudian psychological term Id, which represents the instinctive and primal part of the human psyche.

Contents

Overview

In the early 1960s Johnny Hart, who had become successful among cartoonists for previously creating B.C., began collaborating with a friend who had not been published before, Brant Parker. (Parker would go on to create the strips Crock and Out of Bounds.) Having already made a cartoon about the stone ages in B.C., Hart advanced through time to the middle ages, taking an idea from a deck of playing cards to create the first few strips of The Wizard of Id. The strip was first syndicated on November 9, 1964, and since then it has been co-written by Parker and Hart, and always drawn by Parker.

The Wizard of Id is about the goings-on of the run-down, oppressed Kingdom of Id. It follows people from all corners of the kingdom, but concentrates on the court of a tyrannical dwarf-sized monarch, known only as "the king". The jokes center around the idea that people are stuck with the king as their ruler, and that his administration's incompetence has led to a kingdom that is, amusingly, poorly kept. The strip may owe some of its popularity to its expansive setting: the cast is big for a daily cartoon strip, and there are recurring jokes for each character and for the kingdom itself, so that from day to day it appears as if it were several comic strips based in the same place.

Id is known as "the land of milk and honey", and while it is set a thousand years ago, the strip's humor occasionally takes the reader through satire of American culture. Technology changes to suit whatever a joke requires: a battle with spears and arrows might be followed by a peasant using an ATM. The general trend is that even though the personalities of the characters are well known, their surroundings will morph to satisfy a good joke. For instance, in some strips the king is curiously elected to his position, albeit through rigged ballots. The aspects that stay the same, however, are that Id is in the middle of nowhere and is home to a large castle surrounded by a moat. The king and his subjects run an army that fight "the huns", and keep guards who shout the time and "all's well" from the castle walls, while the peasants, or "Id-iots", make little money as stablehands to keep modest lifestyles.

The Wizard of Id mostly features unrelated stories from day to day, but occasionally it will carry an ongoing series of jokes over a week or two. It also follows the convention of having an extended Sunday strip with a short joke in the first two panes.

Parker's drawing style has always been suited to the humor of the strip: there is little background detail in each pane to allow a concentration on dialogue. As the years have passed, even though his style has become much more refined, with cleaner lines and more consistent proportions, it could be argued he draws even less background detail recently.

The Wizard of Id has enjoyed a successful life to date. It has been awarded for best humor strip by the American National Cartoonists Society in 1971, 1976, 1980, 1982 and 1983, and Brant Parker received a Reuben Award for his work on it in 1984. Furthermore, it has seen dozens of paperback collections published since 1965, and even now there are some still in print.

Characters

The Wizard of Id has a varied set of principal characters, each with a developed personality and a few jokes relating to them.

  • The King: Like most characters in the strip, the king is named simply after his role. "Sire" to his subjects, he is the greediest, most evil man in the kingdom, and yet he maintains a sense of humor about his desire to stay wealthy. Jokes are often played on his height (about three feet), and he wears a crown and cape that makes him look like a playing card. From his throne room he hands out terrible punishments for crimes (executions being quite common), only ever looking to win votes, power and money. He is hated by the peasants, who to his dismay, often proclaim, "The king is a fink!" However, he is often shown to have a quirky softer side, and it is mentioned his only friends are the moat monsters.
  • The Wizard: The king's royal wielder of magic, sometimes nicknamed "Wiz". He is very smart but sarcastic, fun-loving, and overall good-natured, but he is constantly dominated by his wife Blanch. From his basement he works over a vat, where the evil spirit lives. He is capable of powerful spells, but often his plans backfire on him, and his magic is a failure. His incantations usually sound a little like, "Frammin' on the jim-jam, frippin at the krotz." He is friendly to all the king's servants, but like most of them, he secretly considers the king to be a creep.
  • Rodney: The king's head knight, the controller of the army. He is a tall, lanky man of dopey intelligence who wears green armour and carries a spear, although he is hopeless as a knight and his armies are just as incompetent. A coward, he is terrified of fighting, and often pretends to be good at slaying dragon while in fact he once befriended one known as "Dragy". He has an enormous nose, and is always trying to win the king's attention. He occasionally works as a spy, wearing a tree costume with a large hole to support his nose.
  • Blanch: The wizard's domineering wife. It has been said he married Blanch for her money, for she is considered extremely ugly by everyone in the kingdom. She nags at "Wiz" every day, and her mother (whom we never see) is apparently just as bad to him. Occasionally though, she looks to him for romance that he is hesitant to offer her. Her cooking is very bad, and she heads the women's liberation front in Id.
  • The Duke: A nobleman who helps the king run the castle and the duties of the government. He is pompous and self-admiring, and he never likes to get his hands dirty. Like Rodney, he strives to impress the king at all times. He is often cited as the king's "PR man".
  • Lackey: The king's personal servant. He never says much, but is loyal to stand by the throne and await the king's every order. He is overworked, therefore.
  • Evil Spirit: An apparition who lives in the wizard's vat and takes form as a smoky puff of gas. He keeps the wizard company while at work, but he is childish and gullible. It is sometimes mentioned he has a "sewer wisp" for a girlfriend.
  • Bung: The king's jester. An alcoholic who spends little time entertaining the king and most of his time between the bars of Id. He wears a traditional joker's uniform with bells on the bonnet, but when he performs he is not very good. Always drunk on wine or spirits of any kind, he is cunning to support his habit without paying any money for it. He is sometimes friendly with the mice that live in wine cellars.
  • Gwen: A beautiful maiden who, as her blonde stereotype would suggest, is quite clueless. She is adored by all but is in love only with Rodney. They sometimes date, but in his non-macho ways he usually doesn't return the romantic feelings she has for him. She often spends time with Blanch.
  • Spook: A prisoner who for many years has lived in the dungeon beneath the castle. He is covered from head to toe with hair, sometimes being likened to a giant rat. His crime was one of a few mentioned things, but most of the time it is accepted the king sentenced the spook to spend a lifetime in the dungeon for calling him a fink. He is treated poorly by the system, but his best friend is the turnkey that lives outside his cell. He lives happily beneath the level of the moat eating "swill", a bland, disgusting slop similar to garbage, and for a hobby attempts to escape on a regular basis. He normally tunnels under the walls only to have his plans ironically cut short.
  • Turnkey: The guard who runs the dungeons but spends all his time sitting outside the spook's cell. In a way their lives are similar - he is stuck in the same place all day and he doesn't have an important place in the world - and he sometimes expresses unhappiness about this to the spook.
  • Larsen E. Pettifogger: Attorney-at-law in the kingdom of Id. He is the stereotypical lawyer, with a big pretentious nose and hat. He lies and cheats to protect criminals. While incompetent at his job, he is selfish and greedy for money, and doesn't mind drinking a lot of alcohol. He has been the spook's lawyer on several occasions. His appearance and behavior are patterned directly on W.C. Fields, one of whose film characters was "Larsen E. Whipsnade". The term "pettifogger" means a less-than-scrupulous attorney.
  • Troob: A local musician and poet (a "troubador") who lives to walk around the kingdom writing songs and commentary on Id's ways of life. He sometimes entertains the king, but his music is uninviting. He is one of the few people in Id to be streetwise enough to see the bigger picture of the state of the kingdom. His song describes the place well: "The land of Id, 'tis such delight, the land of milk and honey. No need to lock your doors at night, the king has all the money!"

Additional to the above main cast, throughout the life of the comic strip there have been several recurring jokes for which certain characters come back from time to time.

  • Robbing Hood: A forest-dweller who, like the character Robin Hood, steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He is wanted for theft, but is fairly kind.
  • The Lone Haranguer: A phantom heckler who rides past the king's window frequently to shout "The king is a fink!" The king has suffered anxiety over the stranger, but has never succeeded in capturing or identifying him.
  • Yodey: A stable boy whom Rodney began to train to become a knight. He is a gigantic oaf, very strong in battle, but stupid and gullible. He looks up to Rodney to teach him, even though he is already more capable than Rodney is.
  • The Doc: The royal physician who remains the subject of many doctor jokes. He plays golf, for instance, and has a lot of money.
  • Bernie: An accident-prone man so unlucky that when he came out of hospital after being run over by a steamroller, a gargoyle fell on him.
  • Abra Cadaver: A Frankenstein-like monster the wizard built out of old body parts. He is deranged and obedient, and is twice the size of the wizard.

There are many other generic characters Parker often includes in the comic. They are not individually identifiable, but they serve as tellers of the jokes for each day's strip. Added to guards, peasants and executioners, they include the huns, fortune tellers, dentists, insurance salesmen, priests, and frogs, to name a few.

Translations

The Wizard of Id was translated into Finnish as Velho, meaning "wizard". A version in the Kainuu dialect called Näläkämoan noeta - Veleho kaenuuks was published in 2001.

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