‘I credit Dayton for my roots,’ says the creator of ‘Cathy’ comic strip
“I could not have created ‘Cathy’ if I wasn’t so grounded in the Midwest,” says Cathy Guisewite, creator of the “Cathy” comic strip that ran daily from 1976 to 2010. “The values of family and community gave me a solid core for my life and my whole career — being able to step back and see what rattles us in particular moments in our culture, without being too rattled myself, and then writing and drawing about it.”
“Cathy” was groundbreaking as the first comic strip putting a woman front and center as the protagonist. In the strip, Cathy was a career woman who also struggled with the foibles of daily life, from parental relationships to self-image to dating. At its peak, the strip — syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate — ran in 1,400 newspapers, and was compiled into more than 20 books.
Guisewite received the National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award in 1992. She also created three animated television specials for the strip, all of which aired on CBS; for the first, Guisewite won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 1987.
In 2010, Guisewite wrapped up “Cathy,” wanting, she explains, to focus energy and time on her parents and her daughter and herself — all of whom were growing older.
This year, though, her book, “Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-Up Years” will be published on April 2 by G.P. Putnam.
Guisewite will appear at Books & Co. at The Greene on Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. (line number at 1 p.m.) to discuss her book.
To Guisewite, who was born in Dayton and lived here for her first five years before moving to Michigan with her parents and sisters, coming to Dayton is like coming home.
“I credit Dayton for my roots,” Guisewite explains. “That may sound funny since I lived here for my first five years, but the family and community values, the role models for innovation and creativity from Dayton, definitely were part of all of my growing up years.”
One such role model, she says, is Erma Bombeck. “I grew up reading and loving her,” Guisewite says. “And I’m so proud I’m from the same hometown!”
Just as Erma Bombeck’s essays graced many a refrigerator door, so too did “Cathy” comic strips.
“After I quit the strip, so much started changing in my adult life,” Guisewite explains. “I dealt with it by writing it down — and honestly, I always wrote the strip before I drew it. For years I summed up ideas, thoughts, experiences in four frames for the strip. Getting to write in essay form was like coming home and taking off the Spanx!”
“I always had a lot more that I wanted to say than I could fit into a comic strip,” Guisewite adds. “And in my essays, I can go to deeper places than I could in the comic strip.”
Just as with her tours for her comic strip, for her book tour, Guisewite says, “I’m looking forward to having conversations with all women, but perhaps particularly with women who are, like me, in the ‘panini’ generation — squashed between older parents and older kids, and adjusting to all that it implies. When I went out on the road for my comic strip, many women told me that they felt a sense of reassurance from the strip that they weren’t alone in their experiences. And I found reassurance from meeting them. It created a lovely circle of giving and getting back. I hope to have a similar experience with women I meet on the book tour.”