Early mornings for a child have for decades centered around a few things: the smell of coffee, sugary cereal, and the funnies clipped from the newspapers. Central to the American canon is the comic strip, a medium of streamlined caricatures that have entertained the masses for several years while also acting as the backbone for early cartoon sensibilities. Comic strip icons such as Garfield or Snoopy have adorned theaters, merchandising, and bookshelves as a result of their massive success.
However, if there's one mark of a true success for the comic strip, it is the transition to the small screen. Once animation had become mastered and much more of a norm within television, several famous comic strips became adapted to full on animated series. Some have seen added success to their strips. Others have animated series so popular one would be surprised that it was even a comic strip. This list will be running down a few of the best animated series to have also shared the funny pages.
Before there was Garfield, the beloved orange cat of every home was Heathcliff. He decorated newspapers long before Garfield did, and the same thing goes for animation, trailblazing the cartoon medium before Garfield would even get up in the morning (not that it's that hard to do).
While not quite as beloved the destroyer of lasagnas, Heathcliff was still host to a variety of Saturday morning delights, including 1980s Heathcliff and Dingbat and Heathcliff and Marmaduke, as well as 1984's Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, showcasing the comic strip icon in animated form as well as making a couple of changes, such as gifting him the ability of speech.
9 Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon is more than a cult 80's movie and a really good Queen song. During the 1930s, he was a favored entry in the growing world of sci-fi comic strips, acting as colleague and neighbor to the Buck Rogers comic strip. Decades later, like the slew of other fantasy and sci-fi media that would grace televisions during the 1970s, Flash Gordon would join the animated ranks in The New Adventures of Flash Gordon.
During the 1980s, he would return to the small screen alongside other action/adventure, comic strip characters in Defenders of the Earth. Lastly, Flash greeted the animated screen during the 1990s in his final run in Flash Gordon. The man of the future really decorated decades of television in the past.
8 Dennis the Menace
Ol' Mr. Wilson's archnemesis has been a menace to society through a variety of media, starting the tirade in syndicated newspapers in both the U.S. and U.K. and taking things to live action television and even film.
However, if there was ever a medium to ever do the comic character justice, it wouldn't be actors and studio sets, but the close relative that is animation. The cartoon series would attribute to Dennis the Menace's wider appeal as it would persist from 1986 to '88, spawning 2 seasons and 78 episodes.
7 Baby Blues
To take family life terror from a different perspective, Baby Blues is a comic strip almost made for the adult animated series format. Centering on the household adventures of the McPhersons, the parents Wanda and Daryl struggle to raise their three children.
The animated series, however, would make a few changes to the format, as it would focus only on their experiences raising their first child Zoe and their relationship with the TV-only side characters the Bittermans. Such changes were not enough (or welcome at all) to sustain the series before its quick cancellation, but it's a fond entry nonetheless for one of comic's leading families.
6 The Addams Family
The childhoods of anyone and everyone can remember that infamous snap from just about anything, whether it be their television sets, movie theaters, or an annoying sibling. It may come as a surprise however that the adventures of the silly, macabre family had started as a series of cartoons in The New Yorker.
Initially started as a parody of the distant character of the wealthy, The Addams Family would soon grace homes as a family favorite on live action television and a childhood favorite as the cartoon.
Another surprise entry on this list, it's hard to believe that a series so profoundly known for its rubberhose action had at one point graced the pages of a publication with stagnant ink. Yes. Everyone's favorite cartoon sailor was once a comic strip, which speaks levels to its fame as an animated series, as Popeye has definitely invaded more homes through his decades of returns and skits as a lively cartoon.
This series gets major points for fully embracing the animation medium in a way that the comic strip can't, introducing famous uses of animation in the way Popeye flexes, eats spinach, and, of course, fights Bluto in classic, old timey fervor.
Dilbert is a long running comic strip mostly known for adorning office cubicle walls, allowing the disenfranchised office employee to fight against the man in small yet humorous fashion. Dilbert the animation however is a cartoon series that has seen cult success.
Despite lasting only two seasons, the series fills in so much cartoon adventure wackiness and high concept adventure that couldn't quite fit in the comic strip, and it's better off for it. The sly wit of the comic meets the grand dramatization in animation in a production match made in heaven.
3 Garfield and Friends
A series that has dominated the newspaper landscape to this day at one point dominated children's Saturday morning plans, as Jim Davis would bring his cat's infamous sarcasm to the television box.
With it, classic strips came alive as fans would finally see the jokes in action, in addition to a few fantastical adventures exclusive to the animation, as well as the revival of Davis' once failed project U.S. Acres find a new home as the "Friends" in Garfield and Friends. This show checks off all the Saturday morning boxes with jokes, fun adventures, and even singing to immortalize everyone's favorite orange cat on another stage.
2 The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
Peanuts is often regarded as one of if not the greatest comic strip in history, growing Charles Schulz' simple yet existential humor about childhood trauma from a simple comic strip to an international icon. Peanuts as a whole is well regarded on various levels, but much of its success is seen in its transition to animation; and while its movies are famous within their own right, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show is what is most ingrained in people's memories and what has won the series its Emmy awards.
Adorning the Saturday morning lineup, the series entertained from 1983 to 1985, providing 18 episodes. Alongside it are the television specials which still bring joy around the holiday season as well as tears in the classic "Why, Charlie Brown, Why?"
1 10.The Boondocks
Ending this list is a series that not only surprises in content but also at the sheer fact that all of its craziness could be kept within the panels of a comic. Starting in 1996, The Boondocks was a comic strip by Aaron McGruder on Hitlist.com but would soon see enough massive success to see syndicated publication and run to 2006 and a recent Instagram revival.
However, most remembered of The Boondocks is its critically acclaimed and cult hit animated series on Adult Swim, where its deep commentary about African American culture could be brought to a creatively free stage. There, the magic of animation would personify anime-inspired fight scenes, violent gang action, expressive gestures, and, of course, incredible music brought about by the Adult Swim faithful. Despite seeing its last episode in 2014, The Boondocks will once again return to animation, as it has been revived for HBO Max.