Now here’s a puzzle for you. Just how do you count time up to a media anniversary? With things like birthdays and marriage it’s consecutive years, mostly because there is no break in time continuity. That’s also how you count your birthdays. Well, not unless you’re put in hibernation for a few decades and miss those birthdays although year wise, they would still count. Would you be your current age or your age minus the years frozen when you’re revived? We haven’t got that far yet. Marriage continuity would depend on whether you re-marry the same spouse again but I doubt if you’ll think you’re having a second paper anniversary, although that might depend on how you celebrate such things. Even so, unless you re-married in the same year (then why divorce?), there would be a gap of at least a year or three.
When it comes to the media, how do you count the numbers? In November, the BBC is supporting the length of time since ‘Doctor Who’ started in 1963. However, it only went for 25 years before being cancelled and with the new series, 10 years making a grand total of 35 years of actually being on TV. Assuming the show doesn’t get cancelled in the next 15 years, the true anniversary would be in 2025. How old you will be is something you’ll have to do the numbers on and I hope to see you all here when the true number turns up.
Even compared to that other TV series are practically a non-starter. Take ‘Star Trek’, the original series was only 3 years and if you generously add the 7 films per year, would only be 10 years. Whether you add the 2 years of the animated series depends on whether you think its canon or not. If you add up the other ‘Star Trek’ series, you would then have to add 7 ‘Next Generation’ plus its 4 films, 7 seasons each for ‘Deep Space Nine’ and ‘Voyager’ and 4 for ‘Enterprise’ to give a grand total of 41 years. If you want to be picky and remind people that some of these series over-lapped, then the number would be smaller by 7 years making 34 years or 32 minus the animation series. Since they are separate series, it still doesn’t equal ‘Doctor Who’ because they aren’t the same show throughout. Can’t count the latest two films because it’s a separate pocket universe. If you’re planning a ‘Star Trek’ celebration in 2016, you’re short by 10 or 7 years of on-going material and it’s a bit difficult to place the tie-in novels in all of that..
The three ‘Stargate’ series only makes 19 years and with only two series, ‘The X-Files’, its films and ‘The Lone Gunmen’ would make eleven years. ‘Babylon 5’ and ‘Crusade’ 6 years. If you’re generous, the Century 21 shows will only make 12 years but only if you assume, as with TV21 comic, that they are all in the same reality. You’ll have nightmares with the Irwin Allen shows, 6 years at most.
There is also a matter of what is canon? Many TV series have also had novel tie-ins and comicbook runs and it is debatable as to whether they should be included. With the likes of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’, Joss Whedon considers the comicbook run as an 8th season. Although ‘Star Wars’ would be lucky to achieve 6 or 10 (depending on whether you included those holiday specials and ‘The Clone Wars’ animation series) of actual screen time, but in terms of books and comicbook series would be considerably bigger except creator George Lucas doesn’t regard any of them as canon. The same can probably be said about the ‘Doctor Who’ franchise material. Outside of the TV series, it isn’t established canon and cannot change what happens there.
This doesn’t mean ‘Doctor Who’ isn’t the longest running Science Fiction series but it’s also highly unlikely that any other media series will ever attain its record as well as short of another cancellation/re-start, no other series is ever likely to catch up. Many US shows also become re-makes, which are essentially putting the clock back to zero, so you can’t include the likes of ‘The Addams Family’ and ‘The Munsters’. Most American series terminate at seven years because if the contracts are re-negotiated by being successful, it affects the budget which rather goes up with the rate of inflation. In other words, it can just get too expensive, although ‘Supernatural’ might break that rule. UK media series can become longer simply because we have shorter seasons per year. Nothing is like ‘Doctor Who’ simply because it re-invents itself with every regeneration and has indeed outlived three of the original actors.
So other than staging a media event and sell some merchandise, just what is the need for an anniversary? From my perspective, some people are quite happy to celebrate the opening of a paper bag and just need a valid excuse. It can also be seen as a means to remind people of something that they might have forgotten about and give it some time in the sun. Look at all the day events on the calendar throughout the year so various causes get a day in the sunshine. Something like a 50th anniversary only comes around once. Then again, so does the 10th, 20th and25th. We don’t really have anything then until the 50th and 75th. A 65th anniversary, as recently with the Sooty glove puppet, because that is the equivalent of a life up to retirement, although with the upcoming change to retirement age, that is also likely to change and when last seen attacking with a water pistol still seems on fine form and, as he whispers in your ear, isn’t likely to retire yet. With the centenary or 100th, numbers after that become pretty vague and probably depends a lot more on whose alive to remember let alone celebrate it. Logistically, anniversaries tend to be fickle things.
Is there anything in the media that really deserves a proper anniversary? After Sooty, I was curious as to what other puppets would have kept going for such a long period. Jim Henson’s Kermit was a lizard before he became a frog and he’s been going 58 years. The Muppets themselves are only 44 years old. Shari Lewis’ Lamp Chop 56 years and the Italian puppet Topo Gigio 55 years.
Comicbooks could probably have a similar claim to fame except it can get muddled because the early Superman, 1938, and Batman, 1939, became what is known as part of the Earth-1 reality after about 30 years. This again happened 25 years or so down the line so there is no clear line of continuity and not the same people. Even when the Earth-2 versions visited the Earth-1 versions, it wouldn’t add up many more years and ultimately, they were killed off. It looks like The Phantom beat both of them, coming out in 1936. The Phantom does share something in common with the Doctor in that he can get old and die and his off-spring can replace him as the Ghost Who Walks although that has yet to happen yet. You would really have to look at the non-super-heroes to see if there are any long-lived characters.
The main criteria is age and continuity. Oddly, Tarzan (starting in 1912) and TinTin (1929-1976 only 47 years because his creator, Herge, died) even Sherlock Holmes (1887-1927 only 40 years). Popeye (1929-present) nearly makes it at 84 years.
Newspaper comicstrips have an even longer life-span. Getting the numbers together, TinTin is beaten by the French-Belgium strip ‘Spirou’ which started in 1938 and I doubt is heard of outside of its main selling place of France and Belgium, and reached its 75th anniversary.
However what gets everyone beat is a little chap from Nutwood called Rupert Bear. It doesn’t really matter though because Rupert Bear (1920-present, some 93 years so far) is still going strong across all the media. Closest to Rupert is ‘Felix The Cat’ (90 years) and ‘Blondie & Dagwood’ (83 years). ‘Little Nemo’ (1902-1927 originally) crops up from time to time but doesn’t appear to have a continuous run. Even Mickey Mouse can only achieve 85 years but outside of cartoons, the rodent would have to be gauged by his comic strips.
If anything, in seven years time, it will be interesting to see Rupert Bear achieve his centenary and really know for sure that it will have been a continuous run and is unlikely to be caught up.
© GF Willmetts 2013
with special thanks to John Gatehouse
for contributing some of the suggestions,
especially the European characters.
All rights reserved.
For the record, here’s the significant characters found who exceed 50 years who, as far as I can tell have had a regular continuous run across the media. If you think there is a need for correction, send me linked proofs and I’ll amend or add them.
|Character||Creator||Created Date||Years Continuity||Origin Country|
|Rupert Bear||Mary Tourtel||08 November 1920-||93||UK|
|Felix The Cat||Pat Sullivan & Otto Messmer||1923-||90||USA|
|Mickey Mouse||Walt Disney & Uk Iwerks||1928-||85||USA|
|Tarzan||Edgar Rice Burroughs||1912-1995||83||USA|
|Blondie & Dagwood||Chic Young||1930-||83||USA|
|Dick Tracy||Chester Gould||1931||82||USA|
|The Lone Ranger||Fran Striker||1933-||80||USA|
|Doc Savage||Lester Dent||1933-||80||USA|
|Fu Manchu||Sax Rohmer||1933-2003||70||USA|
|Flash Gordon||Alex Raymond||1934-2008||74||USA|
|The Phantom||Lee Falk||1936-||77||USA|
|Korky The Cat||James Crighton||1937-||76||UK|
|Desperate Dan||Dudley D. Watkins||1937-||76||UK|
|Prince Valiant||Hal Foster||1937-||76||USA|
|Blake & Mortimer||Edgar P. Jacobs||1946-||67||Belgium|