Newspaper comic strip fans! Who's the character you'd think would be least likely to find him or herself camping in America's national parks? Go on, guess. Marmaduke? The Phantom? Rex Morgan, M.D.? The girls from Apartment 3-G? Wrong and wrong again.
Yes, it's everybody's favorite drunken layabout, Andy Capp, Britain's most successful pop-cultural export, if you don't count Teletubbies or the Beatles. And we do. Regardless, somebody in the Safety Division of the National Park Service felt Andy Capp was the perfect character to star in this pamphlet all about keeping safe in America's national parks. I dunno, it was the 70s, maybe they felt an English comic strip character was less likely to make Nixon jokes.
Finally free of the smoggy streets of his working class neighborhood, Andy and his long suffering wife Flo take a long deserved vacation. And upon reaching their destination, Andy is immediately looking for a smoggy, working class bar. Because if there's one thing we know about Andy Capp, it's that he's an alcoholic.
Sorry, that characterization should more fully read as "lazy, skirt-chasing alcoholic," surely the perfect character to appeal to the stressed-out suburban dads no doubt packing their families into station wagons and driving across the country to struggle with tents and campsites and... well, maybe the Park Service was on to something here.
That's right Andy, ask the Park Ranger where you can get liquored up. He's here to help!
Page two of this story and we've already achieved Peak Flo. You don't get more Flo than that resigned, "what nonsense is he up to NOW?" look we see here in the second panel.
"This isn't a city... not at all like where you come from!" says the Ranger meaningfully. "The wildlife is extremely dangerous and the water is cold and fast moving. If someone was to, say, get drunk and wander off, why, so many tragic life-threatening events could occur that no one else could be blamed for." The Ranger looked directly at Flo and raised his eyebrows. He knew what was going on. He'd seen it a million times. Abused wife, loutish husband, extremely dangerous wilderness, a sudden fall or a wandering, hungry predator... "National Wilderness Area Divorce" they called it. The Ranger smiled. Soon this majestic land would claim another victim.
Look, Andy Capp probably spent the winter of 1943 in a freezing hole in Italy dodging German mortar rounds and trench foot. There isn't a bear alive that can frighten Andy Capp after what he saw there.... and that's just what Flo is counting on.
Why DID the British fight so hard for their American colonies in 1776? Well, they needed the timber to build ships to fight the French, they needed the "Indian corn" to confuse everybody whenever the conversation turned to corn, and they needed the tobacco because holy cow is that stuff addictive, as we can see from Andy's ever-present stub of a cigarette.
That's just what your recently bandaged bear-mauling flesh wound wants, a good dip in the wilderness river. Get some healthy bacteria into that wound. Or just go ahead and drown, it's quicker.
Shaking with withdrawal symptoms, the lifelong alcoholic cannot go more than a few hours without booze, begging loved ones and complete strangers for a drink.
Here we see late-stage alcoholism manifesting itself in hallucinations. Hold on Andy! You're in a campground in a National Park! If TV ads are any indication, you are literally surrounded by gangs of cheerful campers armed with coolers filled with ice-cold Coors, Budweiser, or Miller beer!
Oh yeah... American beer. Hmm. Keep hallucinating, Andy.
Remember you don't have to travel far to experience adventure tourism - America's national parks are apparently danger-ridden death traps requiring an entire series of warning publications.
I bet you Andy Capp fans were thinking we'd get through this entire comic without Andy threatening Flo with physical violence even once, right? Have a little faith in our lazy, skirt-chasing alcoholic, spousal abusing hero, why don't you?
LET HIM BURN, FLO
That is a LOT of pornography Andy's buying here.
I think he ran this guy off the road, which is perfectly understandable. Andy comes from the UK where they drive on the other side of the road, and he also is a lifelong city dweller who might not even know how to drive a car at all, come to think of it. Not that that'll stop Hertz from renting one to him. It's the 70s, man, they aren't going to stop anyone from doing their thing!
He's weaving all over the road in a car loaded down with liquor and/or hard core pornography. Will you arrest this guy already, Mister Park Ranger?
Andy has cheated death in the woods, in the campsite, and on the roads... what's left? Cheating death on the water, of course.
Sunburnt fisherman, overloaded and about-to-swamp boat, plenty of alcohol, lack of floation devices... here this National Park Service comic approaches absolute realism as it depicts a typical weekend in any one of America's national parks.
I know these park rangers have a duty to protect and serve, but how often do they look at some poor, clearly asking for it slob, and wonder if they can't just let nature take its course? Just this once?
Open a window? How do you expect Andy to add carbon monoxide poisoning to his hypothermia, sunburn, and bear-mauling injuries?
After years of abuse, Andy's body finally rebels.
No Andy! Don't ask the raccoon for directions! He's the bandit of the forest! Can't you see his mask?
His humiliation documented for the ages, Andy finally surrenders. You've won, National Park Service. Carry me away.
And another one of Flo's plans to reduce Andy to a quivering, aching, bandaged wreck has succeeded. Sock it to him, Flo!
Well, that was all in good fun, and we all had a jolly good laugh. But remember, our National Parks can be dangerous places. Looking at the stats, drowning leads the list of fatalities, while vehicle accidents and falls also claim their fair share of victims. On the other hand, it turns out Germans are the nationality most likely to die in America's national parks. Heck, UK citizens don't even make the top five! Maybe they've all got Andy's luck. But you? There's no newspaper syndicate looking out for you. So wear your life vest, don't feed the animals, and look out for falling rocks. And if you've made a career out of being a lazy, skirt-chasing, spouse-abusing alcoholic gambling addict, either change your ways or refrain from letting your long-suffering wife arrange your accident... I mean, vacation.
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