Comic strip switcheroo
The comic strip switcheroo (also known as the Great Comics Switcheroonie or the Great April Fools' Day Comics Switcheroonie) was a massive practical joke in which several comic strip writers and artists, without the foreknowledge of their editors, traded strips for a day on April Fool's Day 1997. The Switcheroo was masterminded by comic strip creators Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, creators of the Baby Blues daily newspaper comic strip. It is considered one of history's all-time greatest switcheroos.
According to Brian Walker's book The Comics: Since 1945, forty-six different syndicated artists participated. Some of these switches were one for one (Mike Peters trading with Lynn Johnston, Scott Adams with Bil Keane, Jeff MacNelly with Mort Walker, etc.), while several comics did a multiple swap (including a thirteen-way swap). Also, one artist (Kevin Fagan) just swapped hands for the day, while the writer & artist for Sally Forth swapped roles for the day. Charles Schulz (creator of Peanuts) and Patrick McDonnell (creator of Mutts) were slated to do each other's strips, but backed out because one of them didn't think it was a good idea. There were no rules to speak of; each artist was permitted to do what he or she wanted.
The one-day experiment proved to be a success, garnering some publicity and being a harmless yet amusing prank played on the newspapers, the readers, and the comic syndicates.
While characters making guest appearances in other comic strips is not an unusual occurrence (Dan Piraro's Bizarro and Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine do it often), this was the most ambitious in scale. As of 2005, the phenomenon persists in webcomics, where Internet cartoonists occasionally switch places with one another. Guest character tributes have also appeared since 1997, notably on May 27, 2000 and on October 30, 2005, both tributes to Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts.
On April 1, 2005, Stephan Pastis of Pearls Before Swine, Bill Amend of FoxTrot, and Darby Conley of Get Fuzzy all ran the same comic dialogue in their respective strips, but with their own core characters saying the lines.
On April 1, 2016, at least fifty webcomics, including Cyanide & Happiness, The Awkward Yeti, and Poorly Drawn Lines all ran the same comic dialogue in their respective strips, akin to April 1, 2005. A list can be found at willpjk.com and on this post on the webcomics Subreddit.
Strips and creators involved
The comics of April 1, 1997, were swapped as follows:
- 9 Chickweed Lane was drawn by Chris Browne (Hägar the Horrible): Lucky Eddie was one of Amos' Ancestors.
- Baby Blues was drawn by Stephen Bentley (Herb and Jamaal): The characters have the same skin color as Herb & Jamaal's stars.
- Ballard Street was drawn by Mel Lazarus (Momma)
- Barney Google and Snuffy Smith was drawn by Hank Ketcham (Dennis the Menace): Dennis helps Jughaid with a "kick me" sign. Plus, Elviney & Lowzeey resemble Alice & Mrs. Wilson.
- Beattie Blvd. was drawn by Ted Martin (Pavlov)
- Beetle Bailey was drawn by Jeff MacNelly (Shoe): Skyler got stuck at Camp Swampy.
- Betty was drawn by Dave Whamond (Reality Check).
- Big Nate was drawn by Scott Stantis (The Buckets)
- Bizarro was drawn by Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead): One of the women shown is played by Zippy.
- Blondie was drawn by Jim Davis (Garfield): Garfield steals one of Dagwood Bumstead's famous sandwiches.
- The Born Loser was drawn by Brian Crane (Pickles): Earl joins Thorney on a walk through a neighborhood.
- Broom-Hilda was drawn by Bud Grace (Ernie)
- The Buckets was drawn by Jan Eliot (Stone Soup).
- Dennis the Menace was drawn by Fred Lasswell (Barney Google and Snuffy Smith): Dennis' characters dress like Snuffy Smith's for a group photo.
- Dilbert was drawn by Bil Keane (Family Circus): Billy visits Dilbert's cubicle.
- The Duplex was drawn by Delainey and Rasmussen (Betty).
- Ernie was drawn by J. C. Duffy (The Fusco Brothers).
- Family Circus was drawn by Scott Adams (Dilbert): Thel sports a PHB-esque hairdo and Dogbert is her consultant.
- For Better or For Worse was drawn by Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm): John and Elly Patterson got 'stuck' with dialogue balloons of the characters of Mother Goose and Grimm.
- FoxTrot was drawn by Brad and Guy Gilchrist (Nancy): Jason (as Luke Skywalker) is fighting Darth Vader who reveals himself to be Nancy.
- The Fusco Brothers was drawn by Jerry Van Amerongen (Ballard Street)
- Garfield was drawn by Young & Drake (Blondie): Jon and Garfield stay with the Bumsteads while their paint dries.
- Hägar the Horrible was drawn by Wiley Miller (Non Sequitur): Hägar is visited by a systems analyst.
- Herb and Jamaal was drawn by Russel Myers (Broom-Hilda)
- Hi and Lois was drawn by Greg Evans (Luann): Luann is Trixie's babysitter.
- I Need Help was drawn by Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate)
- Jump Start was drawn by Walker and Browne (Hi and Lois): Joe & Marcy see themselves like Hi & Lois.
- Luann was drawn by Dan Piraro (Bizarro): Luann sees a cartoon chihuahua named Squeeky in her mirror. The shock slowly turns her into a bug.
- Momma was drawn by Jeff Miller & Bill Hinds (Tank McNamara): Marylou introduces Momma to Tank as her new boyfriend.
- Mother Goose and Grimm was drawn by Lynn Johnston (For Better or For Worse): Edgar sneaks away to hang with the Mother Goose & Grimm cast.
- Nancy was drawn by Pat Brady (Rose Is Rose): The animals Nancy performs for make the same happy expressions as Rose is Rose's characters.
- Non Sequitur was drawn by Robb Armstrong (Jump Start).
- The Norm was drawn by Bill Holbrook (On the Fastrack): Wendy is at Norm's workplace.
- On the Fastrack was drawn by Jim Toomey (Sherman's Lagoon): Just when you think Sherman makes a cameo, it's accually Wendy's hair.
- One Big Happy was drawn by Dave Coverly (Speed Bump)
- Pavlov was drawn by Vic Lee (I Need Help).
- Pickles was drawn by Michael Jantze (The Norm): Earl is really Norm in a costume.
- Reality Check was drawn by Bruce Beattie (Beattie Blvd.)
- Rose Is Rose was drawn by Brooke McEldowney (9 Chickweed Lane)
- Sherman's Lagoon was drawn by Kirkman and Scott (Baby Blues): Fish versions of the MacPhersons visit Sherman & Megan.
- Shoe was drawn by Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey): Shoe beats up Cosmo like Sgt. Snorkel would Beetle.
- Speed Bump was drawn by Rick Detorie (One Big Happy): Ruthie and her family are in the background.
- Stone Soup was drawn by Glenn McCoy (The Duplex): Val & Joan discuss their comic being drawn by a man instead of the usual woman.
- Tank McNamara was drawn by Chip Sansom (The Born Loser).
- Zippy the Pinhead was drawn by Bill Amend (FoxTrot): Zippy & Griffy have Jason & Peter's respective faces and are accompanied by Quincy the Iguana.
- Kevin Fagan drew his creation Drabble using his left hand instead of his right
- The artist and writer behind Sally Forth switched roles for a day.
- A few years after the Switcheroo, Bill Amend (FoxTrot) made a Sunday strip in which Jason Fox, Andy Fox, Roger Fox, and Peter Fox changed looks: Baby Blues, Calvin and Hobbes (which had ended roughly 15 months before the original Switcheroonie), and Doonesbury were three of several parodied strips.
- Zitz, Michael (April 1, 1997). "April Fools: This is some funny business". The Free Lance Star. p. D1.
- Davis, Jim (1998). 20 Years and Still Kicking: Garfield's Twentieth Anniversary Collection. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-76657-1.
- Walker, Brian (2002). The Comics: Since 1945. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN 0-8109-3481-7.