Boys Clothes in Comics: Big Ben Bolt

Figure 1.--Aunt Martha gushes with delight about how smart Andy looks in his new suit. Andy of course is less enthusiastic.

The subject was touched upon in many comic strips. One example was Big Ben Bolt. The strip appeared in September 1963 and the rich couple who adopt an orphan send him off to his new private school in a short pants suit, only the school has changed.

The Series

This comic strip was widely sindicated.


The strip was created by Jihn Cullen Murphy, better known today for another comic strip, Prince Valiant. Murphy has become know for his detailed, realistically drawm pannels.

Main Character

Big Ben Bolt was a prizefighter whose adventures and occasional historics were the story lines in this long-running strip.


The strip first appeared in 1950. This episodes of Big Ben Bolt shown here appeared from Augyst 26-September 9, 1963.


This episode is an example of a familiar theme ib childhood saga, a boy dressed in a juvenile, innocent style by a female relative-often an older rich female relative. It also shows how peer presure can influence a boys' choice of garb. The full episode actually spanned more than 3-months. While traveling by car, Ben Bolt sees a boy being mistreated by a man. Ben intervenes on the boys' behalf and befriends him. The boy was Andy Grant. His mother was dead and his father was in prison. The man who was mistreating Andy was his foster father. Ben took steps to become Andy's legal guardian. Meanwhile Anfdy's father and several other inmates escape from prison. They find Ben and Andy and a scuffle ensues. The boy's father is shot, taken to the hospital, and returned to prison after a remourseful goodbye to Andy and Ben. The episode depicted here folows Ben being appointed Andy's legal guardian by the court.

Figure 2.--Andy ran into trouble at school with his new suit. The other boys weren't dressed quite as elegantly as he was.

Andy appears to be about 10-years old. From his speech patterns, he appears to be a southern boy.


The boy in this episode wears a black short pants suit with matching peaked cap and kneesocks. The suit may be an Eton suit, its hard to tell from the drawing. He wears it with bowtie, although drawn more like a highly unlikely 1960s bow in some pannels.

Reader Comment

The HBC reader who provided copies of this episode reports, "I first came across this particular sequence from Big Ben Bolt when I was delivering our hometown newspaper to earn spending money. In late 1963 I was 4 months away from my 11th birthday and one afternoom, just before starting to fold and place rubber bands around the papers, I scanned the comic pages. I noticed this strip, depicting Andy, a somewhat uncertain looking boy, about my age or perhaps just a little younger in a short pants suit and bow tie. Having at my tender age well formed likes and dislikes about clothes, I decided I would follow this fella's story over the suceeding days.

Looking back, I think I had a lot of different feelings. I recognized the "plight" of a boy dressed up too much for his own liking. I was about 3 months short of my eleventh birthday when this series episode ran, and I remember then I didn't like having to dress up sometimes. Church, of course, meant washing up and wearing my best clothes; that, I could understand. But I could empathize with a character slicked up just for school. I'd have felt conspicuous, as if I were showing off. I also remember feeling self-conscious and embarrassed when older relatives would hug me or want to shower me with kisses. Aunt Martha's blandishments would have made me feel uncomfortable, too. You can't help but smile a little, too, at the fate shared by both Andy and the Beave. We've all had such moments when we've felt helpless. I remember that it was so much the short pants suit itself taht O notioced, it was the fact that the other boys were earing long pants. If a short pants suit were worn by my friends, and certainly by my older brother, too, I don't think it would have been any big deal to wear one. One thing though, I remember noticing at the time, the bow tie Aunt Martha chose for Andy looks too big. Instead, I'd have worn one of the plaid clip-on bow ties that my mom bought for me to wear.

Figure 3.--Andy's short pants suit soon gets him intomsome fist fights at his new school.

Andy and Beavers

Through the years I remembered this episode. Although I had not seen it at the time, it now reminds me of the Leave It to Beaver episode about short pants. The episode here even had a lady which now reminds me of Beaver's Aunta Martha. (The ladies choosing the short pants suits in both episodes were Aunta Marthas, so don't get confused. Andy like Beaver gets in a fight at school over his short pants suit. It is plausible that Beaver's exploits may have inspired this episode of Big Ben Bolt. There are, however, some differences with the Beaver episode. Andy initually seems willing to go along with wearing the short pants suit that Aunt Martha has chosen for him to school, thinking that the other boys at his new private school would have similar suits. Beaver who went to a public school, was dead set against his new suit almost from the beginning. He did asked Wally about it--but knew what his answer would be. Beaver knew from the beginning that such a suit meant trouble. Only a promise to his mom not to disobey Auta Martha. To be sure both Andy and Beaver disdain their new suits' style and answer their school mates' taunts with fists. Yet Beaver does not want to hurt Aunt Martha's feelings and he wearsc his new suit to the airport to see her off--even though he does not have to do so. Andy, while not wanring to appear unkind or ungrateful, his going to tell HIS Aunt Martha what happened to his tatered suit and why he does not want to wear it again.


Here are some frames from the actual "Big Ben Bolt" epidode.

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Christopher Wagner

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Created: February 20, 2001
Last updated: February 26, 2001