When tasked with helping NAPJITSU explore the surprisingly expansive spectrum of nap-related culture, I quickly realized I’d never be able to adequately embrace the exciting present and future of napping without paying proper respects to its past. And as I racked my brain for its earliest memories of nap representation in pop culture, I kept returning to the iconic image of Dagwood from the comic strip Blondie in his natural habitat, curled up on the couch toward the back cushions.
As I reflected on this image, the fog lifted on other long-forgotten comic strip memories. Kid me was a nut for those things, and I suddenly remembered I’d spent an embarrassing amount of (my parents’) money collecting annual compilation books of Garfield, Fox Trot, and the like. It was here, as I pondered the recurring themes of what I’d read decades ago, that the Eureka! moment hit — I’d optimize my snoozes by studying the ways of the ancients and trying out the preferred napping methods of the pastime’s most noteworthy newspaper practitioners.
If you haven’t yet gone down the rabbit hole exploration of how the second industrial revolution’s role in the creation of newspaper comics resulted in a century of work-shirking, nap-happy strip protagonists that helped inspire the frivolity ahead, you should absolutely check that out. If you’d rather bookmark that for later and see a man in his 30s make an ass of himself, read on.
Who better to start with than a true maestro of the napping arts: Beetle Bailey. Despite never being much of a Beetle reader, let alone fan, the one thing I knew about this tuckered troop was his penchant for duty dereliction in favor of shuteye. Under a tree, driving a jeep, out at sea, marching while asleep — it was straight-up Seussian all the imaginative ways Beetle could squeeze a microdoze out of any situation. Regardless of location, one commonality between these naps was his arm positioning. There were a few variations, but Beetle’s signature look of hands clasped behind the head conveyed that what he lacked in worries, he made up for in neck support.
With a generic kitchen chair in hand, I made my way to the most Army base-like location I could think of to emulate Beetle’s approach: my apartment’s roof. When I found a spot that spoke to me, I kicked my boots up on a railing, tipped my cap over my eyes, and assumed the arm position. Though my research could neither confirm nor deny it happening, I’m fairly certain Beetle also engaged in some old-fashioned, two-leg chair-tilting, so I folded that into my experimentation. The entire production felt way too precarious to give me a snooze that wouldn’t end in bruises. I ditched the chair and took the pose to the floor, leaning back against a wall. While an improvement, the position still didn’t feel like the one for me.
Since actual cats spend most of their day napping, it only makes sense that Jim Davis’ sardonic strip star-turned-branding-empire would spend many a panel in bed. I’m not sure when or how the unemployed toon picked up his hatred of Mondays, but this trait — along with the naps and general antipathy — undoubtedly contributed to his unexpected Renaissance as an office drone mascot, neck-and-neck with Dilbert for King of the Cubicle Wall.
As I do not possess the anatomy of a cat, cartoon or otherwise, my attempt at assuming the classic Garfield sleep position was nothing short of an embarrassment. The more I tried to squeeze my 5’11” frame into a Sphynx-like shape that would fit into my cat’s tiny bed, the more it was clear it wasn’t going to happen. Physically unable to tilt my skull up like Garfield, my forehead mashed into the floor. Tucking a blanket around myself into the cat bed, snug-as-a-bug, only made matters worse. Somehow, I was instantly soaked in sweat. Moving on.
Calvin (& Hobbes)
This cherished comic encapsulating the wonder of childhood imagination and the magic age right before life starts saddling you with responsibilities often imbued its titular tyke with boundless energy. But in Calvin’s more contemplative moments, when bounds were imposed, he and Hobbes wound up at their favorite tree, seated at the trunk or perched on a limb. They’d ponder the meaning of life and other heady stuff until Calvin’s parents called him in for dinner or the setting summer sun lulled them into a snooze. These already picturesque scenes of a boy and his stuffed tiger peacefully napping were rendered downright idyllic when comic creator Bill Watterson’s masterful watercolor skills were added to the mix.
I’m an aging Millennial with a body years-deep into entropy, so the branch nap was out of the question. I grabbed a stuffed animal and headed for one of the sturdy trees lining the sidewalks of my neighborhood. From past experience, I know full well how lovely a siesta in the shade can be. It’s one of Earth’s simplest pleasures, enjoyed by countless species. This particular tree, however, wasn’t going to cut it. Too tall to offer any shade and peppered with a minefield of rock-hard knots around the trunk, finding a comfy position proved impossible. Even turning my Hobbes stand-in into a pillow didn’t alleviate the discomfort. I wasn’t ready to rule our tree naps, but I realized that, as a city-dweller, the perfect nap trees are few and far between. I’d just have to keep my eyes peeled for primo spots as I went about my day-to-day.
Grade: C+ (this tree) / B+ (overall)
You know him, you love him, you likely had a Joe Cool shirt with his face on it at some point during childhood. Snoopy, the enigmatic multi-hyphenate beagle is the undisputed breakout star of the Peanuts comic strip, beloved the world over. But his law degree, unpublished novels, and proficiency in a bi-plane dogfight aren’t the strangest thing about him. No, that honor goes to the little freak’s habit of sleeping atop the narrow ridge of his doghouse roof.
Already regretting wasting my veto — I know nobody’s forcing me to do any of this — on the branch nap, I resigned myself to a long and fruitless hunt for a roof in L.A. that not only had an adequately angled spine, but one that I could access without eliciting a 911 call.
Amazingly, the perfect specimen fell right into my lap before I even began searching in earnest. While on an overnight weekend trip out of the city, I noticed my cozy little Airbnb cabin was sporting exactly the roof I needed. After a little parkour business with an adjacent shed, I was up on that roof, 180 degrees away from planking like it was 2011 all over again. A few pics were hurriedly snapped before I scampered back to ground level, lest some hidden Ring cam alert the host to my shenanigans and saddle me with some silly fee. (And if you happen to be reading this, Robert, that story was all made up and the pic is Photoshopped. Thanks again for accommodating the early check-in.)
I told myself I’d recreate this obviously uncomfortable setting later at home on the floor with rolled up towels and hardcover books. But I didn’t. Because it’s so clearly going to be stupid no matter how I set it up. Snoopy is stupid for sleeping like that, and I’m stupid for pulling a shoulder muscle while proving this self-evident fact to absolutely no one.
Hägar the Horrible
Another classic comic blindspot for me, Hägar the Horrible always failed to get so much as a chuckle from me when I’d give it a shot during my childhood Sunday morning perusing. Even as a kid, I could sense these were the typical domesticity squabbles and tropes gussied up with a viking facade. Like with Beetle Bailey, I had fuzzy memories of Hägar in bed, trying to catch some Zs while the ol’ ball-and-chain henpecked for no real reason. After some Googling to see if the strip ever addressed what activities might make a marauding warrior of Hägar’s ilk so sleepy — it did not — I dialed in on what was to be my most promising nap zone yet: a bed.
Knowing I’d be in normal, comfy clothes for actual naps, I donned an approximation of Hägar’s fit for the test run and hopped on my bed. As anyone could have predicted, it was quite comfy. While not my usual style, I gave Hägar’s tight fetal sleep position a go for the sake of journalistic integrity. The one drawback to this option was my fear that I could easily let a quick power-nap slip into a longer sleep that would knock my entire cycle out of whack.
Dagwood (& Andy Capp, Jughead, Leroy Lockhorn, etc.)
Though Blondie’s sandwich-housing hubby may have been the one who started me on this journey, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the characters in neighboring strips who also favor the couch nap. Leroy Lockhorn uses it to ignore his nagging wife because the funnies have only one joke about married life. Andy Capp presumably uses his couch naps to sleep off nights of binge drinking. I don’t really know; that one wasn’t syndicated in my hometown. And Jughead is known throughout Riverdale for being a lazy, couch-napping fail-son. Dagwood, however, seems to be reaching nirvana with his couch naps, vibing on an altogether different frequency than his imitators. I wanted what he so clearly has.
The second my head hit the throw pillow, I knew I was home — in the figurative sense. I was already aware of being home in the literal sense. The position was and is all over the newspaper because it rules and everyone knows it. Having spent far too much time Goldilocks-ing my way through candidates, I was more than ready to get some shut-eye. NAPJITSU NAP chewed and swallowed, I took my half-hour of well-earned rest and woke up refreshed, relieved to know the best place to nap was conveniently located right in my living room, and resolved never to read another Hägar the Horrible strip for the rest of my life.