All Hail Peaches, Queen of the Universe!

« In the sphere of thought, absurdity and perversity remain the masters of the world, and their dominion is suspended only for brief periods. » — Arthur Schopenhauer

If you were to query me as to my absolute favourite comic strip of the 1980s (just humour me!), I wouldn’t waffle one bit: it’s Sam Hurt‘s Eyebeam.

Oh, the Eighties were rightfully dominated by a trio of titans: Bill Watterson‘s Calvin and Hobbes, Berkeley Breathed‘s Bloom County and Gary Larson‘s The Far Side. While I’m fond of all three, I find C&H too repetitive to revisit, I can no longer quite relate to Bloom County and… I still treasure the Far Side. But it doesn’t quite inspire the same devotion I hold for Eyebeam above all.

As I noted just last week, certain subjects are just too dang daunting to tackle. Eyebeam is one of these thorny critters, thanks to its convoluted history, vast, nearly boundless cast of characters, constantly shifting form and focus… I won’t even try.

I have, however,  devised an elegant loop-hole: In 1989, Hurt initially shelved Eyebeam after…

« taking an offer from United Feature Syndicate to start a new strip based on the Peaches character, Queen of the Universe. Hurt’s freewheeling style did not translate as well under the syndicated system, which was apparently hoping for a female Calvin character, and the latter strip was not a success. Hurt described the strip’s demise as the result of “a printing accident… [it] drowned in a sea of red ink. » [ source ]

Queen of the Universe lasted two dazzling years, and the strip’s entire run has thankfully been gathered into three handsome-but-affordable volumes and published by Hurt himself. These may be purchased directly from the distinguished artiste.

And if you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Hurt’s winningly peculiar brand of brilliance, here’s my sampling of Queen of the Universe (it wasn’t easy!), which includes some early Peaches appearances from Eyebeam. Someday I’ll screw up the reckless fortitude to delve into that sweet, singular quagmire… but this isn’t that day.

Peaches is introduced in Eyebeam (Aug. 25, 1983… t’was a Thursday)
Somewhere down the line, Eyebeam’s old roommate (and Peaches’ uncle) Ratliff got saddled with his sister’s kids in presumably permanent fashion.
By the time the seventh Eyebeam paperback collection (1988’s Render Unto Peaches, Texas Monthly Press) appeared, bossy Peaches had pretty much taken over the feature, as you can surely see.
Hurt’s trademark surrealism smoothly carried over to his new feature. This is the March, 1991 strip.
The second Queen of the Universe Sunday strip, from May 5, 1990.
Peaches feeds this toothsome pet on ‘Purina Croc Chow’. From July 7, 1990.
The bent utensils are, of course, a reference to discredited ‘psychic’ charlatan Uri Geller. His spoon-bending act was publicly and elegantly debunked by none other than James ‘The Amazing’ Randi, who gets his second mention on our blog this week. « If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then he’s doing it the hard way. » —James Randi
I love how Sam Hurt leaves the question of Peaches’ great powers somewhat ambiguous. The cowboy is her best pal Kid Kareem.
Peaches’ tricycle is an Electra 5000, obtained gratis through threatening to expose the IRS to some of the toy store owner’s “more creative accounting practices”. From Aug. 7, 1990.
From July 23, 1990. Nice and deadpan, which must have baffled many a casual reader.
Now and again, Peaches will flub one. Sunday strip from June 30, 1991.
As ace newscaster Trish Tringle, Peaches never misses an opportunity to humiliate the neighbourhood’s ‘stupid boys’. Many a time has an ‘anonymous source’ or ‘concerned citizen’ alerted the authorities to some dodgy boyish shenanigans. From March 14, 1991.


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