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The Lockhorns is a nationally-syndicated single-panel comic strip that runs in most American newspapers. It features a middle-aged married couple -- Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn. It's supposed to be "a gentle spoof of the state of marital bliss," but it mostly comes off as a hateful, dour stereotype. For instance, Loretta is a terrible driver because she's a woman. Leroy is a man and thus never, ever asks for directions and always leads the pair onto a mountain ledge or something equally contrived instead of Interstate 40. The Lockhorns could be considered Andy Capp's American cousins.

The strip began in 1968 and was drawn and scripted for 20 years by husband and wife Bill and Bunny Hoest. Bill Hoest died in 1988, and Bunny replaced him with a comic artist called John Reiner, who has assisted Bunny in drawing and scripting since then.

Despite its staggering misogyny and misanthropy, the strip's popularity continues to thrive. It currently runs in just over 500 newspapers nationwide. Like many other long-syndicated comic strips, The Lockhorns is a relic of a different era.

Source: http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/lockhorn/about.htm

With a one-panel format, it is essentially impossible to create any continuity or complexity in daily comics, and as other long-running comics of this type (think Family Circus), the Hoests' venerable institution has come to rely on a few basic situations and jokes, noted below, which are frequently reused (and reused, and reused...) with some minor variation. These situations all involve Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn, the married title characters. From all appearances, their relationship could be described as somewhere between resentment and outright hatred, and these "set pieces" definitely reflect it.

  • The couple is at a party. Leroy is dancing with or speaking to an obviously younger, busty woman, is drunk, or both. Loretta makes a derogatory remark to a friend, often a play on words or a familiar phrase, usually focusing on Leroy's immaturity, age, or unattractiveness.
  • The two are eating a dinner which Loretta has made. Leroy compares the food to something unappetizing, implies possible health hazards if it is eaten, or otherwise declares it inedible.
  • The two are looking over bills. Attention is drawn to the excessive charges that Loretta has incurred, or to their poor financial situation and (explicitly or implicitly) Leroy's limited earning potential.
  • Loretta has just walked in the door, looking haggard or disheveled, though not injured. She indicates that she has just been involved in a major automobile accident. Her dialogue makes it clear that the accident is directly attributable to her severe incompetence or stupidity.
  • Loretta has just walked in the door, carrying a great many packages. Her comments reveal that these are full of items she has just purchased on the basis of impulse or poor financial reasoning.
  • Loretta's mother is visiting the couple, or has placed a phone call to their home. Either she makes catty and denigratory comments about Leroy (though only about as harsh as Loretta's own comments), or Leroy describes her in unflattering terms or indicates a desire to avoid her. Both often speak as if the other were not present.
  • Leroy is driving a car, with Loretta in the passenger seat. The pair have become horribly lost while driving due to Leroy's unwillingness to ask directions.
  • Loretta is entertaining a friend. Leroy is asleep on the couch, watching TV, or otherwise lounging, and often looks unkempt. Loretta makes a derogatory comment to her friend about Leroy's laziness, lack of motivation, or other personal qualities.
  • Loretta is standing outside of a hair salon, having just received a haircut. Leroy makes an unflattering comparison involving the haircut or calls into question the stylist's skill or intentions. It is not always clear what Loretta thinks of the haircut.
  • The couple is in a marriage counselor's office. One of them makes a "witty" remark about the other's failings or inadequacies.

This list is all you really need to understand the comic - while there are comics that are not examples of one of these set pieces, each category represents literally hundreds if not thousands of published comics; chances are good that if you open up the paper and look at today's installation, you'll find it listed above. Comics that do not fit into these molds are still likely to revolve around the interplay between Leroy and Loretta, although the hostility may not be as sharp. Other topics are rare, and comics involving them are rarely written with the same poison pen.

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