Obscurity of the Day: Second Chances


Jeff Millar and Bill Hinds, the dynamic duo that struck gold with Tank McNamara in 1974, offered a number of other features afterward, sometimes separately, sometimes together. In 1996 the pair came up with Second Chances, a strip about two middle aged divorcees who start a new relationship together. The idea is to explore how romance works between adults, both of whom have experienced the pain of relationships which did not work out, and who want very much to make fewer mistakes in this new relationship. Though Millar and Hinds aren’t slavish to making every strip about remarriage, there is a distinct undercurrent always present about getting to know someone emotionally and behaviorally in middle age. Second marriages (I can speak from experience here) have a whole different feeling than first ones; Millar and Hinds do quite a nice job of exploring that in a really meaningful way while never forgetting that their primary job is to make you chuckle.

The strip is very well-written and drawn, it is insightful and the gags are good. So why didn’t it succeed? I can only assume that editors looked at it as serving a niche market of those who are on their second marriages. If that was their reasoning, I have to reluctantly go along with them. I really don’t think the strip would particularly appeal to kids, unmarried adults, or people on their first marriages. 

Second Chances was distributed by Millar and Hinds’ Tank McNamara syndicate, Universal Press, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so more out of duty than any real hope that the strip would hit the bigtime. The strip limped along for four years, but never commanded a large client list. It debuted on July 22 1996* and ended on September 10 2000**. When the strip ended, Millar and Hinds promised that Nick and Kate, the main characters, would start to be seen occasionally in Tank McNamara. I don’t know if that ever happened.

No reprint books were offered during the strip’s life (or after), which is too bad. I think the fans would have surprised Universal Press with the level of their support and interest in the feature.

* Cartoonist PROFiles #125

** Editor & Publisher, September 11 2000.

5 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Second Chances

  1. I stumbled onto "Second Chances" late in its run and enjoyed it. To my eyes it played as just a couple of a certain age — rather like Arlo and Janis.

    Yes, they're regularly featured in Tank McNamara to this day. They're Tank's next door neighbors and best friends, sometimes carrying a day's strip without Tank. Of course the banter now gravitates to sports, usually with one or both watching an event on TV. They also figure in the ongoing plot of Tank's courtship and upcoming marriage to a tennis pro, confidantes / straight men to the engaged couple.

    The new setup involved both strips: In Tank McNamara, Tank's beloved brownstone was condemned and he had to move, eventually choosing a house in the suburbs. In Second Chances, the Chances noticed the house next door had been sold and their new neighbor was very large. Tank knocked at their door to introduce himself, and that was the end of Second Chances except for the creators' farewell the next day.

    Semi-related: The Brick Bradford Sunday page briefly included a topper, The Time Top. Some time later the Time Top and its inventor returned as part of the Brick Bradford strip. Thinking there are other cases of toppers being absorbed.

  2. DBenson, thanks for the info. To be honest, I hadn't realized that Tank had gotten so plot-driven as that. I never really read the strip, not having any great interest in sports (other than baseball, which I also gave up on in the last decade or so).

    Also not coming onto my radar .. that the couple were named the Chances, very cute. –Allan

  3. It's still primarily sports satire, clicking over to Tank's private life now and again as sort of a breather.

    When I discovered the two major syndicate sites a few years back, I reconnected with several strips that had dropped from my local papers. Tank vanished from the Mercury News during an oddly soapy arc: A pro basketball player is sentenced to community service in a hospital and befriends a little boy with AIDS, back when the disease was a controversial topic.

    In more recent years, a Sunday page had somebody (maybe Nick) asking Tank if he has any life regrets. In flashback we seen teenaged Tank attend a ballet, fascinated. Alone, he tries raising one leg up high. Then we see his father, exploding as he yells "You want to give up football for WHAT???" Then back to Tank in the present, brushing off the question with a casual "Nah".

    Brings to mind a series of children's books by comic strip creators, all of them with some kind of message. Tank McNamara figured in two of them, one questioning the macho-ness of hunting and the other on parental pressure on kids playing baseball. Other volumes featured Miss Peach, Gasoline Alley, Doonesbury, and I think Steve Canyon. I was long out of the target audience but now regret not collecting them.

  4. Tank was also dropped by the San Francisco Examiner during that AIDS-related storyline. I don't think they ran any of it, just a white box where the strip would have been, and a message saying something like 'Today's strip deals with AIDS. The Examiner found the story to be inappropriate.'

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