Motley's Crew

Motley's Crew
Author(s)Ben Templeton and Tom Forman
Current status / scheduleDefunct
Launch date1976
End Date2000
Syndicate(s)Tribune Media Services
Genre(s)Humor, Marriage, Family, Career, Suburban Life


Motley's Crew was a comic strip by Ben Templeton and Tom Forman about a middle aged blue collar factory worker named Mike Motley and his wife Mabel Motley. They had a son named Truman who married a woman named Tacoma. Out of that marriage came two lovely sons. Mabel's siblings are Abel and Buffy, who occasionally torment their brother-in-law Mike.

Templeton and Forman created the comic in 1976; it was first syndicated by what is known today as Tribune Media Services on September 6 of that year, working together on it until Forman's death in 1996, after which Templeton continued alone. It continued until January 1, 2000. The final week's strips dealt with the cast dealing with the Y2K bug; the final strip on January 1 with a sign with the words "This space for rent."

The Motley Family

Mabel Motley

In the comic strip Motley's Crew, Mabel Motley is a middle aged housewife who cooks and cleans when her husband is off to work being the provider for the family unit. While she is a homemaker (a job traditionally associated with passive and subservient wives), she reveals her assertive female personality when she frequently complains about her husband spending his weekends doing nothing but watching sports on the television.

She is the element that balances out the masculine elements that the comic strip portrays by providing a feminine angle to attract a female audience as well as a male audience. She is considered to be more of a June Cleaver rather than a Marge Simpson or a Peggy Hill from King of the Hill.

Mabel often has to set her husband straight. After a wedding, she chided Mike for not wearing a necktie to a wedding service. Another time, she had to make her husband put on a "used" three piece tuxedo to look "presentable" in front of her siblings (the story development of the comic strip throughout its years of production suggests that Mike wore boxer shorts while resting inside his house, but wore briefs underneath his pants when he was outside the home). This was not meant to be a consistency error as some men prefer the support that briefs provide when away from home and the more comfortable fit of boxers as outer clothing when relaxing at home.

While her husband's hair is brown and balding, Mabel's hair is blond, which is a media stereotype of women who are either dumb and/or housewives. Mabel likes to wear her hair in "traditional feminine" hairstyle, like a typical housewife.

Mike Motley

In the comic strip Motley's Crew, Mike Motley is a middle aged unskilled factory worker who works for his employer Mister Drudge and lives with his equally middle aged wife Mabel. When not working, he spends his time watching football on TV. The occasional moments that he spends outside his factory workplace and his home is spent on doling out masculine humor to the readers of his comic strip. During his working days, he often wears a hard hat (because of the danger factor of his occupation).

During the earlier years of the comic strip, he and his wife took care of Truman, but unlike their contemporaries, The Simpsons, the son grew up and got married. Even with his busy schedule of work, family, and bar life, Mike still had time to travel the world. On January 28, 1987, Mike and his buddy Earl are with their Russian friend Yuri in the then-current Soviet Union. Yuri stated "Across street is memorial to World War Two." Mike responded "Oh, yeah, World War Two... Isn't that when you Russkis started your occupation of Eastern Europe?". This led to a reply with Yuri stating "Nyet! Did not occupy Eastern Europe... is just where our tanks ran out of gas."

And unlike Homer Simpson, his lack of hair is caused by age, not his workplace. However, if Mike would have maintained all of his hair, his hairstyle would have closely followed that of a crew cut, a typical hairstyle used by young middle class men starting in the 1950s. According to the chronology of the story, Mike Motley was born circa 1941. Although his life prior to 1976 was never shown on the comic strip, he was shown as a younger man in the year 1977 when he joined the "working class poor."

The Grandkids

Truman and Tacoma Motley's children started out as babies in the 1980s Motley Crew comic strips. Eventually, they grew up to be children in puberty that confuse their grandfather's work clothes for the baggy clothing that was popular among youth in the late 1990s. They are frequently seen hanging around their grandfather, while Grandma Mabel enjoys their occasional company. Their fate is unknown, as the comic strip was cancelled before they could graduate high school or get married. Like most children, Truman and Tacoma Motley's sons attended public school and received homework.

Mike Motley Family Tree

Enlarge picture
This is the Mike Motley family tree

In-Laws and Acquaintances

Tacoma Motley

Tacoma Motley is Mike and Mabel Motley's daughter-in-law, who married the Motley's son Truman. She refuses to eat meat and she is also an environmentalist, a new age guru, as well as a wanna-be psychic. When she is not exploring her spirituality, she works as a bean counter in the big city. Her lifestyle is considered that to be bohemian chic and oriented towards the career path, the polar opposite of that of her mother-in-law.

At one point Tacoma got a job in an office, and when she couldn't get her desktop computer to switch on, she snapped and said "Open Sesame!" to it. The computer then switched on and Tacoma could proceed with her normal activities. She also spoke an another time as if on the telephone; her supervisor said "Tacoma, personal calls aren't permitted." Tacoma said she wasn't on a personal call--she was channelling.

Tacoma first met Truman Motley while at a school of higher learning. Their wedding was integrated into the comic strip series. Eventually, she became a mother as grandchildren were introduced to Mabel and Mike Motley much later in the series. Her name could be taken after the city of Tacoma, Washington, which is a liberal community near the western coast of the United States of America. Her willingness to have a career and to be a mother at the same time illustrate the modernity of the Truman Motley family over the old fashioned values of the Mike Motley family.

Abel and Buffy

Although they didn't appear often in the comic strip, Abel and Buffy provided comic relief when Mabel coerced her husband into embarrassing situations. This effect is especially seen in a late July 1997 comic strip where Abel is seen in a normal business suit while Buffy is wearing a casual summer dress and they enter Mabel and Mike Motley's house to see their embarrassed brother-in-law Mike Motley in a worn-out used tuxedo looking overdressed for the occasion, confused, and with more of his bald spot showing (because Mabel didn't know how to properly comb a balding head).

Mister Drudge

Mister Drudge is an autocratic factory manager who runs the fictional corporation Drudge Industries, Inc. which is a construction company in the comic Motley's Crew. He is the businessman who personally signs the paycheck of Mike Motley and his other subordinates. His coarse and totalitarian nature is what keeps his construction firm in "perfect shape." Traditional gender roles reign supreme in his factory and he has an obedient female secretary always ready to take orders from him. His last name comes from a word that means "labor" or "work." Very rarely did anyone receive a pay raise or a promotion in his construction company. The man is also very young, with red hair and freckles, and appears content in his successful life.

Earl and Abigail

Earl is the Motleys' next-door neighbor. He too works at Drudge Industries, and usually has a cigar in his mouth. Earl is the most incompetent person in comics; when he was shanghaied and forced to steer the ship, he ran it aground in the middle of Kansas. The humor behind this scenario is that is impossible to sail a ship to Kansas and that Earl is an incompetent sailor. Abigail is Earl's long-suffering wife. Like Mabel Motley, she is a homemaker.

The Motleys' Community

Mike Motley's Workplace

Mike Motley was employed in the construction industry and was employed under the manager of Drudge Industries, Inc., Mister Drudge himself. Due to the fact that he was an unskilled laborer, he and his wife lived a menial lower middle class existence.

Because Motley's Crew was intended to be a humorous comic strip on everyday life, certain strips would show Mike Motley wearing his underwear outside of his pants and some strips would show him prancing around the work site in mouse ears because he thought at one point in time that his place of employment was like a Mickey Mouse outfit. Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of the comic strip, Mike Motley never got to retire from his workplace. Had the comic strip been published for a longer period of time, Mike Motley would have retired around the late 2000s.

The retirement party would have featured the entire cast (including irregular characters like Abel and Buffy, Tacoma and Truman Motley, and Mike's grandchildren) and would have featured underwear worn in an unorthodox manner (either outside of his clothes, on top of his head, or sticking out from his pants - as this type of humor became more acceptable in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s). However, retirement would have eventually removed a key aspect in the flow of the story - the employer to employee relationship that made Mister Drudge a significant part of the story as the comic strip evolved through the years.

The Motleys' Neighborhood

Even though the Motleys' were a one-income household, they were homeowners and they lived in the suburbs of an industrial city somewhere in the United States of America. While Mabel did the housework (cooking, cleaning, washing dishes), Mike did all the yard work (raking leaves, cutting the grass, etc.) Like most media publications, Motley's Crew accentuated traditional gender roles to attract an older audience.

Like other people who live in the suburban area of a city, Mike owned a car in which he used to travel to work and play. In addition to factories, houses, and office buildings, the neighborhood also had a bar, a health clinic, a church, a beach, and other fine places where Mike, his friends and family all worked and played at. Humor was found in the least expected places like a reception area in a hospital being confused for a place where footballs are caught in an American football field for a touchdown.

Rarely were any of the characters were seen walking on Motley's Crew as the characters lived beyond reasonable walking distance to each other and to their respective hangouts. Gas was seen as a relative non-issue for the comic strip until the 1990s brought in a radical increase in gasoline prices that dwarfed that of the 1973 oil crisis that occurred prior to the establishment of the comic strip.

Visit From The In-laws

Because Mabel and Mike Motley were an "old married couple," there was times where Mabel had to "shape up" her husband before the in-laws entered the house. The most humorous of these scenarios occurred in late July of 1997. Mike Motley was watching TV with a face that hasn't been touched by a shaving razor, and wearing a T-shirt with boxer shorts. His wife said to him "What on earth are you doing? Abel and Buffy will be here any moment now." Mike replied "This is as dressed up as I'm getting," believing that his current attire was suitable for a visit by his wife's siblings.

Out of nowhere, Mabel gave him a pair of black eyes, took him upstairs, made him shave his face, put on a three piece tuxedo with tails and his white briefs sticking out because of a tear in the formal trousers. This could be interpreted as Mabel's fault because she was not given the time to make her husband put on the tuxedo at a conventional pace before her siblings arrive. However, it could also mean that the tuxedo was a rental and the tailor was unable to mend the formal trousers before it was rented by Mrs. Motley.

Feeling the soreness of his two black eyes and his shaving cuts (even though they were adequately bandaged considering the time restriction to the arrival of Mabel's brother and sister), Mike Motley was forced to struggle his way to the door to say "Hi ya" to Abel and Buffy (even though he dreaded them so much) and shook the hand of his brother-in-law Abel. Continuity from that comic strip lasted only until the comic strip created for the next day, where Mike Motley is in his normal clothes and he is complaining to his wife about his brother-in-law Abel toying around with his car. After that, the humor of the visit by the in-laws was forgotten.

The wise observant should have noticed that:
  • Mike's vest, tuxedo shirt (a more formal shirt that is worn with a tuxedo, as opposed to a dress shirt that is worn with a business suit) and bow tie were white.
  • Mike's jacket and formal trousers were black.
  • Mike's formal trousers were slightly torn. In the process, the waistband and the top portion were revealed to his unsuspecting brother- and sister-in-law. Fortunately, the fly of the briefs was not shown, saving the grandeur of Mike Motley's ragged but dignified appearance.
  • The condition of the tuxedo suggested that either the tuxedo could possibly have been a rental. Many users could have used the tuxedo before it was used by Mike Motley. On the other hand, Mabel made the tear by trying to make Mike put on the tuxedo at pace quicker than what would be considered normal for dressing a man in a tuxedo.
  • The perfect world resolution to this story would indicate that Mike Motley purchased the tuxedo to wear in his wedding (which was never shown on the comic strip). As a result of this, the tuxedo has been gathering dust while Mike Motley gained weight during the years. After trying to get his tuxedo on, tears started to appear and his white briefs are revealed because his formal trousers received the biggest tear.
  • It is assumed from his manner of dress that Mike was wearing dark-colored dress socks and black dress shoes.
  • The wise observant should have also noticed that his wife Mabel was wearing a long dress with a floral design, similar to the kind worn by June Cleaver.

Classic Comic Strips




Mabel Motley lying down on a beach in the summertime.

Mike Motley is shown here playing baseball for his local bar. His team lost the game by a score of 37-0.

Seen here in a classic comic strip from 1977, Mike Motley joins the "middle class poor."

Mike Motley's T-shirt and work pants are stolen by his grandchildren, who confuse them for baggy clothes

Mike Motley is receiving a heating bill in the winter time.

This is a vintage Motley's Crew comic strip from August 26, 1979. Mike Motley is attempting to pour a drink of beer.


Television shows similar to Motley's Crew

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Ben Templeton is the co-creator of the classic comic strip Motley's Crew along with his late partner Tom Forman. After the death of his partner, Templeton completed the strip on its own until its cancellation on January 1, 2000.
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Tom Forman was the co-creator of the classic comic strip Motley's Crew along with Ben Templeton. His pre-1997 take on the comic strip involved Mike Motley's career as a blue collar worker, sports, and his buddies. After Mr.
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Ben Templeton is the co-creator of the classic comic strip Motley's Crew along with his late partner Tom Forman. After the death of his partner, Templeton completed the strip on its own until its cancellation on January 1, 2000.
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Tom Forman was the co-creator of the classic comic strip Motley's Crew along with Ben Templeton. His pre-1997 take on the comic strip involved Mike Motley's career as a blue collar worker, sports, and his buddies. After Mr.
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