Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Funnies: Five Favorite Comic Strips

When I was a kid, I always grabbed the Sunday comics page.
Ah, memories of youth! Few things were as pleasurable to me as waking up early Sunday morning to retrieve the newspaper and devour the comics. I read everything, but I had favorites.

Here are five of them:
1) Calvin and Hobbes. I started to read Calvin and Hobbes in 10th grade (1985-6), and was immediately taken with it. Calvin was the quintessential wise-ass kid. Hobbes was an equal, not a sidekick or gimmick. Together, their observations and adventures were a first everyday encounter with beauty for me. Creator Bill Watterson's Sunday layouts were gorgeously drawn. Even today I see some of those pictures in my mind. And of course, I still have some of the books in my home.

2) Doonesbury. I loved the political subject of Doonesbury, but what hit me--and many other readers too, I suspect--was that the strip really told the story of a group of friends. It was the story of their lives. Garry Trudeau showed that their lives, like our own, were deeply political.

3) Garfield. Don't give me crap about this one. Garfield was somewhat new when I was a kid. The Garfield I remember was a hilarious character--shrewd, grumpy, insistent, sometimes just mean. Jon, Garfield's owner, wasn't such a goofball. The strip began to suck for me when it became more of an ensemble piece, but it was grand once. It helped that I had a cat at home that seemed kind of like Garfield.

4) Bloom County. For a while, Bloom County was a big deal. It was like Doonesbury but edgier and more outrageous. For me, the strip was at its best when Opus and Steve Dallas were more like bit players and not the focus. Opus was always an engaging character, both naive and intrepid, but I liked Binkley, Binkley's Dad, Cutter John, Milo, and the other woodland creatures. That's when it was a strip about growing up in Reagan-era America--when it was OK to act as though pretty lies were true.

5) The Far Side. The Far Side was always a popular comic. It always seemed to capture the strangeness of modern life. The balance of image and caption was always flawless.

I have some books of my favorite strips, but otherwise I don't think my children will ever engage comics in print. That's a little sad, isn't it?


  1. Anonymous2:11 PM

    I agree with everything except the particulars regarding Garfield - it started out with an ensemble cast, but over time the human characters (and some of the animals) disappeared, one by one.

    Lyman, Jon's roommate (and Odie's owner). Hubert and Reba, the elderly couple across the street. The mailman. Irma, the waitress at the greasy spoon. Liz, the veterinarian. Jon's family. Arlene, Garfield's girlfriend. Nermal, the annoyingly cute kitten (whom Garfield came to physically resemble more and more).

    All vanished without a trace, replaced by easier-to-draw talking bathroom scales, spiders, and mice. Even the dogs chained to warning signs disappeared for a while.

    A couple of the old faces - Liz and Irma, most notably - have resurfaced in the past couple of years, so at least they're not all buried in Jon's basement.

    (The same thing happened to Get Fuzzy, which I used to think was several orders of magnitude better than what Garfield had descended to, but it went through the exact same process: other regular human characters have vanished from the strip, the action never moves outside the apartment anymore, and there's an overwhelming sameness to the jokes.)

  2. johnsma11berries,

    Oh, that's excellent! I remember Lyman and Nermal, and some of the other human characters.

    I never really got into Get Fuzzy, although I thought it was OK.

    The descent of Bloom County I think is fascinating. That was a pretty good and pretty popular strip that became extraordinarily sucky yet stayed around for a long time. IIRC, the drawing changed, too. Opus became less cute and everything gained a dark and almost sardonic edge. I think Calvin and Hobbes might have gone that way--it had already started--if Watterson kept the strip going for another five or more years.

  3. You were unfortunately born too late to know Pogo.........


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