Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My new favorite comic strip

It's "Garfield." OK, not exactly "Garfield," but a better version -- addition by subtraction:

"Garfield" minus Garfield

It's like a Greek tragedy designed by Andy Warhol. And a million jillion times better than the real "Garfield."

This gives me an opening for my comics rant (which our features editor has already heard about 100 times already).

I read the comics every single day -- it's a low-grade addiction, like chewing on pencils. I got hooked when I was growing up and now I can't shake them (the comics, not the pencils). But by the end of my life I'll have spent months of my precious time on comic strips that maybe, if I'm lucky, make me laugh once or twice a year.

The problem is that the people who love bad comic strips love them with the passion of a thousand burning suns. You can't touch those strips without getting furious letters from readers whose lives are ruined because we quit running "Beetle Bailey," never mind that "Beetle Bailey" hasn't been funny since, I'm guessing here, 1962.

"Family Circus" is untouchable -- untouchable! -- even though it has spent the last half a century rotating five Sunday ideas:

1. Follow the dotted line as the kids ramble around the neighborhood.
2. The kids ask a bunch of questions to an exasperated Mom and Dad.
3. Little Billy draws the strip!
4. Family ghosts comment from heaven.
5. Wisdom from Grandma.

(I would never recommend or link to any sort of vulgar satire regarding "Family Circus," but if you happened to Google the phrase "dysfunctional family circus," I would be powerless to stop you.)

I've told folks here at the paper that we need to have a Monday Morning Massacre -- one Monday, without warning, all the comics deadwood is gone. "Hagar"? Dead. "Cathy"? Dead. Neidermayer? Dead. (Sorry, lapsed into "Animal House" mode there...)

I'd keep "Zits," "Dilbert," "Doonesbury," "F Minus," "Frazz," "Baby Blues" and "Pickles." I'd put "Get Fuzzy," "Pearls Before Swine" and "Lio" on probation -- they have some promise but are mostly too clever for their own good.

My one nod to tradition would be keeping "Dennis the Menace," because he's drawn by Marcus Hamilton, who lives in Mint Hill and is a really nice guy.

Everything else goes in the recycle bin. Even "Peanuts," which is a great strip but violates my First Rule of Comic Strips: It's time to stop running a comic strip when the creator is dead.

OK, end of rant. Feel free to defend "The Lockhorns" or your other favorites in the comments. And if you have strips you like that we don't run, pass 'em on. I'm wondering how cool "Blondie" might be if you took Dagwood out...


Clayj said...

The best comic strips:

Dilbert (especially in this town)
Get Fuzzy
Pearls Before Swine
User Friendly ( )
Penny Arcade! ( -- warning: sometimes contains profanity )

Garfield needs to be retired. Same with Cathy, any of those serial strips like Mary Worth or Gil Thorp, and (I agree) anything where the creator has passed on. I give Peanuts a pass simply because it's so classic.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with clayj, Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine are my two favorite strips; and you are also correct, they are far too clever to be mainstream hits. Along with Lio (another of my favorites), you either get it or you don't get it.

In general, I agree with your other picks. The keepers you suggested are usually worth a chuckle and sometimes a good belly laugh (especially Pickles).

The ones you suggested be retired are tired and have largely run their course, although Blondie can be funny once in a while and it's amazing how Peanuts still sometimes feels relevant even though they're running 35 year old strips.

Anonymous said...

Now Tommy, I'm surprised at you. Are you trying to create a north vs south type controversy? No Garfield? I don't think so. We share the same size tummy and I find it very comforting to see that while I'm eating my pop-tart.
And I can relate to Jon's unfortunate wardrobe choices, even as a female. Odie,sigh, the eternal optimist. Liz, who knows the way to win a heart is through her boyfriend's pet...role models for us all.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Tommy, the "funny" papers ceased to be funny years ago.

Also, any writer who is dead or retired should not have comics in the paper, otherwise drop Garfield and Beetle Baily and replace them with Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and The Far Side.

This is why I read online comics almost exclusively. Sure they tend to be about "Techie" stuff or computer gaming, but they are funnier by far. Most often causing me to "lol" where the comics in the newspaper haven't drawn that reaction for years

Anonymous said...

Thinking about some of these strips reminded me of when I was a kid and didn't know military abbreviations...I used to say L-T Fuzz or S-G-T Snorkle until someone (my dad probably) corrected me. My other favorite was reading Andy Capp as a kid...he'd beat the dogshi- out of his wife, but it was funny b/c of his cockney accent...good stuff!

Anonymous said...

Dolly Hit Me Back!

Anonymous said...

great list! I'm glad another adult takes the time to read the comics...
I'll vote for get fuzzy though...It's a fave.

Anonymous said...

I go on-line every day to get my fix of "Andy Capp." It's the best!!