Maybe it's because I'm a long time
newspaper man, or maybe I just like quick jokes in a visual format,
but I'm a big fan of newspaper comic strips.
There are times when I think I'm the
only one. No one I know ever discusses any of the strips (and there
quite a few still left), and they don't seem to have the cultural
impact they once did.
I mainly read the strips in the
Knoxville daily, though there are a couple I keep up with online.
I'll admit that most of the time the best they get out of me is a
smile, though there are times when I'll find myself laughing out
loud when I get to the third panel punch line.
I bring this up because a comic strip
called "Cul de Sac" ended its run last Sunday. It was a strip
about little kids that owed a lot to "Peanuts," though there was
a touch of "Calvin and Hobbes" in there. The strip had only been
around about five years and had already won awards and the praise of
other cartoonists, not a bunch known for hollow praise.
The strip ended because the cartoonist,
Richard Thompson, has Parkinson's and he simply couldn't draw
anymore. That's a sad reason for anything to end, but especially a
comic strip, as your living and everything you love about it is tied
up in your hands.
If you're lucky enough to not be sure
what Parkinson's is, it's where you move uncontrollably and have
a hard time with even the simplest tasks. Actor Michael J. Fox is
probably the most well known person with it.
But we're here to discuss comic
strips. When "Cul de Sac" ended, I got to thinking about other
comic strips that have come and gone. The most famous is probably "Peanuts," though casual newspaper readers might not know this as
the strip still appears in most daily papers.
But Charles Schulz died in 2000 and
there hasn't been a new "Peanuts" strip (or Charlie Brown
comics as most called them) since. There have been Charlie Brown
comic books, but that's a completely different animal.
The above mentioned "Calvin and
Hobbes" ran daily for 10 years, then Bill Watterson said, "I'm
tired of doing this," and that was that. That also happened with "Bloom County" back in the 80's, though it popped up as a
Sunday only strip for a while and Opus the penguin has appeared in
children's storybooks off and on.
"For Better or For Worse," one of
the few comic strips to run in real time, came to an end a few years
ago, but like "Peanuts," it continues on in reruns.
"Boondocks" was a radical departure
for the comic strip page. A strip about a black family living in
suburbia, it touched on issues that probably made a lot of people
uncomfortable. It became very popular, but the creator decided he
didn't want to do it anymore and killed it off after a short run,
though it did become a TV show for a few years.
When it comes to what's on the comic
strip page(s) today, the best, in my ever humble opinion, is probably "Get Fuzzy," a strip about an immensely stupid dog, an
egotistical cat bent on world domination (though he never leaves the
apartment) and a bewildered owner who can't convince them he buys
their food when they refer to the "magical food cabinet."
There are still a lot of old, out of
date strips on the comic's page. Everything from "Beetle Bailey" to "Hagar the Horrible" to the long past its sell by date "Blondie." This has just about strangled the comic's page and
guaranteed no new converts (the tottering newspaper world as a whole
doesn't help) to three-panel humor.
A couple of comics, "Pearls Before
Swine" and "Lio," make fun of these old comics, all of them
well past a half century old, but it doesn't make any difference.
To put it in modern terms, imagine if TV shows from the 1950's
still dominated the airwaves, all of them ran by the kids of the
I guess (hope) there will always be
comic strips as long as there are newspapers. As long as we have
those two things I'll have a job (I hope) and desk calendars to get
a quick laugh out of.
email@example.com | 442-4575