I started getting the Post Register yesterday, and for the first time in a long time, I'm reading a physical newspaper every day.
Along with this, again for the first time in a long time, I'm reading the comic pages. I hesitate to call them the "funny pages," as they are rarely funny and often make my head hurt with their sheer lack of hilarity.
The older I get, the more I realize how difficult it must be to write good comic strips on a consistent basis. The vast majority of them I read are flat-out horrible. For example, here is today's Garfield.
An entire Sunday strip devoted to a pun of some kind. And it's a completely contrived pun, as it makes use of extremely rare names (if they exist at all), instead of actual words. As much as I hate puns, I hate fake ones even more. This is like something my 11-year old brother Josh would come up with. Jim Davis, you stink.
And this sort of thing happens all the time. I read many comics that are throw-away jokes forced into comic-strip format. Because apparently, if you draw someone telling someone else a stupid joke, it's funnier?
I think the main reason for the general lack of quality in comic strips today is due to the aforementioned difficulty of pumping out high-quality work every single day for years on end. Bill Watterson once mentioned how he sometimes felt like he was putting out "garbage" to feed the "monsters" of deadlines.
To combat this, he took long sabbaticals; but eventually Watterson gave up writing the strip altogether, preferring to not work at all if it was impossible to keep Calvin and Hobbes up to his standards.
Certain comic strip writers, who will remain unnamed, might want to take note.
Since I don't remember much before 1987 or so, I can't comment on the quality of comics before that time. Was Blondie ever consistently funny? How about B.C.?
But thanks to the magic of "classic Peanuts," I know Charlie Brown and his gang were never funny.
If I understand correctly, the message of this strip is "skiing down a hill that is two feet high is no fun."
If there's some deep commentary on life here, I don't see it. Help me out.
Now, not all comics are bad. I love Get Fuzzy, Dilbert, Fox Trot and Frazz. Frazz somehow manages to capture the spirit and artistic style of Watterson; I can't decide if it's Bill writing from behind a pseudonym or an incredibly talented fan who is responsible for it. I've never seen it in newspapers, so I'm unsure how widely-published it is, but trust me, Frazz is great.
Dilbert writer Scott Adams has an endless supply of material to work from, as cubicle-dwellers e-mail him stories of real-life Dilbert situations every day. He'll be fine for a long time. Fox Trot's writer, Bill Amend, cut back to doing only Sunday strips, realizing, as Watterson did, that writing brilliant strips every day is nearly impossible.
And Get Fuzzy is just great. It's relatively new, so we'll see how long it can go. The magic of Get Fuzzy is that there can be funny stuff in panel two; not every strip sets up a punchline at the very end.
I credit a lot of my cynicism regarding comic strips to the Comics Curmudgeon, a blog where some guy in Baltimore mocks the comics on a daily basis. He's very funny and is able to add a lot of hilarity to strips by pointing out things I'd normally miss. He does use some colorful language on occasion, so visit at your own risk.
1 year ago