The Decline and Fall of the Funnies

Discussion in 'The Reading Room' started by LizzieMaine, Dec 29, 2018.

  1. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,890
    Location:
    The Great Pacific Northwest
    I developed a real liking for the strip, "Annie," (formerly "Little Orphan Annie") while a law student. Not for the artwork or the plot but for the wonderful punny names of some of the characters.

    A ballet diva named Mademoiselle Onya Toze. A banker named Mort Gage. A pharmacist named Mort Pestle. A very bright but somewhat caustic kid named Huck Flynn. You get the idea.
     
  2. Just Jim

    Just Jim One of the Regulars

    I follow some comics online, but the papers lost me long ago. I haven't seen any reason to read the funny pages since Calvin and Hobbes went away. It felt too much like endlessly re-reading the same Sugar and Spike comic book.
     
  3. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Annie still lives on, sort of, as an occasional guest star in "Dick Tracy," a strip which has undergone a small-scale renaissance over the last five years or so. A new writer/artist team took it over and has for the most part given it coherent story values and decent art. The main complaint I have with it is that it tends to be over-immersed in fanboy trivia -- if you haven't been reading Tracy continuously since 1931, many of the continuity and character references will go right past you.

    There are very few continuity strips still going. The soap opera strips have been reduced to three-- Judge Parker, Rex Morgan, and Mary Worth, all of which often verge into self-parody. "Apartment 3-G" ended a few years ago when its artist seemed to descend into senility on-panel -- the final storyline was completely incoherent, accompanied by disturbing, hallucinatory art. And Juliet Jones and the Jackson Twins are long gone.

    The Phantom and Mark Trail are still around, and The Phantom can occasionally be pretty good. Mark Trail, though, can't decide whether it wants to play it straight or pander to the internet comic snarker crowd.

    Gasoline Alley is still around, havng recently celebrated its centennial, but in full and absolute zombie mode. Uncle Walt is now 120 years old and is somehow still living in a semi-lucid state. Skeezix turned 98 a couple weeks ago, but no notice was given the birthday in the strip, which has all but abandoned the Wallet family in favor of sub-Hee Haw hillbilly hokum. The "southernification" of this strip really bugs me -- the original setting was a Chicago suburb, not some two-bit Appalachian Dogpatch, but the artists following on after the death of the creator went in big for a cornpone setting, to the detriment of the strip.
     
    MissMittens likes this.
  4. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,890
    Location:
    The Great Pacific Northwest
    I get a laugh or two from, "Garfield Minus Garfield, " ... dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb. "


    Sample:

    upload_2019-2-26_13-14-9.png
     
  5. wallypop

    wallypop New in Town

    Messages:
    37
    The new "Nancy" is a travesty on comic strips. The perfect example of what we don't need!
     
  6. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,685
    Location:
    Gads Hill, Ontario
    Bloom County/Outland was the last strip I read regularly. Non Sequitur had me for a while, the little girl and her imaginary creature were fun to follow.
     
  7. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Bloom County is back in business, sort of, in an online-only, when-he-feels-like-it format. The art is a lot looser than it was in the 80s, and the cast is smaller -- you never see the rabbit or the gopher anymore -- but the overall flavor is the same.

    I'm a big fan of Non Sequitir -- the cartoonist, Wiley Miller, has Maine ties, and he does a good job representing our general attitude here.
     
    MisterCairo likes this.
  8. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    5,685
    Location:
    Gads Hill, Ontario
    I should give NS another try.

    And if Portnoy and Hodgepodge are no longer in Bloom County, count me out...
     
  9. Nobert

    Nobert Practically Family

    Messages:
    813
    Location:
    In the Maine Woods
    I think the last newspaper strip I took any interest in was Mutts. Is that even still running? By the end of Calvin and Hobbes, I still enjoyed it, but more in the collections than on a day-to-day basis.

    As far as I'm concerned, the comics page has been on the slip for pretty much as long as I've been alive. I know I did read them as yung'un (my mother told me it's how I learned to read), but not many of them stick to my memory, other than in name. When I learned to adore Peanuts as a kid, is was through the anthologies of ten to twenty years prior, not what Schultz was doing in the 80s. The old classics were usually slogging through the motions in the hands of those who inherited the titles from their original creators. Gould, DeBeck, Gray, McManus, Kelly, etc. were either dead or had left their strips in the hands of assistants. Beetle Bailey was always just kind of "there," and still is. I was a fan of Bloom County for a while, though when I read it now, it's sort of like listening to pop songs that I was briefly taken with in Junior High School. Breathed was, at any rate, always a better cartoonist than Trudeau.

    I just found out today that The Far Side is returning in some format or another.

    The papers just aren't invested in even giving the space to comics that they need to really flex. Waterson outraged editors and publishers when he made it part of his contract to only sell his strip as he formatted it. There will never be another Windsor McCay in this climate.
     
    LizzieMaine likes this.
  10. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    "Mutts" is still around -- I see it when I buy the New York Daily News, but I think that's the closest paper to Maine that carries it unless the Boston Herald does (a paper I won't even look at if I find it lying on the ground.)

    The reduction in page space is really a problem. For a long time papers were shrinking strips down smaller and smaller, but they finally reached the point of illegibility, and now the trend is simply to print fewer strips. The glory days of the Globe's two full pages of daily strips lasted into the early 2000s before the implosion began -- the "two pages" they now feature are clotted up with puzzle features, the horoscope, and other inconsequential stuff.

    I also don't like the trend of printing dailies in color. The color printing is usually poorly accomplished and badly out of register, and at times it makes the strips almost impossible to read. They look even worse when viewed in color online -- whatever third-world contractor does the color charting often doesn't, or can't, read the strips and whenever there's a gag or a plot point relating to the color of an object, they blow it every time. Bah.

    I saw that blurb about the return of the Far Side, and I was even more excited to see that "The Boondocks" might be coming back -- that was one of my favorite strips of the late 90s/early 2000s, and its edginess is very much needed in these days of corny "niche strip" humor.
     
  11. wallypop

    wallypop New in Town

    Messages:
    37
     
  12. wallypop

    wallypop New in Town

    Messages:
    37
    I grew up on comic books and newspaper strips. No tv back then.(1940's-50's)
    My whole life's knowledge, reading abilities, and love for books were greatly influenced by them.
     
    Nobert likes this.

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