was my first introduction to newspapers. It is a tradition in
newspapers that go back longer than I’ve been breathing, but I’m
starting to wonder if the times have changed. Perhaps today’s readers
don’t have any real attachment to Marmaduke or Blondie Bumstead.
the Times Bulletin has been surveying subscribers about which sections
of the print editions are most read or anticipated, and I’ve been
shocked that the lowest scores seem to be going to the comics page. I
will admit that I don’t read the comics page anymore, but I remember as a
kid scouring the funnies in my hometown paper to see the adventures of
Nancy and a few others. I always figured that this was the section for
the kids. (Although I couldn’t figure out the crossword puzzle or the
It really started for most people my age with
the little round-headed kid and his pet beagle. Peanuts was easily the
most accessible and recognizable comic strip for us. It was funny for
pet lovers, crabby people, Beethoven lovers, and perpetual losers. Plus
there was a TV special for Christmas and Halloween. It was the perfect
four-panel entertainment. You could tell how popular it was by the
number of pets named Snoopy or Charlie Brown or even Linus. It was
Sure, there were others that caught my eye, and a few
of those are still being drawn today: The Wizard of Id, The Lockhorns,
Tumbleweeds, and Funky Winkerbean. There were even “funnies” which were
never funny. Dicky Tracy, Steve Canyon, and Alley Oop didn’t leave
anyone chuckling. I tried to follow Alley Oop one year just to see what
the deal was. I’m still not sure. I could follow the plot of the
time-travelling caveman, but it all seemed like a waste of time. The
whole plot had been going on since 1932, why would I think the story
would get resolved during the year I was reading?
By my college
years, there was only one strip to read. Doonesbury highlighted people
near my age doing such important things like competitive suntanning and
golfing. I generally ignored the political overtones in it, and I lost
interest in it by the time it became little more than a soapbox with
goofy people trying to make political points. After all, that wasn’t
what kept me reading. It also didn’t hurt that Doonesbury was the only
comic strip published in our college newspaper!
There were plenty
of others like Garfield or Bloom County or Dilbert that found great
fame, and there were countless attempts to launch strips that were funny
twice a week, or twice a month. Very few comic strips are very amusing
anymore. The exceptions are the ones you have been following for year
after year. You know the characters and what they will say in the final
panel. They feel like old friends. Unfortunately there are plenty of
“old friends” I do not find funny anymore. They are kind of like crazy
uncles I’d rather not be around — the jokes are old, and the situations
have all been drawn before.
So that brings me back to my original
concern: is the time of the newspaper comic strip over? Will we still
crawl over endless pans of lasagna to read the latest from Garfield?
Would we rather have Beetle Bailey discharged from the army? Is Dagwood
Bumstead due to retire to a couch with sandwich in hand and Mr. Dithers’
phone number blocked?
I suppose there will be cartoonists plying
their trade for years to come, but will anyone care? I know I would be
sad if they went away, but I wonder how many others would really notice.
Do kids (and adults) really ignore the comics? If not, is there one
today that you really enjoy? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and
clue me in. It seems we should have something else in the newspaper to
laugh at besides the government.