They all laughed

warning: personal and ranty The Sunday Comics aren’t funny is a good article, but the cartoons that illustrate […]

warning: personal and ranty
The Sunday Comics aren’t funny is a good article, but the cartoons that illustrate it begin to tear off the bland facade to reveal the unpleasantness underneath. Reading all the comics on the Houston Chronicle’s personalized comics page, I’m amazed at what passes for humor.. fat jokes, sissy jokes, sexism… the comics page is the last holdout for 50’s mores.

Maybe it’s that I’m home these days, writing, and finding myself for the first time in my life washing dishes, clothes and cooking exclusively while warning my delighted husband over dinner not to get to used to it, that I’m haunted and disturbed by these morality tales we present to our children as harmless entertainment — in fact, they are even dangerous as tales we tell ourselves.

It reminds me of my annual trip back to my grandparent’s summer cottage community, where I’ll have to pick my battles when the gay/women/racist jokes begin at the BBQ. What do you let lie, and what do you stand up against?

I love comics; I loved Calvin and Hobbs, and I still dig Foxtrot, Zits and Kudzu. Rhymes with Orange and Bizarro bring a pleasant surrealism to my day, often accompanied by a laugh. I dig Prince Valiant, though I can’t really explain why. I guess it appeals to the same little girl who liked dinosaur books.

I don’t think this is a PC issue, it’s a simple issue of questioning our assumptions. BC, Wizard of ID, Crock and Beetle Baily are so routinely vicious in their (lack of) humor, I typically skip them.

I guess I’m saying I don’t mind so much that comics aren’t always funny; I just wish they didn’t make me want to cry.


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  1. 1

    You should check out online comics. I highly recommend which has a cult like following. For a bigger list of online strips, check out

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    mims, I think the problem Christina has is not that there aren’t good comics out there; it’s that so many bad comics survive and maintain their audiences, and more than that, spread poisonous attitudes in a way that makes them seem harmless and acceptable.

    As the article notes, one major source of the problem is the fact that whenever a newspaper makes a move to remove any comic, no matter how bad or lame or unfunny, its fans turn out in numbers and usually convince the paper to back off. Every time I’ve seen a paper replace a comic strip, it’s been the subject of news articles for weeks.

    You would think that maybe as the older artists die off, things might improve, but it doesn’t happen. Generally, the artists don’t own their own copyrights; the syndicates do. So when an artist dies, the syndicate just hires someone else to pick up where the previous one left off. Charles Schulz was one of the few to break that system, and his syndicate is reduced to rerunning old strips. Bill Watterson basically went on strike against his syndicate to regain some of his rights to Calvin and Hobbes and to ensure that his characters weren’t merchandised to death (or at all, for that matter).

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    Oh yes, I agree that some syndicated comic strips are not only not funny, but frustratingly still maintain a stronghold in publications despite their unoriginality and recycled humor. I became fed up with the choices and sought alternative sources; thus, the online comic strips. I still have a *few* favorites in newspaper form (Zits, Rhymes with Orange, Foxtrot) but to find anything that breaks convention, questions your values, on top of sharing some (un)conventional humor I head straight online. Where else can you find an ironic, defiant, hilarious comic strip where God plays with puppets? Never in a million years would it be in a newspaper because it just wouldn’t fit their requirements of veiled offensive content. At least online comics are up front about offensive content. 😉

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    =v= I’ve been a comic strip fanatic ever since Charles Schulz taught me to read, and a comic strip history buff ever since I found a dusty collection of old comic strips in my school’s library. Reading comic strips from, say, the 1930s has given me a better glimpse of American society than most history books (with the exception of Studs Terkel’s Hard Times).

    We’ve got a century of history from a multiplicity of voices accumulated in the funny pages. Christina’s right, though, these days the pages are dominated by the products of gag machines that were set up during the Eisenhower years. Newspapers keep shrinking the page and cutting out new talent. There’s talk of online comics shaking things up, though we’ve still got quite a ways to go with those, according to an article in the Online Journalism Review.

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    Fortunately, new and fresh syndicated strips come along to replace worn and outdated ones.

    An example: with its warmth of characterization and subtle inclusion of present day references, Darby Conley’s “Get Fuzzy” has completely eclipsed “Garfield”, even though both are based on a cat, a dog and a human.

    One big innovation is Bucky’s, Satchel’s and Rob’s ability to speak to one another in a common language, English. As for their personalities, Garfield seems like a small person in a cat suit. But Bucky’s a CAT, with all the feistiness and egocentricity a genuine cat possesses! Long live the Buckman!

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    Certainly fat jokes are all over comics (and other media), and it’s past the saturation point. Unfunny and cruel. Sexism… well, for the most part, the sexism that’s in many comics nowadays is anti-MALE. The prevalent sexism in the ’50s was anti-women, so that’s not the same as today. One might make the case of mysogyny in Beetle Bailey (though the Miss Buxley ogling is no longer in the strip), or Cathy being a gender sell-out, and BC is just generally reactionary (a more recent phenomenom).

    I also don’t see questioning one’s values as a necessity to make good, funny, quality comics. An option, absolutely, but not a necessity. Questioning values exists in Doonesbury, and, ironically, in Mallard Fillmore, though that’s really just tedious conservative doctrine. Something inventive IS needed in the strips. A Zits, Get Fuzzy, or a Mutts (or the late Calvin & Hobbes) is too far between on the comics pages.

    Garfield IS just a human in a cat suit. He USED TO BE a cat, more or less, but the great cat behavior was abandoned, unfortunately.

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    John Whitley

    For a superb selection of books on politics, history, and military history, check out the RareHistoryBooks.Com web page at
    You’ll also find a superb archive of articles on the New World Order [which is impacting and changing us increasingly] from the ‘New World Order Intelligence Update’, at They are also mirrored at and at Well worth reading!

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