Wednesday, March 9, 2016

69. The Newspaper Comics

I probably owe my stint in journalism to the newspaper comics. It was what I’d read first every morning. I had a very meticulous way of going through them. Start on the upper left, work my way down the columns and end in the center of the second page with Fox Trot.

Something about the characters got me. I don’t think I laughed out loud very often, but I enjoyed seeing the stories play out, no matter how stupid or mundane.

At first I loved Garfield, Fox Trot, the Buckets, Adam, Frank & Earnest. As I grew up, I didn’t read all of the comics anymore, I skipped around. I’ve never understood Zippy the Pinhead. (Has anybody?) I never enjoyed stuff like Prince Valiant or the other soap opera comics.

I don’t read the comics on a daily basis as much anymore, but I still do check out the collections from the library. I own a lot of Calvin and Hobbes books, a few Doonsburys, and some Dilberts.

Calvin and Hobbes should be its own separate blog entry entirely. I first started reading them after an elementary school friend recommended them. I borrowed some books and was hooked. I’d save up my money for a trip to Barnes & Noble. (Man, that sentence sounds so old fashioned.) I loved just browsing through the section and thinking about what book I was going to buy.

I used to get Garfield books, but then I realized that Garfield has basically been doing the same jokes for the last three decades and I decided they weren’t worth the money. Calvin and Hobbes still seems fresh to this day even though the whole thing ended over twenty years ago. I enjoy lying down on the couch in the mid-afternoon and just losing track of time while paging through one of those books.

I’ve grown to appreciate Doonesbury, even though I didn’t get it when I was younger.  I like the subtle political commentary along with the great characters. (Zonker Harris and Uncle Duke are legendary.) I like those books because I feel like I’m reading a wry political novel without actually having to read one.

The Far Side is another favorite of mine. Gary Larson fit such a weird world into one strip at a time. A lot of comics these days try to replicate it, but few have had much success.

My favorite today is probably Pearls Before Swine. It’s edgier than most of the stuff in the paper these days, but it’s also self-deprecating and it’s full of fantastic characters (Pig!) Stephen Pastis is one of the few cartoonists who seem to be in touch with what’s going on in the real world. (With all due respect to Fred Bassett, why is it still in a newspaper?)

I remember my grandma saving my weeks of the comics section for when I would come visit. I’d spend the first few hours on the floor just going through every one. It was heaven.

I love that feeling when you lose track of time because you are so engrossed in something. That was me with newspaper comics.

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