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The Continuing Collapse Of The Comic Strip

3/01/2016

a.k.a. “Another One Bites The Dust”, in this case being Terry & Patty Laban’s Edge City strip, which just finished a 15 year run in far too typical a manner:  A good strip, well drawn, well written, a core base of fans & readers, but never enough to break mainstream consciousness and, in the end, not nearly enough to justify the syndicator keeping them on.

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Last November, as some of you may recall, Dinette Set went under without so much as an official nod from either artist or syndicator.

And Maria’s Day, a once delightful daily strip also found at GoComics.com has been reduced to Sunday-only single panel gags.

And several other strips are missing the occasional daily post; in a world where fewer and fewer newspapers carry fewer and fewer strips, these features are often found only online, and the blessing / curse of online media is that one doesn’t have to consume it on the creator/s schedule.

I mean, c’mon, folks, that’s what
binge watching on Hulu or Netflix
is all about, am I right?

The classic one-to-four panel daily comic strip is an artifact of the past, and even while new ones are being tried out, the sad truth is there is no real place for them.

Their offspring, the webcomic, may survive, but to do so it will probably have to evolve, both in terms of content and presentation.

While cartoons have been around since before Gutenberg, and had certainly been appearing in print as long as there were people making prints of anything, they certainly flowered during the heyday of printed media in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Comic strips were published (along with other regular features) with the intent of enticing casual readers back again and again to a daily newspaper.

While they certainly included younger kids in their audience, truth be told they had adult readers from the gitgo.

At their high water mark (roughly late 1920s to mid-1960s) they were essential cultural touchstones:  Regardless of who you were or where you lived, everybody was familiar with the comic strips that defined their culture (i.e., specific time and place in world history).

Foreign readers may have had an entirely different batch of strips[1] but nonetheless they had strips that defined their lives for them.

And regardless of whether the strips were gag-a-day, soap operas, adventures, or fantasy, something about them linked you to other people in your community / culture.

Even to this day, long after they have ceased to appear in print on a regular basis, certain comics strips still inform the national discourse:  “That crazy Buck Rogers stuff”, “Well, blow me down!”, “It was a dark and stormy night…”, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

They were an odd form of niche marketing:  There was seemingly a comic strip for every specific taste and interest and audience[2] and if one was willing to look, ample places for them to appear.

But nothing remains static and the days when the bulk of America gleaned its cultural clues through daily newspapers has long since passed.

And while many are fond of the format of the old comic strips, there’s really no compelling reason to stick with that format in today’s media world.[3]

Today’s webcomics don’t set the terms of the cultural debates, they only reinforce our pre-existing prejudices and biases, “prejudices and biases” here not necessarily referring to anything negative but rather the presumptions we live with in our daily lives.

We follow webcomics because they agree with our points of view, we do not turn to them to see what other people are thinking.

There’s no real innovation on the
remaining comics page anymore.

There are a large number of very well done strips, but there’s no real breakthrough the way Calvin And Hobbes broke through, or even the original run of Bloom County.[4]

I read Peanuts Begins and get more out of it than any contemporary strip (and I do enjoy a number of contemporary strips).

As the writer Jack Enyart once observed, the best work in any medium is done at the very start and the very end of that medium’s dominance; the former breaking boundaries with new ideas, the latter distilling those ideas down to their perfect core.

We are enjoying the long wake of the comic strip; we will not see its like again.

But nobody really wants to
close the bar and go home…

Edge City - Terry and Patty Laban 2

[1]  Tho not necessarily; a lot of American strips found loyal audiences in some truly oddball places, such as the Nordic countries really glomming onto The Phantom.

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[2]  As a young boy, I followed Dondi religiously; the stories of a young Italian-American refugee trying to find his place in America resonated with me as my own mother was an Italian who met my American father during WWII.  Dondi is not held in very high esteem by most comic strip fans / historians, but it made a difference to me, dammit!

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[3]  Indeed, a strong argument can and has been made for more experimentation, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

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[4]  Bloom County is back with new material online, and I read it, but it’s more for nostalgia than any real enjoyment. 

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Edge City © Terry and Patty Laban

 

 

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The Funniest Comic Strip Dailies Of 2015

31/12/2015

My picks for the 10 funniest comic strips published/put on the Web in 2015.

Criteria:

#1– Must be funny. (There were a lot of touching / poignant / inspiring / awesome strips this year but only the funny ones made the cut.)

#2– Must be fresh. (Otherwise this list would consist of Peanuts re-runs.)

#3– Must be family friendly. (Anything over the edge got cut even if it made me laugh.)

#4– Must be fathomable. (i.e., punchlines that were the pay off of lengthy continuities, long-running gags, or required esoteric knowledge of the strip in question also got cut.)

tmrkt150921 Honorable Mention: Brewster Rockit

Tim Rickard’s supremely silly sci-fi comic strip ranges all over the map — literally and metaphorically!  Here he touches on a philosophical theme that all of this year’s honorable mentions will share.

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dt151209

Honorable Mention: Dilbert

Scott Adams wastes no time getting straight to the core problem.

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lio150115

Honorable Mention: Lio

Mark Tatulli’s wordless weird boy wonder wonders wordlessly.

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15 12 29 One Big Happy Honorable Mention: One Big Happy

There’s bleak, and there’s bleak, and there’s really bleak, and there’s cute, and there’s hilarious.  And then there’s this strip by Rick Detorie that manages to combine all five into one.

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wm150224Runner Up: WUMO

Mikael Wulff and Anders Morgenthaler repeatedly demonstrate innovative cartoon / gag chops with their self-named strip, and in this case bruise if not actually break the 4th wall…which will be our runner ups’ linking factor.

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pb150122

Runner Up: Pearls Before Swine

Stephen Pastis is never one to shy away from his own shortcomings be they personal, professional, or artistic.  Here he embraces the reality that there are certain things he just can’t draw…

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Runner Up: 9 Chickweed Lane

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that over the last half decade, 9 Chickweed Lane has devolved from a wonderfully sassy / sexy strip into a meandering mixture of melodrama and non sequiturs.  Here Brooke McEldowney proves he still has some creative chops with his version of a rim-shot.

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15 02 01 Zits

Third Place: Zits

“The line it is drawn /  The curse it is cast.”  Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman call it as they see it.

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Second Place: Phoebe And Her Unicorn

Despite the title Phoebe And Her Unicorn (nee Heavenly Nostrils, so named after the unicorn herself, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils), Dana Simpson never shies away from pointing out that humans are guests in the world of magical unicorns, not the other way around.  Here she shows that status all depends on one’s personal point of view.

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15 02 08 Retail

Grand Prize Winner: Retail

Norm Feuti’s workplace strip had an exceptionally fine run this year with many contenders for the top ten, but this Sunday confrontation between management and labor is simultaneously one of the simplest yet most complex gags ever pulled off on the funny pages.

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Nary A Bang Nor Whimper; DINETTE SET, We Hardly Knew Ye

4/12/2015
Julie Larson’s cult favorite single panel comic strip Dinette Set has folded, closing without so much as a whimper, much less a bang on  Nov. 29.
di150117Larson began the strip in 1990 as Suburban Torture, and appeared in several alternate press weeklies including the L.A. Reader.  In 1997 she began syndicating the strip to mainstream newspapers under the title Dinette Set and featuring slightly toned down (i.e., less frightening looking) versions of her characters.di150427While many readers loved her sharp skewering of modern day Babbits, the strip never found a widespread audience, and after 25 years Ms Larson has opted to close up shop.di151003It is a pity, and she will be missed by those who noticed.
For you late comers to the party,
the Dinette Set archives are still up
at GoComics.com, tho for how much
longer no one can tell.
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Nous Avons Tous Eté Là, Mon Ami

26/11/2015

Boulet En-Ideas02

Vous pouvez trouver plus d’ Boulet ici.

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Ya Just Can’t Shut Me Up! Radiodrome Podcast

7/11/2015

drome-feat1

Josh Hadley interviews me for the Radiodrome podcast.  We cover more than just the Sunbow Productions this time around, including Thundarr The Barbarian, Dungeons & Dragons the TV show, and even the short lived Beanie & Cecil revival.

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Video Podcasts From TFExpo 2015

26/08/2015

animated bender seeks applause

Not one but two video podcasts I recorded at TFExpo in Wichita.

First, a half hour interview with Duron Land for TransFormers For Your Listening Pleasure (also available on iTunes).

Then a lengthy interview with co-guest Matt Frank conducted by Chris Ho of Vengelus Central.

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SDCC 2015 CCAS Spiritual Values In Comics Panel

13/07/2015

SDCC 2015 Spiritual Values panel

Scott A. Shuford, yrs trly, Cory Jones, B Dave Walters,
Travis Hanson, Alesha L. Escobar and Luis Escobar.

Audio File Available For Download Here

Thanx, B Dave Walters!

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Truer Words Were Never Penned

7/07/2015

Arlo And Janis on Happiness

Arlo and Janis by Jimmy Johnson

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Comics, You’re Doing It Right

24/06/2015

comics fandom done right Joe Jusko

tip o’the artist’s eyeshade
to Joe Jusko for the image

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Boulet Reveals The Secret

29/05/2015

En-GuerrierChance03

The truth is:  It takes lots and lots of very hard work…

…and we are lucky bastards.

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Thanx to
Tom Spurgeon’s
The Comics Reporter
for the tip off.

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