This year proved an embarrassment of riches, with lots of great writing, innovative art, and hilarious gags making the final selection very difficult.
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.)
10: Honorable Mention
BLONDIE: This venerable old strip was moribund for several decades before creator Chic Young’s grandson Dean and partner John Marshall took over the helm. Now it’s one of the delights on the funny pages, throwing a variety of different styles of gags. This time they veer off into pure existentialist dread. Anybody who can get a chuckle out of existentialist dread deserves an Honorable Mention in my book.
09: Honorable Mention
BABY BLUES: Speaking of existentialist dread, Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott take an old, old trope -- exhausted parents running down a list of things to make them even more exhausted -- and add a punchline so surreal yet believable as to be worthy of the Twilight Zone.
08: Honorable Mention
ZITS: A simple, logical gag that manages to avoid messing up its topical reference, something almost impossible for teen strips to do.
07: Honorable Mention
MR. BOFFO: Joe Martin is the hardest working man on the funny pages with no less than three full time / 7-days-a-week strips plus various side projects. He pulls a trifecta this year and gets all three of his strips in the top ten.
THE KNIGHT LIFE: Again, simple, logical gag worked out with no embellishments = hilarity.
CATS WITH HANDS: Joe Martin juggles several skills impressively, not the least of which is to take an old, old gag and find some way of making it fresh again.
OLLIE & QUENTIN: The year ends with the sad news that Piers Baker’s delightful gull & lugworm strip will no longer be syndicated in the U.S. by
those brainless gits at King Features. Here’s a perfect example of what you’ll be missing.
03: Third Place
9 CHICKWEED LANE: Brooke McEldowney gives us a wordy set up, then relies on two facial expressions to get the joke across. The man clearly knows what he is doing.
02: Second Place
WILLY ‘N’ ETHEL: Back to existentialist dread with the ultimate married couple argument.
01: GRAND PRIZE WINNER
ARLO AND JANIS: A cartoonist draws funny things. A good cartoonist draws things funny. A great cartoonist knows the funniest things happen off panel. Jimmy Johnson is a great cartoonist.