My picks for the 10 funniest comic strips published/put on the Web in 2012.
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.)
Honorable Mention: Dilbert
We have all been there, the question is on which side of the desk.
Honorable Mention: Maria’s Day
It would be unfair to call this new strip by John Zakour and Scott Roberts a female version of Calvin And Hobbes; Maria’s pedigree goes back to Nancy and Little Lulu.
Honorable Mention: Cats With Hands
Honorable Mention: Baby Blues
Typically not among the most visually inventive strips on the market, this year Baby Blues delivers the groceries with a delightful sight gag.
Runner Up: Willy ‘n’ Ethel
It was hard to pick the best of a fine crop of Willy ‘n’ Ethel strips this year, but this one edged out several contenders.
Runner Up: Retail
Norm Feuti makes two entries on the finalists’ roster this year, in this case for keen insight into the world of retail sales.
Runner Up: Mr. Boffo
Joe Martin typically finishes well in the year end tally, but this year his three strips -- despite sharp writing and clever set-ups -- fell just shy of the winner’s circle.
Third Place: Gil
A relatively new strip on the funny pages, Gil started life a couple of years ago as a web comic by Norm Feuti. The original version of Gil was funny but also somewhat bleak; what started out as a fun kid strip took a surprisingly somber turn when Gil’s divorced dad ended up in jail on assault charges (!). Feuti retired the web comic at that point but successfully retooled it into a more light hearted print version keeping the same characters and basic situation. Here Gil turns the tables on the strip’s bully by turning the other cheek.
Second Place: Coffee With Jesus
Another fairly new strip, Coffee With Jesus is astonishing because (a) it’s written from a surprisingly perceptive Christian POV (b) it turns Christ into a remarkably accessible character instead of a stick figure mouthing platitudes as is the case in most other comic strip appearances by the Messiah and (c) it’s really, really funny. A clip strip with a regular cast of characters, it works best when you get familiar with the personalities involved, but this one is a stand alone jem.
Grand Prize Winner: Heavenly Nostrils
Dana Simpson won an Amazon / GoComics new talent contest several years ago with her strip Girl, but it’s taken all this time to refine it and hone it into something truly magical. Heavenly Nostrils could be referred to as the other new female Calvin And Hobbes strip but that would be grossly unfair; these are their own characters and the unicorn herself, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is that rarest of creatures, the vain self-obsessed know-it-all smart-alec whom everybody loves. (Another key difference is that unlike Hobbes, Marigold occupies the real world and interacts with the other human characters in the strip, including Phoebe‘s parents and classmates.)