Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comparative (f)Analysis #3 "Newspaper Comics"

Or, Building a Better Comics Page

It's no secret that American newspapers are an endangered species. Perhaps part of the reasons is the comics section, which may no longer appeal to young readers. In an effort to update this section, I present a collection of nine strips created in (more or less) the past twenty years (rather than many of the legacy strips that arguably appeal more directly to older readers) capable of challenging the impression that comic strips can't compete with cartoons and other interactive media.

Pearls Before Swine
by Stephan Pastis
Launched in 2001, this is my current favorite, featuring Rat, Pig, Zebra, Goat, and Larry the Crocodile, among other characters, each presenting a different worldview (some more traditionally comic strip-focused than others) and none of them ever at a loss for words.

by Anthony Blades
Launched in 2001, this is a discovery I made at Go Comics that I'm pretty sure I'd never seen before. Would be a prime recipient of the increased exposure of a revamped comics section.

Big Nate
by Lincoln Peirce
Launched in 1991, this is one of the older strips in these suggestions, but has the added benefit of being fresh in the minds of young readers, thanks to the recent publishing efforts meant to capitalize on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. This one's always been better.

Nest Heads
by John Allen
Launched in 2003, this is a recent version of the traditional family comic strip.

Over the Hedge
by Michael Fry & T Lewis
Launched in 1995, this current strip was actually the basis for the 2006 film, which makes it odd that the strip didn't experience greater visibility following its release. No doubt most viewers assumed that the movie was just another random CGI cartoon created to cash in on the phenomenal Pixar success story. No, it's actually a comic strip!

by Paul Trap
Launched in 2010 (as far as I can tell!) and therefore the newest strip in this bunch, this one features a baby. Imagine that!

by Bill Amend
Launched in 1988, this one's the oldest in the bunch, and it's already beloved, but for some reason its cultural impact has been minimal. Amend only does Sunday strips now, but still well worth including.

by Scott Adams
Launched in 1989, slightly younger than the previous entry, and better known, practically a cultural institution, but still hasn't succeeded in letting corporate culture known just how stupid it really is.

Red and Rover
by Brian Basset
Launched in 2000, this is my personal pick as the successor to Calvin & Hobbes (if you think Pearl Before Swine doesn't cover it because of Stephan Pastis's admitted lack of actual artistic talent), a comic strip that totally understands the nature of friendship, this time actually featuring a pet dog.

You could add Garfield, Zits, Mutt, Sally Forth, Sherman's Lagoon, Get Fuzzy, and maybe a few others to fill out the section, but these nine deserve a place where many of them have previously been ignored or overlooked, or otherwise haven't been recognized as the institutions they've become.
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