Today, I happened upon a copy of the local newspaper for the first time in what seems like forever.  In addition to several misspellings, a couple of fact-checking errors, and Dear Abby explaining to a concerned mom that twerking isn’t a drug reference, I chanced upon the comic page, only to find THREE different ‘Far Side’ knockoff strips (none of which, I should add, was particularly clever, much less as funny as Gary Larson in his prime.)  Having not followed the proverbial funny pages since BD lost his leg in Iraq, I was surprised how little of what I read was anything more than semantically clever, and today’s edition of ‘Zits’ was pretty much a toothless rumination on “kids today.  (To be fair, the strip may be more than just that, but I can’t confirm those rumors.)  Also, even 25 years down the line, I have no idea what the hell the appeal of ‘Rex Morgan, MD’ is, but at least we got the impetus for today’s query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) misses the days when you could read Watterson, Breathed and Larson every day, and has pretty much abandoned comic strips since, asking: What’s your favorite comic strip of all time?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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15 Comments

  1. May 8, 2014 at 11:37 am — Reply

    Bloom County, hands down. Breathed’s follow-ups fell pretty firmly into that dreaded “the modern world is bad and I hates it” trap that most comic strips do if they run too long, but Bloom County in its heyday was very clever & had winning characters, as well as providing a handy guide to the 80s for all the stuff I missed by being a child. I’ve only come to appreciate Calvin & Hobbes as I’ve gotten older (my child brain lumped it into that “too wordy” category with Doonesbury, probably because I didn’t understand it), and Far Side will always be a favorite, too. About the only modern strip that seems to try anymore is Pearls Before Swine; I love the running gag where characters will threaten the artist with harm because of his fondness for overly complicated puns, and I gotta respect anyone who quits a law firm to join an unstable industry because he just loves it so much. Most strips, though, are uninspired zombie strips or actively depressing exercises in deliberate cultural disconnect or, worst of all, done by Tom Batiuk.

    “(To be fair, the strip may be more than just that, but I can’t confirm those rumors.)”

    Trust me, Zits is basically nothing but horrible “kids today” jokes. I’ll give the creators credit – they realized that no one younger than 65 & with a disposition other than “cranky” will be reading your average newspaper, so they shifted their strip accordingly.

  2. May 8, 2014 at 11:52 am — Reply

    Bloom County…It came along right as I was becoming aware of things like politics and satire and social commentary. Very much a product of its time, and some gags are really dated, but it had great characters and was very funny.

    I also LOVE the gag panel Herman. Jim Unger’s characters reside in an unpleasant and weird universe that always cracks me up..

    There are a handful of decent strips still appearing in newspapers (Get Fuzzy,Pearls Before Swine, Non Sequitor) but for the most part the comic strip is dead in print. They are reproduced at a criminally microscopic size and there is still a tendency to give the ever shrinking comics real estate to Rex Morgan, Blondie, and other legacy strips.

    The web is where the best strips reside these days, without much question. Bug Martini, Maximumble, PvP, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and dozens more are carrying the torch dropped by your daily rag a long time ago. Brain Teaser Comics is also a particularly brilliant weekly comic in the Far Side, Gahan Wilson, Herman tradition*’.

    **shameless self promotion.

  3. Frank
    May 8, 2014 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    Third nomination for Bloom County. They had so many great characters and story lines. One of my favorites is about the Mini-Cam thinning program started by the government. “Any Mini-cam crews found loose will be clubbed, skinned and their internal organs sold for aphrodisiacs in China.”

    My current favorite is “Dog eat Doug” – The adventures of Sophie the chocolate lab and her cohort Doug, a baby.

    Now-a-days, I follow more and more webcomics.

  4. May 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm — Reply

    For old fashioned newspaper strips, nothing beats The Far Side for me. It wasn’t epic, it wasn’t genius or anything, it was just plain silliness and that was enough for me.

    If webcomics count as strips, then I’m torn between “Queen of Wands” and “Looking For Group”.

  5. Hirimno
    May 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm — Reply

    My favorite each week at my grandparents house was usually Hagar the Horrible. I loved just the inane fun reading it.

  6. May 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm — Reply

    Calvin & Hobbes/Bloom County/Farside. Hard to say one was better than the other and they really reinvigorated my interest in the comics section of the news.

  7. May 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm — Reply

    Calvin and Hobbes, forever and always.

  8. HipHopHead
    May 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    Calvin and Hobbes..”Greatest Comic Strip Ever”…featuring a six year old and stuffed animal. This strip reminded me of Davey & Goliath, where Goliath (the dog) only “spoke” to Davey, Hobbes (stuffed tiger) only came to “life” when Calvin was only (using his ‘magination).

    Calvin may have the “time machine” to fix Marvel and DC timeline? Calvin could also use in”tranmogrifer”?
    Or he may just have a “BOX”?

  9. Arbor Day
    May 8, 2014 at 3:18 pm — Reply

    When I was a kid and my parents took me to a book store, I’d pick up Garfield collections. Then after I got tired of those, Calvin and Hobbes collections. After the last one was published, I started picking up Dilbert collections. I still have all of these some where, but the only ones I’ve gone back over are the Calvin and Hobbes.

  10. Kirby
    May 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm — Reply

    Calvin & Hobbes, just funny, and with probably the fewest duds in terms of jokes. Runners up: Far Side, Bloom County (need to read more of it,) and Peanuts.

  11. Bill the Ckir
    May 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm — Reply

    Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite. I love the Far side and Bloom county as well but Calvin and Hobbes is the one I can go back to over and over and get the most consistent laughs. It gives me a warm feeling and still has the moments of intelligence and insight the other two share. Also, Calvin is essentially me when I was very young except he is braver.

  12. gary
    May 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm — Reply

    Calvin and Hobbes. Easily stands the test of time far far better than the runners-up. If anything it gets better over time. Watterson had some great insights into human nature, some of which a kid just can’t appreciate. Now that I’ve matured (a little) it just gets better.

  13. May 8, 2014 at 9:11 pm — Reply

    Undoubtedly Calvin and Hobbes. It is, without a doubt, something truly special. It captures the wonder and joy of childhood, is uproariously funny, and truly poignant. That isn’t an easy combination for folks writing long-form works, much less someone working on the funny pages.

  14. May 8, 2014 at 10:48 pm — Reply

    Of all time: I’ll go old school and say Peanuts. Seeing the troubles Charlie Brown went through made you realize you could get through yours. Plus Linus, Lucy, Snoopy and the others made a great cast.

    The best strip going on today is Pearls Before Swine. Another great cast from the cynical Rat and naive Pig, to the Zeeba hungry Crocs. The fact that the author Stephan Pastis is also a character takes it over the top. Half the fun of the Sunday strips is trying to figure out what horribly bad pun is being set up.

  15. Oldcomicfan
    May 9, 2014 at 7:51 am — Reply

    My favorite comic strips have changed over time. When I was young, I really liked Pogo, even though the political portions of the humor were beyond me, but our local paper quit carrying it several years before Walt Kelly’s death and the end of the strip in 1973. Then Peanuts became my favorite until it evolved into “the Snoopy and Woodstock” show, at which point I lost interest. My favorite then became Tumbleweeds until our local paper also quit carrying that strip also. Garfield was my favorite after that until I became aware of how shallow and empty the strip really is. It amazes me that the strip is able to run for so long retreading the same single joke over and over again.

    Garfield typifies all that is wrong with the modern newspaper strip. The size of the comic page and the proportions of the strips has been reduced so much that all there is room for is talking heads with little or no background. The adventure strip, the sci-fi strip, etc. have all gone the way of the dodo bird in favor of simple Gag-A-Day strips that are, more often than not, not all that funny. Many long-running strips have been taken over by lesser talents after the passing of their creators. And when classic strips are reprinted, they are often scrunched out of proportion in order to fit modern reduced real estate. Why bother?

    My current favorite strip is Heavenly Nostrils, about a girl and her pet unicorn. It’s funny and insightful, and manages to work within the confines and limits of modern comic page sizes.

    But my favorite comic strip of all time would have to be Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray. It was still running in the papers when I was in grade school, back in the sixties, though our paper only carried the Sunday strips (which showed the weekly climax of whatever predicament Annie found herself in) and not the daily strips so I never got to see what led up to the Sunday escapades. It was a bit like reading only the last page of each chapter of a novel. The art was at the same time simplistic but bordered on fine-art pen and ink style. The stories were often epic and Dickensonian in scope. There was humor, tragedy and pathos in the stories, and, unfortunately for those who did not agree with him, Gray’s personal political views as well. (Incidentally, a lot of critics of the strip made fun over the fact that Annie never aged and wore the same dress for over fifty years, but when you go back and read the thing from the beginning, Annie changed her outfit frequently, and she did age – slowly – from about five years of age in 1924 to bordering on puberty and starting to show the beginnings of a chest by the 1940s.)

    Over the years, I have bought quite a few reprints of LOA, but none of them were complete. So now I am buying the NAL hardback books which are reprinting the whole comic strip from start to finish. Calvin and Hobbes is the only other comic strip which I have purchased the whole thing in hardback, and is my second most favorite in all time.

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