Sunday, January 15, 2006

Create Your Own Garfield Cartoon

The Garfield Randomizer. Brilliant!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Another Landmark Desecrated

Setting a Plate for Zippy.

Having a particular fondness for Boston, and for Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe, I hate to see it desecrated by the arrival of Zippy the Pinhead.

You've got to love the waitress claiming that the strip "goes over people's heads." Sure, sure -- that's exactly what it does, as long as you define "a random string of unfunny, unclever word association dialogue" as the very pinnacle of wit.

Oh, and a giant statue of anything also automatically being the very pinnacle of wit.

Then, yes, it does go over people's heads.

How I do want to like Bill Griffith, and how I wish I could say something kindly about that strip. It once was rather clever, after all. But that was about 30 years ago. Plenty of strips lose their juice over three decades, but you can forgive them that as long as they at least still try for a daily gag. This strip has spent the last 30 years slacking. And even that is OK in its way. The unforgivable thing is slacking while simultaneously trying to convince us that saying "Velveeta" 20 times in a row is actually a higher form of wit.

It isn't.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Life is Pain, Princess"

And you thought Matt Groening is the one who writes Life In Hell.

No, I have to back up Hec19 on this one: Lynn Johnston is the queen of glum.

Today Liz is moping around because... why? Her friends are getting married and she doesn't live at home any more? So now she's suddenly depressed, along with always-depressed mom?

Wasn't she just partying and having a great time on New Year's Eve? (Oh, right -- we didn't see that.) Well, wasn't she just head over heels in love with Constable Squarejaw? Now she's sad? Now life has no meaning?

I just don't see how she's going to properly motivate the natives of Mgigig with that attitude. They can sense fear.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Comics on Fresh Air

Brian Walker, son of Mort and now author of Hi and Lois, was interviewed on Fresh Air on January 3. A recording is available here, at least for now.

It's a good, if all-too-brief, interview. Terry Gross sounds a little disinterested, frankly, and Walker seems rather somnambulent for a guy who is a gag writer, author of a dozen books on comics history, and who "co-founded the International Museum of Cartoon Art." (He writes Hi and Lois and it's drawn by Chance Browne, son of Dik Browne. Mort still draws Beetle Bailey himself, it seems, with some gags provided by Brian Walker.)

He has interesting things to say about how Beetle was originally a college student, the development of Miss Buxley (shifting her from being the butt of jokes, so to speak, to her cracking wise at General Halftrack's expense) and tells a good story about how Rose is Rose can get away with the husband and wife getting sexy with each other while Hi and Lois have to stay squeaky clean.

There's a funny moment near the end where Terry asks if, as a kid, Walker ever saw incidents from his family life show up in his dad's strip. Walker says "Oh, yeah, absolutely, the strip was practically a diary of our family life." Terry cuts in to say, "You mean, Hi and Lois?"

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Clerk's Revenge

The New York Times sez a new comic named Retail starts its run tomorrow, drawn by a disgruntled ex-sales clerk.

"His aim for the comic strip, which will be published beginning tomorrow, is to do for the mall what 'Dilbert' did for the office, revealing the dysfunctional world of bickering employees, spineless managers and cruel shoppers that lurks behind the cheery sales slogans... The strip's recurring theme is the always uneasy, and, at times, explosive relationship between sales clerk and consumer, who simultaneously need and despise one another."

Well, the Times may be laying it on a little thick. They play up the revenge angle pretty big. Still, is bitterness the basis for a great comic? Later in the story we read:

"The comic strip is set at a department store called Grumbel's, which the syndicate requested be in a mall in case Mr. Feuti runs out of material from a single store. It follows four stock retail characters: Marla, the unappreciated middle manager; Cooper, the smart-aleck clerk who despises customers; Val, the overqualified, sarcastic sales clerk; and Stuart, the irritable by-the-books store manager."

Underappreciated... smart-aleck... sarcastic... irritable. Fun people! (Interesting detail about the syndicate asking to have the store in a mall, though. Love that kind of background information.)

I guess it's possible that if someone had described "Dilbert" before it started running, the character descriptions would have read much the same way. And I think Dilbert is very funny.

Also, it's clear that most people's appetite for shopworker anger is greater than mine. The David Sedaris story "Santaland Diaries," recounting his hatred of being an elf at Macy's, made me cringe a lot more than laugh. My primary reaction was, "If you can't stand the job, quit the job -- don't do a bad job, take the paycheck, and then gripe about how stupid your employer is."

But "Santaland Diaries" is now regarded as a kind of Christmas classic, I find, so clearly I'm in the minority there. Still: if the strip is about how horrid the buying public is, won't the humor be coming at the expense of most readers?

On the other hand, the Times claims that one in five Americans works in retail, and that's a big audience. Actually, the Times is quoting the King Features site for the comic, which says "In an industry that employs more than 23 million people, (approximately one in five Americans)..."

23 million people is one in five Americans? That pencils out to... 115 million citizens? Seems like a slight understatement.

Well, now I'm just being picky. In the spirit of clean slates and appreciation for new ideas, I hereby say "Welcome, Retail! Knock our socks off!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Amok FBOW Time

Ok, I know. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know.

I know that actual chronological time and logic have no place in "For Better or For Worse." There's no reason to expect it any more than you'd expect Britney Spears to release a concept album on the implications of human cloning.

But STILL: when, exactly, did Paul and Elizabeth get chummy? Suddenly they're in a car proclaiming their love for each other... since when? I thought the last two months had been all April's acne and Elly's vacuum cleaner. I had to go back to the archives to see that yes, while I was averting my eyes for a week they actually met and talked in three strips in early November.

Three strips, then he's persona non grata for a month, and then suddenly he pops up again, driving her to White River, telling her his world revolves around her, that he wants her to meet his family and is in love with her? ("Gosh, am I coming on too strong?") In my little corner of the world, when a guy with a gun sees your photo, tracks you down at night in your small town, then starts insisting that his world revolves around you, it's grounds for a restraining order, not grounds for romance.

And now Elizabeth is telling Dee that Paul has "already won"? Well, whatever.

Mainly I just feel bad for poor Warren, who gets left out of the strip for a year only to be dragged back into things just to be the poor schmuck in Liz's love life. What does Lynn have against helicopter pilots?

Monday, December 26, 2005

It's The Most Woeful Time of the Year

Aieeee! It's "Kwanzaa story" time again, dear reader, in Curtis.

This not being a knock on Kwanzaa, mind you. But yes, it IS a knock on Kwanzaa stories in "Curtis." I think my reaction would be pretty much the same if the cast of "Zits" went on "on hiatus so that we may bring to you, dear reader, this original tale of Christmas lore."

I prefer turkey sandwiches during the holidays, not baloney.