the demise of newspaper comics, or Dagwood beats the crap out of Billy
I haven't bought a newspaper since September of 2001, and then it was only to clip articles about someone I knew. I read the paper online now; I get all the news I need that way and I don't have to wade through ads or ridiculous filler articles about stars getting married/divorced/pregnant/arrested.
I had a method of reading the paper back when I actually had it (Newsday) delivered to my home. I would read the entire sports section, flip the paper over, skim through the news, head for the editorials and then sit back and relish the real treat. Ah, the comics section.
Remember when the comics section brought daily delights? At its heyday, you could get Calvin and Hobbes, Far Side and Bloom County in one sitting. Everything else was just extraneous. [note: I refuse to date myself here and write about anything else before then. I did that already, anyhow]
You really don't have to pick up a paper today to know what's happening on the comics page. In fact, I will boldly predict what today's full-paneled, full-colored strips will bring: Cathy goes on a diet! Garfield eats Lasagna! Jeffy says something precious! Dagwood makes a sandwich and/or takes a nap!
Where's the fresh jokes? Where is the satirical commentary on modern life? Is life in comic strips really that predictable? I long for the days of Spaceman
Ziff, talking cows and my favorite penguin. Yes, I know the penguin is back. It's just not the same anymore.
I imagine a world where all current comic strip characters live. Their daily lives are much like the lives they play out in the newspaper each day. Here comes Billy, running zig-zag through the neighborhood just to fetch his dad the paper, which was right on his front step all along! Ah, but next door neighbor Dagwood has had quite enough of this nonsense and runs after Billy, knocks him down and beats him with a Subway 12 incher. Cathy comes running out of her house to see what's going on and as Dagwood is mercilessly rubbing Billy's face in the dirt, Cathy gives in to her cravings and eats the Subway sandwich that Dagwood dropped. Uh, oh! Here comes the mom from For Better or Worse! She's is going to give them quite a lesson in how to peacefully mediate a fight and then they'll all head to the retirement home down the block to visit Annie and Broom Hilda and Brenda Starr, and Annie still looks like she's ten even though she has to be about 60 by now! And they would all be entertained with a fantastic donut eating contest between Garfield and Cathy, and later on Momma will find Cathy puking her guts out and she'll realize what the rest of the world figured out long ago; Cathy has an eating disorder, most likely brought on by stress from dealing with both her overbearing mother and her passive aggressive boyfriend.
Of course, if I drew that comic land one day, it would end badly. I suppose some giant, drooling alien who goes by the name of Calvin and looks somewhat like a dinosaur would eventually stomp through town, crushing every last cliched character to death. Free at last. Ding Dong, Ziggy and his animals are dead.
I long for the days when comics weren't so treacly and warm and fuzzy. I don't want to see Grandpa's spirit hanging over Jeffy's shoulder, making sure he doesn't get hurt. If I wanted something like that, I would just start a Precious Moments collection. I want to see more strips where moms tell their sons to go play chicken with a train. I want to see more surreal silliness.
One can only live so long on a steady diet of shopping and lasagna before they give up and close the paper. Sure, there are still a few comics I find interesting, but I can just click and read and not have to open the paper funny page to find Dick Tracy still staring up at me as if he was still relevant.
In my comic world, Dick Tracy would be retired by now, living in a one bedroom apartment where he spends his day cursing at Matlock on the television while resting another can of Miller Lite on his beer belly. Every once in a while, Brenda Starr would stop over for a visit, but things would always turn ugly when Dick reminds Brenda that she hasn't aged well at all.
Not many of them have aged well, actually. And the ones that did packed up and left the neighborhood a long time ago. Guess you gotta know when to fold 'em.