Sunday, June 27, 2010

One nice thing about newspaper comic strips

I've mentioned in passing before that I have a new roommate now—Yogi, a 12-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever (pictured below). She was my mother's dog and has lived with her the majority of those 12 years, but now poor old Yogo has developed dog arthritis and doesn't travel as well as she used to, so she's been living with me since this past spring. As it turns out, the lifestyle of an old, arthritic dog and that of a comics blogger are remarkably compatible!

A few days ago, I was going to make a pot of coffee for elevenses, and when I opened the cupboard where I keep my coffee I found a Sunday Peanuts taped to the inside of the cupboard door. My mother must have cut it out and taped it up as a surprise where she knew I'd find it the last time she was here.

The subject matter was Charlie Brown ruminating on how thankless the task of caring for a dog is...except for when it's not thankless.

Maybe not the greatest Peanuts strip, and the funnies page it was cut from (not exactly sure which paper, although I can narrow it down to three) had it laid out in an uneven column that hardly flatters it (see below), but it made me smile at the time, perhaps as much because it was a symbol that a family member was thinking of me and used it as part of a nice gesture.

And it reminded me of at least one thing about newspaper comics that is kind of special (Generally I only bring them up on the blog when it's to say something disparaging about how terrible they have become).

Is there any other medium of popular creative expression which lends itself to this sort of gesture? You might see a scene in a movie or a TV show or even a commercial or perhaps hear a song on the radio that reminds you of a friend or loved one, but you can't exactly take a pair of scissors to a TV or movie screen; you can reduce a song to a physical artifact to stick in an envelope or tape to a refrigerator door.

It's technically possible to cut a passage out of a book, of course, but books (like comics!) are expensive. The funnies are delivered to people's houses for such a little amount of money that they're practically free.

I don't want to open any web comics vs. paper comics debates, but I think this sort of funnies-as-interpersonal-currency is something the paper ones continue to do better than web comics. Sure, you can print out any comic you read on the web to put up on the office bulletin board, but it's a more engaged comics reader who will go looking at particular sites on the Internet to see strips (I know I'm the only person in my extended family and circle of friends who does so, for example).

Whatever their deficiencies, newspaper comic strips remain the most cut-out-and-taped-to-kitchen-cupboards type of comic...or popular art of any kind.

Well, newspaper comics or amateur, original art by little kids related to whoever owns the kitchen cupboards, I guess....


The particular strip discussed above:
(As always, clicking the images make them bigger, if you're having trouble appreciating Schulz's line work)


Kid Kyoto said...

I hear what you're saying but it's now easier than ever to that with media. A funny comic can be posted on facebook, a message board or a blog, good scenes from a TV show can go on you tube and be linked etc.

None of that has the charm of a comic strip taped to a door or pinned in a cube, but it can be done.

Sea-of-Green said...

In college (mind you, this was the mid-to-late 1980s), students in my dorm often taped clippings of Bloom County and Far Side comic strips to dorm room doors. It was a way to communicate what we thought was funny and/or worth thinking about -- and also a way to warn newcomers of what a specific dorm room's inhabitants were like. ;-)