Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Barber Shop 3- The Funny Pages Ain't Funny No More

When I was a kid, Sunday was a thrilling day. I got to look at a huge glorious full color pile of newspaper comics in every imaginable style.
Great classics like Li'l Abner, Dick Tracy, Brenda Starr, Pogo, Dennis The Menace and more...
Even the newer comics were drawn beautifully-The Flintstones and Yogi Bear by Gene Hazelton and Ed Benedict, Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker, Big George by Virgil Partch... I used to make collections of all my favorite strips.I copied my favorite drawings and read the jokes and stories over and over again.Whoever picked all these great strips sure was kind to the readers.
I feel sorry for kids today. George will explain why...

There used to be semi-plausible excuses for why modern animation was so crappy (1970-1990):
It costs too much so you have to have tons of executives who want you to aim at the lowest common denominator.
You have to send all the animation overseas.
It has to be done too fast.
These aren’t very good excuses but they are something at least.

However I can’t figure out any excuse at all for why the newspaper funny pages have gone to hell.
Each artist can do a whole strip himself-only 4 panels a day.
They get paid a mountain of money.
It can all be done in the country.
You don’t need hundreds of artists, so you can pick the best ones.
There are people alive today who can draw really good cartoons, but they aren’t in the newspapers for some unexplainable reason.

It’s got to be the editors or art directors. The people who choose which comics get to see print, and they choose totally repulsive amateurish stuff.
I remember when it started, in the 1960s. I started seeing comics where the drawings were so poor, you couldn’t tell where the face was. Which part is the mouth? Where is the nose?
Now almost every comic is like that!
You have to spend an hour staring at the drawing just to figure out what the hell it is. That’s fun???
I think all funny pages editors ought to be burned at the stake for what they’ve done to the comics. And so does George Liquor.

Can anybody out there explain to me why the comics are so completely amateurish now? Who in the world can enjoy them?
I want to see an actual photo of someone laughing at the funny pages. I have a friend who calls them the “sad pages” and that’s the origin of this gag in “Comic Book”.

If someone out there has a time machine, grab some modern newspaper “funnies” and go back to 1940 and show the newspaper editors and cartoonists what’s being made now.

They’ll think you’re insane!


Batalla said...

I agree with you about newspaper comics. I pretty much stopped reading after Calvin and Hobbes and Farside ended. I'm just glad more artists are starting to use the web the get their content out. While there are many webcomics and such that leave plenty to be desired, it's still better than the unfunny, poorly composed and microscopic strips found in syndication.


Garwik said...

One of the main problems is that people that run newspapers don't think comics are very important. They keep shrinking them down, so it gets to the point where artists have to draw four panels of side views. Of course there are some comics that still try and put a little bit of beauty in there work, so shame on everybody else.
About ten years back, my newspaper started running a page of classics. Every sunday we'd get stuff like Pogo and The Phantom, and those were great. Of course due to budget constraints it had to be cut. Why not cut the bloody sports section instead? I'm sure you could cram all the game scores into a tiny box somewhere... give us full page, well drawn comics!

Anonymous said...

John, I personally am a big fan of Aaron McGruder's Boondocks. Although, now he doesn't draw them anymore since he has a tv show, but originally it was very unique (anime style, which usually I'm not a fan of) in american comics and it was unafraid to speak candidly about issues. So much so that it got banned from certain papers after 9/11, etc. But on the whole, most comics are crap nowadays.

Gabriel said...

the Cathy parody is priceless!! Along with Garfield and Ziggy, Cathy embodies all the crapdom of modern cartoony shit!

JohnK said...

Hey Evan,


Gabriel said...

One other thing: Now it occurs to me that those parodies are still too good compared to today's harsh reality. Today's strips are not composed of 4 distinctly drawn panels, they're the same panels of expressionless talking heads repeated with different text.

Anonymous said...

You don't like Boondocks at all? Some of the Sunday strips looked nice, but its more in the writing than the art. Maybe its a generational thing.

Amber said...

I agree with your post in it's entirety, but what I REALLY would have liked to see is a potshot at Garfield or Marmaduke.

makinita said...

I live in Ecuador and here we still have the good strips Beetle baily , Hagar the Horrible, Condorito, the Phamton, Superman , Gardfield well mmm Gardfield kinda sucks ehhehe , popeye, Condorito, The capitan and the boys, etc.

chepicimo said...

boondocks suck !!!

nightwing said...

i love foxtrot, along with the non-sequitur, calvin and hobbes is amazing too, i have the master works and it is pretty cool

makinita said...

Hi John
i know that u are a big fan of the stooges well who ins`t
here a pic for a music video im making for a local band hope u like

cheers man

Anonymous said...

Real amatuerish drawing (Drabble, Crock, Bloom County, etc.) sometimes gets confused with "ironic" amatuerism (a la Matt Groening or Gary Larson). Too many people can't tell the difference and it has lowered the bar for everybody. I am beginning to think there are just more and more stupid people out there who are threatened by good, bold cartoony drawings. By contrast they are comforted by crap that looks like: "Oh, I could draw that myself!"
Schulz once said with chagrin: "I'm the man who made the comics safe for bad drawings."

Anonymous said...

I have an extensive collection of cartoon strips at my dispose and you can watch the deterioration of each one as you go through the books. Some comics which started out good have just gone right down the drain, like all motivation was gone. I was pissed when Gary Larson threw in the towel because he felt his work wasn't as good as it had been but now I don't blame him for leaving it while it was still memorable instead of dragging it through the mud and into oblivion.
I'll speak personally on Garfield. Garfield is a big part of my life and who I am today. I learned how to read to Garfield and he was the first character I learned how to draw. Today when I read the early strips they are still solid and very funny. Today's Garfield is lacking big time and when I had the honour to spend the day with Jim Davis one on one, it saddened me that nearly a month's worth of strips would get cranked out in the span of one afternoon, he doesn't even do the cleaned up versions himself any more. I wanted to say "hey, pull it together! You're spending all your time on merchandising but nobody is buying it because the strip is so weak!". It really bothered me that this is what it had become.
I do like "Get Fuzzy" though.

Pat said...

The big reason newspaper comics are so crappy is that cartoonists DON'T make a "mountain of money," at least not when they're starting out.

The comics page doesn't add that much extra value to a 50-cent newspaper for the papers to justify paying much to the syndicates. They make up for some of that in volume, which means they've got to appeal to the lowest-common denomiator in order to gain the widest audience.

A new comic strip, in 100 or so papers nationwide, might only make the cartoonist a couple hundred dollars a week--you could do better waiting tables! Once a strip proves successful, though, the cartoonist basically has a guaranteed spot on the comics page for life, and therefore no incentive to actually do quality work.

Add into the mix all the conservative grandmas who buy newspapers and write letters to complain about anything slightly controversial--the young, hip audience gets its news (and its comics) online.

Editors and art directors don't want or need GOOD comics--how many more papers would carrying "Alley Oop" actually sell?--they just want to make money and avoid any headaches or actual work.

DB said...

I like the Spiderman comic you see sometimes - it only has 4 panels too, so the story advances by one microsecond per installment.

Anonymous said...

boondocks is crap artwise, it's normally the same drawing cut and pasted over and over again with different text.

What has happen to our culture, nowadays no one seems to care about art.

It's a sad state of affairs, I tell you.

Anonymous said...

They still print the funny pages? People still read newspapers?

Honestly I haven't read the funnies since Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and The Far Side were still around. If the Boon Docks strip is anything like the TV show the creator should be beaten within an inch of his life for crimes against humanity.

Gabriel said...

Alicia's comment about Garfield and merchandise reminded me of a sad tale: one day I was talking to this girl, and somehow I managed to bring up Betty Boop. She said something along the lines 'Oh, I'm a big fan of her, I didn't know she was from an animated cartoon!'. If I had a gun I don't know weather i would had her or myself shot! A lot of girls here like Betty Boop, but they only know her from notebook covers and other merchandising. I guess it must say something about how great she is as an icon, how appealing is the character design, but it's also sad that those girls will never watch Mysterious Mose or Bimbo's Initiation...

Dennis said...


Poor Pogo, he would be squished into incoherence in today's comics pages.

Better off skipping the newspapers; buy books of the classic strips on eBay.

Christopher said...

Tonnes of problems with comics nowadays, including money, editors, all that stuff.

Probably the biggest one to me, though, is that most comics (and most cartoons nowadays too) are written with verbal jokes instead of visual jokes. If comic pages just printed the scripts of the comics without showing the pictures there wouldn't be any difference. For example, here's a random recent Dilbert:

(Dilbert is reading an Email)

Email: "Bob will be leaving us after 17 years as Vice President of Marketing. Bob's accomplishments include lowering both our margins and our sales while overseeing a series of confusing marketing campaigns. I hope you'll all join me in wishing for a piano to fall on his head."

And that's the whole strip. Three panels of Dilbert just sitting and looking at a computer screen. THERE'S NO REASON FOR THIS STRIP TO BE PRESENTED WITHIN A VISUAL MEDIUM!

PS - My brother just picked up a Krazy Kat hardcover comilation. Holy crap, that's some good sh*t.

Sophi Braunschweiger said...

Speaking of web comics, this is a decent one. It had a wee Kricfalusi homage in the last installment:

kp said...

*Sigh* It's all true! Bad drawings and poor writing. Especially with politics/various issues. Now I may be out of the loop, but "in-your face and cutting edge" stuff is just a bunch of typographical diarrhea to me. I like political humour, but this stuff doesn't even get a mild chuckle out of me. They get way too preachy and full of bad sarcasm for the likes of me. Those who mentioned Calvin & Hobbs--- GOD do I miss that strip! Even my favourite humour mag has gone down the tubes. R.I.P MAD.

Mat said...

Sounds like Bill Watterson.

Mat said...

Oh, and John, can you give me like one or two sentences on what makes the golden age of cartoons so great. I am doing a speech on it in my speech class and would like to cite you as a source since I know you're so passionate about that time period.

Sam said...

Yeah John do you like Calvin and Hobbes?

Jhhl said...

John, I'm glad you mentioned BIG GEORGE, because it was a silent comic. Vip had a very weird sense of humor - sometimes kind of violent, but he held it back for Big George.

And apparently, he could crank 'em out. According to Hank Ketchum in "The Merchant of Dennis", at the time of his death, Vip was TWO YEARS ahead on his Big George strips!

SamyCat said...

Hi John!
I answer the same..
Do you like Calvin and Hobbes?
I think It`s a nice comic to read :)

Matt K. said...

I loved Calvin and Hobbes. I think Zits is half-decent, but the only comic I still really like in the papers is Non-Sequitir.

Brett W. Thompson said...

Another amazing post. This blog is too good to be true, John :)

I love the Barber Shop pages! I'm trying to study the drawings, they're great- so beautifully expressive :)

Kyle said...

I know it's not sunday comics but how about Crumb's work or Charles Adams. Craig Thompsons book Blankets was also a fine piece of work. Hows your view on these guys.

tim said...

Any comic that relys completely on writing can be good, but can't be great...that is, unless you can take the speech bubbles away and it is still funny.

A lot of internet comics lack in that aspect as well.

mitchL said...

People are mentioning Calvin & Hobbes a lot. I have like four or five of those compilations that I keep handy in the bathroom and it saddens me that there will never be a new one.

From what I hear, Bill Watterson retired into the kind of lifestyle that the dad in the strip dreamed of, I think, all because of the same points John is bringing up.

Luckily, our good hero John is still with us and being proactive about it all rather than denying us the privelage to see new works.

I think if anything is ever going to get done, a massive amount of people have to take these asshole executive decision makers by storm, but I wonder how something like that could be organized or carried through...

People are too concerned with who's being voted off islands or which porky midget will become the next CEO with a record deal and can't be bothered to consider where all the real entertainment has gone.

mr. robot said...

i wholeheartedly agree. i've been reading a lot of krazy kat lately, and it's just massively depressing how much everything modern just sucks.

Trevour said...

WHAT'S the point of comic strips if they only have writing in them?!? The emphasis should all be on the visual. In fact, look at the George Liquor comic - even the words are part of the visual appeal!!! I love it.

Boondocks - the WORST comic I've seen in a long time. It's not even a comic - it's just wasted ink.

Everybody should go out and buy the Complete Dennis The Menace (1951-1952) book - some of the greatest inking ever done in a daily comic (single panel of course). I think 1953-54 is coming out later this spring. Anyway, it's 1000% more edgy than the modern watered-down Dennis crap. Not only was Hank Ketcham amazing with the pen, but those early Dennis The Menace's were some of the FUNNIEST comics I've ever seen in print. I mean, Dennis - TOTAL uncontrollable hellion.

So check that out.

The only Sunday comics I like nowadays are the reprints of classic Carl Barks stuff.

Anonymous said...


I can't believe you posted this. I completely agree.

Me and my friends have made a movie...It was my thesis film for college. It's about a really bad comic strip artist. He does a mediocre strip called "The Silver Lining"
It's a 35 minute mockumentary about the worst cartoonist ever.

We've been talking about how we'd love to send you a copy. The movie is called "Tim Warner: A Life in the Clouds"... We've been screening it at comic conventions and gotten some small press about it as well. We're really proud of it and we think you'd really get what we're doing!

I'd love to send this to you, if you're interested!


Anonymous said...


The worst strip ever is Mallard Fillmore. It's pathetic. He's just spouting his opinions, but he uses a crappy drawing of a duck so it's ok, cause it's just a duck saying it! Everyone he draws looks really frumpy and gross. Awful.

"Get Fuzzy" is pretty good and has a lot of personality, plus it's clear the guy could draw. Often the drawings are funny.

I think Berkeley Breathed is a really great artist...I've always been a fan of his stuff. He makes a cameo in my movie! (see above).

My all time favorite is Pogo. I love Pogo so much...I was obsessed with it and spent like all my money on the old collections. I was laughing out loud on the subway one night, after I got like rejected by a girl and I was so depressed...But Pogo on the subway had me dying of laughter and I will never forget that.

Check out this link by the way if anyone is interested in the bad-comic-strip artist movie I made and what it's deal is...


Justin W. said...

I really like Get Fuzzy. That is pretty much the only new strip that I read anymore in the limited number of comics our town's paper has.

Otherwise, I read other strps like Dilbert and still might chuckle a bit, but as most have said, they are just text jokes. You might as well not even have drawings with them. Maybe a couple of these cartoons would be fine here and there, but they are defenetly taking over the comic scene.

I think the internet is the best new medium through which to see new GOOD strips. It is too bad they are not recognized as much, though.

Justin W. said...

By the way, does anyone know of any good resources (books) that have any of these old strips I hear so much about but never see? Like Dick Tracy or Krazy Kat?

Anonymous said...


Popeye by E.C. Seger...Probably the most laugh out loud funniest comic strip I've ever read.


Steve Stark said...

Haha I was thinking the same thing the other day on my break at work. Its pretty bad when Rex Morgan MD. is the funniest freakin thing on the "Funnies". I think we should all take over and insert story lines. Shake things up by giving Dilbert gonorrhea. Std's are always hilarious.

Duck Dodgers said...

I'm a fan of the Mickey Mouse Daily Strips and Sunday Pages by Gottfredson and of the strips and sunday pages of Li'l Abner by Al Capp.

Anonymous said...

You are so right about the comics of today. My soul weeps... Garfield needs to be put to sleep.

Joel Bryan said...

I think the problem is, they can't put as many ads in the paper if they run the cartoons larger. The space is so cramped, there's barely enough room for the craptacular drawings we have these days, much less the good ones of yesteryear.

Ad revenue totally drives paper content. News is just filler, and cartoons are just there for tradition's sake. We had cartoons years ago, by god we gots 'em now, even in this sad shape.

That's why most strips are poorly-drawn gag-a-day time wasters. Lowest common denominator thinking coupled with the economic realities of the newspaper business. It's crass. Very crass.

I liked the drawings in "Liberty Meadows" but I found the writing to be sub-mental. Plus, it was severely derivative of "Bloom County." The guy liked to show off his rendering skills, though.

Which reminds me- I saw a hilarious posting on a message board where some guy erased Garfield's thought balloons and actually made "Garfield" funny. He then did the same for "Fred Bassett" and that was just bizarre- a real dog, doing real dog stuff with no commentary whatsoever.

They should do the same for "Liberty Meadows."

Someone mentioned "Get Fuzzy." I think that strip's atrocious. The drawings are bloopy, based more on copying elements from other artists, like Berkely Breathed and Bill Watterson than actually looking at cats, dogs and humans, and the overuse of computer tones renders it all murky and muddy and almost indesciperable, especially considering the relatively poor reproduction most newspapers get.

It's not funny, either. Attitude cribbed from "The Simpsons," with the same basic joke of the cat being this apoplectic badboy asshole every day.

I think it shows how badly comics have declined in general that "Get Fuzzy" gets touted as the best among them.

The funniest strip is "Monty." The guy who draws that has a strange, elastic style like Basil Wolverton minus the little hatching/modeling stuff, and the storylines are giggle-inducing. He sort of takes that "this is a cartoon, so cartoon-like things should happen" attitude and runs with it.

It's dorky. There's nothing self-consciously "cool" or "hip" about it, compared to "Get Fuzzy" or "Liberty Meadows." It wears its goofiness openly and proudly and therefore, cracks me up repeatedly.

Anyway, it's all a big deal for me. I fell in love with reprints of the original Segar "Popeye" strips back when the Robert Altman movie came out... I think I was an impressionable 12-year old at the time.

When I compared those to the then-current "Popeye," I was like, "What the hell?!?" Literally. I cursed a lot when I was 12.

Anyway, you're right.

bab2600 said...

Their are a few comics I read and get a couple of chuckles out of. Wizard of Id, Lockhorns, Peanuts, and the Boondocks. I dislike the anime art but I love the writing in the earlier strips. I spent some time in New York City doing my student teaching for half a year and this has made the earlier Boondock strips relateable. Recently the strip has been blah. I think Crumb has some decent stuff but is very pretentious, stuffy, and over rated. I generally just read my Krazy Kat book, or one of my Calvin and Hobbes books, or HATE over and over again for comics, or the occasional indie/video game comic for quick laughs from the writing.

cemenTIMental said...

Haha the parody funny pages are brilliant, spot on...

Interestingly, various people on the internets have discovered a way to make Garfield funnier (or at least weirder)... you simply erase Garfield's thought/speech bubbles. In almost all cases his dialogue is TOTALLY redundant, and occasionally the strip is transformed into a genuinely great visual gag.

More often though, it reveals that the strip is actually an incredibly dark and tragicomic tale of a lonely and psychotic guy who has imaginary conversations with his cat.

Examples here:

Gabriel said...

Joel, kudos for remembering Monty. I don't know what it's like today because no paper around here carries that strip, but i used to read it when it was still called Robot man, it was the only strip that was not a pure crap on the page. And probably the only one that made me laugh even before i started reading it, the looks alone were funny enough.

Charles Brubaker said...

There were still good comics that came out after 1960s. Like "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Far Side". Of course, those ended.

There are still comics with good drawings. Like "Lucky Cow", although it could use a better WRITER, but the art is good enough for me to read them.

Other strips I read: PEARLS BEFORE SWINE by Pastis, OUT OF THE GENE POOL by Janz, FoxTROT by Amend, PRICKLY CITY by Stantis (Yes, I tend to be conservative), and I even read BOONDOCKS by McGruder...and some others I can think of...

While I appreciate good art in comics, I also appreciate simple arts, too. For example, I think the "clip art" style in "Pearls Before Swine" is a nice touch.

Gabriel said...

I had never heard of Boondocks, so I did a search for it. Yep, crap.
Anyway, whoever came up with this idea of erasing Garfield's thought balloons is a genius. Its so amazing i'll repost Cementimental's link properly so you guys won't have to cut and paste, check it out!

Anonymous said...

The elites don't want people to get any life out of comics. They want people programmed and controlled. So they just print pseudo-comics, so people don't suspect anything has changed. In these lifeless comics, fun is obsolete; Sexy is out; bland is in. Cheers, Simon.

Eebs said...

Wow, what an active blog! Keep up the great work, JohnK!

Jesse said...

It is my belief that the average newspaper reading american is afraid of good, creative art.

Anonymous said...

'The Norm' is the worst comic strip I have ever read. My college paper picked that one up after 'Calvin and Hobbes' stopped running. It was right there above the crossword, so I couldn't avoid reading it. If I ever meet the cartoonist I'm gonna punch him.

bab2600 said...

I have a new found respect for Garfield. It is amazing without Garfields bubbles! The humor in the comic completely changes, its site gags, and John is like the typical single pathetic guy who talks to his pets ALL THE TIME! It deserves another link and everyone should check it out. It is no more fat cat lasagna jokes.

Anonymous said...

I have an unrelated question for you John. Are there any poorly animated cartoons that you find humorous, and would watch regularly if the animation was as good as the writing?

Josh Boelter said...

I also really like Get Fuzzy. It's the first comic I've gotten into since the end of Calvin and Hobbes.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous above me, John K once interviewed Mike Judge and praised Beavis and Butthead. I don't know if his views are still the same, but i pretty much agree that b&b were cool. I guess even poor drawings can have their charms sometimes. B&B was an exceptional case I guess, because i don't like even 'king of the hill', it's just too serious for me.

akira said...

the boondocks comic strip isn't even fit to wipe the crap out of my butt.. the only good thing about boondocks is when someone says they like it, you get a pretty good idea what kind of a person they are...

i think opus has been pretty good, at least, it's the best thing going now and better than anything berkely has done since becoming too lazy to do a daily strip.. (the coloring is questionable though)

mutts makes me sad because he turns appealing drawings into shi*&ty comic strips..

my favorite strip from when i was a child was called "Counter Culture." does anyone else remember that or was it a midwest thing? (also i like mother goose and grimm, but they don't seem to publish that in LA either)

Anonymous said...

Love Good Old Days' comic strips!

Anonymous said...

Listen up John K.,
I'm am seventeen. I live in Ohio, and all I do is draw. I would like to send you some of my drawings. Hopefully soon I will be posting them online. I know I probably sound like some dumb teenager. But I really try, and I would like to be as good as you someday. So please e-mail me. My address is


Anonymous said...

In 1919, Frank King's Gasoline Alley strip really kicked ass! Hard to believe, considering what it eventually devolved into, but true.

Vincent said...

Mike Fontanelli
Sent me this link.

Ted said...

How has no one mentioned Mutts? It's got a very pleasing style, reminiscent of both Segar and Herriman.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a HUUUGE "Get Fuzzy" fan, but just defend it a little:

I think it stands out on the comics page because it has personality. And that goes a long way. In fact I'd say in any art form...movies, music, photography, cartoons...At the LEAST I am looking for some personality. I like to think my own stuff, and my friends stuff, and the stuff I admire (like Spumco, and the bands I like, etc) is bursting with personality.

I think Get Fuzzy has a unique voice. The characterization is strong and the drawings, however technically good or bad they may be, DO make me laugh. It seems to have a more casual, yet character driven attitude than the other comics on the page.

Boondocks...I'm not crazy about it, but sometimes the punchlines will be good. I think the art is kind of ugly though.

Anyone else read Mallard Fillmore? I read it every day just for how bad it is.


Acetate said...

Have to agree with John, and most of the folks here. I try redaing them from time to time, but they just are not funny. I could forgive the art a lil, if only for a funny punch line or gag. However, there are none to be found. At least not in the Baltimore Sun.

Acetate said...

Good lord I mispelled "reading" okay, okay...I'm sorry.

KarmaRocketX said...

The creator of The Boondocks deserves to have his head held underwater while being stabbed in the back of the head with an ice pick 207 times.

It insults just about everything on just about every level.

It's an insult to african culture. It's an insult to anime. It's an insult to newspaper comics. it's an insult to television and animation on television. it's an insult to the concept of comedy. It's a insult to the entire goddamn world.

*takes a breath*

The Boondocks sucks mightily and I hope the creator dies in a car accident by tomorrow. That is all.

Gabriel said...

Another great link many people won't check because it's not clickable and copying and pasting it just too much trouble:
Hank Ketcham and friends interview.

Jorge Garrido said...

UGGHHH The Boondocks are crap! Good writing, but this guy should be writing witty political columns, not comics. He said so himself, "I'm a better writer than artist" but the new artist sucks, too! Calvin & Hobbes was the best modern comic, and I didn't even grow up with it in papers. I discovered the books. Everyone needs to read Bill Waterson's rant on modern comics in the 10th anniversary collection of Calvin and Hobbes. He compares the size of the old sunday comics to today's comics. He says it was because newspapers competed since there were tons of papers in each city. Each one would try to have the best comic strip to attract readers. Competition breeds excellence.

I'm also no fan of Peanuts... The first Peanuts christmas special was brilliant, but I didn't like the rest. Too derivative.

Anonymous said...

I blame Anime. It has lowered the expectations for all animated and comic-styled forms of entertainment.
Little or no expressions, everyone looks the same, you can't tell who's a boy and who's a girl...why is this crap popular again?
Most cartoons now a days are smartly written, but poorly animated and designed. Like "Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy", how can people say it was inspired by Ren and Stimpy? They either don't have any expressions or constantly repeat a drawing!
But that doesn't matter to anyone, as long as Billy continues to pick his noes, it's ratings hit the roof, and everyone's happy.

Richard Ryan Anderson said...

Comics in a newspaper are controlled, assembled and written mostly by machine, just as George Orwell predicted in his book 1984. Huge, evil corporate empires controll the funnypages now, which are nothing more than advertisements to sell their shitty merchandizing licences. Dilbert Calendars.. mousepads... Garfield figurines... mind numbing, souless cartoons and hollywood "family entertainment" movies. Its time for us, the common man, to rise up and destroy them all. Atleast Gary Larson and Bill Waterson had the balls to keep their creations and give the big FU to the vampires.

Richard Ryan Anderson said...

And while we're on the subject of sell-outs, My brother and I bought an old NES game in '93 called Ren+Stimpy Veediots! which by all standards is a piece of crap. Jon K owes my brother and I $15.00

Anonymous said...

Richard: big deal, your site is a piece of crap, you probably should pay me the time i wasted visiting it.

Julie said...

When I was growing up, I used to love reading the comics: Andy Capp, Beetle Bailey, B.C., Frank and Ernest, and Garfield (which was funnier back in the early 80's than it is now-- but I was a kid then, too). Later, there was Calvin and Hobbes, and The Far Side. Of course, they were too good to last.

Now all I read is "For Better or For Worse" only because of its soap-opera type story line, plus I've been keeping up with it for years and find it rather endearing, like an old friend.

The only cartoons in print I find funny anymore are editorial cartoons. Anytime I buy the Sunday paper I sigh heavily over the comics section, read my one comic, and reminisce about the good old days.

Thanks for a great post, John K. Your blog is really refreshing to read.

Danielle said...

Good point.

Anonymous said...

BEst Blog on the web..ever!

Anonymous said...

There are good strips out now. I like Dilbert, Monty, Non-Sequitir, For Better or For Worse, Bizarro, and Sherman's Lagoon.

Mike P said...

Hey John,

Their is no doubt in my mind that the last great newspaper comic strip was Calvin and Hobbes. It was a visual masterpiece and had some great humor. Unfortunetly, like you said, the comic industry has so many artistic restrictions. This was exactly what drove Bill Waterson away (literaly, no one knows where he is....he's alive tho).

Also, that Jimmy and George strip is looking good! Can't wait to see more!


e.s. said...

have you ever checked out Perry Bible Fellowship? it's only in a few papers, but its probably the best comic out there. very clever, very well drawn concise comics. should be in every fucking paper...

check it out:

Anonymous said...

"I blame Anime. It has lowered the expectations for all animated and comic-styled forms of entertainment.
Little or no expressions, everyone looks the same, you can't tell who's a boy and who's a girl...why is this crap popular again?
Most cartoons now a days are smartly written, but poorly animated and designed. Like "Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy", how can people say it was inspired by Ren and Stimpy? They either don't have any expressions or constantly repeat a drawing!
But that doesn't matter to anyone, as long as Billy continues to pick his noes, it's ratings hit the roof, and everyone's happy.

While I agree with you on anime's horrible influence nowadays, I'll have to disagree with you on Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. It is a wonderfully animated cartoon with nice character designs. "Keeper of the Reaper" was on last night, and it was fantastic. The show was well written, well voiced, hillarious songs, fantastic sight gags, and non-sequitir sound effects. One of its best episones. There aren't nearly as many nose gags with Billy than there were for Stimpy. When ever I watch a Ren & Stimpy rerun on Nicktoons, I have yet to see one without something happening to Stimpy's nose. Also, the slpash backgrounds, big finger gags, and colorful schnozes are all heavy references to Ren & Stimpy. Ren & Stimpy is a wonderfully doughy and cartoony show, but it is far more juvenile. Billy & Mandy is far more structured with less over the top, and far more subversive, sight gags.

Merlin said...

man- you're cartoons cheer me up!
I need it-i swear!check me out on
peace and happiness

Toren Q Atkinson said...

Wasn't "Monty" the sequel to Robot Man? I enjoyed RM. Bizarro too is usually funny, and always interesting to look at visually.

Citizen Drummond said...

Someone hates Cathy as much as I do! I'm thankful there's people around who are un-PC enough to say something's crap when it's crap. I get tired of artistic back-patting.

Angus Glashier said...

Comic strips aren't any worse these days than the rest of the content in the newspapers. Good riddance to an old, tree-killing medium.

All the good comics are on the web now. Scary Go Round, Something Positive, and Starslip Crisis are doing great stuff. And there's new comics starting all the time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if they are on the web. I've never seen a webcomic that wasn't shit, apart from When I am king.

Anonymous said...

(GOD, I absolutely LOVE this thread...)

Gotta agree with John K. "Boondocks" is utterly wretched pap. "Generational thing" my balls. There's nothing remotely funny about a strip devoted to humorless bile from a racist like MacGruder. It's SO unfunny that no one in the bloody STRIP smiles either. See for yourself.

What's more, he apes the anime style POORLY; if you're gonna be a non-Asian who feels the need to mimic the drawing style of an entirely different culture, do it well. "MegaTokyo" may be drawn by a sadcase white guy, but if he never signed his name to it, you'd never know he wasn't Japanese...

"Zits" is the only strip these days that can carry Bill Watterson's... um, water. "Mutts" is OK, too.

PS - DO strip cartoonists make THAT much money?

Bonnie said...

Not sure if you'll get down here to Comment #87 but I heard through the grapevine that you might be a Star Wars fan and I was wondering you would be interested in being interviewed on the official your appreciation for the saga?

We've been interviewing celebrities and bands about why they like Star Wars in a section called "Star Wars Rocks" on By talking all about their love for Star Wars, it's a great way to show fans that their favorite bands, actors, TV show personalities, animators/artists and other celebs have a soft spot for Darth Vader as much as they do!

We've featured interviews such celebs as actors Topher Grace ("That '70s Show") and Michael Rosenbaum ("Smallville"), "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz, Food Network celebrity chef Alton Brown and the "MythBusters" hosts, as well as the bands: Death Cab for Cutie, Fall Out Boy, Ash, The Bravery, The Decemberists, Good Charlotte, and more -- as you can read here:

Let me know if you're interested!

Eric C. said...


What do you think about Ed Edd N Eddy on Cartoon Network?


Clarke (Csnyde) said...

Hear hear Mr. K!

I can't remember the last time I even glanced at the comics page, for fear of the very thing that has befallen poor Jimmy here in your marvelous comic pages. And unlike a lot of the others who have posted here, I don't think there's even much good writing or humor in any of these currently running strips either, which is why I stopped reading them by the time I graduated high school and haven't returned since.

I find that there's basically no redeeming value in any of the comics I have seem printed in a newspaper since Calvin & Hobbes ended.

Wait! there's always the Word Jumble...

Gator Wrangler said...

I think there's a handful of good comic strips. A few people brought up Opus and Mutts, although no one mentioned my two favorites- Zippy the Pinhead and Piranha Club!

Anonymous said...

the "funnies" are for kids.

they love Cathy.

and Mary Worth.

=shane white= said...

It was my belief and hope that once we cycle through a generation or two, we'll actually have a shot at edgier strips getting into papers, instead of this rich pablum of milquetoast.
But my fear is most of it will be booted to the web and the newspaper's death is nigh. When newspapers are purely downloadable, comics will be something you can take or leave off your subscription.
There are no more funny papers, or funny cartoons to print on them.
What we're accepting as good work is just our tastes begging for whatever flavor you can lick off the newsprint that doesn't taste like crap!


JohnK said...

>>It was my belief and hope that once we cycle through a generation or two, we'll actually have a shot at edgier strips getting into papers,

I don't care about edgy. I'd like to see interesting drawings and maybe a point to the strip.

It kills me that every time I try to read a strip I get to the last panel and say "Huh?".If it had good drawings I would at least have something to look at.

Anonymous said...

Hello John,

what are your favorite Comic Strips of all time?

Anonymous said...

Real amatuerish drawing (Drabble, Crock, Bloom County, etc.) sometimes gets confused with "ironic" amatuerism (a la Matt Groening or Gary Larson). Too many people can't tell the difference and it has lowered the bar for everybody. I am beginning to think there are just more and more stupid people out there who are threatened by good, bold cartoony drawings. By contrast they are comforted by crap that looks like: "Oh, I could draw that myself!"
No, I don't think the "fans" of comic strips think that at all...I completely agree that there's virtually no drawing worth a damn in strip cartoons, but people read them for the hell of it and out of habit; they respond to the writing(another depresssing subject entirely), not the artwork. There's really no excuse for the poor drawing in strips today, except that a)it doesn't seem to matter to readers how poor it is, and b)it's the editors at the syndicates that are the ones demanding, seeking and accepting for publication all these new strips that look exactly like "Boondocks"; it's all self-perpetuating. And no, John, there's really very little money in most comics; the vast majority pay a fairly small wage; imho if an artist has real fantastic chops as a cartoonist, there's no financial incentive to go into the grueling world of strips--much better to be an illustrator for magazines and books, or into animation, etc.
That said, I am so baffled by the trends of 'art"/drawing in comics for the last 10 yeatrs or so--99% of the time I can't tell if the "character", who usually has ONE expression on his face all the time, has his mouth open or closed--or better yet, usually he has NO mouth, or "chin", or, get the idea. But I firmly believe that readers would be just as happy with killer graphics in comics as not. Bill Watterson could certainly draw and ink well.

Joel Bryan said...

To Jordan, with the "Get Fuzzy" defense... yeah, I can see your point. And in that regard, I have to give the strip's creator credit. It'll never be to my taste, but compared to "Dilbert" and "Luann," it's certainly more enjoyable!

As far as the anime discussion that's also raging, while it's true they use a lot of stock expressions... well, you're talking mostly about the tv/video game stuff. Before you slap a generalization across a grouping of animation that's actually extremely diverse in style and subject matter, you need to do a little research.

Just because you've seen shit like "Dragonball Z" on Cartoon Network doesn't mean you have the first idea or clue what the breadth and reach of Japanese animation is.

And I'm not even specifically an anime fan by any means.

Like anything, it has its mass produced, derivative crap. That's what you generally see imported and aimed at American kids. But when it's good, it's just as amazing, if not more so than almost anything being produced currently in the States.

"Pokemon" and all that are no better or worse than the rest of our American kid vid, and I'd suggest that "Winx" or its ilk are a pretty poor way to judge a form that encompasses everything from classic Tex Avery short shorts to our own beloved "Ren and Stimpy."

Same with anime. Not all of it is as standardized as you seem to think. And the best of it beats the snot out of the junk Disney and Dreamworks have been putting out for the past 5-10 years.

But then again, I'm an ANIMATION fan.

=shane white= said...

"I don't care about edgy. I'd like to see interesting drawings and maybe a point to the strip."

Point taken, and I almost would retract that "edgy" marketing statement.

But I find any story, theme or concept in the cartoon strips very doughy and tasteless.

Bizarro world has actually registered a pulse because of it's art and gag ability. Mutts...has that minimalistic confident scratching that harkens back to Krazy Kat, his writing though can be hit or miss.

"I would at least have something to look at."

Yep, I wish there was something that artistically spoke to me, and could handle a turn of a word or two.

Comics suffers the same plight, that's why I'm looking at the Euro stuff, and discovering whole new worlds over there...everybody COME JOIN ME!


Charles Brubaker said...

If you want to see "retro" art, check out "Opus" by Breathed, which is more likely in your Sunday newspaper.

Also, "Mutts". That had the old 1920s art style with the scratchy pen inking. It can be too "hippy" though (the strip is about a group of animals who promotes animal rights)

Anonymous said...

"Opus" is great and magnificently drawn.


Anonymous said...

"Comics suffers the same plight, that's why I'm looking at the Euro stuff, and discovering whole new worlds over there...everybody COME JOIN ME!"

Tell me about it. I've loved "Asterix", "Tintin" & "The Smurfs" forever. Know anyone in Scotland? Ask 'em to score you one of the "Oor Wullie (Our Willie)" annuals; it's not the funniest thing out there but it's got this sort of weird 1930s feel to it that smacks of the early "Thimble Theatre" Sunday strips...

Peggy said...

The good drawings can't survive at the size they run these things now, of course. Especially the way they even abuse the aspect ratio of some of the strips - every time I visit home, I'm always really peeved by the way the occasionally-adventuresome 'Curtis' gets squished horizontally for some reason.

Did you get a chance to see the recent giant-size collection of "Little Nemo" reprints? It was an orgasm in printed form, seeing this lovely stuff at the original size. (I'm biased towards McCay; he and Edward Gorey were the first two artistic influences I can remember being conscious of having, when I was eight or so.)

Anonymous said...

The Smurfs?

Yesterdays_ashes said...

Wow, is this the truth...Great topic. As a kid, the comics were the best thing in the world. I could not wait to read certain ones. Now so many are just too serious....I get done & think what the heck was that all about? Their is no creativity either. For my daughter growing up, the comics were no big deal ... most of the stripes were not composed for kids.

Marc S said...

I agree I stopped reading the newspaper comics as they were more depressing than funny.

Its good to see you online again. I miss the spumco website. You are still one of the greats and nothing can ever change that!!!

Marc S

Mitch K said...

I used to hate that Cathy one. It always pissed me off as a kid that she didn't have a nose.

Rachel Newstead said...

You want to know why the comics are horrible these days? In a nutshell, it's this:

1. Fewer major newspapers, which means more competition for comics space, which means the comics are reduced to postage-stamp size.

2. To accommodate the microscopic panels, the simplest comics are chosen because they're easier to see...

3. Comics that have been around for decades are on their fifth or sixth artist, and are unlikely to give up their long-held spot on the funny pages to something newer and more original (who reads "Blondie" these days, anyway?)

There's a wonderful article by Bill Watterson, reprinted in R.C. Harvey's "Children of the Yellow Kid," which explains the situation with deadly accuracy.

lastangelman said...

You hit a raw nerve with a mallet today. This very subject is discussed endlessly in many syndicated cartoonists' blogs (even Scott Adam's Dilbrt blog), especially that 1.) panels are shrinking for more ads & 2.) the art is less cartoony and more wordy.
I noticed Peanuts was not mentioned in your list; when you think about it, Peanuts is not a very cartoony comic strip at all, although in the sixties Charles Schultz created some amazing slapstick scenes with great dialogue ("SAVED BY A PIZZA!!!" will always stick out in my mind). By 1971, the strip seemed to have settled down and became more situational driven and the art oversimplified and really flat, almost like a puppet show. By the nineties even Snoopy, the first and best breakout character of the strip had lost all his rebellion and mischief and had been reduced to a cookie yearning faithful companion to Charlie Brown.
No matter how you slice it, Berke Breathed's stuff is all about homage to George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Walt Kelly's Pogo, only with more mescale, peyote buttons, cheap cigars, fizzy drinks and Ho-Hos. The art is still great and the punchlines are definitely more geared to adults that kids, but newspapers still shrink his stuff to the size of a post-it note. Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes is in many people's minds is as perfect a comic strip ever created. It borrowed (or stole, ahem) from all the great sources: Little Nemo in Slumberland, Peanuts, Mad Magazine's Don Martin (for the sound effects alone) and Prince Valiant(for the background illustrations in the brilliant color Sunday editions). It is a comic strip that is funny, wordy, cartoony, people identify and care about the characters, and you want to reread it again and again.
Two comics I like a lot today, the artists make no pretense whatsoever about their (in)ability to draw, because essentially they are writing gags. I write of Scott Adams's Dilbert and Stephen Pastis's Pearls Before Swine. I like the humour in Stephen Pastis's strip especially, it is so deadly and I also am a sucker for bad puns. Get Fuzzy, as well drawn as a strip that it is, seems to be running out of steam, funnywise. I followed Michael Jantze's The Norm when he quit syndication and bravely decided to carry on via subscription via the web. His art is sorta like Bill Waterson's, but the main character in The Norm changes and grows, whereas Calvin will forever be an overimaginative eight year old mischief maker. The humour is very situational and adult, so you'd definitely be bored to tears with this strip. I like the style and the writing.
What may happen in the next ten years to comic strips is that they may be available only online, via subscription through a syndicate, an artists' or cartoonists' collective, or individual artists will strike out on their own and have their own websites. All this will not guarantee the art will improve or get any better. It's all rather debatable and subjective. Comic strip art is not all Segar's Popeye, Broom Hilda and L'il Abner. You gotta' put up with Love Is ..., Marmaduke, Cathy and Mary Worth.

andy said...

The funniest comic strip I've ever read is Moon Mullins circa. 1930's. It hasn't been reprinted often, but there is an excellent run in a book called The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics. The way that Frank Willard moves the story along (over a period of weeks) AND manages to put a laugh in every panel AND a punchline at the end of every strip is nothing short of astounding. It shows what daily comic strips are capable of. This guy must have worked his ass off.

KarmaRocketX said...

""MegaTokyo" may be drawn by a sadcase white guy, but if he never signed his name to it, you'd never know he wasn't Japanese..."

I would know.

His "anime" style is more screwed up than "Boondocks" is. He gets it even worse. His characters appear to look like they are suffering from a severe case of mental retardation. The eyes are so thin and placed so far away onto the sides of the head that they honestly look like they have bells palsy. There are those that can successful adapt a decent "forgery" of anime style half-way well, and then there are people like the author of Megatokyo who obnoxiously hail anime over all else, yet still get it totally wrong.

The characters are terrible and unappealing. The writing is the highest order ot self-deluded and pretentious gaarbage. He.. like the author of Boondocks.... does the biggest disservice to anime that is possible by trying to pass it off for a buck, while claiming that it's becuase of the "love." Eyuck.

And the author of Megatokyo's own rabid, frothing, incoherent and sickening sugar-coated veiw on anime (like most all anime fans that put it on this godlike pedistal) is downright sickening to behold.

Most anime fans are so self deluded that they are as bad as the mindless anime bashers are. The entire fandom reeks of stupidity.

I enjoy some anime myself becuase it has it's very own strengths and it's very own weaknesses. Although it has not much in common with other western animation at all, so trying to compare it to anything else usually ends in failure. But it's fanbase is so pathetic, for the most part. But both it's admirarers AND it's critics keep trying to compare the two. WHich is something that just can't and shouldn't be really done. Apples and Oranges.

I soley blame the idiot fans and their incredibly annoying "otakuness" for singlehandely destroying it's appeal. Especially since the mid 90's the more mainstream it's become the more idiotic the fanbase becomes. ..which is usually limited to pre-pubescent ignorant 13 year olds boys, and crazed, half-retarted fangirls.

It also dosn't help that it's being fed to television networks, and being edtied all to hell through them until they are nothing but a pale and distorted shadow of their previous form. Networks only seek to basterdize and transform them into broadcastable mind-mush.. which is what too many people unfairly percieve it as, just becuase the networks grab it and the execs transform it first, into whatever they want it to be. ...which is usually crap.

I personally find it really annoying how many people bash it without having a clue that it was much more appealing and a lot less corporate before it went through the proverbial executive shredding machine.

At the same time, I hate how people are continually trying to bypass this step by imitating the style in LOCALLY produced slop like Totally Spies, The Boondocks, and Teen Titans.

I'm fairly against the localization process of what it goes through to be made accessable to todays audeince.
As a result, those that look at it for only a few minutes can discard it as crap without having any knowledge of what turned it INTO crap.
...that being the same people who wanted to mangle good cartoons like Ren and Stimpy. Everything that execs wanted to do to control the arists, they apply to anime on television.

It's even worse when talentless idiots try so hard to adapt it's style locally, with only the almighty dollar in mind and not about putting some kind of homage or understanding of it, into it.

Anime is great. ....For it's intended audience (Japanese people), and the few americans willing to try and understand it. But the mainstreaming of it, and it's corporate local imitations have got to stop.

All it's done is to delude the anime fanbase into feeble "otaku" 13 year old children on one end and the casual, close-minded dismissers who fashion themselves as backseat, one-word critics on the other end.

Hallis B said...

Too true about the state of Comic strips today. one thing that i can't help but notice and be enraged by is the excessive use of exclamation points. they're using it as if it's some sort of print version of a laugh track. we don't need to be told it's funny if it actually is funny. it also really sucks that they chose to reprint the most mind-numbingly insipid era of Peanuts after Schultz's death.

Gabriel said...

What about Mutt & Jeff. That was so cool, i can't believe no one mentioned it.

cemenTIMental said...

"MegaTokyo" may be drawn by a sadcase white guy, but if he never signed his name to it, you'd never know he wasn't Japanese...
... if you were totally visually illiterate and had your eyes removed.

I'd never in a million years mistake that or any other western 'anime style' comic for actual Manga.

I challenge anyone to show me a piece of anime/manga fanart drawn by a non-Japanese person that could pass as Japanese.

Give me a blind test if you like! :)

The best western fanart/animestyle stuff i've seen isn't as good (or maybe as authentic/professional is a better word?) as the worst Japanese Dojinshi I've seen!

cemenTIMental said...


Anonymous said...

"... if you were totally visually illiterate and had your eyes removed."

Well, OK, but he still does a better job of it than Ben Dunn ("Ninja High School") does... or that waste who does "Gold Digger"... which admittedly still isn't saying much... If there was such a thing as "nation-of-birth-reassignment surgery", the non-Asian-manga lot would be the first on line...

cemenTIMental said...

Certainly not saying much!!! :)

...Haha yes! :) I don't think the Japanese would be in favour of such an influx tho!?

Anonymous said...

Eugene V. Debs is gonna come back from the dead just so he can hang Bruce Tinsley by the testicles in Harvard Yard.

Anonymous said...

>>>Anime is great. ....For it's intended audience (Japanese people), and the few americans willing to try and understand it. But the mainstreaming of it, and it's corporate local imitations have got to stop.

That has to be the biggest crock of shit I've ever read.

They're drawings and they're there for everyone with working eyes.

Either you like looking at it or you don't. Either it's good work or it's bad.

The quality of ANYTHING is objective and needs no cultural context to be valued.

Do I have to be Japanese or understand that culture to find Japanese chicks hot? To like sushi? To want a giant robot? *rolls eyes*

The problem with the comics page is that so many artists have bought into the moronic belief that taste and quality is subjective.

Jorge Garrido said...

Anime is a great artform, I happen to love DBZ.

Did aynoen cattch taht Spongebob issue of Nick Mag presents that uncovered teh "lost" comics of Sponebob? It had Spongebob comics drawn in the style of silver age super-heroes, Krazy Kat, Lil Nemo, Bcuk Rogers, Terry & The Pirates, Peanuts, Garfield, and a whole bunch of others! It was amazing!

Anonymous said...

How long before the Weinstein Company brings FRED BASSETT to the screen in CGI?

Anonymous said...

"While I agree with you on anime's horrible influence nowadays, I'll have to disagree with you on Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. It is a wonderfully animated cartoon with nice character designs. "Keeper of the Reaper" was on last night, and it was fantastic. The show was well written, well voiced, hillarious songs, fantastic sight gags, and non-sequitir sound effects. One of its best episones. There aren't nearly as many nose gags with Billy than there were for Stimpy. When ever I watch a Ren & Stimpy rerun on Nicktoons, I have yet to see one without something happening to Stimpy's nose. Also, the slpash backgrounds, big finger gags, and colorful schnozes are all heavy references to Ren & Stimpy. Ren & Stimpy is a wonderfully doughy and cartoony show, but it is far more juvenile. Billy & Mandy is far more structured with less over the top, and far more subversive, sight gags."
Hey,I never said I don't like "Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy"!
I think it's smartly written, has great voice talents (Richard Horvitz is in it, after all) and is funny! I like Billy's design and he makes some pretty helarious faces, but Mandy...URG! I HATE how she has those same basic expressions on her face : Indiffrent, quizical, angry.
That's it.
I know she's supossed to be emotionless, but it's hard for me to like a character like that.
And Ren and Stimpy never repeated an expression.
I think what sets this show apart from Ren and Stimpy the most is the solid drawings vrs 2D. I miss solid drawings you'd see in Looney Toons.
I don't HATE Billy and Mandy. In fact, I'm a fan! I just prefer Ren and Stimpy, I think it's over all better.
Probably shouldn't have said anything anyway, sorry!
Glad we cleared that up, and yes, Anime does suck.

Jorge Garrido said...

^ You cannot blanket anime into one category. That's like saying "All animation from america sucks, because I saw Daria last night" Hell, even John Kris-fa-loo-see likes Astro Boy.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, John, I'm trying to create a comic strip myself. Since my main character is about the age of your three "Heartaches" girls, I found your character models to be extremely helpful.

If you wouldn't mind seeing some of my stuff, let me know. I can be reached at

GloriousKyle said...

30 Helens agree, everything was better before.
Saying modern print comics is the easiest argument in the world, naming some decent ones is a much harder affair. There are actually some outstanding ones out there, but yes, few papers actually run them- best place to find them is still the web.
I think the best advice is to actually take action, write real letters with stamps and addresses to your local editors, comic syndicates, and comic creators and tell them how you feel! Give them some clear examples of what a good strip can be.

I've been skimming through the 100's of responses so far, but has anyone mentioned Bill Griffith's "Zippy the Pinhead"? Sure, it's not popular with the kids these days, but it has got to be one of the best drawn, well written, and most challenging comics out there.

Vanoni! said...

. . .but has anyone mentioned Bill Griffith's "Zippy the Pinhead"? Sure, it's not popular with the kids these days, but it has got to be one of the best drawn, well written, and most challenging comics out there.

I'll admit to being a Zippy fan. Although I wouldn't necesarrily put him in the "best drawn" category.
He does challenge readers - though unfortunately, these days that's not saying much!

Anonymous said...

Oooh sorry! I HATE Zippy. I borrowed (or bought? how did it get in my possesion?) a book of Zippy and read the whole thing... I HATED IT!!! I found it really pretentious and completely lacking in honesty and soul... But that was my reaction, anyway. Plus the art wasn't interesting enough to keep me turning the page.


Nic Kramer said...

I admit Garfield right now is pretty much boring, but the early ones were really good. I think Jim should concidere(sic) A. retiring the comic, B. Give this strip to someone who knows how to make the strip funny, or C. (This may be a stupid idea, but I'll say it anyway)adapating the episodes from the great Garfield and Freinds TV show, but it may be too late(I doubt you like the show, John, even if they made a reference to RAS).

Anonymous said...


I can't agree with you more on the decline of quality in comic strip sections of newspapers today. As garwik said, they do keep on shrinking them down and they give the artist very little room to do a good joke or phsycial gag. Another reason why comics so bad today is the artist themselves, well,suck.Iam glad you pointed out Drabble and Cathy in your comic spoof,they are both poorly drawn and not funny. What is even sadder is the comics that used to be funny aren't anymore. I used to love "Garfield", but I honestly don't think Jim Davis dosen't even give a shit anymore. He probably just draws it says "where's my money?".In my opinion,"The Boodndocks","Mallard Fillmore","Dilbert",and "Doonsebury" are the only ones that are still funny.

Rachel said...

Someone mentioned Elzie Segar's Popeye as an example of one of the great strips of yesteryear. That it certainly was, but it was far from the best-drawn. Aspiring cartoonists, to justify their own poor drawing, would undoubtedly use him to support their belief that drawing ability in comics is irrelevant. I only have one response to that sort of attitude, a quote from Al Capp: "You shouldn't aspire to be as good as the worst, but better than the best."

Charles Brubaker said...

MALLARD FILLMORE?! You got to be kidding me! Only conservative comic I like is "Prickly City".

I still only read comics because of writing, though. There are well drawn comics with sucky writing that I never pay attention.

And this may come quite a shock - I love "Drabble".

Anonymous said...

Yes Charles,Mallard Fillmore is a witty comic strip that knows how to do good political humor.I guess we have our differences in tastes,I don't anybody who actually finds "Drabble" funny. By the way,it's no MYSTERY of who Iam because I find POLITICALLY CORRECTNESS very UNFUNNY.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this is all differences in tastes, but I detest Mallard Fillmore.

He sets up someone (say...democrats), as being stupid. How does he set this up?

He makes them say something stupid. Right there in the word balloon. Then Mallard the duck rolls his eyes. That's fair. And lazy.

The drawings are UGLY UGLY UGLY. As I said before, everyone looks frumpy and dumpy and gross...It's one of the most visually unnappealing strips I've EVER seen, not to mention he can only draw ONE expression and one angle of Mallard.


E. Adam Thomas said...

This is the first time I've commented on any Blogger blogs, and I have an uneasy feeling it will start a flame war, but I actually like "The Boondocks" series. The strip, not so much, but I get that McGruder is poking fun at his own culture, pointing out what he feels are ridiculous attitudes and reactions. I have a feeling he has actually garnered quite a bit of respect overall... who else could get Samuel L. Jackson to voice a white guy?

On the subject of comics in general, the very points you made are the reasons I can never really be troubled to look at the newspaper comics any more. I'm not a very good artist myself (my webcomic, Boritom, will bear that out), but I can't understand how some of that crap is worthy of syndication, when there are so many good webcomics out there that are superior.

For what it's worth, I have no intention of getting my strip into newspapers. I'd have to clean up the dialogue too much. I write how I think, not how Michael Eisner thinks.

randi said...

The Boondocks is another one of those "Where is the guy's face? Is that his nose or is it his genitalia?" strips so enjoyably lampooned in "Scribble". People who can stand to look at The Boondocks tell me it's intelligent and important and groundbreaking, but these people also like Dilbert, so I guess they don't care how crappily rendered a strip is as long as it's in step with their politics or reminds them of their soul-crushing job. I don't give a shit about politics, and I don't have a job. Comics have to LOOK GOOD.

Cathy. I HOW? Who is responsible? Children like Cathy? Why would they? What is it about Cathy that could possibly resonate with children? I used to read the comics, every last one of them, whether they were funny or not. (Except Prince Valiant. A non-starter.) I just about never laughed, but that didn't stop me. Kids gravitate towards any comics if they're bored enough.

I loathe anime or Manga or whatever the hell it is. Why are there elevendy jillion Manga books at the store? Why is there only now a book by/about Mark Newgarden, brilliant cartoonist in his own right and #1 fan of Nancy/tireless chronicler of all things Bushmiller?

Why did so many papers drop Mark Trail?? Mark Trail is the funniest strip EVER. Mark always lands on his feet and captures the animal-poaching bastards, without even a gun or anything. He just punches them (once, and no more) and they crumple to the ground, admit to their crimes and apologize. And all the critters and foliage in the frames inadvertently talk at least once a week. Foreground Squirrel is always saying things like "Trail can't stop us now, Lamar!" Mark Trail is the best comic strip, and that's it.

Another strip worth mentioning for its accidental humor and wretched, scary drawings is a little something called Judge Parker. All the girls look like they are wearing those plastic Devo wigs and are genetically 40% ape.

Damn, I miss Sluggo.

Rachel said...


You know, after looking at your "Cathy" and "Drabble" parodies one more time, it occurred to me that even your *parodies* of those abysmally-drawn strips show more vitality than the originals. You can't even be bad on purpose...=)

Anonymous said...


Mr. Semaj said...

The Boondocks comic strip started out as a neat concept about social propoganda. It had a unique cast of interesting characters and different storylines.

What I came to hate about it was how, even before 9/11, the strip became overly-fixated on criticizing the Bush Administration, and sometimes bashing black celebrities over NOTHING. In the process, it eliminated most of its characters and secondary storylines (there was a time I even wondered if Huey and Ceasar ever went to school anymore). Between 2001 and 2004, almost EVERY weekly story was the same crap with the same 2-4 characters! Um, as much as I agreed with it's Bush-bashing, we have the NEWS to tell us that s**t, and even then, some of us don't want to hear the same stuff everyday!

The Boondocks is cancelled now, primarily due to Aaron McGruder's erratic commitment to it. The strip had just made a slight improvement at the time by bringing back one of its forgotten characters. Some of what ailed the comic strip has been greatly remedied in the TV series.

One of the only comic strips that I read anymore, that hasn't ended, is 9 Chickweed Lane. It has beautiful art and sophisticated storytelling. The only problem doesn't run in my local newspaper.

Chickweed is authored by Brooke McEldowney. Very talented and multi-dimensional, he also works on Pibgorn, which is made exclusively as a webcomic. Some of y'all that hate modern comic strips might wanna check out his stuff.

schrappi scharppi said...

how i started to like the cartoons and want to become an cartoonist was in the end the cartoons in the papers.
I use to like the cartoons of what now i think is one the greatest cartoonist in the world.
i buy the paper just for that,and i was always asking myself,where that guy come with so many good ideas.
It's all about ispiration and study,also to have someone who will give you a kickstart.
The fameous cartoonist name is Ion Barbu.You can vizit .for taking a look to his art.not all the stuff are in english but,some are.
The point is that he is living in a city wich is like gost city,everyone want to get outta of declared by goverment a zone wich is way too poor.The newspaper for wich he make's the cartoons offer him a new house in the Capital will all the luxury condition.Barbu said no,explaining that his city was the same as the capital,only in his city there are no theaters,cinemas,supermarkets,...
So i made this example,because inspiration come's from your world wherever you are,and what it takes is studying and practice.
I tell myself that one day im gonna vizit him,one day after i will become a cartoonist,and thinking that where smart people with real big talent,will get toghether and take out something that will be beyond everithing.
So there are everywhere good artists to whom yhis art means their life. thats the true passion right there.
You should have a look on also the site have a english version.
but the way those cartoons are made,is also a thing i never seen to other newspaper cartoonist.
if you want to find more about me and my country full of inspiration mail me. thnks! the site is really awsome !

Landon said...

The majority of comics that are left in the newspapers are crap. The Lockhorns is unfunny and Blondie's been going for too long! The majority of the good stuff got pretty much killed off (Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Bloom County) and everything is shrinking and getting dull. Thank goodness for some of the edgier stuff like Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, and LIO.