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Recycled Funny Papers
August 3, 2014 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Since the merger of the Universal and United Media newspaper syndicates, GoComics.com has been the place to find 80%+ of all newspaper comics online*. And it has been noticed that two of the most popular comics, both in papers and onsite, haven't had new content in decades: Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes. As a result, GoComics is giving many other defunct funnies a second online run, including Bloom County, Kliban cartoons alternating with Kliban's Cats, and, most notably among recent syndication casualties, CulDeSac (as well as Richard Thompson's Poor Almanac). With the artists of FoxTrot and Doonesbury cutting back to Sunday only, the site (as well as some papers) is filling in the other 6 days with reruns. While Dilbert is exclusive to its own website, Dilbert Classics from the early 1990s are now rerun on GoComics. Even Luann, who just graduated high school (finally!) has a parallel run of Luann Againn (sic) showing her as 13 years old back in 1986.

But the most interesting example of recycling old comics comes from the current custodians of the 80-year-old Nancy, who, after observing "the Greatest Nancy Panel Ever Drawn" become a meme, now offer a daily feature of a single non-sequitur panel from a classic Ernie Bushmiller strip in Random Acts of Nancy**. And they ARE random.

* the site also includes a number of web-only comics, including some that also appear in their own sites, like Savage Chickens [previously] and the recently added Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal [previously often] as well as exclusives like Heavenly Nostrils from the creator of the currently re-running Ozy & Millie (yes, they're also running reruns of webcomics) plus maintaining the "Comics Sherpa" section where the cartoonists pay-to-play (and for most of them, it's obviously the only way they'll get onto the site).

**there was a previous unofficial "Nancy Panels" tumblr that ran for two years, another obvious inspiration for the "Random Acts".
posted by oneswellfoop (43 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for the post! I was able to add Kilban to Feedly, but not Kilban's Cats. Anyone have a hint as to how to get RSS feeds at GoComics?
posted by BrashTech at 5:27 AM on August 3


OH NO! It's the New Nancy! Heresy! When Ernie Bushmiller died, Nancy should have gone with him. The New Nancy is even worse than the new(er) Felix the Cat. When Walt Kelly passed on to the Great Sunday Strip in the Sky, Pogo and his friends did the decent thing and followed along (well, perhaps Kelly's Joe McCarthy character got left behind…).
posted by kozad at 5:56 AM on August 3


I feel like most comic strips should have been like Calvin and Hobbes and ended within a decade. Doonesbury is probably an exception but most of them have no reason to keep going for even a fraction of the time that they've run.
posted by octothorpe at 6:02 AM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Bring back Ziggy!
posted by Renoroc at 6:11 AM on August 3


Oh, so that's what happened to Doonesbury. I thought Trudeau didn't even draw them any more; that he had farmed them out overseas?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:14 AM on August 3




Doonesbury is probably an exception but most of them have no reason to keep going for even a fraction of the time that they've run.

While I largely agree on the basis of quality, it's important to remember that most strips are the sole means of income for the cartoonist. Few working cartoonists manage to hit the heights of the brand-name guys. For most, it's a moderate income at best.

So, they're going to keep churning-out strips until the day that the syndicate pulls the plug.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:56 AM on August 3


I thought Trudeau didn't even draw them any more; that he had farmed them out overseas?

He pencils, and he has an inker he's been working with since 1971.
posted by Etrigan at 7:00 AM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Dilbert Classics is an interesting reminder that at one time certified genius Scott Adams was actually funny and wasn't just phoning it in.
posted by tommasz at 7:17 AM on August 3 [9 favorites]


I am a Pro user at GoComics. Just a few dollars a year to support lots of artists who will never get syndicated into newspapers.
posted by surplus at 7:47 AM on August 3 [2 favorites]


If we're talking about stuff on gocomics, is it an appropriate time to pump my buddy Dana's fabulous strip Heavenly Nostrils? It's about a little girl whose best friend is a unicorn.

Oh wait yes it is, what with being mentioned in the footnotes as an online-only strip. Last I heard it was being bumped up in the schedule to be solicited to papers, ahead of some other strips that started after it, but I dunno if that's actually happened yet. I do know that sharing a table with her at the last ECCC was fun because I got to crack wise with folks from Andrews McMeel about just how drunk they managed to get her the night before when she hadn't showed up yet in the morning. Well also because she's my friend and sharing tables at cons with your friend is fun, I mean she forcibly gave me a ponysona.

Also kozad I hate to burst your bubble but Kelly's widow and son continued Pogo for a couple years after his death, and it was also revived in 1989 to run for about five years.
posted by egypturnash at 8:04 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I feel like most comic strips should have been like Calvin and Hobbes and ended within a decade.

I wish that, too, but something's gotta pay the bills...

...But that said, cartoonists are confined by syndication. Very few spins offs are allowed and sometimes a strip ought to be given the freedom to incubate other characters (the aforementioned Nancy is such an example, but so is one of my faves Krazy Kat).

Sometimes a cartoonist doesn't have anything more to add to character X and a new character carries that voice -- and sometimes the creator just needs a break (Jim Unger's Herman was no less wonderful after the hiatus).

I thought about this problem as a writer and a came up with the idea of doing short stories that revolve around the same flagship character, but is flexible enough for me to explore other characters without losing a reader or offending them.

But I had to strike out on my own to do that -- the conventional model doesn't give me that freedom and cartooning is even more confined than book publishing.

Thank you for the links...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:51 AM on August 3


I still use my mother's Kliban "Momcat." totebag from 1975. This post made me happy.
posted by Lucinda at 9:30 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Dilbert Classics is an interesting reminder that at one time certified genius Scott Adams was actually funny and wasn't just phoning it in.

My roommate's father, in a thoughtful but fundamentally misguided move, got him a page a day Dilbert calendar for Christmas. We've taken to going through it in chunks every three weeks or so and commenting on each day's comic. It's a surprisingly interesting exercise and has provided me with a number of insights into what actually sucks about Dilbert. I think the main thing I've realized is that Scott Adams has absolutely no conception of the three-panel comic form; he sets up jokes badly, puts punchlines in weird places, and just has no real idea how to set up a joke or make it funny. He also, for the most part, is lazy about drawing (although this comes and goes -- any panel with a setting or action elicits significant comment), picks up and drops long-term plots with no explanation, and has way too many words in many of the panels which is bad both visually and in terms of actually making anyone laugh.

We throw out most of the pages when we're done with each Dilbert-critique-bacchanal, but we keep the comics that are most sublimely pointless or bizarre. I believe the current frontrunner is this paragon of WTFness. Why is fleeing if he doesn't know what a firewall is? WTF escape pod? Who even is this guy? Why does he have a sack of money by his desk? Is an escape pod something you'd EXPECT to have in an office? I mean, didn't anyone else notice it being installed? Also, "who designed my escape pod?"? I think it's supposed to signify "oh no this doesn't work the designer must have been an idiot" but I'm not REALLY sure. THESE are his questions? Is he now plunging to his death? That's kind of morbid but I guess it's funny? Maybe? Only...I'm not sure how? The whole thing is absolutely baffling.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:36 AM on August 3 [11 favorites]


I wish that, too, but something's gotta pay the bills...

Well, I get that but why do the newspapers need to be clogged up with all those zombie strips that have been recycling the same jokes since the seventies?
posted by octothorpe at 9:46 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Random Acts of Nancy is interesting. It's definitely better than the strip as it's running today, and I don't really begrudge them the cashing in on the idea in this way. That said, I really wish they weren't colorizing old black and white panels. That seems to pretty much be a requirement for dailies these days, which is generally fine, but I think it really hurts this particular project.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:00 AM on August 3


When Walt Kelly passed on to the Great Sunday Strip in the Sky, Pogo and his friends did the decent thing and followed along (well, perhaps Kelly's Joe McCarthy character got left behind…).

Well, technically, his wife and son kept it going for a couple years after. And actually it was revived for a few years in the early 90's as "Walt Kelly's Pogo" with new writer/artists. It's just as well you don't remember that. In fact, forget I said anything about it at all.
posted by rifflesby at 10:01 AM on August 3 [3 favorites]


The whole thing is absolutely baffling.

Probably just a Monty Python phase.

But, you know, by the same token - what's up with a dream-scape Sluggo floating on a bed of denial? It either strikes your sense of the absurd or it doesn't. (What are the other panels for that one, by the way? Inquiring minds....)

Anyway, I cut cartoonists a bunch of slack. The whole notion of having to come up with five weekly and one Sunday comic year in year out is cruel and unusual. No wonder so many burn out.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:13 AM on August 3


...we keep the comics that are most sublimely pointless or bizarre. I believe the current frontrunner is this paragon of WTFness. Why is fleeing if he doesn't know what a firewall is? WTF escape pod? Who even is this guy? Why does he have a sack of money by his desk? Is an escape pod something you'd EXPECT to have in an office?
I completely agree that Dilbert isn't what it used to be. I don't want you to get the idea that I'm defending modern Dilbert in general (which I haven't read, even online, in years and years) or especially Mr. Adams in particular (who appears to be a genuine loon whenever he writes something that isn't Dilbert, which is one reason I've stopped reading Dilbert).

The pointy-domed, bald-headed guy is (and has been for many years) the CEO at Dilbert's employer. He has a huge bag of money and an exclusive gadget like an escape pod because he's the CEO. He's used his authority to divorce his own fate from that of the company he's responsible for, in other words. Consequences and suffering are for the little people.

He's fleeing because he alone has the power to take sudden, drastic, irrevocable, reactionary measures in response to crises. And he does. Only to (sometimes) realize later that he understands neither the crisis or nor the "solution" he's executed. Like the pointy-haired boss, he's an idiot and is incapable of doing anything of value directly, but he's an idiot with real authority, real control of his own fate and the attendant power to sew pain and destruction far and wide, inadvertently or otherwise.
I think the main thing I've realized is that Scott Adams has absolutely no conception of the three-panel comic form; he sets up jokes badly, puts punchlines in weird places, and just has no real idea how to set up a joke or make it funny.
It seems to me that Adams' habit has long been to put the punchline in the second panel of the three panel comic, with the third panel adding a little explication in case you haven't twigged to the joke yet. Many Dilbert strips might actually be improved by omitting the third panel.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:25 AM on August 3 [9 favorites]


Well, I get that but why do the newspapers need to be clogged up with all those zombie strips that have been recycling the same jokes since the seventies?

Have you read some of the editorial content of said newspapers? Stuff from the seventies feels radical and new in comparison.
posted by srboisvert at 10:27 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


If we're scratching our heads over Dilbert, I offer my mash-up Driblet as at least as baffling as the original.
posted by hades at 10:35 AM on August 3 [6 favorites]


I'm way into this format of Nancy. I have no attention span, but an endless appetite for chill space-out things.
posted by SharkParty at 11:00 AM on August 3


What Western Infidels said. Dilbert's 3rd panel is like Letterman's #1 of the Top Ten. It's a running joke that they don't save the best for last.
posted by surplus at 11:25 AM on August 3


Scott Kurtz's treatise on zombie comics: The Ombudsmen.
posted by PenDevil at 12:06 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that Adams' habit has long been to put the punchline in the second panel of the three panel comic, with the third panel adding a little explication in case you haven't twigged to the joke yet. Many Dilbert strips might actually be improved by omitting the third panel.

Ever read Dry Bones? I don't know if it was a translation-from-Hebrew issue or what, but it would constantly include a weirdly pointless pause panel, seemingly there for no reason but to get to the required width.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:12 PM on August 3


When I was a kid, I had a fixation on grownup jokes. You know, I would notice that media frequently contained references that were designed to go over my head. I'd recognize the joke format and see grownups maybe sniggering about some reference I didn't get, and I'd know that they were intentionally including jokes that children weren't supposed to understand, and that was a moral outrage.

I also knew grownups were all big fat liars who weren't going to just tell me if I asked, so I'd try to find sneaky ways to discover what things meant. Sometimes, I'd kind of gingerly repeat something I didn't understand, trying to get some kind of reaction and, ideally, an explanation. I got in pretty big trouble more than once, but I stand by my decisions.

Another thing I would do was to cut out the comic strips I saw where I didn't get the joke and carefully paste them into a giant scrapbook that I kept hidden in my room with the goal of someday identifying all the dirty jokes and other grownup references I was missing.

I'd regularly add new strips and reread the old ones over and over to see if I could identify the adult references. And it slowly started dawning on me that many of them weren't actually references that were going over my head. They were just crappy and not funny.

I had put all that effort into compiling a scrapbook that ended up being almost entirely a collection of the comic strips from my childhood with the most unfunny punchlines.

The worst part, though, is that I have no idea what happened to it.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:22 PM on August 3 [28 favorites]


I love re-reading old C&H and Bloom County strips on GoComics. (Yes, I did buy the books, they're just not as easy to find as my computer.) What I've noticed, though, is that they have one of the dumbest comments sections on the internet. This is a strong statement, but I am willing to stand by it. Commenters talk to the cartoonists as if they are still producing and avidly reading the GoComics comment section for their reactions.

I didn't know Kliban was on there. He was a real treasure, and there are cartoons up there I hadn't seen. Thanks for linking that.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:35 PM on August 3


If we're scratching our heads over Dilbert, I offer my mash-up Driblet as at least as baffling as the original.

I misread this and thought you'd written "Drilbert", which led me to the idea of Drilbert, which would consist of Dilbert strips with their text replaced by dril tweets, which I think could be pretty great
posted by NoraReed at 1:59 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


The second strip of that Ombudsmen is lovely- it makes me feel sorry for Dagwood, which I wouldn't have thought possible.

B. Kliban - when he was in vogue, I wasn't a huge fan, being maybe too young. I'd look at his stuff and think 'that's not funny that's just weird.'

But that's the greatness of some of it though- Mendocino for example. As a one-panel gag it's... incomprehensible, probably. But having been to Mendo a couple of years ago, my reaction is roughly the same as the first commenter there. And then my mind's left boggling that this stuff was apparently widely syndicated in daily newspapers.

It'd be nice to see him gain some wider influence.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:40 PM on August 3


Thanks. Now I have a source for the materials I need to play Five Card Nancy
posted by mrettig at 3:12 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: "I completely agree that Dilbert (which I haven't read, even online, in years and years) isn't what it used to be."

Um.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:30 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


We throw out most of the pages when we're done with each Dilbert-critique-bacchanal, but we keep the comics that are most sublimely pointless or bizarre. I believe the current frontrunner is this paragon of WTFness. Why is fleeing if he doesn't know what a firewall is? WTF escape pod? Who even is this guy? Why does he have a sack of money by his desk? Is an escape pod something you'd EXPECT to have in an office? I mean, didn't anyone else notice it being installed? Also, "who designed my escape pod?"? I think it's supposed to signify "oh no this doesn't work the designer must have been an idiot" but I'm not REALLY sure. THESE are his questions? Is he now plunging to his death? That's kind of morbid but I guess it's funny? Maybe? Only...I'm not sure how? The whole thing is absolutely baffling.

It's really not.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:54 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Dilbert strips with their text replaced by dril tweets, which I think could be pretty great

And now I know what dril tweets are. ... Thank you?
posted by hades at 5:29 PM on August 3


Wow, 70's memories, of the good kind, with Kliban. Thanks!
posted by thelonius at 6:35 PM on August 3


Another random Nancy tumblr** was - nancy is happy scans
"I read this article on Nancy, how the every panel independently is a story in itself. That really intrigued me, and when you notice it, its really true. Thats why is sometimes post a panel, sometimes a part, and sometimes a whole."
posted by unliteral at 6:37 PM on August 3


Ah! Now I see that it is linked in the "Nancy Panels" tumblr. Carry on.
posted by unliteral at 6:39 PM on August 3


Renewing my love affair with Randolph Itch at 2:00 A.M. Many thanks for that
posted by Redhush at 8:59 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Why are there even syndicates anymore? They have no power at all in this day and age.

As much as I love C&H and Peanuts to death, it seems wrong to print reruns and deprive an up-an-coming artists of a space on a newspaper page. Oh, wait, they don't matter either in this day and age. Hmmm.
posted by Melismata at 5:20 AM on August 4


Oh, and

most of them have no reason to keep going for even a fraction of the time that they've run.

This. During a slow time at work, I read through the entire run of Peanuts from beginning to end. After about 1972, I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for it to get better. And it never did. (Even Charles Shultz acknowledged this problem by creating a character named Rerun.) A few times I would say, oh, wait, here's a potentially interesting plot thread! And it would just either be dropped without a resolution or with a lame joke (mostly the former). I could see Shultz trying different things, introducing new characters like the "Shut up and leave me alone!" kid, and unable to recreate the magic.

But I guess if Garfield is still going after all this time, the money is being made somewhere.
posted by Melismata at 5:50 AM on August 4


Dilbert was funny once for a given value of funny.

Check out the anguished expression on Geraldo's face here. Although I could have sworn that at one point Dogbert wasn't saying anything in the final panel, which I think makes it funnier.
posted by winna at 6:14 AM on August 4


Update: GoComics.com just got N% closer to cool by adding another established webcomic to its daily content: Dinosaur Comics. I think they're doing this just to make R.Stevens regret discontinuing his "print version" of Diesel Sweeties.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:54 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


After about 1972, I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for it to get better. And it never did.

I read or heard an interview with Schultz somewhere where he confirmed this, just as long-time fans had observed. He tied it all together with how he felt uncomfortable about his very first Peanuts strip where Shermy says "How I hate him" -- too negative! Schultz didn't like being negative (although that's where his best work was) so he turned the strip over to the animals, and phased out the people. At least, the funny ones -- so, much less Linus and Lucy, and way more (in fact, way too much) of Woodstock, Snoopy, and his brothers.
posted by Rash at 10:26 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


One more additional thing about GoComics.com. It has featured Ruben Bolling's* "Tom the Dancing Bug" comics for longer than BoingBoing has. And the site has recently made a deal with him to split out one of his most absurdist recurring features, "Super-Fun-Pak Comix", which simulates a comics page of bad funnies, into a daily feature. For GoComics' blog, he explains his job of being 'editor' for the 'various artists'.
*pen name for Ken Fisher, but you didn't hear it from me.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:06 PM on August 9


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