RIP Farley the dog.
August 22, 2006 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Nancy, the best comic strip ever? Close but no cigar. Pogo? Peanuts? Calvin? Good choices all, but still wrong. Krazy Kat you say? Again I shake my head sadly, friend. For Mr. Dave Astor has finally stepped forward to settle this debate once and for all. The greatest comic strip ever appearing on newsprint? Why, it's For Better or For Worse of course. Let the debate begin.
posted by ktoad (202 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Calvin and Hobbes" was another masterpiece of writing and drawing, but it didn't have the sprawling cast of a "Peanuts" or "For Better." And Bill Watterson ended "C&H" after only a decade in syndication, while "For Better" is still going strong as it nears its 27th anniversary next month.

Weak. What's so great about a sprawling cast?
posted by amro at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2006


(Though truly, my heart belongs to the Shmoo.)
posted by amro at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Better than Krazy Kat or Pogo?
That's sacrilege of the highest magnetude. The Inquisitors will be seeing him soon. The ReEducation Machine will see to his blasphemy.
posted by lekvar at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2006


For Better of For Worse? Ewwww...

To hell with emotional resonance - I would pick The Far Side.
posted by newfers at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2006


man, what a fucking idiot!
posted by jimmy at 3:10 PM on August 22, 2006


not one person has mentioned Bloom County.

that's my vote for best ever.
posted by ambulance blues at 3:12 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Length of run should probably be the last thing considered when it comes to comics. Calvin and Hobbes was quality for that entire decade, and Watterson knew when to call it quits.
posted by benATthelocust at 3:13 PM on August 22, 2006


At least it wasn't chatty Cathy.
posted by yeti at 3:15 PM on August 22, 2006


I'll agree. "For Better" was great when I was reading the comics on a daily basis, but now I pick it up and to find myself dropped into an incomprehensible storyline. I must admit that I have a prejudice against serial strips for this reason. "Doonesbury" does a better job of preserving continuity while keeping each individual strip funny.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:15 PM on August 22, 2006


My all time fave daily comic strips in order:

1) Bloom County (RIP)
2) Far Side (RIP)
3) Doonesbury
4) Zits
5) For Better or For Worse

Is anyone as afraid as I am that FBoFW is going to get Elizabeth back together with the absolute schmuck known as Anthony??? How can a 24-25 year old be so fricken old and dowdy as Anthony? Yikes, can we say 1970s leather boy 'stache! Yuck!
posted by msjen at 3:19 PM on August 22, 2006




A tremendous strip in its day with some brilliant satire.
posted by buggzzee23 at 3:19 PM on August 22, 2006


By his criteria, I'd vote for Gasoline Alley. The art in the original Sunday strips was amazingly inventive, and FBoW owes a lot of its narrative structure to GA.
posted by maryh at 3:21 PM on August 22, 2006


Anything short of awarding Funky Winkerbean the 'Best Cartoon of All Time' prize is just hollow posturing.
posted by davelog at 3:22 PM on August 22, 2006


Paging fandango_matt! This is his only masterpiece I could find with a quick search.
posted by brain_drain at 3:22 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Zippy.
posted by jet_silver at 3:23 PM on August 22, 2006


Where are thou, SpaceMoose?
posted by boo_radley at 3:23 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]



best comic ever!!!!!
posted by snofoam at 3:25 PM on August 22, 2006


The worst thing about For Better or For Worse is how whenever a little kid eats something, they always have a drop of spit flying out of their mouths. I'll say the art is fluid. Gross.

That and the lameness.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:26 PM on August 22, 2006




Best. Strip. Ever.
posted by hipnerd at 3:26 PM on August 22, 2006


"Calvin and Hobbes" ... didn't have the sprawling cast of a "Peanuts" or "For Better."

Heh. By that measure, Caligula is superior to My Dinner with Andre.
posted by scody at 3:26 PM on August 22, 2006


Those eyeblinks almost made me spill my coffee on my keyboard, snofoam!
posted by maryh at 3:27 PM on August 22, 2006


Bloom County, sadly, has not aged well. Little Nemo in Slumberland will probably live for eternity.
posted by jtron at 3:27 PM on August 22, 2006


Heh. By that measure, Caligula is superior to My Dinner with Andre.

It's certianly easier to masturbate to.
posted by davelog at 3:28 PM on August 22, 2006


Get Fuzzy, says I.
posted by The Mauve Frog at 3:28 PM on August 22, 2006


Achewood. In what other comic could a camera with magical Mexican realism let a vegetarian cat's friends know he's gay by revealing to them that he secretly conceives of himself as a chaps-wearing carnivore with a huge horsecock?
posted by stemlot at 3:29 PM on August 22, 2006 [2 favorites]


While I agree that FBoFW probably has the biggest fan base of any current strip, since when did popularity equate with being "best"? I'm really hoping this guy will publish a music review column as well.
posted by GuyZero at 3:30 PM on August 22, 2006


I think "For Better" gave up any claim to being the greatest when the online version began blinking. Creepy.

On preview: snofoam demonstrates!
posted by coffeespoons at 3:31 PM on August 22, 2006


Agreed maryh. What's the deal with the blinking?
posted by yeti at 3:32 PM on August 22, 2006


Blinking is Comics 2.0 (beta)!
posted by brain_drain at 3:34 PM on August 22, 2006


that's how the comic is on the official site, and i guess that's how it will be when we get electronic newspapers. i only linked to it because the blinking was creepy. as far as the actual best comic ever, i have two words: howard huge. he thinks he's people!
posted by snofoam at 3:35 PM on August 22, 2006


Oh, come on, nothing compares to Ziggy. Or "Love Is".

* begins vomitting *
posted by blue_beetle at 3:36 PM on August 22, 2006


Bloom County was great, but I don't think it will age well. Most of the strip's energy came from riffing off the conservative vibe of the time, and if you weren't there, I think a lot of it simply wouldn't be funny.

Calvin and Hobbes should have serious staying power. As long as humans organize themselves into families, have a reasonable standard of living, and raise kids in the real world (as opposed to doing it online), Calvin should be funny and relevant.

I'm not sure how long the Far Side will last. The stuff with cannibals, geeze, that'd last practically forever. A lot of it, though, probably not. I'm thinking of the Acme Magnet Company strip, with all the cars stuck to the side of the building.... a future human might have no idea what a car looks like. And dinosaurs smoking will be funny only as long as RJ Reynolds (*cough* Altria *cough*) exists.

They'll both last at least another generation, though, which is pretty darn good for humor.

And geeze, talk about taking comics overseriously. I think I need a beer. :)
posted by Malor at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2006


Yikes, can we say 1970s leather boy 'stache! Yuck!

He's canadian. Give him a break.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2006


oops! that was supposed to say "actual best comic ever featured weekly in parade magazine"
posted by snofoam at 3:38 PM on August 22, 2006


What's the deal with the blinking?

It shows how everybody in FBOFW is just standing eerily still, only their eyes occasionally moving. Between panels they change their ornate tableaus and then continue their ritual presentation of banality.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:39 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


No-one's mentioned Dilbert? I've gotten more actual laughs out of Dilbert than any other syndicated comic strip.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:41 PM on August 22, 2006


"And, last but not least, few strips in the history of comics are drawn as well as "For Better." Its spectacular level of detailed, fluid art is especially impressive in today's age of shrinking comics space."

I'm fascinated by this remark.
Half the time I read "For Better", I'm left wondering who these people are as they all seem to be drawn the same.
posted by madajb at 3:43 PM on August 22, 2006


It all depends on what you consider great, I guess. For me it's Calvin & Hobbes, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, The Spirit, The Far Side, and Doonesbury. Among modern strips I like Boondocks and Get Fuzzy, but I don't know how well they'll stand time's test.
posted by mkhall at 3:43 PM on August 22, 2006


I don't know, Bloom County's doing pretty well so far, though it may be an indictment of us that shit like the Star Trek Missile Defense Shield still seems pretty spot on 20 years later.

If we're talking "in newsprint" then we get to usher in the alt-weekly stuff, and Tom The Dancing Bug and Carol Lay's strip are both a lot better than the daily stuff around these days. Hell, Perry Bible Fellowship's in print in a few places.
posted by furiousthought at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2006


FBoFW is not horrible, but it's become both syrupy and maudlin in turn over the past several years. The various plotlines involving the kids out of the nest are tedious and soporific. Michael is a schlemiel, Elizabeth is whiny and indecisive. The parents are still vaguely appealing in a vanilla way; at least they aren't Ted and Sally Forth, thank God.

The writer of the article in the link makes a big deal out of the fact that Lynn Johnston introduced a gay character in 1993, and yes, good for her; that set of strips lives on in my mind as a great example of what comics can do as an art form. But since then, probably chastened by the vitriol those strips inspired, Johnston has neutered Lawrence, turning him into a completely minor character with no life (and certainly no overt expression of gayness). April's boyfriend has more identity than Lawrence does.

"Johnston has skillfully created a comic that appeals to a general, mainstream audience while not pandering to readers who want a mythical 1950s world in their funny pages." Actually, that's untrue. Despite all of the forced attempts at making April and her little pals "hip" with invented slang, the world of FBoFW resembles a "mythical 1950s world" more closely than almost any other mainstream comic, with the possible exception of "Family Circus." It's sort of like "I Love Lucy" without the bawling, the screaming, the catfights, and the bad Cuban accents.
posted by blucevalo at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2006


Malor, I was too young (age 7?) to understand the politics in Bloom County when I started reading my parent's collection, but I loved the absurdity.

For Better or For Worse is great if you like annoying, simplistic moralizing with your breakfast.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 3:47 PM on August 22, 2006


Apparently being a great strip has nothing to do with the quality of the illustrations.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:49 PM on August 22, 2006


What a strange and misleading article. FBOFW is his favorite comic, best by the standards that he defines on the fly. It's like asking what the best band is, answering "Sha-Na-Na", and then non-chalantly rattling off the qualities that Sha-Na-Na has in spades as though these qualities are the only ones that could make a band great.
posted by owhydididoit at 3:51 PM on August 22, 2006


POGO, without a doubt, C&H Farside and others notwithstanding.
posted by Pressed Rat at 3:51 PM on August 22, 2006


Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes DOMINATE. Nothing else comes close.
posted by stenseng at 3:55 PM on August 22, 2006


Apparently being a great strip has nothing to do with the quality of the illustrations.

Well, if it did, Dennis the Menace would be an infinitely better panel than The Far Side, but we don't seem to live in that universe. It is pretty weird when you think about it. But director's sense is much more important than drawing skill when it comes to comics, and Gary Larson had all sorts of that.
posted by furiousthought at 3:55 PM on August 22, 2006


The Far SIde is just about the best single panel comic to ever hit the papers I'd say. It was weird and sublime and usually hilarious. It had that good stoned humor.
It's like the antithesis of Marmaduke.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:03 PM on August 22, 2006


Pogo is better. Hell, Pogo is better than anything Hemingway wrote. It's funnier than the rest, and it's also politically and philosophically more important.
posted by koeselitz at 4:05 PM on August 22, 2006


Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, The Far Side more - yes yes. Many others before For Better or For Worse, though FBoFW is fine and good.

But the best published comic ever is without a doubt The Parking Lot Is Full.
posted by loquacious at 4:08 PM on August 22, 2006


And: Walt Kelly was one of the very few comic writers who really could write. His grasp on language was impeccable, and poetic at that. Add that to his beautiful illustrations, and the choice is clear.
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2006


BTW, "Pickles"?? What's the matter, Kansas, Marmaduke too secular for ya?
posted by maryh at 4:09 PM on August 22, 2006


Actually, "Pickles" has some occasional mordant humor in it, whereas FBoFW has none.
posted by blucevalo at 4:13 PM on August 22, 2006


Bloom County, sadly, has not aged well.

I disagree. I have some of the original books (salvaged from a friend's trash can... silly friend, those things are like gold now) and I read back through them. Yeah, it was current event-y, but it was profoundly absurdist. It was, in many ways, a direct descendant of Pogo.

I liked Peanuts, C&H, Far Side, Bloom County. I've barely read any of the old strips, but Little Nemo was beautifully done, Pogo grandly written, and Lil Abner a cultural landmark.

Of the modern strips, I'm not sure what will last. Boondocks is relevant, but I don't know if it will age well. Get Fuzzy is really frustrating, the humor erratic. I'm finding some of the webcomics out there to be better than what appears in the two dailies we have in town.

Confession: I read Luann every day. I don't know why. shudder
posted by dw at 4:14 PM on August 22, 2006


the answer is obviously red.
posted by panoptican at 4:14 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Krazy Kat 252;ber alles. Absolutely no contest.
posted by blucevalo at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2006


oops, uber
posted by blucevalo at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2006


I second the nomination for Zippy the Pinhead. And speaking of Nancy, Bill Griffith has made some meaningful tributes to the strip, particulary in Are We Having Fun Yet? Zippy the Pinhead's 29 Day Guide to Random Activities and Arbitrary Donuts. Say what you will about Bloom County, but to me Zippy is what 80's comic strips were all about.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 4:17 PM on August 22, 2006


"There's also 'Pogo'." That's all they have to say about that? Oh, somebody a'sides is going to rue this here particular day.

The early years of Bloom County top out my personal list by a long margin. I just can't say how many ways I loved that strip. If I had to sum it up in one line, I guess it'd be "Here, take a few pounds home to th' wife."

Any number of things come in ahead of FBOFW, though. It may be many things, but I don't remember it ever being funny; certainly not bust-a-gut funny, and never flirting with the sort of loopy surrealism that lurks in the fringes of almost all my favorites.

Ozy and Millie is by far the most-represented on my office door.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:17 PM on August 22, 2006


Confession: I read Luann every day. I don't know why. shudder

I do too. A very unpleasant admission for me to have to make. Luann DeGroot makes Elizabeth Patterson look like the most appealing character in funnies-dom.
posted by blucevalo at 4:18 PM on August 22, 2006


I can't believe nobody's mentioned Fred Bassett. Greatest comic ever.

Fred is unique. He never speaks - just thinks out loud (!!!)
posted by mrgrimm at 4:20 PM on August 22, 2006


Pogo, followed by Calvin and Hobbes, followed by The Far Side.

And I think you can look at 90% of the newspaper comics today and see that they all derive at least partially from one of those.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:27 PM on August 22, 2006


The Far SIde is just about the best single panel comic to ever hit the papers I'd say

Amen. I offer this -- no links, just text.

"Bummer of a birthmark, Hal."

"Okay, Rusty's in the club!"

"Beware of Doug."

"I've gotta be me!"
posted by eriko at 4:29 PM on August 22, 2006


Pogo is a really excellent strip, and it's pretty easy for modern readers with just a bit of Looney Tunes background to get into its loopy rhythms, so I do nth koeselitz's recommendation. I somewhat prefer Peanuts, but arguing that Pogo's the best comic ever is a deeply defensible position. Pick up one of the collections, peoples, you won't regret it.
posted by furiousthought at 4:31 PM on August 22, 2006


1. Krazy Kat
2. Pogo
3.Far Side
4. Calvin & Hobbs
5. They'll Do It Every Time
posted by brundlefly at 4:35 PM on August 22, 2006


As to Bloom County. The problem is Breathed went too long. The early days were uneven, as he tried to establish what he was doing. The last three years were horrible.

But those middle years were wonderful stuff. Still, Berke Breathed failed the test that Bill Watterson and Gary Larson passed -- they realized that inspiration was finite, and they hung it up.

I still love Bloom County and there are still two stuffed Opuses (Opii?) in my room, watching over my computers.

Having said that, nothing matches the brillance of Calvin and Hobbes -- a combination of amazing artistic talent, a deep understanding of what his characters were, and a willingness to fight hard to show us the comics he wanted to show us -- and that we so desperatly wanted to see. Finally, when he realized that he couldn't, for whatever reason, keep doing that, he ended it.

Calvin and Hobbes started well, and got better until the very end. I thank all that is holy that Bill Watterson said what he wanted to say, and no more.

Charlie Brown is still kicking that damn ball. We have no idea what Calvin's up to. We are so much better off never knowing -- because our last memory of Calvin is he and Hobbes sledding down that hill.
posted by eriko at 4:37 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


I would also put Pogo first, because it's basically lacking nothing: humor, incredible artwork, huge and memorable cast of characters, political satire, and language that's the equal of the artwork.
After that...I'm tempted by Calvin & Hobbes, because the artwork is almost as good as Kelly's, but for sheer weight of achievement, I think I'd have to go with Doonesbury. A decades-long epic about American life, with the characters actually aging in real time...and killer political satire. There should be American History textbooks based around the strip.
posted by uosuaq at 4:39 PM on August 22, 2006


The folks over at The Comics Curmudgeon are pretty merciless when it comes to FBoFW. Gotta admit I think the strip has jumped a pool o sharks in the last few years. Looking at archives of the strips I understand why i liked it so much at one point, and why I am mildly irritated with it now.

There is a reason people stop writing strips, and it is called preserving quality.
posted by edgeways at 4:42 PM on August 22, 2006


I second the parking lot is full, especially the one about coming of age.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:43 PM on August 22, 2006


mrgrimm - I can't believe nobody's mentioned Fred Bassett. Greatest comic ever.

And let's not forget Fred Basset Upfucked!
posted by ktoad at 4:45 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


The writer of the article in the link makes a big deal out of the fact that Lynn Johnston introduced a gay character in 1993, and yes, good for her; that set of strips lives on in my mind as a great example of what comics can do as an art form. But since then, probably chastened by the vitriol those strips inspired, Johnston has neutered Lawrence, turning him into a completely minor character with no life (and certainly no overt expression of gayness). April's boyfriend has more identity than Lawrence does.

Hi. blucevalo: people can also be humans in addition to being gay. Why does someone who comes out as gay suddenly have to go on being only gay? So he went on to not be a flaming fairy, that's perhaps a point that (I can't prove this in Johnston's case) an author who is writing/drawing about gay people in order to increase acceptance would like to do. He came out, and he didn't become a token.

This is something I've always striven (strived? strove?) for in life. Sorry if this seems a bit rude, or irritated, but well, I don't come out of the closet because I want to educate people, I come out because well, I want to be able to live my own life as a normal person. If someone asks how my girlfriend is doing, I'll switch it around to boyfriend, but my main intent is to not turn my whole life political.

I realize Lawrence is just playing a part in someone's story, and thus not necessarily a real person, but my point in life is not to serve as some sort of token in everyone else's lives, nor do I want to be gay for anyone else's benefit (except maybe those who it does benefit, like my boyfriend *snark*), but another thing one has to realize is that gay isn't just sexuality but it's a cultural thing too. It's possible to separate the matters, and so you know, maybe Lawrence really is just a normal person, and not one of those people you find on Will and Grace, or Queer Eye.

I think what was nice about this set of strips for me was that I remember reading them when I was younger, and likely my life is better off in some way because of it.
posted by taursir at 4:47 PM on August 22, 2006


You have a good point, taursir, and it is well-taken. But I wasn't trying to say that Lawrence should be a token, or a symbol, or anything else. It would just be nice to see him be something more than a cipher, which is what, in my opinion, he now is.
posted by blucevalo at 4:50 PM on August 22, 2006


"Beware of Doug."

*snort*

Yeah, that was a good one. Also "CAT FUD" ("KAT FUD"?) and "Dog OK."

Calvin and Hobbes is probably my all-time fave, although Get Fuzzy makes me laugh about as much as Calvin ever did. Dilbert coulda been a contender, but it seemed to run out of steam a couple of years ago. Still one of the better offerings on the comics pages, though.

I'll also throw some love to Mutts, which is funny, thoughtful and sweet and has a Sunday color palette unmatched by anything in the funnies.
posted by diddlegnome at 4:51 PM on August 22, 2006


I think For Better or Worse kind of sucks. It's corny to me.

I read the comics everyday online, and I like (in no particular order):

Monty
Get Fuzzy
Doonesbury
Pearls Before Swine
Peanuts
Non Sequitur
Boondocks
Calvin and Hobbes
Bloom County
The Far Side

I've never even HEARD of Pickles! And I consider myself a fan of the comic strip form.

On the other hand it is Kansas, where they don't believe in evolution, so I'm not sure that it's much of a recommendation.
posted by MythMaker at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2006


Actually, i like 9 Chickwood Lane quite a bit, the felow that does that also does an online comic and I'd say he has some of the best artwork in daily comics around.
posted by edgeways at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2006


While looking for an example of Frank King's Sunday pages, I came across this amazing website. Enjoy!
posted by maryh at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2006


I think they were a bit incomplete. "For Better or Worse" is the best Canadian comic strip ever.

Obviously, "Calvin and Hobbes" should receive a lifetime achievement award for fulfilling a specific set of goals and quitting while you're ahead.

"The Far Side"? I think "Bizarro" was always just as funny and it still is... and two other random one-panel comics, "Speed Bump" and "Reality Check" are not generally as good, but have had some great singular moments. If only "Non-Sequitur" would LOSE the regular characters..."

Best 'silly' comic ever? "Frank and Ernest" (whose creator just passed away, but he'd left the comic to his son years ago).

Current single best comic strip: "Over the Hedge" (I cringed when they announced the movie, but even Bruce Willis couldn't ruin it). The 'animals commenting on human life' theme is excellently done, but not overdone. The characters are well defined, unique, and funny, and their interaction works. I just wish they'd redesign Verne the Turtle's face...

The "Charles Schulz Memorial We Know You're Just Coasting But You're Still Very Good" Award goes to "Dilbert", with "Opus" a solid runner-up.

A big "Uh-Oh" to "Get Fuzzy" which is drifting into the realm of "Garfield but with bigger words and better art". And "Pearls Before Swine" is no longer making it look easy - just last week it had a gag so bad, Rat went to Stephen Patsis' desk with a gun and said "This is for your own good".

Best "Family Strip (because it's a helluva lot more like families really are these days)" goes to "Foxtrot".

Still, with "Hedge", "Dilbert", "Fuzzy", "Pearls" and "Foxtrot" every day, plus "Frazz" (coolest school janitor ever) and "Candorville" (best strip with Black characters since "Boondocks" got boring) and "9 Chickweek Lane" (sexy toon females plus a madaman philosopher) and "Kudzu" (even though Rev. Will B. Dunn has pretty much taken over) and "Sherman's Lagoon" (better than talknig animals - talking FISH!), you can fill a page with as many good daily laughs as I remember you ever could. (And I grew up when "Peanuts" was cool!)

Then you just add all the good webcomics (and despite "Achewood's" rep as the first big edgy webcomic, there are several others at least as good), and I, after taking careful consideration all the factors, pick as the ALL TIME GREATEST COMIC STRIP:

Brenda Starr, which since Mary Schmick (the true author of "Wear Sunscreen") has been writing it, has parodied Bill O'Reilly, American Idol. celebrity chefs in general and most recently "Gone With the Wind" with its current 'Old Hollywood' storyline. It's so cool, the Comics Curmudgeon won't touch it...
posted by wendell at 4:57 PM on August 22, 2006


spacemoose all the way
posted by nomisxid at 4:57 PM on August 22, 2006


Tom the Dancing Bug.
posted by Ohdemah at 4:59 PM on August 22, 2006


Are we doing top fives, then?

1. The Far Side
2. Achewood
3. Calvin and Hobbes
4. Sinfest (although it has been going downhill lately)
5. Footrot Flats. It's an antipodean thing. Look it up.
posted by Jimbob at 5:00 PM on August 22, 2006


9 chickweed lane and Ces't La Vie are my favorites, maybe not
"important" but eye candy and fun

I think Allison Bechdell is a genius
posted by Iron Rat at 5:01 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ok, so nobody else has the Freak Brothers? Fair enough, it's not got the suburban emptiness and stylistic simplicity of the original nomination, but hey, sometimes that stuff doesn't even make the coffee sweet.
posted by imperium at 5:03 PM on August 22, 2006


BTW, "Pickles"?? What's the matter, Kansas, Marmaduke too secular for ya?

I work at the paper that did that survey. We're currently testing some potential replacements for the four strips that we decided to cut after seeing the results of the first survey.

This afternoon, I got to look through the reader comments so far. I was surprised at the lack of consensus, but the most common responses seemed to be "NOOOOO, DON'T DROP PEANUTS! CHANGE IS BAD!" and "I'm 75, and I don't want you to drop that six differences thing because my wife and I use it to keep our minds sharp." Seriously, the old folks love Slylock Fox's six differences.

We're trying to get some new strips that are a bit fresher, but people seem to hate anything that isn't, uh, Peanuts. I'm hoping we'll get some positive votes for Pearls Before Swine, but people here hated it the last time we tried it out (apparently -- I didn't work at the paper back then).

But Pickles is great.
posted by katieinshoes at 5:05 PM on August 22, 2006


Speaking of single-frame strips with a bit of an edge, look at this. I don't know if Bliss is this good all the time, but I may have to start paying attention to it.
posted by diddlegnome at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2006


Seconding 9 chickweed lane. So... classy.
posted by vernondalhart at 5:08 PM on August 22, 2006


"Let me finish... let me finish."

Only Pogo had Simple J. Malarkey, and on the "other" side of the ideological divide, the Cowbirds, who wanted to "share, to share what others have".
posted by orthogonality at 5:13 PM on August 22, 2006


newsprint is dead

Exploding Dog
Argon Zark
Schlock Mercenary
Order of the Stick
posted by ZachsMind at 5:13 PM on August 22, 2006


Very Important Things
posted by ZachsMind at 5:20 PM on August 22, 2006


I just noticed that the link I posted above was via this great comics blog by MeFi's own jdroth. Nice work!

Sorry katieinshoes, I didn't mean to goof on Pickles. I've just never heard of it before, and I try to keep track of this stuff.
posted by maryh at 5:21 PM on August 22, 2006


My #1 vote goes to Peanuts, more specifically the '50s strips. Not that Schultz didn't put out some good work after that, but it did start to stagnate in the '60s.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:22 PM on August 22, 2006


And my favourite recent strip is the Perry Bible Fellowship, which I discovered thru MeFi.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:24 PM on August 22, 2006


dudes, dilbert is hil-a-rious; i mean - memos? hahaha! awesome, Dilbert, awesome.
posted by wumpus at 5:28 PM on August 22, 2006


Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine are the only things worth reading now, although Sherman's Lagoon can still be quite amusing.

The best in the comics page since Far Side and C&H went away.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 5:29 PM on August 22, 2006


As much as I'd like to third Zippy, it was Life in Hell that made me what I am today.

I'd take For Better or Worse over Pluggers or Mary Worth any single day. But yeah, egads does that demonstrate the most hideous taste imaginable.
posted by Gucky at 5:30 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


There are any number of good comics - but best?

1. Pogo - Plenty of contenders, but nobody has topped W.K.
2. Single panel? Again plenty to choose from. But Herman has to be near the top. In re-runs for almost 15 years - and Jim Unger still hits the funny bone.
posted by speug at 5:32 PM on August 22, 2006


All the people, male or female, in For Better/Worse look exactly the same to me.

I'll third Zippy. if Gucky won't.
posted by beagle at 5:39 PM on August 22, 2006


Actually, uosuaq, I learned a lot of what I know about the history of the 70s from a big box of Doonesbury books I bought as a teen at a thrift store.
posted by brundlefly at 5:39 PM on August 22, 2006


It saddens me immensely that people out there even read For Better or For Worse. It is the most incredibly boring and lame crap a person could put into comic form.
posted by nightchrome at 5:41 PM on August 22, 2006


Color me old, but I gotta go with Doonesbury. Sharp writing, clear characterization and funnier than anything since Watterston let discretion be the better part of ego. I give Watterston the edge over Larson, but I've yet to see a one-panel that beats Far Side for me.

On a completely different note:

Does anyone else here remember the Family Circle comic featuring Zippy the Pinhead? (Not making this up. I used to have a clipping of it saved somewhere.)
posted by lodurr at 5:49 PM on August 22, 2006


Before my mom died, Pickles was one of those strips we would always call each other to see if the other had read that day's strip. I can remember at least five instances in which a conversation my parents had was later presented in the strip.

If you are, or have parents, of a certain age, it resonates like Calvin and Hobbes did to most of us when we were teenagers.
posted by karmaville at 5:52 PM on August 22, 2006


Something Positive is like a For Better or For Worse with brains. (Not to mention humor.) And when it wants to bring the heartbreak...
posted by Iridic at 5:52 PM on August 22, 2006


I can't believe only one person mentioned The Spirit. Eisner was a cinematic genius on the same level as Walt Kelly and Bill Watterson.

My top list would have a lot of ties:

1) Calvin & Hobbes/The Spirit
2) Pogo/Krazy Kat*
3) Doonesbury/Peanuts

etc. I like For Better Or Worse a lot, but given the competition I'd have to put it barely in the top 10 at best.


* I actually don't enjoy Krazy Kat as much as some other comics, but I give it extra points for sheer visual inventiveness and stretching the boundaries of the art form.
posted by tdismukes at 5:53 PM on August 22, 2006


you can fill a page with as many good daily laughs as I remember you ever could.

eh. okay.

You know, when I used to read peoples' lists of favorite comics, I used to go, "you're insane! stupid! pathetic! what is wrong with you?"

Now I'm just vaguely glad somebody likes that stuff.
posted by furiousthought at 5:56 PM on August 22, 2006


Hey, everybody, I'm an older person who likes this thing that's been around since I was younger, even though it's probably not that great, and I probably don't pay attention to it anymore! I sure would be angry if it disappeared, though!
posted by jenovus at 5:58 PM on August 22, 2006


Everyone who doesn't have Krazy Kat in their top 5 hasn't read it yet.

1. Krazy Kat
2. C&H
3. Pogo
4. Little Nemo
5. Dick Tracey from the late 50s/early 60s when it was set in outer space.
posted by thecjm at 5:59 PM on August 22, 2006


Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, and even the old Gasoline Alley really belong to a different category, I think. They're more important as the forebears of the modern book-length comic than the daily strip, what with their innovations in layout and narrative. The daily strip is a different beast; Pogo is awesome, but I think you have to look to Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes as the real exemplars of the modern form....
posted by mr_roboto at 6:01 PM on August 22, 2006


Doonesbury will always be my favorite, then, now and forever, although I do like FBOFW and it probably hits my top five along with Zippy and the Far Side and Dilbert and Mother Goose & Grimm, who nobody else has mentioned but who I think can be genius. At least the artists are alive, or I think they are: zombie comics make me nervous. Sometimes I wonder, what's worse, the actual zombies writing Peanuts, Dennis the Menace, Blondie and Shoe or the living dead who write B.C., the Wizard of Id and Hagar the Horrible?

Except for Mary Worth, who might be created by armies of zombies and who cares? Mary Worth is as a goddess! Bow down before the amazingness that is Mary Worth! She never changes; she lives in a terrible alternate universe and she continues. . . slowly. . . on. I love Mary Worth.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2006


I seriously cannot get why anyone would enjoy Pearls Before Swine. There is no effort put into that comic at all, not in the art, not in the characters, not in the writing. It's the most halfassed strip on the comics page, even more than the strips that we know are phoned in, like Mort Walker's properties.

Then again, I've had to explain why Get Fuzzy is funny to lots of people, so I may just be entirely missing it.

My five? Tough call, but limiting myself to print strips that are still getting new strips drawn:

1. Get Fuzzy
2. Bizarro
3. Foxtrot
4. Zits
5. Mutts or Zippy, tough call
posted by mendel at 6:11 PM on August 22, 2006


I want to go back and add Pogo to my list, please. And while I know it belongs in the same murky proto-comics category as Little Nemo and Krazy Kat, surely I'm not the only person who feels the love for Popeye's original home, Thimble Theatre?
posted by mkhall at 6:12 PM on August 22, 2006


Oh, I meant to mention -- FBOFW has a creepy Internet underground to go with it, which I've written about before.
posted by mendel at 6:17 PM on August 22, 2006


Your favorite comic sucks.

[Man, I can't believe we've gone 109 posts without someone saying this.]
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:20 PM on August 22, 2006


Oh, and "Far Side" all the way, man.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2006


Actually, I mentioned The Spirit as well, but the image I linked to got pulled for exceeding bandwidth.

The Spirit, Calvin & Hobbes and Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland -- in any order.
posted by hipnerd at 6:29 PM on August 22, 2006


FBorFW isn't very funny any more. It's more boring than not.

I've been really enjoying L'il Abner lately. I think Doonesbury is a must-read. For independents, I highly recommend Sinfest and The Order of the Stick. And though it's no cartoon, I think everyone should view Cute Overload each and every morning. Even grumpy hate-AM me feels better for seeing a cutesy duck or kitten.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on August 22, 2006


Pogo, hands down, no argument. If you dont agree, you simply havent read it. Walt Kelly was nothing short of a genius and revolutionary. But that venerable comic departed in the early fifties, so what do we have since then?

Calvin and Hobbes is a clear grandchild of Pogo, and a beautiful strip. Doonesbury gets kudos for what must be the longest running political strip in history. I like For Better or For Worse for its consistent storyline but it does get a bit preachy.

Top Five?

1. Pogo
2. Krazy Kat
3. Calvin and Hobbes
4. Doonesbury
5. Far Side

Should also point out that there are many many wonderful webcomix out there. I'm a big fan of the more consistent ones, so PvP and ScaryGoRound top my list.

Pogo still rules though.
posted by elendil71 at 6:36 PM on August 22, 2006


Calvin and Hobbes, and Pogo. I would have said The Far Side a few years ago, but going back and looking at the comics, they just aren't that funny anymore, for the most part. I'm not sure why, but they aren't as screamingly hilarious as I used to think they were. I guess my sense of humor changed.
posted by EarBucket at 6:39 PM on August 22, 2006


I love dinosaur comics so hard. Calvin and Hobbes is my all time favorite. I read for better or worse for a couple weeks and it is like a bad TV drama that creeps on at a few minutes a week. Ghastly.
posted by I Foody at 6:42 PM on August 22, 2006


Lodurr: Here is an interview with Bil Keane where he mentions actually drawing his characters for Bill Griffith.
posted by TedW at 6:52 PM on August 22, 2006


While I agree with the author's personal opinion that FBoFW has been consistently readable and consistently enjoyable, I don't think he has any grounds to say it's better than Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes. Geez.
posted by Zephyrial at 6:53 PM on August 22, 2006


You're not the only one, mkhall. I'm a big Segar fan too.
posted by maryh at 6:54 PM on August 22, 2006


I can't believe this thread is over 100 comments, and no fan of the The Katzenjammer Kids has piped up. OK, here I am to represent.

My paternal grandfather liked the Kids. My Dad thought they were hilarious. I liked them from the time my Grandad read them to me. I've read them to my kids.

Pogo is great (and Walt Kelly was a genius), but the Kids have been making smiles since 1897.
posted by paulsc at 6:55 PM on August 22, 2006


What eriko said about Calvin and Hobbes. When they went sledding down that hill, they took most of my interest in comics with them - as far as I'm concerned they're probably still sledding down that hill.

Other than that only the Far Side ever came close.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:55 PM on August 22, 2006


More on Zippy meets the Family Circus (scroll down to near the bottom; no HTML anchors that I could find); a crossover panel is here.
posted by TedW at 6:58 PM on August 22, 2006


Bob the Angry Flower.

I'm disappointed but not suprised at the weak reasoning behing why some comics are not good. If Terry/Pirates isn't good because of the ethnic stereotyping and the era it came out in, then Pogo can't be good for the similar reason of stereotyping, and dated politics. I don't buy it. Then, I never liked having to choose the single best thing in anything. It's too exclusionary and myopic.
Choosing the worst, however is fun in a cruel sort of way. (see Family Circus)
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:04 PM on August 22, 2006


"I seriously cannot get why anyone would enjoy Pearls Before Swine. There is no effort put into that comic at all, not in the art, not in the characters, not in the writing. It's the most halfassed strip on the comics page, even more than the strips that we know are phoned in, like Mort Walker's properties.

Then again, I've had to explain why Get Fuzzy is funny to lots of people, so I may just be entirely missing it.
"


mendel - I had the exact same reaction to Pearls Before Swine whenever I saw it in the newspaper. I just didn't get it - everything about the strip seemed lame. Then I started reading one of the collections in the bookstore and something suddenly clicked. All of a sudden my brain clicked over into Pastis's demented worldview, and I started finding it hilarious. Maybe I just had to see enough of the strips at one time to catch on.
posted by tdismukes at 7:15 PM on August 22, 2006


PBS works for me. More so than GF. Different strokes, folks.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on August 22, 2006



posted by fandango_matt at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2006 [3 favorites]



posted by fandango_matt at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2006 [3 favorites]


fandango_matt, you forgot to make them blink...
posted by karmaville at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2006


Awesome, fandango_matt, awesome.
posted by sdrawkcab at 7:54 PM on August 22, 2006


They're not blinking, though. The blinking adds to the overall comical experience of the cartoon.

Have them blink while they boink.
posted by wfc123 at 8:03 PM on August 22, 2006


You are an evil, evil man, fandango_matt. Thanks!
posted by SPrintF at 8:13 PM on August 22, 2006


What, no love for The Outbursts of Everett True?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:16 PM on August 22, 2006


I'm partial to Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts myself.
posted by danb at 8:18 PM on August 22, 2006


Fuck that Farley-killing whore.

Someone had to say it.
posted by jewzilla at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2006


Ernie Pook's Comeek when Marlys was a pill.
posted by brujita at 8:32 PM on August 22, 2006


As far as quality of illustration goes, I have to give Rose Is Rose some props. Not terribly funny, but usually interesting to look at, particularly the Sunday strips. I love the wet cat in the last panel of this one.
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:46 PM on August 22, 2006


Lynn Johnston lives in Callander, Ontario, a very small town just outside North Bay, which is three hours and a partial lobotomy north of Toronto.

The North Bay Arts Centre at some point installed life-sized statues of the For Better or For Worse characters on benches in the lobby.

All through high school, every time I went to a play or a concert or even just the annual Warren Miller ski film, I had to walk past life-sized For Better or For Worse characters.

My top five, in no particular order:

Bloom County
Peanuts
Calvin & Hobbes
The Far Side
That Comic Strip That Played In My Head So Many Times In High School Where Someone Took An Acetylene Torch To The Lobby Of The North Bay Arts Centre
posted by gompa at 8:52 PM on August 22, 2006


My favorite:

posted by spock at 8:59 PM on August 22, 2006


Hey, what about Little Lulu? That's certainly one of my all-time favorites. Others include Krazy Kat, Pogo, Jules Feiffer, Bill Mauldin, Robert Crumb, The Furry Freak Brothers, Mafalda (a delightful Argentine comic), The Far Side, and most recently This Modern World. Brief comments on each are posted here.
posted by Bureau of Public Secrets at 9:02 PM on August 22, 2006


Is there no love for David Rees??

Get Your War ON Bitches!

Also I share the Lynda Barry love; you can find her stuff here.
posted by emjaybee at 9:17 PM on August 22, 2006


I disagree with anyone who says Bloom Country's humour is dated. I was born the year before Bloom County ended -- gee, that dates me, huh?

I found it hilarious in my early teens, despite barely getting most of the references. It got funnier every year.

Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side are at the top of my list, with Peanuts close behind.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:25 PM on August 22, 2006


Glad to see a little more (ever-lovin', blue-eyed) Pogo love since I last commented. Once you go Pogo, you'll never go back.
But really...don't take comics so *serious*, son...they ain't *no how* permanent.
posted by uosuaq at 9:25 PM on August 22, 2006


My late dad loved the Katzenjammer kids and used to read them to us kids, which I liked.

A gazillion years ago when I looked at comic strips I liked Dick Tracy, Popeye, Prince Valiant and Blondie the best.
posted by nickyskye at 9:39 PM on August 22, 2006


Don't forget how Jack Chick helps us to lead moral lives!
Also hothead paison and clear blue water
posted by Iron Rat at 9:50 PM on August 22, 2006


Umm...you're all wrong! The best comic strip of all time is Andy Capp.
posted by ramix at 10:01 PM on August 22, 2006


I'd probably put Calvin and Hobbes on top, with classic Peanuts, The Far Side, and my fading memories of Bloom County on top, but I also like Rhymes with Orange and Get Your War On.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:08 PM on August 22, 2006


Life in Hell. So true.....
posted by pgoes at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2006


Hey ramix.... You know who also loves Andy Capp? Conagra!

And, of course, wife-beating drunks.
posted by maryh at 10:42 PM on August 22, 2006


Calvin and Hobbes has always been my favorite. Few comics manage to be as visually beautiful, profound, warm, and humorous at the same time.

Farside's genius too, but it never hit me on as many levels as C&H did.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 10:49 PM on August 22, 2006


For sheer longevity, and best batting average (by far) in terms of brilliance/humor, it's gotta be "Peanuts." Fifty years, bitches!

Rookie of the Year: "Get Fuzzy."

Joe Charboneau award: "Mutts." Used to be snarky and smart, but something happened a few years ago. The strip got stupid, unfunny, and sock-monkey cutesy. Blecchh.

*Honarable mention to "Andy Capp," who taught me all I know about marital relations and hydrogenated fats. (They were called "Pub Fries" when I was a youth, and I downed a lot of 'em.)
posted by turducken at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2006


Calvin and Hobbes at #1, without comparison. When I was six years old, my dad brought Yukon Ho! home for me after a business trip. He never brought anything back for us after business trips, because my parents didn't want their returns greeted with, "What did you bring me," but this time he did, and I think it quite literally defined my childhood for me.

In one of the links, a commenter writes that "Calvin may not have been the boy I was, but he's the boy I remember being." That's about right. While Calvin's vocabulary was far beyond mine (obviously) I quickly picked up the slack, and read that strip like a monk reads the Bible. Pogo is great, sure, and Krazy Kat is... well... at least it was innovative, but no other strip has done as much with the medium as C&H, nor done it so perfectly, so sublimely. In place of Lucy pulling the football away - a brilliant running gag of optimism in the face of futility - we had the sled and wagon strips, with Calvin and Hobbes debating philosophy while hurtling towards destiny at breakneck speeds.

I didn't get all the jokes, to be sure, but I understood just enough to really want to get them all, and to learn more so that I could understand more, and the same with all of my friends. In short, not only was C&H drawn more beautifully than any other strip ever has been, not only was it better written than any other strip ever been, but it understood childhood, from a child's point of view, better than I did as a child. Oh, and it was funny as hell too, when it wasn't heartbreaking.

Honorable mentions:

The Far Side - it didn't invent the single panel, but every single-panel strip since then has been a pale imitation of it, with the possible exception of Pluggers, which is an admirable idea in theory but doesn't really play in practice. I particularly loved the index in one of the books - I think it was Weiner Dog Art, where every letter aside from "T" was empty, as all of the titles were along the lines of "The One About Patrick Henry." Martha Kaufman, you know you stole that joke, and it's time to give it back.

Bloom County - If C&H taught me about life and vocabulary, then Opus and Steve Dallas taught me about current events. I wish I could remember my dad's face when I - all of seven years old - looked up from my comic book and asked him who Lee Iacoca was. I only hope that I can have a similar moment with my own kids one day.

Pearls Before Swine - I guess I can understand how people can simply not get it, and when the Daily News started running it, they got letters from that particular group which entered the realm of sheer hatred. For me, well, it doens't work every day. Scott Adams once said that if he could write one funny strip in a week, then he'd get a pass for the other six days. Pastis often writes gags that are so bad they make you chuckle at the fact that he even attempted them, but when he hits it, the goodwill from that one laugh can last for months. My personal favorite:

Rat: What do think about doctor-assisted-suicide?
Pig: I'm against it.
Rat: Why?
Pig: Because doctors are good, and we shouldn't help them kill themselves.
Rat: ...
Pig: I think I'm getting smarter.

Also had to love it when Rat was visiting other strips to hang out with the animals, and came uppon the FBoFW family, asking them if Farley could come out and play. That was awesome. Then he went to Get Fuzzy and realized that he and Bucky were a perfect match.

For Better or For Worse - The jokes are lame, and the blinking should simply not be allowed, but for some damn reason or another, I care about the characters. I don't get it either.

And xkcd is the best comic on the web, IMHO.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2006


mkhall - Great call on Popeye/Thimble Theatre! So many funny, bizarre adventures in there. I'm really excited for this fall's new reprint. Hopefully it'll be the first of many.
posted by ktoad at 11:50 PM on August 22, 2006


"Wombat", and "Dry Shave" by Rod Filbrandt. (click on 'Comic Strips')
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:44 AM on August 23, 2006


Doonesbury.By a country mile.
posted by johnny7 at 2:27 AM on August 23, 2006


I just read exactly five strips from For Better or Worse and have concluded that it's extremely lame. Maybe someone should link me to some strips that aren't, well, extremely lame.

Meanwhile I'll nominate Dinosaur Comics, Perry Bible Fellowship and Achewood as some of the best comics on the web, and probably ever.
posted by heylight at 4:42 AM on August 23, 2006


I'd also like to give the nod to Calvin and Hobbes. Runner-up used to go to the Far Side, but it's tarnished a bit over the years. Like the Simpsons--the jokes just become part of your life, and you stop finding them funny. Since my sense of humor grew more macabre, I switched to The Parking Lot is Full. Nowadays there's nothing to fill the void... sad, really.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:08 AM on August 23, 2006


Sample:


posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:12 AM on August 23, 2006


What, no love for "Rose Is Rose"? I kid, trust me.

Peanuts belongs with Garfield, Wizard of Id, Hagar, Beetle Bailey, and all those other tired retread strips, where the pinnacle of their achievement is mild amusement and bland consistency. Their longevity relates more to their innocuousness than their high quality.

Pogo, The Spirit, Calvin & Hobbes, Far Side... these I can read over and over. Nothing beats the feeling of anticipation you get reading one for the first time. I can vividly recall many individual C&H ("Calvin! What are you doing?!?!" "Is that a trick question?") and Far Side ("Wait, wait... It says first the cereal, THEN the milk.") strips, whereas I can't seem to recall a single specific Peanuts strip.

But I think I'll go check out some of these new suggestions, because there's no joy in creating a "Best of" list if you're not open to revise it every so often.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2006


Peanuts belongs with ...

The genre-definers? The innovators? No, with 'the bland.' Hmm. Have to chew on that one.

Bear in mind that no Peanuts you see now is less than about ten years old, and most will be much older than that. You won't be seeing anything "new", in other words. Ever.

And no, it's never had any edginess, though in its time it was quite groundbreaking in the type of stories it would tell. (I mean, who wants to read a comic strip about a bald, depressed eight year old who gets picked on all the time? Come on, what a downer.)

Anyway, judgements of 'Peanuts' against modern strips is quite unfair, just as judgement of 'Popeye' would be. 'Peanuts' has to be understood in context. At the time, there was nothing else like it. It was the harbinger of minimalist cartooning, and Schulz in his prime (which lasted a long time) was consistently funny and original, even if not to everyone's taste. If you look at Doonesbury, Calvin, Life in Hell, "King of the Hill", much of Far Side, a lot of modern political cartoonists, and the work of Kliban (just to name a few), you see the influence of Schulz's sense of humor. I know for a fact (because I've read or heard them all say it) that Trudeau, Watterston, Larson and Groening all thought they were influenced by Schulz.

It's probably fair to say that Schulz inspired a lot of bad artists to get into cartooning. That's not his fault. Anybody who makes it look easy is liable to do that, especially if they make part of the execution easier. You could make as much of a case for damning Chuck Jones. AFter all, he as much as anyone led the charge to using "smear cells" to depict cartoon motion.
posted by lodurr at 6:08 AM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


So show me, lodurr. Show me a genuinely funny Peanuts strip. Show me primetime Schulz. I've read some very old Peanuts strips, and nothing I read rose above "happiness is a warm puppy" in quality - they're nice in the most damning sense of the word. I don't mind being proven wrong. Come up with a Peanuts strip that you find funny, and we'll let those still reading this post judge.

As for groundbreaking, it certainly wasn't the first strip about a "bald, depressed eight year old who gets picked on".

Yes, I know many others, including some I admire, were influenced by Schulz. So what? As you basically point out yourself, it's what you make of that influence that matters.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:51 AM on August 23, 2006


GhostintheMachine...check these out before you judge too harshly. There's more to Peanuts than that "Happiness is a warm puppy" crap.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:04 AM on August 23, 2006


Best comic strip you've never heard of: The Perishers. Specifically the Collins/Dodd strips from 1957-1983. At the top of its game, it was second to none.
posted by teleskiving at 7:09 AM on August 23, 2006


AFAIK Lynn Johnston doesn't draw the FBOFW strips anymore. She has people doing it for her. (Eyesight issues.)

In 2001, Johnston announced plans to end the strip in 2007, when her current contract ends. In explaining her decision to retire, she cited her neurological illness (dystonia) and medication, difficulties with her eyesight, growing difficulty in understanding today's young families, and desire to have more free time for other interests. She also noted that, given the complexity of her stories, it will take a few years to wrap up plot lines. (source)
posted by Melinika at 7:22 AM on August 23, 2006


People love shitty soap operas. News at 11.

See: FBOW, Funky Winkerbean, etc
posted by prostyle at 7:25 AM on August 23, 2006


Ghostinthemachine, you don't think Schulz is funny. That's fine. (Though the fact that you can gloss Peanuts as "happiness is a warm puppy" clearly indicates that you haven't read much of it.) But the fact that you think that doesn't mean that it is 'innocuous'. All it means is that you think it is.

Wait, I forgot. It's your day to decide what's cool....
posted by lodurr at 7:51 AM on August 23, 2006




No love for the Lockhorns?!

(I was devastated when Bloom County ended. The followups -- Opus, Outland -- kinda sucked. Bummer.)
posted by fet at 8:06 AM on August 23, 2006


Gahan Wilson was always pretty good.
posted by pracowity at 8:22 AM on August 23, 2006


Ease off on the snark there, lodurr. My day to decide what's cool? If that's the case, why would I challenge you to find a funny strip, and let everyone else decide if it truly is funny?

Again, find me a good old Peanuts strip. The old ones are hard to find online, so I'll accept a description of one. I'll grant you they're better than Family Circus, but that's faint praise.

Honestly, sincerely, and truly, I swear I'll approach this with an open mind. My reading of Peanuts dates back to the mid 60s, so there's a good 15 years of content I've missed (which is five years longer than the full run of C&H). Next time I'm in a bookstore or library I'll look for those complete Peanuts hardcovers The Card Cheat referenced above (I don't plan on buying one, mind you...). It is unfair to judge a comic based only on its last 35 years.

But considering most of the early ones have been long out of print, I doubt there are many others who are judging it based on a different experience than mine.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:30 AM on August 23, 2006


I've never read Pogo (but will today), but as far as modern comics go, Calvin & Hobbes just beats the bejeezus out of the others. I love Bloom County and the Far Side, but Calvin is the only one that I'd call true art (not for its awesome visual art, but for its insight into the human condition). (Not that I want to start a debate about what art is).

I used to carry a Peanuts strip around with me to show to people, trying to figure out what the joke was. It was (I think) Charlie and Franklin, and Franklin says:

Panel One: My grandfather says he'll never understand life.

Panel Two: Just last week he bought a new car ...

Panel Three: ... but he got the flu anyway!

Is the joke that grandpa's senile? Or is there some kind of pun that I don't get? Seriously, this thing has haunted me for over a decade.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:51 AM on August 23, 2006


I suspect Peanuts and some of these other strips are sentimental favorites that people might not like so much if they started running as new strips today. I don't recall Charlie Brown ever making me laugh.
posted by pracowity at 8:58 AM on August 23, 2006


Is the joke that grandpa's senile? Or is there some kind of pun that I don't get?

No, man! Peanuts isn't a jokey, punchline kind of humor. It really is all the things that pretentious comic nerds say about it: existentialist and universal, all about failure, rejection, dissillusionment.

I think that strip is hilarious. It's funny because of our irrational expectations and post-hoc reasoning. Buying a car didn't change anything about his life, but we invest so much of ourselves in those kinds of dreams. There's nothing to "get", it's not a set-up, it's just funny.

Well, explaining humor (almost) always makes it worse. I can't imagine how people read Peanuts and come away with Family Circus++. Schulz was a master. But I doubt I can explain why if you don't already agree.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2006


Does anyone have a link to an online Pogo collection? I never got it when I was a kid (except for the Spiro Agnew character) and I think I need to review it.

Until then: Bloom County, C&H, Far Side, Peanuts. PVP and Foxtrot get me through these barren years.
posted by Ber at 9:08 AM on August 23, 2006


My list, in no particular order

1) Achewood
2) Bloom Country
3) Calvin and Hobbes
4) Scarygoround
5) The Far Side
posted by Jupiter Jones at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2006


Dan Bejar's Family Circus, courtesy of the guy at The Catbirdseat.

Reload for a different caption. Arcane and absurdist, much like Fred Bassett.
posted by gramschmidt at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2006


Very well, Ghostinthemachine. Here are two scenarios from The Card Cheat's link:
Lucy sets up her booth and offers her first five-cent psychiatric counsel. (Her advice to a forlorn Charlie Brown: “Get over it.”) For the very first time, Linus spends all night in the pumpkin patch on his lonely vigil for the Great Pumpkin (although he laments that he was a victim of “false doctrine,” he’s back 12 months later).
As sonofsiam notes, these aren't jokes with punchlines. They're just situations that are funny.

Standard Lucy "Therapist is in" gag: Charlie Brown keeps talking, but she stops hearing him as soon as his nickel's worth is up.

I get a smile just thinking about the "Red Baron" schticks, which went through many versions and revisions. Woodstock appearing in WW-I era infantryman's garb to play Snoopy's foil. Then appearing later with a whole collection of relatives dressed just like him, and implicitly over-ruling Snoopy. Or the way that Woodstock "spoke" only in vertical lines: "||||||| |||| ||| |||| |||||."

If I have to explain why it works, as sonofsiam noted, it stops being funny. But so does anything. Case in point, explain why this is funny:

posted by lodurr at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2006




Can you SEE the shock on my poor stubbly face? FOR SHAME!
posted by sluggo at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2006


Case in point, explain why this is funny:

Because in reality, cats can only sing in Dutch?
posted by davelog at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2006


Again, find me a good old Peanuts strip. The old ones are hard to find online, so I'll accept a description of one. I'll grant you they're better than Family Circus, but that's faint praise.

"Peanuts" is never (at least in my experience) ha-ha funny. But most strips aren't ha-ha funny, either. "Peanuts" is appealing because of its weird, idiosyncratic take on the world and on its cast of strange characters. I would agree that Schulz lost his touch at a certain point, after which he was basically on cruise control for 20 or 25 years. But a lot of his strips from the 1950s and 1960s are amazing pieces of absurdity and art. And again, they aren't ha-ha funny. A lot of the "humor," if there is any, is black humor, almost sadistically black. You have to delve into it to appreciate it. But isn't that true of any "classic" or "best of" comic strip? The ones where you can drop in and out of the strip and take it or leave it each day are a dime a dozen. The ones that demand your ongoing attention and commitment are the ones worth following.
posted by blucevalo at 11:16 AM on August 23, 2006


Every single Calvin and Hobbes strip has a message. They're beautiful, hilarious, sad, thoughtful, and a lot of other adjectives. It's the only one I've ever really considered "art."

And he quit while he was ahead! Who does that??? And he never sold out!

fBofW is painful to read, IMHO.
posted by ORthey at 11:45 AM on August 23, 2006


Plasticman!
posted by vronsky at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2006



posted by Mikey-San at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2006


Does anyone have a link to an online Pogo collection?

I've not been able to find a decent online link (here are some links to source material) but I would not dissuade you from just going out and buying the books, if you can find them. Almost all the original books are out of print and have been for years. Try Bookfinder.

Ten Ever-Loving Blue-Eyed Years with Pogo (Simon and Schuster 1959) is probably a good start for a retrospective and has some great commentary by the author as well. If you can find some of the original compilations, however, they are HIGHLY recommended. The political satire and just down-home sweetness is absolutely priceless.

IMHO there are only a mere handful of comic strips of true orginality, clarity of vision and artistry and Walt Kelly's Pogo sits at the throne of that lofty pinnacle.
posted by elendil71 at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2006


It's certainly not the best ever written, but someone should at least mention Penny Arcade, for not suckling on syndicate cock.
posted by Football Bat at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2006


I wasn't asking anyone to explain the humour, nor did I ever suggest a strip had to be all jokes in order to be funny. But comments like "he was basically on cruise control for 20 or 25 years" and "the fact that you can gloss Peanuts as 'happiness is a warm puppy' clearly indicates that you haven't read much of it" (when that 1959/1960 strip is identified in the Complete Peanuts link as "one of the most famous Peanuts strips ever") indicates to me that Peanuts was good for its first 10 years or so, and then settled into its familiar mediocre self. Ten points if you can parse that sentence as intended without getting a headache.

So fine, I'll accept that possibility, and go read those first ten years of strips. Maybe you're right, and I will become an aficionado of early, in-his-prime Schulz. This could be the equivalent of defending the acting talents of 1940s and 1950s movie stars based solely on their TV appearances on Love Boat or Fantasy Island. I'm willing to accept that Angela Lansbury circa Manchurian Candidate is a far cry from her days on Murder, She Wrote, and Peanuts may be the same.

Although Mikey-san's homage above is perhaps the best Peanuts strip I've ever see.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:00 PM on August 23, 2006


ummm.... seen.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:01 PM on August 23, 2006


Mikey-sans' image is actually the fist ever Peanuts strip, for those who don't know. Or, at least, the top half of it is. The bottom half was added, but makes it even funnier.

(and if y'all want, I can try to explain why it makes it funnier...)
posted by Navelgazer at 1:17 PM on August 23, 2006


In further defense of Schultz, having a dog put on goggles and flying his doghouse like it was a Sopwith Camel is so far out there for a mainstream comic strip in the 60s, you had to almost wonder what the guy was smoking.
posted by Ber at 2:03 PM on August 23, 2006


I love it when bullet holes appear in the side of the doghouse. Curse you, Red Baron!
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:12 PM on August 23, 2006


If MeFi was a comic, would we all be small furry creatures or what? Would we be drawn like Doonesbury? Would it be a one panel or a strip? Would Matt be the lead character? Would it be more than one strip?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:18 PM on August 23, 2006


ZachsMind, I'm begging you to put that question to AskMeFi, in the hopes that somebody out there with more html capabilities and artistic talent than me could start drawing up ideas (Matt, obviously, but also Smedleyman, Delmoi, Steven C. Den Beste, keswick, etc.)

Please, if you haven't already done so, bring it up in the green. For our nation to heal, we need that thread.

Oh, and it would be a multi-panel thing, with the characters in absurd situations, but using the exact dialog from the comments. I think.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:38 PM on August 23, 2006


Please, if you haven't already done so, bring it up in the green. For our nation to heal, we need that thread.

Reason for deletion: meh, chatfilter
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:56 PM on August 23, 2006


I'm glad someone else mentioned Space Moose.
posted by crataegus at 4:57 PM on August 23, 2006



posted by fandango_matt at 5:09 PM on August 23, 2006 [1 favorite]


If MeFi was a comic, would we all be small furry creatures or what?

Angry little periods.

Or, ages and ages ago, someone described imagining Metafilter being a bunch of people sitting in chairs, like a support group or something. When someone posts, they get up, proclaim what they're posting, and then sit down.

Sort of like that. Harvey Pekar style.
posted by furiousthought at 5:21 PM on August 23, 2006


Ghostinthemachine: ... (when that 1959/1960 strip is identified in the Complete Peanuts link as "one of the most famous Peanuts strips ever") ...

Um.... read it again. That's not what it says.

Though the fact that you thought it was, could explain a lot.
posted by lodurr at 5:56 PM on August 23, 2006


Oops, I misread. Looking for eggwipes, now. I read it as "funniest Peanuts strip ever."

Still, though, I'm not sure why that matters. All it says is that it's what people remember. People remember Richard Nixon for "I am not a crook," not dropping thousands of tons of ordinance on Cambodia.
posted by lodurr at 5:59 PM on August 23, 2006


I couldn't bring myself to tarnish the Green with my smut. How about MeTa?
posted by ZachsMind at 7:36 PM on August 23, 2006


1

2

3

posted by augustweed at 9:27 PM on August 23, 2006


I've changed my vote. fandango_matt's are the best comic strips ever.
posted by blucevalo at 9:33 PM on August 23, 2006


GhostintheMachine , I thought the very one you linked to back there was laugh-out-loud funny. I read it four times just now, and each time I laughed at a different frame. I'm chuckling just thinking about it.

Really, this challenge you've given is the very stuff Peanuts was made from. Perhaps you'll find it funny. Perhaps you'll say, "I'm sorry Lodurr, but I just don't like Peanuts."
posted by wobh at 9:54 PM on August 23, 2006


FoBoFW is hardly ever funny, but it's still a good comic. (I wouldn't say the best by any stretch.) The same was true of Gasoline Alley, some Doonesbury, etc.

Incidentally, reading old Doonesbury books is a great, great way to learn about American politics/history of the period covered. It helps you remember stuff about, for example, the Ford administration, that otherwise would be too boring and un-personally-connected, if you were born too late. The same is probably true of Bloom County, if you were born really late.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2006


I think For Better or Worse is the best family strip ever produced. The strip is far weaker than it used to be, as Johnston has implicitly admitted, and I rarely read it anymore. But I followed it every day for year.

I'd rank C&H #1 overall. I think Doonesbury's run has been a colossal achievement, though I much prefer the Doonesbury character oriented strips over the purely political cartoons.

I got about 10 Pogo books and 12 Pogo comics as a bar Mitzvah present, and have been a fan ever since.

And I consider Bloom County to be one of the classics. Breathed's follow-ups have made it clear that doing a Sundays only strip just doesn't work
posted by spira at 1:44 AM on August 25, 2006


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