See You in the Funny Papers!
February 27, 2003 5:19 PM   Subscribe

"May I have the envelope please? Oh, the paperboy threw it up on the roof?" The National Cartoonists Society has annouced the finalists for their annual Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year: "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening, whose weekly "Life in Hell" is alive and well, Pat Brady of "Rose is Rose", Greg Evans of "Luann", and Dan Piraro of "Bizarro" Gamut running at its semi-best.
posted by wendell (16 comments total)
"Life in Hell" is grossly underrepresented on the web, but a few panels from the past are here.
"Bizarro"'s website fell off the web when it changed syndicators at the beginning of '03, but I was able to slip in a back door via the Wayback Machine.
The 'toonists behind "Rose" and "Luann" were both nominated last year, but lost to the guy who writes (but doesn't draw) "Zits" AND "Baby Blues".
posted by wendell at 5:20 PM on February 27, 2003

Wow, I didn't realize that the same guy wrote "Zits" & "Baby Blues". Cool.

I'd root for Piraro, myself. While it seemed to me that his strip went through a markedly less funny period over the last little while (ending around the beginning of this year, come to think of it), he's still got one of the funniest syndicated strips out there.

And his recent "Doctors without Borders" strip was truly inspired. It isn't on the King Features site yet, but if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about...
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:53 PM on February 27, 2003

I'm just waiting for Gasoline Alley to get the recognition it deserves.
posted by foot at 6:37 PM on February 27, 2003

Man, the comics page stinks. The only thing that's consistently funny is The Boondocks, but that's probably too charged these days. Don't bother mentioning that Life In Hell is allegedly political-- it's heyday was over 10 years ago.

Bizarro is a hit-or-miss Far Side rip-off. It can be very funny, but I haven't seen a good one in recent memory. Rose Is Rose is really good until you realize that it's very repetitive. As for Luann, I can't see why that would warrant a nomination over, say, Marmaduke or even Goofus And Gallant.

I know I sound like a bitter crank, but it's possible to do a strip that's very consistently funny. Bill Watterson and Berke Breathed both did it for a number of years and had the integrity to quit before they totally lost it. Unfortunately, most of the people making the strips see it more as a job than art.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:46 PM on February 27, 2003

Two other comic strips that are worth looking at:

Jim Meddick's Monty (formerly Robotman) is generally funny, but the art's pretty careless.

Conversely, Darby Conley's Get Fuzzy has the best artwork of any comic right now, but the humor is inconsistent. Today's joke was a pun based on "amoré" versus "a moray [eel]." Get Fuzzy is set in Boston, so I really wish that I liked it more.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:55 PM on February 27, 2003

Mayor Curley, I'll join you in the bitter crank department. The nominees are laughable - and not in the good way. Groening and Piraro both did great work early on, but as soon as The Simpsons took off, Life in Hell went on auto-pilot, and Bizarro has fallen wayyyyy downhill since that point that Piraro started forcing the pie/bird/crown icons into every cartoon. "Rose is Rose" is the most creatively drawn strip alive today, but the art is wasted on teeth-rottingly sweet "cute" jokes. And "Luann"? Come ON! Are you kidding me??? LuANN??? Baldo kicks Luann's ass, and that's saying something.

Bah. I'll take achewood any day over this sad crop.
posted by soyjoy at 8:03 PM on February 27, 2003

One thing I like about Luann is its versimilitude -- those kids sound like kids, not smartass twentysomethings trying to pass themselves off as teenagers like you find on TV sitcoms. I have a French friend (she's not much older than the strip's characters are) who's learning everyday American English, and I've introduced her to the strip because the strip's language sounds so...right. The dialogue is funny and smart, the situations range from serious to comical, and the characters are three-dimensional (well, most of 'em anyway) and ofttimes hilarious.
posted by alumshubby at 4:23 AM on February 28, 2003

What you all need is a strip called "Love Is", which is about two naked eight-year-olds who aren't married.
posted by yerfatma at 4:54 AM on February 28, 2003

The real reason this country's going to hell on a Harley is plainly, the loss of Farside and Calvin & Hobbes.
No comix even rate a comparison.
posted by BentPenguin at 5:58 AM on February 28, 2003

Since the departure of Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side, I've been consistently underwhelmed by comics.

Fox Trot had its moments, but now it sucks. Liberty Meadows has moments of genius, but mostly, I've taken to reading syndicated serials like Rex Morgan, M.D. and The Phantom.
posted by rocketman at 6:19 AM on February 28, 2003

Mayor Curley has it pretty much right on, but the best strips out there visually are Rose is Rose, Bizarro, Mutts, and possibly Zits. (Unless you extend this to alternative weeklies; Carol Lay rules.) I like the style of La Cucaracha a great deal, but it isn't as funny as I was hoping.

The Boondocks is very funny but suffers from "talking heads" a bit. I wish something would actually happen to those kids.
posted by furiousthought at 7:41 AM on February 28, 2003

And if we do get to extend this discussion to alternative weeklies, then Tom the Dancing Bug takes the prize for overall quailty pretty handily.
posted by furiousthought at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2003

To this day, I lament the loss of the Angriest Dog In The World by David Lynch. Yes, that David Lynch.

You can find a few frames here and here.

The header reads:"The dog who is so angry he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl....Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis."

There are quite a few other sites out there, mostly personal pages and such. Google "the Angriest Dog In The World" and you will come up with a whole slew. is apparently a pay-for site.
posted by lampshade at 12:59 PM on February 28, 2003

Don't forget Matt Groening's contribution to the comics world through Bongo Comics Group, which publishes Simpsons Comics & Stories, among others. He's an avid supporter of the alternative comics scene, so I think his cartoonist nomination is justified.
posted by Down10 at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2003

Down10, let me clarify my anti-Groening comments: Life in Hell should certainly win a Lifetime Achievement type of award - it was one of a handful that virtually created the genre of the weekly alternative cartoon and had a spectacular run of fine, envelope-pushing strips. But I don't go for that concept of taking some aspect in one category and using to juice up the entry in another category. Life in Hell these days is an empty shell - still better than a lot of strips, mind you, but not award-winning material.
posted by soyjoy at 9:41 AM on March 3, 2003

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