Monday, April 13, 2009

The Unknown Comics

We've all heard by now the wretched outlook of the print journalism industry. Failing advertising model perpetuating unsound business model caused by outmoded technological model driven by stale content model, yada yada. But perhaps, some astute observers note, there's a simpler explanation.

I've been reading with amusement some of the more absurd ideas coming from readers to save The Chron (i.e., charge more for a product for which demand is falling - brilliant!) and theories for the paper's demise, but I was struck by the recent letter from Richard J. Roberts, linking readership decline to the comics. And I suddenly remembered: I started reading the colorful Sunday comics as a child in the late '70s, moved up to the daily comics, then added the Sporting (actually) Green, graduated to Herb Caen, etc., finally enjoying the entire paper.

But what kid in their right mind would want to read the comics today? Stale, repetitive Garfield, predictable left-wing Doonesbury, politically correct, boring and predictable options (Candorville, Non Sequitur, Luann and Sally Forth) and, worst of all, the simply unfunny Mutts or Get Fuzzy. Oh, and a comic designed for old people: The Elderberries - that'll bring in the young readers!

It goes on like that. Ordinarily, you'd probably want to presume some degree of facetiousness in such a trivial epistle, but anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Chronicle's annual comic polls knows that there are a lot of people out there who take their comics waaaayyy too fuckin' seriously. Actual adults rending digital cloth, much anguish over maybe giving something new a shot, instead of sitting through another endless forty-year slog of stale Peanuts reruns.

They shitcanned Zippy the Pinhead, but by god we'll have Charlie Brown coming out our asses for the next two generations. Or maybe if guys like this had their way, they'd inflict Mallard Fillmore or Day by Day -- really, the comics equivalent of sarin gas -- on an unsuspecting populace, to keep the comics page fair and/or balanced. This guy probably has a Lockhorns shrine in the back corner of his sex dungeon, behind the ball-gag and the hitchhiker corpses.

Look, if you're over the age of, say, nine, and you really give a shit one way or the other what's on the comics page, something's wrong with you. I don't think I'd notice or care if the comics page disappeared altogether, and more often than not, the most consistently funny comic in the Chronicle is their very own Bad Reporter.


Joe Blow said...

My local paper has two pages of comics, which I read pretty much compulsively for the last 20 years.

I don't exactly know why. They were rarely funny. maybe 1/100.

But I always hoped they'd be funny and so I read them. Lately my paper cut out an entire pages of opinion letters and guest columns and at that point I said screw it and cancelled my subscription.

The good comics are only online anyway.

The Vile Scribbler said...

Hey, man, Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side taught me just as much as any serious source of information!

And what I wouldn't give to see a daily paper with This Modern World, the now-defunct Get Your War On, and Red Meat in them. Even my local altweekly only carries TMW.

Heywood J. said...

Hey, man, Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side taught me just as much as any serious source of information!True. I'd throw Bloom County in there too. And all three of those guys had the same blessed character trait in common -- they knew when to walk away, and they did it at the top of their respective games. Every one of those guys must have left at least mid-eight figures in merchandising on the table. That's some serious integrity.

About a year ago, my kid found my old Calvin & Hobbes books, and she just loves them. So I'm at least doing my part to pass it on.

I'll skim the comics usually, and some of them are actually okay. I just wouldn't miss -- or even notice the absence -- of most of them.

woodguy said...

I've been (re)reading Thoreau's Walden and thought I'd pass this on although, if, like me, you have probably read and forgotten most of it through the years. I laughed aloud when I read it because it seemed to strike just the right note--160 years ago:

"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate. Either is in such a predicament as the man who was earnest to be introduced to a distinguished deaf woman, but when he was presented, and one end of her ear trumpet was put into his hand, had nothing to say. As if the main object were to talk fast and not to talk sensibly. We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough."

To be forwarded to Ed "The Pouncer" Henry, Chipster Reid, et al, ad nauseum.

Hope the thumb is healing. Expect to lose the rest of the nail.