I’ve talked a lot about comic books and graphic novels but with summer on the way it’s time to start planning for the kids making a serious study of their comic strip compilations. We don’t subscribe to a daily paper that has a section of funny pages and when they come across a comics page in a newspaper it’s like manna from heaven. What they do have, however, are books and books of compilations of classic comic strips. I have a plan to some day expose them to Windsor MacKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland and I did get them a history of Walt Kelly’s Pogo, which was peppered with lots of strips but not simply a compilation. When it comes to Pogo people feel a strong need to provide a lot of context because it’s such a deceptively complex satire. I’ve also discussed Krazy Kat and Mutt and Jeff with our son to cover some history of the medium. Someday I imagine they’ll also be ready for Doonesbury, which is the compilation I grew up poring over, but until that time it’s mostly going to be funny animals.
Garfield by Jim Davis
For me Garfield almost crosses the line into painfully awful comics like Ziggy and (shudder) Family Circus. When the kids discovered Garfield in the library I felt a strong compulsion to carefully lift the book out of their hands using fireplace tongs but it was the library and they don’t have fireplace tongs. I’ve since reconciled myself to the fact that lasagna and an aversion to Mondays isn’t evil, just lame, and the kids seem to enjoy it. Personally, I enjoy Garfield Minus Garfield. The existential absurdity is delicious.
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
This was another one my son discovered in the library. I’m generally cautious of newer comics that came out after I stopped being an ardent reader of the funny pages but Get Fuzzy has a certain anarchic quality that I appreciate. It doesn’t really follow the traditional set-up/punch line format of a three to four panel strip but uses the personality of the characters to bring the funny, which is rare in the comics.
Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed
To be honest we don’t actually have a lot of Bloom County compilations but what the kids have seen they’ve liked (including the many books Berkeley Breathed has produced including Red Ranger Came Calling and Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big). You could pretty much begin and end a description of their enjoyment with Opus and Bill the Cat. I like the idea of cultivating their appreciation of Bloom County because Bill the Cat was originally intended as a parody of Garfield.
The Far Side by Gary Larson
At first I don’t think they knew what to make of The Far Side with its single panels and seriously bizarre humor. However, once they understood what was going on they embraced it whole-heartedly.
Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
Calvin and Hobbes is pretty much the perfect comic strip; It’s timeless, warm-hearted, fantastic, true, and consistently hilarious. I also admire the way Bill Watterson wrapped it up after ten years and pledged not to cash in on the vast merchandising potential of the characters because he felt it would change the story that he told. That kind of artistic integrity seems strangely out of place in a comic strip but I think it’s exactly what makes it great.
Is that it? Where’s Peanuts? I seriously considered including them based on the strip’s historic significance and the ubiquity of the characters but to be perfectly honest, it’s not a compilation that our kids read. They are aware of Peanuts from the Christmas special and, you know, osmosis, but that’s about it. Perhaps they’ll make a future list along with Doonesbury.
Do you agree or disagree with my assessment or have something to add?
Scroll down just a little…the comments are Right There!
Let me know what you think.