• Dadwagon on Facebook
  • Dadwagon on Twitter
  • Dadwagon RSS feed

Let A Thousand “Ack!” Headlines Bloom

August 12th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

“Cathy” is dunzo. The clumsily drawn comic strip that celebrated semi-hapless, semi-feisty single-womanhood (and, more recently, married-womanhood) is, after 34 years of chocolate jokes and man troubles, being retired. Creator Cathy Guisewite is citing creative exhaustion, and I for one think she’s completely correct.

But enough about her. What struck me, as I read about this, was that I can’t imagine caring about the comics page anymore. As recently as the eighties, newspaper comics were still somewhat vital, for adults as well as children. A few strips were genuinely narrative, like those of Berkeley Breathed; others were wildly inventive, like “The Far Side.” Take a look back at “Calvin & Hobbes,” in the comprehensive collection published a few years back, and you will be struck by how good it is. Plus, of course, “Doonesbury,” which continues to operate in its own well-tuned universe.

We in the media tend to forget that the comics page is still a going concern, because our two chief newspapers are The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, neither of which runs comic strips. So it’s a mild shock to take a look at one of the papers that’s still in the game. The remaining strips, setting aside “Doonesbury,” are beyond insipid. The jokes are hoary old things. And, most of all, the panels have been cut down and down and down, to barely above postage-stamp size. Even if a cartoonist wants to say something smart, he has room for only about twenty words. Thus the form today favors broad-stroke visuals, with few lines and less text, and so you get “Rhymes With Orange,” a thin Gary Larson knockoff without the genuine pleasurable oddness that characterized “The Far Side.” Oh, and there is “Mallard Fillmore,” which dispenses Glenn Beckery via a talking duck. (As Groucho and Chico would say, why a duck?)

No kid will find any of this funny, or fun, and that’s not good. Comic strips had one vital function that’s easily forgotten: drawing kids to the daily newspaper habit. “Peanuts,” which loomed large in my childhood, was enough to get me to open our mediocre local paper just about every day. (Mediocre for back then, anyhow; by today’s standards, it was stone-cold serious.) Anything good and smart that would’ve once gone onto that page is now being poured into graphic novels, websites, and, to a lesser extent, the slowly fading world of the alt-weeklies. I can’t exactly blame bad comic strips for the decline of the daily press, but I’ll say this: Somehow I can’t imagine Mike Bloomberg taking to the radio to read us the comics, the way Fiorello LaGuardia legendarily did during a newspaper strike. I wish it weren’t so, but that world is completely dead and buried. Ack indeed.


  1. Keith Wilcox says:

    August 12th, 2010at 8:38 pm(#)

    I haven’t read a comic strip since high school (and that was over breakfast before I rushed off to the bus). I’ve never even been a newspaper subscriber. You’re right, I don’t get it anymore. Everything I want to know is right here in front of me.

  2. Nathan says:

    August 15th, 2010at 10:46 am(#)

    Y’all might be right about t shrinking platform, but there’s at least one good–and growing–comic strip out there. Boondocks. Check it out.

Leave a Response


Recent Comments

  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Maks: I’m against baby yoga for sure, but want to say something regarding that author is a little wild about...

DadWagon Reads!



The Right Way to Swear in Front of Your Kids


Context, context, context.

Sep 19th 2:33pm • No Comments

I don't care. EAT IT ANYWAY, KID!

‘Five Second Rule’ for Food on Floor Is Untrue, Study Finds


Researchers concluded that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it.

Sep 19th 11:38am • No Comments


Why Danish Parents Like to Talk About Death


It's because it makes for happier kids, says new book.

Aug 11th 8:19am • No Comments

Not sure whether to be proud or pissed we didn't make this list.

The Awl

The definitive ranking of dads.

Aug 3rd 5:39pm • No Comments