Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Never Enough Comics Department

I love comics. It's practically the only part of a given newspaper that I'll read on a regular basis. And a paper's relationship to comic strip art is very telling to me. For instance, note the absence of comic strips in USA Today, combined with its reduction of the news and colorful, nearly data free diagrams and charts. The paper itself is practically a comic strip. Not a very funny one, mind you, and rather stilted on drawing technique, but hey.

Then there's the New York Times. While I do read the New York Times web site on and off, it suffers as a newspaper by trying to be too high-brow and politically minded. This is perfectly reflected in the choice of cartoons it considers "diversions"--mostly single-panel editorial cartoons, with a sole exception--Doonesbury. Predictable, and pitiful.

Comic strips are more than diversions. They are reflections of the world in general. For the comic artist, there is much inspiration in watching people react to current events, listening to their commentary on all sorts of subjects, absorbing cultural references and how they impact everyday lives. Then they have to distill all this into (typically) four daily panels, maybe eight or even twelve on Sundays, AND provide consistent artwork. This requires an incredible amount of discipline, especially if one endeavors to be topical, to consistently tell a story in a tiny amount of space, and to be funny all at the same time.

This is why I'm proud to add a few more entries to the Comics links at the bottom left of this page. The first addition is "Life On Forbez", which is based on the life of a single parent with an only child moving to a complex, multicultural society. Sounds familiar? Of course, in this case, the comic is based on a planet in a galactic civilization filled with mostly humanoid species, but aside from the science fiction angle the story line itself is one that most will recognize easily. I love it.

Next is "Jeremy", the tale of a kid that simply wants to fit in with his classmates in elementary school--another familiar scenario. Except that Jeremy is the latest creation of a modern day Frankenstein, and thus is composed of dead criminal parts. Naturally, his classmates are a bit apprehensive, and Jeremy does often fantasize about rampaging against a society that hates him for what he is. But as anyone who relates to monster movies will point out, most of us go through a stage of not fitting in and wanting to lash out against our lack of acceptance. Ultimately, though, Jeremy is a good kid with a good heart, despite his macabre origins.

Finally, there is Roger Langridge's resurrection and re-interpretation of Fred The Clown, a British comic strip from a century ago focusing on a children's entertainer with bad personal hygiene, a near total lack of intelligence, and a lonely heart. Like many people, however, he's mainly shy but eager to please, and hoping that somehow, despite his personal obstacles, he can find true love. It's one of the funniest comics I've seen in ages and does a wonderful job healing my own heartbreaks, although there are certain story lines which are rather darkly themed.

Have fun!

No comments: