I try to avoid most of the funny pages these days, or, if I do happen to sit down for a laugh it's usually at the expense of the strip, rather than the planned puns that the artist pens.
Most of the strips that suffer from these delusions of humor are the "legacy" strips, or the cartoons that have been running for 30 years that you can't get rid of because too many people hold feelings of nostalgia. They read and enjoy Garfield not because it's legitimately humorous, but because they remember that one time when it was.
When comics reach this point the jokes suffer because:
A) The creators are so old that they've forgotten what funny is
B) The original creator died and the joke-by-committee has taken over, or
C) They're too busy green-lighting projects and products to pay attention to the important part.
I can't imagine the last option being the reason for a recent Hägar the Horrible strip that I happened to stumble upon, as I have not heard of a Hägar alarm clock, Hägar CGI animated movie or Hägar iPod sleeve hitting the shelves of a store near you (I don't want to envision what a viking alarm clock would do to awaken you).
In the strip, Hägar and who I assume is Lucky Eddie (I honestly don't follow the strip all that closely) lounge on a cartoonishly small, deserted island as the moon rises over the horizon. Hägar, who is laying down, presumably about to sleep, says to Eddie "This is ridiculous! Why do you stay up all night and sleep all day?" Eddie simply responds "I guess I've always been a night person."
I'll give you a moment to think about that.
What makes this particular strip even more confusing is that Eddie isn't banging pots and pans, watching sports on a comically primitive viking television, or even mindlessly fidgeting, pacing or otherwise being disruptive in any way. It looks like Eddie is standing and staring serenely at the majestic beauty of the open ocean, quietly lit by the moon. For some reason this bugs Hägar so much that it keeps him awake.
This strip is "good" enough to make it into 1,900 newspapers in 58 countries, in 13 languages. I wonder if the French translation is funnier.
It's not all bad news in comics, though. The internet has opened the format to hundreds of creators, old and new alike, who don't have to cater to the three panel format, who don't have to cater to an entirely specific, yet entirely broad demographic, and who don't have to play solely in black and white (with one day for color).
Here are some of my recent favorites in the world of Web comics:
- The already classic The Perry Bible Fellowship
- The newcomer We The Robots
- The highly popular Achewood
- And finally, on the serious comic side, Shawn Hoke reviews mini, small press, independent art comics at Size Matters: The Mini Comic Blog
Do you have any favorite strips? Or any strips that you love to hate? I could probably go on all day about Marmaduke.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.