The Comics

The Washington Post on Saturday ran an article on the venerable comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” that ceased publication 25 years ago. I remembered the strip vividly, and the article got me to thinking about comics and their place in my life.

I suspect it must be obvious to my readers that I peruse the Washington Post everyday and search the internet for articles from other papers, especially the New York Times. What may not be so clear is that I never fail to read the comics.

The Post features 41 different comic strips seven days a week. Among my favorites is “Doonesbury,” now in its fiftieth year of publication. The strip regularly lampoons Trump, giving him the drubbing he richly deserves. Equally beloved to me is “Peanuts,” since 2000 running reprints of older strips—its artist, Charles Schultz, died in February 2000. The last original strip was published the next day.

It’s clear to me that the comic strip is an art form. The cartoonist must deliver his message and a laugh in no more than four black-and-white panels (in the daily paper) and half a page or less for the color versions (in the Sunday paper). All the strips depend on characters with humorous character flaws well known to the reader. Dagwood Bumstead, the hero of “Blondie,” for example, has throughout the history of the strip (running since the 1930s) been known for his voracious appetite. As I read the comics every day, I feel as though I’m seeing old friends, people I’ve known since I was a child.

The only three strips I don’t read are “Mark Trail,” “Judge Parker,” and “The Amazing Spider Man.” The first two tell serious stories and the latter is about a superhero. I read the comics to laugh—as the name itself implies. These three don’t do that for me.

I read the newspaper at lunch and dinner (I don’t eat breakfast) as I am eating. The comics are always the last thing I read. Sometimes, on days of fast-breaking news or when there are multiple articles that deal with Trump, I don’t get to the funnies. They stack up. Then I read the comic pages serially. They guarantee that my meals will always be accompanied by laughter.

One of the reasons that I don’t subscribe to the New York Times, the greatest newspaper in the world, is that it has no comics. Fine. Let it be. I’ll settle for the second-greatest paper, the Post. Laughter is too important to ignore.

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