The Bodacious Belgrade Blog

September 22, 2008

The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — bunitingi @ 12:32 am

Let me begin by apologizing for what is most certainly a completely American culture dominated post that i doubt will have much relevance for my European readers. But who know…

On to business!

Using rigorous and exacting scientific testing I have determined, beyond all doubt, the 5 greatest comic strips to ever run in US newspapers. There is just no possibility of argument about this. Well, except for well #2 should have been #1. And the fact that i’m leaving out Pogo, which is a renowned strip from the 60s, apparently full of great insights and political allegory. Unfortunately, when i’ve tried to read collections of Pogo they just didn’t hold much relevance for me and i’ve never really enjoyed it. So forget it.

Let us begin.

5. Little Nemo In Slumberland

(sorry folks, while i made sure that all the examples i chose are easily readable, there just simply are no online examples of Nemo that are legible. However, the text is secondary. you can get the rough idea)

Little Nemo is Slumberland was is weekly strip by Windsor McCay that ran from 1905 until about 1913. It was one of the first weekly comics ever, and 100 years later still shines far above its genre. In fact, i think because it predated its genre, it didn’t realize it was supposed to think more meagerly.

This thing is the trippiest cartoon i’ve ever seen, and that includes almost every actual comic book ever made. I mean look at the damn thing. It’s stunning.

There IS an actual storyline, which took years to tell.

See, Nemo is this little boy and obviously his parents give him absinthe or hemlock or something to put him to sleep because he dreams like a….. well, his dream are intense.

Anyway, a messenger from King Morpheus appears to him and wants to bring him to Slumberland to play with the King’s daughter. The journey alone to Slumberland takes about a year to tell, and for awhile there’s a character, Flip, who wakes Nemo up every time he appears.

For that matter, in the last panel of every strip, Nemo awakes.

The adventures go on and on and amongst the things McCay nails is the childhood blur between fantasy and reality. One tricky angle, however is a character called Imp, a black boy in a jungle outfit that is…. well….. uh…… racially insensitive to say the least. It was the early 1900s. People were racist as ****. There’s no point in glossing over the past, it’s been a long, racist, misogynistic, homophobic walk to the present. And if you think things are all hunky dory now, you should ask a Tutsi in Rwanda how lovey dovey people are. Or ask a Southern Baptist to have some human decency towards a gay guy. Or a neo-con to…. alright you get the idea.

So that’s the way it was. Still, the brilliance speaks for itself. The perspectives, the sense of scale… Let’s just see one more before we move along.

4. Bloom County

If you were around in the 80s, there was simply NO strip better than Bloom County. I owned several of the collections, and in fact EVERYone KNEW owned several of the collections. It was one of those guaranteed things you could always find on the shelf of a Gen X-er.

It was f-u-n-n-y. And it totally ripped on the cultural and political events of the time with razor sharp wit.

But the most important thing for me, that the level of humor rises far above the simplistic.

It was clever and trippy, but the clincher is that it had fantastic characters. From Opus to Cutter John to Bill The Cat, the continuing storylines are where Bloom Country really shined. (And which won’t translate in a few one-off samples.)

3. The Far Side

Of all the comics mentioned here, The Far Side is hands down the funniest. And it is REALLY funny. Requires  no cultural explanations, has no frills, it’s simple, to the point, and completely twisted.

Years later, they still crack me up. THIS is the strip and type of humor where one just thinks “WHERE does this guy come UP with this stuff?”

No, i can’t stop. I’ve gotta post a few more:

and one last one:

2. Calvin & Hobbes

The very mention of the names causes immediate respect. You can drop these names and watch an entire room hush and slowly nod in  respect and devotion. Many if fact, would take serious issue with its placement being not at number 1.

And admittedly, the strip has it all. It’s mind bendingly clever, it’s funny, it’s brilliantly insightful, it’s fantastically drawn, it’s tear jerkingly touching… it NAILS was being a kid was like. NAILS it. Calvin is EXACTly how i remember childhood. I lived in a perpetually fantasy overlay.

For awhile, everyone had at least one Calvin & Hobbes book on their shelf. It’s a shame, the great stuff, heck some of the best strips aren’t actually online, but this’ll have to do for now.

And now, approaching fatherhood myself, this last one is coming up on me pretty fast:

1. Peanuts

You knew it had to be Peanuts. Argue all you want, Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County, almost every strip in existence that has insight, depth and hits moments where it far transcends the banality of the medium owes it ALL to Peanuts. Peanuts set the standard and was the first to show a vision that extended far into a far off horizon.

It debated Theology, (Charles Shultz the author was a devout Christian) it was sad, it talked on some pretty insightful levels, heck it gave me one of my favorite phrases EVER: “Don’t hassle me with your sighs, Chuck.” Sure the strip is dated, it’s heyday was the 60s and 70s. Sure the humor is been there done that, it set the STANDARD and has been repeated ever since.

To quote the great Arthur Miller: “Attention must be paid.”  There was only ever one option for the #1 spot.

Well, hasn’t this been fun! Hope you enjoyed the ride and see y’all soon.

1 Comment »

  1. Rather serendipitous. I’ve been re-reading my Peanuts Treasury lately. My all-time favorite Schultz strip (in text, since I can’t find it online)…

    (Linus, holding a candle, passes Charlie Brown in the dark)

    Linus: “They say it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

    Charlie Brown: “Of course, there are those who would disagree…”


    Remind you of anyone?

    Comment by matthew — September 22, 2008 @ 3:27 am | Reply

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