Ok, I admit it. When I was growing up every time I got hold of the paper, I’d go straight for the comics’ section. I can’t say exactly why, though I suspect it was out of a simple desire for entertainment. One of my early favorites was Jim Davis’ Garfield. I still own a sizable collection of the strips even though my interest is gone. Ok, ok, we get it. The cat wants more food; Jon’s life is terrible, etc. Couple this narrow and repetitive focus with grotesque amounts of merchandizing and you’ll know why I’ve moved on. On the other hand, one comic that remains consistently funny to this day is Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Although the comic ceased production over a decade ago, it offered an interesting take on growing up, philosophy, personal relations, and even politics. Today when I read his work again, his strips are amusing and insightful, but they hold an even greater depth than I realized back in the late 80’s. I also enjoy poignant political and editorial cartoons and have a stack of books of them spanning more than a decade.
Where might I be going with this article? Well, if you haven’t noticed, a little while ago I included a link on this blog to a handful of comic strips. Although a few of you have gone to visit these sites, a vast number of you al have not and so I thought it might be helpful to give you a bit of information as to their contents and underlying themes.
The first of the other three is Steve Notley’s Bob the Angry Flower. While still at William and Mary, a friend of mine suggested checking out this comic. Written by a Canadian, the main character is a highly egotistical and power hungry anthropomorphic flower who routinely manipulates both his “friends” and strangers in order to achieve his goals. Although certainly an oddity (though I suppose no more so than a talking dog or cat), through this work and his accompanying writings, Notley offers his observations and criticisms of American life, culture, politics, religion, and morality. While I often find myself disagreeing with Steve Notley’s suggestions and conclusions, nevertheless he offers a strangely entertaining strip. As a side note, he too lauded the presidential candidacy of Ron Paul.
The second is Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man. Initially the series focused on the exploits of the title character, a man wearing an oversized coffee cup on his head who enjoyed the beverage far too much. For some unexplained reason, the character of Too Much Coffee Man has almost entirely disappeared from the work and, with the exception of a few brief story arcs, there are no reoccurring plots or characters. Much of the strip serves as a critique of modern existence running the gambit of social ills and personal issues like addictions, materialism, unrequited love, and fear.
The third (and newest) is Tatsuya Ishida’s Sinfest. This strip offers the most continuity among the three as most of the story focuses on the exploits of Slick, a sex obsessed character that bears a physical resemblance to Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes and Monique, his liberal activist fixation. Other reoccurring characters include a pig that acts like a stereotypical frat guy, a bookworm, an ardent Christian fundamentalist, God, the Devil, and a cat and a dog. During the election cycle Ishida often devoted his comics to the real world offering caricatures of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. Not only is the comic drawn in a fantastic style, it’s pages laments the prevalence of consumerism, the decay of civil rights, and schizophrenic U.S. foreign and domestic policies.
A word of warning…although I would not call any of the above comics conservative in nature, sometimes instead being downright liberal and yes, they frequently contain “colorful” dialogue, I would still recommend perusing the strips. Even if you disagree with a number of their premises as I do quite regularly, they still can offer thought provoking commentary and entertainment. After all, as Bill Watterson proved time and time again, aren’t those the twin purposes of a good comic?
Have any other good comic suggestions? Feel free to comment here.