We took the comics very seriously in our house when I was growing up. On lazy Sunday afternoons, we would get the Sunday comics and read them over and over. Then we would discuss them. Then we would rate them from best to worst. When I said those Sunday afternoons were lazy, I wasn’t kidding.
It didn’t help that the newspaper I was a paperboy with, the Ogden Standard Examiner, also took the comics very seriously. Each year they would have an issue where they allowed readers to vote on the comics. The vote would decide which comics got axed and which got saved. This gave some really strange comic strips a chance to make it through, like Berkley Breathed’s Outland, featuring his Bloom County characters in Monument Valley. It was weird. We usually gave it three stars out of four.
Doonsebury, a mainstay of comics the world over, only ever got one star. I figured that someday, when I was an adult, I would get Doonesbury. It never happened. I still don’t get Doonsebury.
Calvin and Hobbes was always the four-star favorite though, but of course it was everybody’s favorite at the time, and is still incredibly popular. It probably wouldn’t be so popular if the author, Bill Watterson, had allowed his publisher to over saturate the market with the characters. He refused to allow cartoons of the characters, or even calendars with the characters on them, to be made. After ten years he even refused to write the comic strip, but it remains popular to this day. I wish I could figure out how to refuse to do my job and still remain popular.
Garfield, of course, was the polar opposite. He was everywhere. We read him in the comics. We watched him on Saturday mornings. We watched him on the big screen. We played on him. We slept on him. All this for an intentionally obnoxious character. Sometimes he was even funny. What’s funny now is to go back and see how he looked when the comic strip first came out in the late 70s. For all the joking about him being fat, he was a lot fatter back then. He’s thinned up over the years.
Dilbert was the big sensation back then. Since we didn’t always get office politics, it was pretty hit or miss on our rating system. Sometimes though, office politics and home politics are not much different, so sometimes Dilbert got a pretty good rating.
I read the comics now, and it seems like they just repeat the same joke over and over. Were comics any funnier back then? I doubt it. I was more easily entertained. I probably won’t find them funny again until I have more lazy afternoons again. I’m sure Garfield will still be around.
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