For as long as memory serves, one of my favourite sections in the newspaper was the comics page. Even today, every paper that lands in my grasp from some far off land causes a giddy sensation when I flip to the funnies. Yes, I am a comics strip junkie. I need, nay, demand, some four colour awesomeness every single day. And I still miss Peanuts. Don’t we all?
Coming up, for your enjoyment and enlightenment, is my rundown of what makes up my daily intake of the greats. To start with are the ones in my local paper, the Toronto Star.
Many strips fall into the gag-a-day type, and some of my all time favs are the classics. Yes they are old and repetitive, but they still give me a moments chuckle.
Family Circus stars four little kids and their wild adventures rattling the parents. Based on the cartoonists actual brood, he recently passed away and his own selfsame former subjects have taken over the decades old tales.
Much along the same lines is Marmaduke, all about a great dane dog driving his human family around the bend. All lovers of canines know this one and can readily identify with ol’ Marm. He is so cute!
Not a dog, but probably smells like one, is Hagar The Horrible. He is a filthy, terrible Viking doing all sorts of pillaging and such, all while hanging with his best friend Lucky Eddie. Cheesy, but fun.
Next we have the more contemporary, sometimes serialized, strips. These are all more recent creations and appeal to the youthful set.
Mutts tells the tale of two dogs as they go about their days. One day, it will be gag, the next day, a profound thought. Marmaduke lovers will really like this one.
Another one with a potpourri of storylines and gags is Retail. If you have ever worked in a store, then you will relate to the Grumble employees and their daily travails. And Val is my favourite character here.
An eerily accurate look (so I have been told) into the modern teenagers life is Zits. Jeremy texts, plays in a band, hangs out with his friends and occasional girlfriend, and drives his parents nuts with various antics. My only question is, what keeps that darn van running?
For those of us past our teen years and looking for more drama relating to family life, the strip For Better Or For Worse is the granddaddy of them all. The entire life of the Patterson clan unfolded before us over the decades, with creator Lynn Johnston ending the story some years ago. Now they are in reruns with extended added sequences. One sour note, I really did not like the finale at all.
One of the up and coming strips entering FBOFW territory is Between Friends. Several ladies, who are all at different stages in their lives, hang out and deal with their problems. The hubbies and kids are hanger-ons here, but you still get a great feel for these characters.
The other strip in the FBOFW style is Pajama Diaries. A work-at-home mom with two daughters, a tween and a teen, and a working husband as well. She balances everything from kids, marriage, clients, and drycleaning pick-up, and not necessarily in that order. Lots of fun seeing her life and all it’s foibles.
Shifting gears to a completely different type and style, is the wonderful and very very topical Doonesbury. This strip has been around for decades now, and alternates between character based stories and lampooning current events. Controversy has followed Doonesbury since the beginning, with it being pulled several times from newspapers all over many times in its history. And I have loved it forever. Starring Mike Doonesbury and his myriad friends, some he has known since his college days in the beginning of the comic, their lives and loves and political views have become story fodder . The last little while the strip has shifted more focus to the younger cast, with Alex Doonesbury, newly married daughter of Mike, taking over. This is going to be so much fun!!
Next up are the strips which are hosted on the Comics Kingdom site online. Some I read a long time ago, when some local paper carried them, while others are classics I have never seen before.
Filling the melodramatic niche for me is Apartment 3G. Three single woman share a place in the big city, and we get to see their lives and loves over the ages. This strip is way older than I am, but the creators continually hit refresh and try to give 3G a sense of today.
Along the same lines, but also a very different is Gil Thorp. Billed as Friday Night Lights the comic strip, Gil predates the television show by quite a long time. Our hero Gil is the high school football coach in a small town who dispenses guidance to his charges as they face to real world. While the stories are simplified, they reflect modern times and sensibilities very well.
For those who like even more of the real world, Funky Winkerbean is the ticket. Despite the oddball name, Funky is another generational saga which started with everyone in high school, and now the cast has their kids in the same high school. Current issues mixed with touching moments. Funky is cool.
A spinoff of Funky is Crankshaft. He is a grumpy old guss living with his daughter’s family. And driving them nuts. Not as serious as Funky, but still a great taste.
Adventure strips start with Spiderman, the friendly neigbourhood wall crawler we all know and love. And married to Mary-Jane as well! Other Marvel heroes drop by once in a while, with Thor being the most recent.
The absolute top of the line is this area is The Phantom. I love love love this strip, where the action and adventure never stop. The parts where his kids showed Phantom how to use that newfangled internet was a hoot. Great strip.
One with a bit of dust on it, but still mostly fun, is Flash Gordon. Currently weekends only, this decades old story stars Flash as the earthman still trapped on the planet Mongo fighting the despot Ming the Merciless. A dynamic layout brings the action to life for us, with Flash always the noble hero.
One strip missing from my list is the late, lamented Brenda Starr, a very old comic about a plucky determined reporter. It unfortunately ended some time ago, much to my sadness.
The other strip missing is possibly the greatest of them all, Peanuts by the late Charles M Schultz. Still in reruns in some papers, my heart longs for more of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Woodstock, and Peppermint Patty. Almost an entire bookshelf of mine is dedicated to this grand series, all well thumbed through. I even have the Snoopy cookbook! We miss you Charlie.
With this list you can see what currently catches my fancy, both online and off, in the area of comic strips. Many consider it a dying breed, but I fervently hope they continue on for a very long time.
After all, Happiness Is A Warm Puppy.
P.S. All comic strips are copyright 2012 to their respective owners.
P.P.S. Got your own favourite comics strip? Tell me about it!
P.P.P.S. In January 2015, I stopped reading many strips. I still love the comic strips, but some had become a bit repetitive. Family Circus, Marmaduke, Hagar, Mutts, Retail, For Better Or For Worse, Apartment 3G, Gil Thorp, Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft, Spiderman, Flash Gordon, Brenda Starr, and Snoopy. And yes it is a loooooong list. Some strips also ended, which are Apartment 3G and Brenda Starr. I realized Flash Gordon has been in reruns for several years.